It seems that Scholastic philosophers were obsessed with the concept of “substance.” The Rationalists continued the discussion. When Empiricism emerged the concept of “substance” was slowly forgotten. In the age of science no one talks about “substance” anymore. I was trained as a physicist. The concept of “substance” was never mentioned in physics classes.
Today, in modern spiritual philosophy, we talk about Consciousness as the ultimate reality. In this language Consciousness is the “substance”. We also talk about the transformations of Consciousness or emanations from Consciousness.
Space, time and matter emanated from the primordial fabric. In Eastern philosophy the primordial fabric is known as mind stuff (citta). The mind stuff is a condensed form of Consciousness. Mind stuff (citta) is subtler than the space-time-matter but denser than the higher realms of the Cosmos. Primordial fabric precedes space-time-matter in the creation order.
According to physics space-time-matter starts with a rapid expansion from a singularity. What was there before the singularity? Physicists try to answer this question by theorizing that there may be multiple universes as part of the Megaverse and the individual universes may be like foam bubbles. Another theory says that this universe may have emerged from a massive black hole in a different universe. The corollary to that is of course the argument that the baby universes may be emerging on the other side of the black holes of this universe.
This is all plausible but physicists are avoiding the hard question. What is the substance of the Megaverse? Eastern philosophy says the substance of all universes is the primordial fabric which is the mind stuff of the Cosmic Mind. Since the Cosmic Mind is an emanation from Consciousness the ultimate substance or reality is Consciousness. Broadly speaking there are spiritual, mental and physical substances. In more detail, Eastern philosophy mentions 7 realms (lokas); each one representing various stages of the transformation of Consciousness.
So far, we mentioned Consciousness, Cosmic Mind and the primordial fabric. Eastern philosophy has another variation on the concept of substance. According to the theory known as Brahmacakra the transformation of the primordial fabric into particles, atoms, and molecules proceeds in 5 stages. These 5 stages are known as 5 bhutas or 5 tattvas.
akasha tattva = ethereal factor
vayu tattva = aerial factor
tejas tattva = luminous factor
apa tattva = liquid factor
ksiti tattva = solid factor
According to Brahmacakra theory each factor emits “tanmatra”. The literal meaning of “tanmatra” is “microscopic fraction of.” It is clear that “tanmatra” is very similar to “quantum” and “bhuta” is very similar to “field” in physics.
When we establish connections to physics we can identify tanmatras with the “field quanta” but we should refrain from finding correspondences to the 5 bhutas. There are some similarities between the “field” and the “bhuta” concepts but those similarities are not sufficient to establish a connection. There are only 5 bhutas while there are many types of fields in physics. As a matter of fact, in Quantum Field Theory each particle type has its own field. The types of fields is certainly greater than 5 in phsyics. Having said that, I think it is important to point out that the akasha tattva is probably the combination of “space-time” and “quantum vacuum” in physics.
In physics we talk about the particle/wave duality. This means an electron is both a particle and a wave. The same duality exists for the tanmatras as well. We can talk about “vibrations” or “waves” of the primordial fabric. We can talk about the vibrations or waves of a particular bhuta. In both cases, the waves should be visualized as density variations.
An important point: the subtler the substance the longer the wavelength. The wavelength of the akasha tattva is longer than the wavelength of the vayu tattva; the wavelength of the vayu tattva is longer than the tejas tattva; and so on. Once again, I would like to remind you that the waves should be thought of as density variations. The “density” refers to the density of quanta. The bhutas are more like flows. Once the flow is quantized then you can talk about a density. We cannot talk about “density” before quantization. Density is related to the inter-quantum distance measured in the dimesional confines of the field (bhuta).
In Eastern Philosophy, the vibrations of the akasha tattva are known as “Sound” but obviously this “Sound” is different from the ordinary sound which is a density wave in a medium. The Eastern description is not too far off. The vibrations of the akasha tattva are density waves as well, the difference being that the medium is the akasha tattva.
The vibrations of the primordial fabric are known as Onmkara (AUM). Since the primordial fabric is subtler than the akasha tattva, the wavelength is longer. Once again, wavelength is a measure of density. Longer wavelength means less dense, more refined medium.