Yesterday, a video of a ritual performed in front of a statue of Hindu deity Shiva on the grounds of CERN in Geneva, surfaced. It immediately reminded me of the famous quote by Robert Oppenheimer, after the first atomic bomb had been detonated. He quoted Vishnu out of the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”. His actual intended message is a discussion for another time, and yesterday’s ritual was quickly dismissed as a joke. Let’s put aside the fact that the ritual had some similarities to initiation rituals of gnostic societies and focus on the question that seems to have been missed in mainstream media. Why does the home of the Large Hadron Collider have a statue of Shiva?
The statue is a gift from India, celebrating the country’s long association with CERN, which started in the 1960’s and continues until the present day. In Hindu theology, the dancing Lord Shiva (‘Nataraj’) symbolizes life force (‘Shakti’). The belief is that Shiva danced the Universe into existence, keeps it going and eventually will have it extinguished. As such, the Nataraj is seen as the image of rhythmic play, which is the source of all movement in the Universe. The statue is also intended to release the souls of all men from illusion and portrays the center of the Universe which is actually in the heart. All this symbolism has many parallels with particle physics.
The Large Hadron Collider, located at CERN, is the world’s largest particle accelerator. With this 27 kilometer long machine, particles (atoms, molecules) are fired at speeds approaching the speed of light, with the intention to make them colllide and split in subatomic particles. That way, the conditions right after the big bang (and right before particles came into existance) are recreated, these sub-atomic particles can be studied to eventually get a better grasp of the world surrounding us.
Particle physists are fundamentally faced with similar problems as Hindu philosphers. Hindu philisophy ponders eternal truth leading to self realization (Para Vidya) and the knowledge of our material world (Apra Vidya). Both particle physics and Hindu Philosphy cannot be expressed in every day language and deal with principles that do not seem to stroke with our perception of the world. Once physics is studied beyond the atomic level, radically different rules apply. Solid objects turn out to be largely vacuums, inanimate objects turn out to be riddled with motion. Modern physics considers particles to be in a suspended state without any properties, until they are measured. Light appears to be both a wave and a particle, depending on how it is studied. This principle is mirrored in the description of Brahman (Hinduism’s highest Universal Principle and Ultimate reality): “It moves and it moves not; it is far and it is near; it is within all this and it is also outside it all”.
These similarities are very attractive for physicists and even lead some to assume that there is ancient and lost knowledge is hidden in Hindu scripture.
If you find this fascinating, let this be the start of some deeper research into the matter. It will take you on a wild ride, and might even shed some light on the ceremony in the video. Who knows? 😉