If we magnify an atom to the same size as the earth we will find that there is as much distance between two components of an atom as there is between the earth and the moon or the sun and the stars. Then we might say that at least the two components at the two ends are solid – but science says that these too are not solid; they are particles of electricity. Now science is not even prepared to use the word particle, because it implies the concept of matter. Particle means a portion of matter – but the atom’s components are not matter, because matter is solid and keeps its shape whereas these components are continuously changing shape. They are like waves, not particles. When a wave arises in water, before you even say to yourself, “This is a wave,” it has changed, because a wave is that which comes and goes continuously.
But a wave is also a material happening, so science has coined a new word which did not exist thirty years ago. The word is quanta. It is difficult to find a Hindi equivalent – just as many Hindi words have no equivalents in English, for instance, the word Brahman, the cosmic reality. Words are formed because there is a necessity of expression on the part of those who have experienced. When the brahman was experienced it was necessary for those who had experienced it to coin a word to express it, so the word brahman was coined in the East. The West has not reached this stage yet; hence they do not have any equivalent word, because they do not require it.
This is why many religious terms do not have any equivalents in English. For example, the word aum – this word cannot be translated into any language of the world. It is an expression of a deep spiritual experience. The West has no parallel word by which it can be expressed. In the same manner, quanta is a word coined to express the peak of scientific discovery, and it has no parallel word in any other language. If we try to understand the meaning of quanta, it means a particle and a wave together. It will be difficult to conceive of it however. It is something which behaves sometimes like a particle, sometimes like a wave – and whose behavior is very unpredictable.
Until now matter has been most reliable; there was a certainty about matter. But the ultimate part of matter, the atomic energy that has been discovered, is very uncertain. Its behavior cannot be foretold. First science stood firmly by the certainty of matter. It said that everything is precise and definite. Now the scientist does not press this claim, because he knows that from where he has reached in research today this certainty is very superficial. There is a deep uncertainty within, and it would be interesting to know what this uncertainty means.
Where there is uncertainty there is bound to be consciousness; otherwise uncertainty cannot exist. Uncertainty is a part of consciousness, certainty is a part of matter. If we leave a chair in a certain place in a room we will find it exactly there upon our return, but if we leave a child in the room we will never find it where we left it. There will always be a doubt, an uncertainty, where he will be and what he will be doing. We can be sure about matter, but never about consciousness. Therefore, when science accepted the uncertainty in behavior on the part of the ultimate particle of the atom, it also accepted the possibility of consciousness in the ultimate particles of matter.
Uncertainty is the quality of consciousness, but matter cannot be unpredictable. It is not that fire may burn when it chooses and not burn when it does not choose to, nor that water can flow in whatever direction it pleases or boil at any temperature it fancies. The functions of matter are determined, but when we go within matter we find that ultimately it is undetermined.