Ancient Science: energy and its forms

In modern science, energy is defined as “the capacity to do work”. Its explanation is given in terms of properties of “matter”. For example, the explanation for “heat” is due to the movement or vibration of atoms/molecules within a system. It almost makes it seem that matter needs to be present for thermal energy or any form of energy. For example, primary energy is defined as energy naturally present in nature such as fossil fuels etc. Modern science also makes it seem like kinetic or potential energy is the primary form of energy due to which other forms of energy is present. For example, heat is considered to be an energy due to the kinetic energy of the molecules. Potential energy such as gravitational, electrical, magnetic energy is due to the position of the object in a force field. Thus, most of the laws related to energy are associated with the understanding that matter comes before energy.

But, even as per modern science, matter and energy are interchangeable (according to Einstein’s theory). Typically we assume this to imply that matter can be converted to energy and search for ways to convert matter to energy. The question that needs to be asked is: “Does this imply that matter can be converted to energy and vice versa i.e., energy converted to matter?” or “Does it imply that mass is just another form of energy?” If we are talking about it as conversion, then, are we not already converting matter to energy, albeit with lesser efficiency? Say, we burnt charcoal, are we not generating another type of matter(ashes) and heat energy from the original charcoal? Isn’t this conversion of matter to energy? Another example: say we used a manufacturing process to create steel from iron and carbon, are we not creating matter out of the energy that is used to run the manufacturing machines, the furnaces and many other types of energies involved in making that steel? Albeit, the conversion is not a raw, direct conversion, but is a multi-step process, yet, why is this not viewed as energy being converted to matter? But, what should be noted with all this is that we have no clue what is that energy that is converted. If we talked about converting photon to mass then, it should be recognised that we are specifically talking about converting light (electromagnetic) energy to mass or the other way, while in the other cases we have converted the energy contained in charcoal or any other type of matter to another energy such as heat etc. So, is Einstein’s theory limited to just light (electromagnetic) energy? What is the type of energy that is referred to in the theory?

But, even more important to note here is, if matter is also just another form of energy, then, isn’t it required for us to go back and redefine all the different types of energies that we defined as being a result of some change in properties of matter, to reflect the fact that matter is also just energy? Or at the very least explain the difference between this energy described here and the other types of energies, and what is the relation between this energy and other energies? It obviously cannot be the same. Thus we see that while a lot of concepts are present in modern science related to energy, all of them are a mishmash of inter-dependant, labyrinth of concepts that do not resolve themselves into simpler workable concepts that can be used to investigate and study.

Energy plays a primary role in ancient science and everything starts at energy rather than matter. When reading the Sanskrit literature, it clearly indicates that “energy” or “deva” is necessary for anything else to form. Energy is the primary mover for reality rather than matter being the primary mover. Matter becomes incidental and a pure rendering rather than anything else. As I have indicated in the book Surya Siddanta: Emergence of empirical reality, in modern science, we have reversed cause and effect. Hence, every scientific thread that we follow, studies matter as a cause rather than as an (side-)effect. This typically leads nowhere. We need to recognise that matter is not the cause of anything, it only appears so. Matter is in-fact an effect of an underlying cause and should be viewed as a parallel, inconsequential effect as opposed to a sequential, consequential effect that drives everything. Rather than follow the thread of matter, we need to follow the thread of energy to get to the underlying truth.

To understand what is proposed in the ancient literature, we need to look at how we think of thermodynamic systems and understand how to abstract it outside the realm of thermal energy. In thermodynamics, to study a system, a real or imaginary boundary is drawn between the system studied in the universe and properties are associated with the system to characterise it. Outside the boundary is the surrounding for the system. For example, heating water in an open vessel has the boundary of the vessel for heat in the surrounding environment or an engine where the boundary is the cylinder of the engine. In here, it should be noted that to the thermal system, the universe is relevant only to the extent of a measurable impact on the properties of the system. If the system is defined to be an isolated system then the surrounding should typically have no effect on the system and can be completely ignored when studying the system. Nothing prevents us from extending the definition of a system to that which we term as “universe” or “reality”. This is similar to what is proposed in the Surya Siddanta. Say, there is a vast expanse of un-manifested, unknown whose properties are not known. In this, we can carve out a minute part where multiple natures exist in different concentrations diffusing into each other and call this a system that we are studying which yields to becoming reality (similar to a thermodynamic system discussed previously where we study heat). If this system is traversed sequentially, the concentration of various natures varies as it is traversed. We can split this system into blocks with each block having varying distribution of concentrations of similar nature. This varying distribution of nature is considered to be “energy held within a block of nature”. The 7th verse of Surya Siddanta says the below:

ityuktvAntardadhe devaH samAdishyAshamAtmanaH

sa pumAn mayamAhedaM praNAtaM prAnjalisthitam||7||

Translates to

Thus connected, the energies are held in between distributed portions of selves, that spirit consisting of these is continuous prana evenly established

From Surya Siddanta: Emergence of empirical reality

It should be noted here, neither is the actual nature called energy nor the underlying un-manifested considered to have energy. It is the “variation of the nature” that is energy. Hence the “potential to vary” becomes energy. Thus, energy can be defined as “that potential of the nature of concentration that is held together to form prana, to continuously diffuse”. This is the primary energy definition without any classification of what type of energy it is, such as thermal, kinetic etc. The next definition that we find is of “inertia”. We define inertia as “the property of matter which it continues to exist in a state of rest of continuous motion unless there is an external force”. This makes it seem that inertia is something that can only be present when “the potential for motion exists” which is related to kinetic energy. But, in ancient science, it is more basic than that. When we look at the above definition of “energy” (deva), we find that “inertia” (daitya) should be also related to this. Thus, it says,

graharkShadevadaityAdi sRjatosya carAcaram
kRtAdrivedA divyAbdAH shatanghA vedhasau gatAH ||24||
Translates to
The axis starts acquiring energy and inertia creating movable and immovable, making illusionary indistinct knowledge unrestrained, after a hundred parts of knowledge have elapsed

From Surya Siddanta: Emergence of empirical reality

It should be noted, that according to ancient science, “the reality is composed of movable and immovable” where movement is not the same as “motion in modern science”, but the ability to move forward in the path of existence. This here, inertia is a region in the distributed portions, where changes are not present. Hence, when an axis is obtained around which the movement is present, as the changes are traversed, there exists regions of change which is energy and regions of continuous no-change which is inertia.

If we read through further in Surya Siddanta, we find definitions for Agni which is thermal energy (which is different from heat or ushNa) and marut which is kinetic energy. In the next blog I will write about what thermal energy and kinetic energy are according to ancient science.

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