All the wondrous characteristics of the contraction of consciousness and its subsequent expansion are mirrored in the general relativistic description of the descent of the astronaut into the black hole. To see this it is necessary to learn more about black holes. The simple picture of a star collapsing to a single point and inexorably pulling everything that comes nearby down to the same point is probably not realized in nature. This would be the case only if the star were not rotating when it began to collapse. But all stars appear to rotate, even as the earth rotates on its own axis.
Black holes formed from real stars, then, would be expected to rotate very fast because of the conservation of angular momentum. The reader may have witnessed how a twirling ice skater twirls faster as he draws in his arms. In the same way, a star rotates faster as it shrinks down to a black hole. The solution of Einstein's field equation for a rotating black hole, called the Kerr solution, shows that it has not one but two event horizons, an inner and an outer. Furthermore there is not a point of infinite density at the centre but rather an infinitely dense ring or hoop. As he passes on through the inner event horizon, the astronaut is not pulled necessarily to collide with this ring. He could, for one thing, pass through the ring. General relativity predicts that on the other 'side' of the ring is a 'negative universe' where there is not gravity but antigravity!
Even more remarkable is the prediction that there exists an indefinite number of alternate universes, both normal and negative ones, which are all linked or joined inside the black hole via tunnels or 'wormholes'. To illustrate the idea of the wormhole, let the plane of a flat piece of ground represent our universe, and imagine another flat piece of ground, at another level and unconnected with the first, represent another universe. A worm could tunnel through from one plane of ground to the other. In the same way, general relativity predicts that our universe of space and time is connected via wormholes inside black holes to a whole series of alternate universes each with its own space and time.
As he crosses the outer and then the inner event horizon of the rotating black hole, the astronaut sees light from several other universes and our own universe mixed in a variety of ways. He can see light from the past, present and future of our universe all mixed up. Depending upon which way he directs his gaze, the astronaut can see any place at any past or future time in our universe, just as the yogi can see all of space and all of time, past and future, as he comes to the state of discriminative knowledge. The astronaut gets 'enlightened' in another way too. Immediately ahead, just as he crosses the inner event horizon, he sees an intense blast of light streaming straight at him from the negative universe on the other side of the ring.
The astronaut can choose to accelerate on through the ring and disappear into the antigravity universe, permanently leaving space and time as we know it. He has other choices, however. He can bounce off the ring and re-emerge in one of the normal alternate universes, depending upon just how he directs his path. How are these other universes to be interpreted? One way is to say that they are really simply our own universe again. If that is the case, an astronaut could go into the black hole and re-emerge in the past or future in our own universe; in other words the black hole becomes a time machine. W. J. Kauffman notes that this violates causality because effects would occur before their causes, and this interpretation is therefore highly objectionable to most physicists. Or 'perhaps additional physical effects occur that destroy the possibility of travelling to other universes.'
This problem arises only if the other universes are interpreted as simply our own universe. The view taken by physicists Jack Sarfatti and Fred Wolf is that the other universes are distinct and separate from our own.*1 They may be only subtly different, representing other possible past and future histories of our universe. That is, our universe is ruled by causality and has one history that is manifested and realized. But co-existing parallel with it are all the other possible pasts and futures. The black hole is a terminus or relay station connecting all these possible pasts and futures.
The analogy between the co-creator yogi and the astronaut inside the black hole may be becoming clear. As already noted, both experience the same slowing of time, ability to see everything at all places and times at once, and intense experience of light. The yogi has the choice of whether he will permanently transcend space and time or instead 'come back', and the astronaut has a similar choice at the ring. Until he reaches moksha the yogi continues to be bound by the laws of karma, but when he reaches that state he can freely choose whichever possible future he desires. Similarly for the astronaut, turning around outside the event horizon lands him back out in the same universe. But if he progresses in through the inner event horizon he can choose whichever wormhole he wants and re-emerge in whatever possible future universe he desires. This interpretation of the black hole, then, seems to provide a symbol which can inspire one to make his own journey to his own inner 'black hole' to reach the infinite.
It may be argued that, if man in his normal state of consciousness is bound by a deterministic law of karma, how can he ever choose to turn inward to reach enlightenment? According to the Gita, there is indeed only one free will, that of the Divine. Man may think he is free as he is, but 'The Lord abides in the heart of all beings, causing them to turn round by His power as if they were mounted on a machine.' Radhakrishnan in his commentary writes that this does not mean predestination, however, for it is always open to man spontaneously to turn Godward and achieve perfection and freedom, to become one with the Divine Will. Man thus has a limited freedom: he has the choice of turning God-ward and surrendering to the one free will or not, or of taking up yoga and seeking moksha or not.
Interestingly, even this question of determinism versus free will in man has a reflection in the world of physics. The physical process that relates to this metaphysical question occurs at the other end of the scale from the black hole, in the quantum mechanical world of the very small atomic and subatomic particles. The behaviour of a large number of such particles can be predicted on the average by the Schroedinger equation of quantum mechanics. But it is impossible to predict when a single, individual particle will undergo a quantum transition from one state to another.
One school of physicists says that individual quantum events can happen without cause, at random, spontaneously, while another takes the position that the events are caused, but due to the limitations of our knowledge we cannot know the past history of an individual particle so as to be able to predict when it will make a transition. The Gita says that everything is subject to the law of causality except the Divine Will itself. The question is, does the Divine cause an individual quantum event completely spontaneously, without regard for all of the particle's karma? Or does the Divine cause the event based on that karma? Perhaps the Divine manifests in the physical world always in strict accordance with a deterministic law of causality. Albert Einstein once said, 'I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.' But perhaps the Absolute causes the individual quantum events completely spontaneously, as a message to man that man himself can spontaneously undergo his own quantum transition by turning to the Absolute and finally transcending the law of karma.
This may give the reader some feeling for the way in which physics and metaphysics need no longer be separated, of how physical phenomena present messages to man on his spiritual journey. With his investigations at the two frontiers of physics, the astrophysical world of the very large and the quantum mechanical world of the very small, the physicist gains some special insights into and appreciation of the harmony and beauty of the universe. It may be fitting to end with one of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: "When the mind develops the power of fixing on the smallest size as well as the biggest one, then the mind comes under control."
*1. B. Toben, J. Sarfatti and F. Wolf, Space-Time and Beyond, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1975.