How real is the law of cause and effect?

In our common-sense daily life and from a materialistic perspective the law of cause and effect seem evident and not even worth questioning. However, modern science, western philosophy and Indian Advaita have all put into question its validity:

According to modern quantum physics: the law of cause and effect is not essentially true, because events depend on the participation of the observer or Consciousness, not essentially on the events themselves.

Leibnitz (German philosopher, mathematician, 1646-1716) stated: ‘It is true that, speaking with metaphysical rigor, there is no real influence of one created substance on another’.[1] This would suggest that Leibnitz knew, on a fundamental level, that the law of cause and effect does not apply.

The ancient Hindu/ Yogic text ‘Yoga Vasishtha’ gives a story in which a crow alights on a coconut tree. At that very moment, a ripe coconut falls. Thus two unrelated events seem to be related in time and space, yet there is no causal relationship. This illustrates that the seemingly obvious relationship between cause and effect, which seems real from our mental-sensory perception, is fundamentally an illusion, a misperception or rather a limited perception.

How does this understanding impact on our lives? We continue to live our life with the assumption that effects have causes, which we can clearly see and experience. In the depths of our heart, however, let us appreciate that there is a far more mysterious background to the world of sticks and stones in which we live.


[1] From an article ‘The Reality Narrative: a Solution to the Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics’ by Robert Solomon, p. 46 in Nexus magazine Dec 2018 –Jan 2019. 

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