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HISTORICAL NOTES

Tesla, wireless energy transmission and Vivekananda

Subhash Kak

Nikola Tesla, who was both an inventor and mathematician, persisted with actual experiments and specula-
tions on wireless transmission of energy that went beyond the physics of the day. This note presents a sum-
mary of Teslas ideas on wireless transmission to explain his intuition that he could use the capacity of ether
to hold and transfer energy. This intuition was related to ka, the Indian concept of ether, on which he
communicated with Vivekananda.

Introduction energy, and the equation E = mc2 was this became Tesla Electric Company. He
published just a few years afterwards. filed for many patents and soon attracted
Nikola Tesla was an inventor and futurist However, even after the publication of the attention of George Westinghouse,
whose contributions to the electrical this equation, Tesla wrote on future pos- who bought his patents for US$ 60,000
revolution transformed daily life at the sibilities related to wireless energy in cash and stock in the Westinghouse
turn of the 20th century. He was a pio- transmission that went beyond standard Corporation.
neer of AC electricity, induction motor, physics. Tesla, through Westinghouse, devel-
and X-rays, and contributed to the deve- In this note, I present Teslas general oped a range of electrical devices. His
lopment of radio and television. He ideas in the context of ka of Indian inventions include AC induction motor,
invented the Tesla coil to generate high- physics, which is supposed to be inter- power sources and a generator of high-
voltage, low-current, high-frequency convertible with matter and other forms frequency currents. The Westinghouse
alternating current (AC) electricity and of energy. I argue that this property of Corporation was chosen to supply the
he thought it could be used for wireless ka, which has not been discussed in lighting at the 1893 Worlds Exposition
power transmission. As a futurist, Tesla relation to Tesla, was the reason why he in Chicago, which provided publicity to
speculated on various technological pos- was so persistent in developing new his AC system. Two years later, Tesla
sibilities for mankind, visualizing robots schemes for remote transmission of en- designed an AC hydroelectric power
that he called teleautomatons, flying ergy. plant at Niagara Falls that was used to
machines that used ambient energy and supply power to the city of Buffalo.
systems that exploited solar energy1,2. These successes soon made the AC sys-
Tesla spoke of converting matter into Teslas life tem the pre-eminent power system of the
energy and he presumed that this could, world.
in turn, be used for wireless applications. A hundred years ago Tesla was a super- In 1900, Tesla began working on a
Evidence for this comes from the pen of star. He competed with Thomas Edison, global wireless communication system
Swami Vivekananda whom he met in inventor and businessman, over what to be transmitted through a large electri-
1896 at a party organized by the actress should be the industry standard for cal tower for sharing information and
Sarah Bernhardt. The philosopher and power transmission. Tesla was in favour providing free electricity throughout the
celebrity Vivekananda had knowledge of of AC and Edison for direct current world. He received funding for the pro-
Indian physics. It is generally accepted (DC), and Tesla won; so in the sense of ject and in 1901, built a laboratory with a
that he changed the world by bringing delivery of electric power, we live in the power plant and a huge transmission
the movement for self-knowledge to Age of Tesla. tower on Long Island, New York, that
America, and influenced some of the Tesla was born on 10 July 1856, in was known as Wardenclyffe. His idea
greatest minds of the 20th century3. what is now Smiljan, Croatia. His father was to use the earth as a means of return
This is what Vivekananda had to say was a Serbian orthodox priest. He stud- of current. He envisioned a machine
of that meeting in a letter dated 13 Feb- ied engineering in Graz, Austria, but which, to explain its operation in plain
ruary 1896: Mr. Tesla was charmed to never graduated. Next he worked at the language, resembled a pump in its action,
hear about the Vedantic prana and aka- Central Telephone Exchange in Buda- drawing electricity from the earth and
sha and the kalpas. He thinks he can pest, where the idea for the induction driving it back into the same at an enor-
demonstrate mathematically that force motor came to him. After failing to get mous rate, thus creating ripples or dis-
and matter are reducible to potential en- people interested in this invention, Tesla, turbances which, spreading through the
ergy. I am to go to see him next week to in 1884, decided to leave Europe for earth as through a wire, could be de-
get this mathematical demonstration. In America. tected at great distances by carefully at-
that case Vedantic cosmology will be Tesla first worked for Thomas Edison, tuned receiving circuits. In this manner I
placed on the surest of foundations. I but they parted ways very soon. In 1885, was able to transmit to a distance, not
clearly see their perfect union with mod- he got backing for the Tesla Electric only feeble effects for the purposes of
ern science and the elucidation of one Light Company to improve arc lighting. signaling, but considerable amounts of
will be followed by that of the other 4. This venture failed and for some time he energy, and later discoveries I made con-
As we know, Tesla did not succeed in worked as a labourer. In 1887, he found vinced me that I shall ultimately succeed
showing this equivalence of mass and backing for his AC electric system and in conveying power without wires, for

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HISTORICAL NOTES
industrial purposes, with high economy, sending and receiving stations, power ble; prthiv, pas, tejas and vyu are
and to any distance, however great 5. virtually in unlimited amounts could be atomic composed of indivisible and inde-
As doubts about the plausibility of conveyed through the earth at any dis- structible atoms. The basic atoms of
Teslas system arose and his rival, Gug- tance, limited only by the physical prt hiv, pas, tejas and vyu will be rep-
lielmo Marconi, won the financial sup- dimensions of the globe, with an effi- resented by P, Ap, T and V respectively.
port of Andrew Carnegie and Thomas ciency as high as ninety-nine and one- The sequence of evolution of the ele-
Edison, Tesla was forced to abandon the half per cent 6. ments, which occurs in extraordinary
project. The Wardenclyffe staff was laid circumstances, is given as V T
off in 1906 and by 1915, the site had Tesla also believed that energy could be Ap P.
fallen into foreclosure. Two years later extracted from the suns rays and, in this The ordinary molecules of matter have
Tesla declared bankruptcy. sense, he was a pioneer of solar energy all the basic atoms present in them. The
After his death in 1943, Tesla fell into as well 7. He thought that directed elec- interactions of the atoms are governed by
relative obscurity. However, in 1960, the tromagnetic energy in the atmosphere four different forces: P interacts with all
General Conference on Weights and could be used for the propulsion of the four, Ap with three, T with two and V
Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flying machines without the need for with one.
flux density the tesla in his honour. ground connection. The commentators of the Vaiesika
Thus science has immortalized his name. claim that only P and Ap have mass; T
and V do not 9. The four atoms are a func-
ka and Indian physics tion of four different subtle elements
Teslas general ideas on wireless called Ru (rpa), Ra (rasa), Ga (gandha)
transfer of energy Indian physical ideas, of which the con- and Sp (spara). Symbolically, we may
cept of the ka is a part, are described summarize this in terms of the following
Tesla concluded that the atmosphere it- in the Vaiesika system8. It has catego- expressions
self could conduct electricity and this ries not only for spacetimematter, but
could be used to send energy without the also for attributes related to perception of P: 1 (Ru, Ra, Ga, Sp),
need for wires. He had two broad ideas: matter. It starts with six categories
(padrthas) that are nameable and know- Ap: 2 (Ru, Ra, Sp),
1. Electricity can be conducted able. Nothing beyond these six funda-
through the atmosphere and he hoped mentals is necessary, because they are T: 3 (Ru, Sp),
that methods could be devised to control sufficient to describe everything in
its distribution from one place to another. the universe, from concrete matter to the V: 4 (Sp).
He believed that very high voltages in abstract atom.
the range 1520 million volts could be The six categories are: substance, Molecules that are comprised of many
used for this purpose, at a height of quality, motion, universal, particularity atoms may be represented by
30,00035,000 feet above sea level. He and inherence. The first three have ob-
argued that such a system will be more jective existence and the last three are a Molecule: (Pm, Apn, T, V),
efficient than an omnidirectional broad- product of intellectual discrimination.
casting antenna as is the case of radio Universals are recurrent generic proper- with mass equal to mMass(P) +
transmissions, and thus allow the con- ties in substances, qualities and motions. nMass(Ap), since T and V do not possess
struction of a World Wireless Teleph- Particularities reside exclusively in the mass.
ony and Telegraphy System. He eternal, non-composite substances, that In this system, distinguishing charac-
believed this would make transmission of is, in the individual atoms, souls and teristics and motion are essential for the
simultaneous and non-interfering mes- minds, and in the unitary substances classification of matter. Space and time
sages practical in a manner which is ether, space and time. Inherence is the are identified through motion of matter
reminiscent of modern computer net- relationship between entities that exist at or in relation to the motion of the
works 6. the same time. It is the binding amongst sun. Among the substances, four are
2. Energy could be transmitted through categories that makes it possible to syn- material (that is consisting of atoms) and
the earth by exploiting its resonances. thesize experience. capable of motion, whereas others (time,
The chief discovery, which satisfied me Of the six categories, the basic one is space, ka) are non-material and,
thoroughly as to the practicability of my that of substance and the other five are therefore, no motion may be associated
plan, was made in 1899 at Colorado qualities associated with the substance. with them.
Springs, where I carried on tests with a Observers belong to the system in an in- When the universe ceases to be at the
generator of fifteen hundred kilowatt ca- tegral fashion, for, if there were no sen- end of the cosmic cycle (kalpa men-
pacity and ascertained that under certain tient beings in the universe, there would tioned in Vivekanandas letter), matter is
conditions the current was capable of be no need for these categories. not annihilated; rather, it reaches a qui-
passing across the entire globe and re- There are nine classes of substances, escent state where its atoms have no
turning from the antipodes to its origin some of which are non-atomic, some extrinsic motion and so become invisi-
with undiminished strength. It was a re- atomic, and others all-pervasive. The ble, which appears similar to the concep-
sult so unbelievable that the revelation at non-atomic ground is provided by the tion of the state of the giant atom at the
first almost stunned me. I saw in a flash three substances of ka, space, and beginning of the cycle of creation. The
that by properly organized apparatus at time, which are unitary and indestructi- lack of motion represents a cessation of

2208 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 113, NO. 11, 10 DECEMBER 2017


HISTORICAL NOTES
time, because time is a measure of of some of his speculations not being mation transfer, some of which antici-
change. practical, his intuition was to seek other pated modern technological inventions.
In an article, written in 1907 but pub- novel ways for such interconversion. In speaking of the ka he was consid-
lished in 1930, Tesla wrote about the use Note further that Teslas use of prna ering processes and phenomena whose
of ka and prna to solve mankinds is ultimately concerning the relationship validity is yet to be demonstrated by ex-
greatest problems 10: of energy and information. Indian phi- periments.
losophy speaks of ka serving as an
Long ago... [mankind] recognized that intermediary between mind and matter,
all perceptible matter comes from a which to the subject is available as prna 1. Carlson, W. B., Tesla: Inventor of the
primary substance, or tenuity beyond (e.g. Brahma Stra 1.1.22-23, 2.4.9) 11. Electric Age, Princeton University Press,
conception, filling all space, the Aka- Note further that the six ontological Princeton, NJ, USA, 2013.
sha or luminiferous ether, which is categories of the Vaiesi ka are neatly di- 2. ONeill, J., Prodigal Genius: The Life of
acted upon by the life giving Prana or vided into three for matter and three for Nikola Tesla, Cosimo Classics, New
York, 2006.
creative force, calling into existence, in the mind of the observer. This was an is-
3. Wuthnow, W., America and the Chal-
never ending cycles all things and phe- sue that was not a part of physics of
lenges of Religious Diversity, Princeton
nomena. The primary substance, Teslas times, but it has come into con- University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA,
thrown into infinitesimal whirls of pro- temporary physics due to the problem of 2011.
digious velocity, becomes gross matter; measurement of quantum mechanics to 4. Nikhilananda, S., Vivekananda, The
the force subsiding, the motion ceases which the Copenhagen Interpretation Yogas and Other Works, R-V Center,
and matter disappears, reverting to the provides one resolution (although it is New York, USA, 1973.
primary substance. not universally accepted). In von Neu- 5. Tesla, N., Century Illustrated Magazine,
manns orthodox version of this Interpre- June 1900.
In the above quote, Tesla defines the tation, mind and matter are two distinct 6. Tesla, N., Telegraph and Telegraph Age,
16 October 1927.
ka as ether, but then he associates ontological categories 12, suggestive of
7. Tesla, N., Electrical World and Engi-
properties to it that are not mentioned in the corresponding dichotomy in the Vai-
neer, 5 March 1904.
the context of ether in the Western tradi- esi ka (though the two dichotomies 8. Kak, S., Matter and Mind: The Vaies ika
tion and are true for ka. We have should not be considered identical). Stra of Kan da, Mt Meru Publishing,
mentioned earlier how, under certain More recently, it has become accepted Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 2016.
conditions, the ka can generate en- that the vacuum state is associated with a 9. Potter, K. H., Indian Metaphysics and
ergy and give rise to atoms that consti- zero-point energy, and this zero-point Epistemology: The Tradition of Nyya-
.
Vaies ika up to Gangea, Motilal Banar-
tute matter. In the reverse process, matter energy has measurable effects. Indeed
and energy can transform into ka. It the vacuum is teeming with creation and sidass, Delhi, 1977.
appears, therefore, that Tesla was not destruction of particles, and some have 10. Tesla, T., Mans greatest achievement.
Milwaukee J. Sentinel, 13 July 1930.
only hoping to convert one form of en- visualized this as the akashic field. The
11. Radhakrishnan, S., The Brahma Stra,
ergy into another but also exploit the idea of an akashic field that is the me-
George Allen and Unwin, London, UK,
ka, which he may have visualized as a dium of consciousness has been pro- 1960.
field similar to the electromagnetic field, posed by the Hungarian scientist Ervin 12. von Neumann, J., The Mathematical
to transmit energy from one place to an- Lszl12, who posits a field of informa- Foundations of Quantum Mechanics,
other; his goal was to harness the primal tion as the substance of the cosmos 13. Princeton University Press, Princeton,
energy within space itself. Although Vaiesi ka postulates that the NJ, USA, 1955.
ka is an element, it cannot be the me- 13. Laszlo, E., The Akashic Experience, In-
dium that carries consciousness. Also, ner Traditions, Rochester, USA, 2009.
Conclusion consciousness is not a new state of mat-
ter because if it were so, then the equa-
It appears that Tesla was hoping to tap tions of physics are incomplete. Physics Subhash Kak is in the School of Electri-
into the fundamental interconvertibility as we know it can only be about inert ob- cal and Computer Engineering, Okla-
of ka with matter and other forms of jects and not the experiencing self. homa State University, 310 ES,
energy to develop new ways of harness- In conclusion, Tesla proposed several Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.
ing and transmitting energy. In spite speculative systems of power and infor- e-mail: subhash.kak@okstate.edu

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