Science & Spirituality|Feb 5, 2013 4:02 AM| by:

Science and Reality

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All spiritual seeking is a seeking after the deeper Truth of things, the Divine Reality behind and beyond the outer appearances. The seeker, though not aware of this Reality, begins the journey with either a conscious or an unconscious faith that this Divinity exists and can be found and realised.

But the certitude of vision and experience is still not there, and the modern mind, the scientific intellect, the doubting society are all there to question the truth and the faith at every step and to affirm the supremacy of the rational mind as the final image in all these matters.

A disciple once wrote to Sri Aruobindo raising this issue:

Question: How far does the scientific and rational view of things reflect the true Reality? How far are its perceptions of the Divine Reality valid? Can it serve as a guiding light for the spiritual seeker on the inward journey?

Sri Aurobindo in his inimitable style replied to the disciple, looking at the entire issue from a critical and spiritual view point, revealing the strengths and also the weaknesses and limitations of the narrow and rigidly scientific approach and bringing out the truth behind spiritual experience and the Divine Reality. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

Science and Reality

The more you go inward or upward, the more the view of things changes and the outer knowledge Science organises takes its real and very limited place. Science, like most mental and external knowledge, gives you only truth of process. I would add that it cannot give you even the whole truth of process; for you seize some of the ponderables, but miss the all-important imponderables; you get, hardly even the how, but the conditions under which things happen in Nature.

After all the triumphs and marvels of Science the explaining principle, the rationale, the significance of the whole is left as dark, as mysterious and even more mysterious than ever. The scheme it has built up of the evolution not only of this rich and vast and variegated material world, but of life and consciousness and mind and their working out of a brute mass of electrons, identical and varied only in arrangement and number, is an irrational magic more baffling than any the most mystic imagination could conceive.

Science in the end lands us in a paradox effectuated, an organised and rigidly determined accident, an impossibility that has somehow happened, – it has shown us a new, a material Maya, aghatana-ghatana-patiyasi, very clever at bringing about the impossible, a miracle that cannot logically be and yet somehow is there actual, irresistibly organised, but still irrational and inexplicable.

Science has Missed something Essential

And this is evidently because Science has missed something essential; it has seen and scrutinised what has happened and in a way how it has happened, but it has shut its eyes to something that made this impossible possible, something it is there to express. There is no fundamental significance in things if you miss the Divine Reality; for you remain embedded in a huge surface crust of manageable and utilisable appearance.

It is the magic of the Magician you are trying to analyse, but only when you enter into the consciousness of the Magician himself can you begin to experience the true origination, significance and circles of the Lila. I say “begin” because, as you suggest, the Divine Reality is not so simple that at the first touch you can know all of it or put it into a single formula; it is Infinite and opens before you an infinite knowledge to which all Science put together is a bagatelle. But still you do touch the essential, the eternal behind things and in the light of That all begins to be profoundly luminous, intimately intelligible.

Science and the Validity of Spiritual Experience

I have once before told you what I think of the ineffective peckings of certain well-intentioned scientific minds on the surface or apparent surface of the spiritual Reality behind things and I need not elaborate it here. X’s prognostic of a greater danger coming in the new attack by the adversary against the validity of spiritual and supraphysical experience, their new strategy of destruction by admitting and explaining it in their own sense, is interesting enough and there is strong ground for the apprehension he expresses.

But I doubt whether if these things are once admitted to scrutiny, the mind of humanity will long remain satisfied with explanations so ineptly superficial and external, explanations that explain nothing. If the defenders of religion take up an unsound position, easily capturable, when they affirm only the subjective validity of spiritual experience, the opponents also seem to me to be giving away, without knowing it, the gates of the materialistic stronghold by their consent at all to admit and examine spiritual and supraphysical experience.

Their entrenchment in the physical field, their refusal to admit or even examine supraphysical things was their tower of strong safety; once it is abandoned, the human mind pressing towards something less negative, more helpfully positive will pass to it over the dead bodies of their theories and the broken debris of their annulling explanations and ingenious psychological labels.

Repetition of Past Mistakes

Another danger may then arise,– not of a final denial of the Truth, but the repetition in old or new forms of a past mistake, on one side some revival of blind fanatical obscurantist sectarian religionism, on the other a stumbling into the pits and quagmires of the vitalistic occult and the pseudo-spiritual – mistakes that made the whole real strength of the materialistic attack on the past and its credos.

But these are phantasms that meet us always on the border line or in the intervening country between the material darkness and the perfect Splendour. In spite of all, the victory of the supreme Light even in the darkened earth-consciousness stands as the one ultimate certitude.

Art, Poetry, Music and Yoga

Art, poetry, music are not Yoga, not in themselves things spiritual any more than philosophy is a thing spiritual or Science. There lurks here another curious incapacity of the modern intellect – its inability to distinguish between mind and spirit, its readiness to mistake mental, moral and aesthetic idealisms for spirituality and their inferior degrees for spiritual values. It is mere truth that the mental intuitions of the metaphysician or the poet for the most part fall short of a concrete spiritual experience; they are distant flashes, shadowy reflections, not rays from the centre of Light.

It is not less true that, looked at from the peaks, there is not much difference between the high mental eminencies and the lower climbings of this external existence. All the energies of the Lila are equal in the sight from above, all are disguises of the Divine.

All can Lead to the Divine

But one has to add that all can be turned into a first means towards the realisation of the Divine. A philosophic statement about the Atman is a mental formula, not knowledge, not experience: yet sometimes the Divine takes it as a channel of touch; strangely, a barrier in the mind breaks down, something is seen, a profound change operated in some inner part, there enters into the ground of the nature something calm, equal, ineffable.

One stands upon a mountain ridge and glimpses or mentally feels a wideness, a pervasiveness, a nameless Vast in Nature; then suddenly there comes the touch, a revelation, a flooding, the mental loses itself in the spiritual, one bears the first invasion of the Infinite.

Or you stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what? – a sculpture, a gracious piece of architecture, but in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the World-Mother.

Similar touches can come through art, music, poetry to their creator or to one who feels the shock of the word, the hidden significance of a form, a message in the sound that carries more perhaps than was consciously meant by the composer. All things in the Lila can turn into windows that open on the hidden Reality.

The Pilgrims Journey

Still so long as one is satisfied with looking through windows, the gain is only initial; one day one will have to take up the pilgrim’s staff and start out to journey there where the Reality is for ever manifest and present. Still less can it be spiritually satisfying to remain with shadowy reflections; a search imposes itself for the Light which they strive to figure.

But since this Reality and this Light are in ourselves no less than in some high region above the mortal plane, we can in the seeking for it use many of the figures and activities of life; as one offers a flower, a prayer, an act to the Divine, one can offer too a created form of beauty, a song, a poem, an image, a strain of music, and gain through it a contact, a response or an experience.

And when that divine Consciousness has been entered or when it grows within, then too its expression in life through these things is not excluded from Yoga; these creative activities can still have their place, though not intrinsically a greater place than any other that can be put to divine use and service. Art, poetry, music, as they are in their ordinary functioning, create mental and vital, not spiritual values; but they can be turned to a higher end, and then, like all things that are capable of linking our consciousness to the Divine, they are transmuted and become spiritual and can be admitted as part of a life of Yoga.

All takes new values not from itself, but from the consciousness that uses it; for there is only one thing essential, needful, indispensable, to grow conscious of the Divine Reality and live in it and live it always.

Sri Aurobindo