Science & Spirituality|May 11, 2008 7:46 AM| by:

Search and Research (I)

The Parallel Lines

Modern science has travelled a long way in its search, based on the reductionist model, which separated consciousness and phenomena in a single sweep. The first was left to the domain of the philosopher and mystic, with the underlying presumption that it was but an abstraction of the mind and not a concrete reality; not something we could observe, let alone measure. The second was taken up as a self-chosen field of study by the scientist, since it seemed to be something tangible and concrete, grasped by the senses, and therefore observable and measurable. This had its advantages. The scientist was no longer preoccupied with ethical, religious, philosophical and spiritual issues. He was supposed to be seemingly indifferent in his beliefs about the world and creation. His only belief was in data that his senses supplied to him and in the ability of his pragmatic reason to analyse and formulate some rules of Nature from it. By doing further research, he discovered a recurring pattern in Nature’s seemingly random movements. These recur-ring patterns, the scientist declared, were properties and laws. Nature, he concluded, was governed by fixed mechanical laws and processes that could be methodically studied and understood and, based on the knowledge gained, manipulated for good or evil. But, though the scientist saw a coherent pattern in the workings of the world, he failed to see any meaning or purpose in it. That was left to the philosopher, the sage, the idealist and the visionary.

The result was an increasing alienation between the inner and outer life of man. It created an enrichment of outer life with an abundance of material and mechanical aids and props, but resulted in a terrible impoverishment of the inner life. A great and complex superstructure of life’s outer frame has been erected, but within it man lives as if trapped and imprisoned in his achievement, the dwarf and the pigmy of inner life. The story of success becomes almost at once also a story of failure. This happened, because while science went on advancing with leaps and bounds in its own field, philosophy and religion remained stuck to certain fixed viewpoints.

As if by an act of providence, around the time that the Western world was witnessing a scientific revolution, India was going through a spiritual renaissance. Just as scientists were becoming engaged in a systematic and detailed study of the outer world, a few individuals here and there were beginning to explore the hieroglyphs of the inner world as recorded in the Vedas. It seemed as if ‘something’ was pushing human nature along two parallel lines. One approach linked his outer being and physical self with the outer world as perceived through the gross senses. The other joined his inner being and inner psychological self with the inner worlds as received by the subtle senses. One approach opened the eyes wider and wider till they spanned distant galaxies and mapped the physical universe. The other opened the sealed inner eye and, journeying through many skies and horizons of a rich and complex inner universe, charted routes and pathways of the soul.

This went on for a long time, nearly a few centuries. The two lines continued to stretch further and further, independent of each other. Not only that, but it seemed as if they were opposed to each other. The scientist, as he went on uncovering layer after layer of the material world and the power locked in the minutest elements that build our physical universe, declared that spiritual seeking and experience were nothing but aberrations of the brain—the results of a disordered chemistry and cells gone awry. What was the need of bringing in God when all that the senses perceived could be understood, explained and mastered by studying the laws of Nature? God was either redundant or perhaps a human creation to keep the social fabric intact lest all that we cherish as beautiful and noble collapse into the meaningless chaos of a random universe, where chance governs fate and order is only a recurring pattern of disorder! Such were the theories propounded by the ascetics of the scientific world from their laboratories turned into modern caves. The scientists of the spiritual world also propounded their theories from the inner caves. They continued to undo layer after layer in the chain of cause and effect to discover the original Cause, or the real idea of which this entire phenomenal world was just a temporary effect. Once that original cause was found, one discovered perfect freedom from the entire chain that had bound man’s soul in the prison-house of Nature that forms this phenomenal world. Where was the need then to study and know these laws as long as one knew the one great law, the law of a grand escape from all laws? He declared with equal force that the so-called laws of Nature were simply a device of maya to trick the soul or else to provide it the experience necessary for its growth, up to its point of great departure.

Where Parallel Lines Meet

Where was the scope or that point in infinity where these two parallel lines could meet? No answer came till something began to happen towards the latter part of the previous century. Both these lines suddenly came closer, though still following their independent lines of search and research. For when they compared notes, there seemed to be a close correspondence between the language of the Vedas and the discoveries of modern science. It was as if one had anticipated the other.

In every field, we are beginning to find an interesting correlation between certain Vedic truths and modern discoveries, for example in the field of mathematics, psychology, memory-training, linguistics, (as in the value of Sanskrit as a perfect tool for speech training as well as computer language), etc. The neat, solid world of physical matter is collapsing into a dance of Conscious-Force and Energy. So the deep spiritual truths that seemed like distant dreams of some mad visionaries are being increasingly found to be of great practical utility for earth and humanity, valid and applicable to the world of material objects too. The two poles of our existence, the spiritual and the material that seemed like two men, oblivious of each other, who had turned their backs upon each other, are suddenly seeing each other eye to eye, face to face. They have, as if, travelled a full circle moving away from each other, and now, coming to the close of their long and difficult journey, are rediscovering each other as their complementary half. Since in origin they were one, each is enriched by the other, greatened and heightened in their mutual possibilities; they are fulfilling each other by their discoveries. The two parallel lines are indeed meeting, not at one point, but on all points by coming close and merging into each other.

For in their deepest sense, they are one. Matter is the robe of the spirit to express itself; the spirit is its secret body of bliss.

A Time for Paradigm Shift

If this is so, if this is the line towards which the future is inviting and the present moving us, then it is time not only for paradigm shifts but also for new areas and modes of research. To put it another way, the purpose of research is to repeatedly search and explore different dimensions and aspects of world-existence. Broadly, we have two sides of existence—the subjective and the objective, the individual and world existence. These two aspects are not two different levels but two different expressions of one reality. As we move from the spiritual to the material, we find a suppression of the subjective side. A reverse process ensues as we move up the ladder. These two can also be understood as the consciousness and phenomenal aspects of one single reality. These two are in turn joined, linked or united by the play of energy which weaves the fabric of forms out of the stuff of consciousness. Added to this is the complexity of the several levels and planes created in the process of consciousness progressively becoming matter.

Now, here comes the problem, especially for our present time. There has been an almost exclusive preoccupation with the gross and material side of existence since, to our senses, that alone appears real and objective as well as measurable. On one side, there has been an excess of discovery and utilisation of material powers, an amassing of material comforts, an abundance of gadgets and equipment for the use of man, the physical entity. On the other, this hypnosis on one small and single point of existence has led to an impoverishment of our psychological and spiritual side, the aesthetic, subjective, personal and subtler side of life. We have conquered the world, or so it seems, but have lost the self. We have defined our self as a biochemical entity, an atom or molecule amidst the mud and mire of a material universe. We can continue along this line only at our own peril. As a race, we already stand on the brink of self-annihilation, not only through nuclear arsenals, but also through commercial barbarism, through a disturbed ecology, through terrorism, mafia wars and what not.

The Needed Corrective

The need of the hour is a corrective before time runs out and the human race is plunged once again into one of those great holocausts that destroy a whole civilisation without leaving a trace. The pressing need now is to study and explore, search and research the subjective side of our existence, the spiritual and the psychological self. But not the way a material scientist does, reducing everything to terms of matter. The need is to study, explore and discover the science of the self and the subjective states of consciousness that arise out of it, and for this, India must truly take the lead. For of all nations, it is India that has been the greatest explorer, discoverer, seeker and researcher of these deeper, subtler and inner truths of consciousness, of the subjective self , of the objective effects of the play of forces and consciousness upon the material world. It is this deeper knowledge that gave India at one point of time a greater mastery, not only upon the psychological existence of man but also its physical life. It is strange that many of the discoveries and practices of yoga, including hathayoga, pranayama, mantra japa, meditation, and even vegetarianism, are finding validity today. So too with the Ayurvedic pharmacoepia, which has been found to contain herbs for healing, whose active principles or chemicals cure the same diseases right up to modern times—and with much fewer side-effects! What was the research methodology at that time? We have no record of any elaborate statistical analysis which largely proves one thing today and strangely disproves it tomorrow! Coffee was bad yesterday, but is good today; pure ghee was bad yesterday, but is good today; milk was good yesterday, but is bad today. Drugs are no exception. There is surely something seriously amiss here in the methods of our research. It is a strange paradox that stares us in the eye unless we choose to be blind: the paradox that truths discovered intuitively have stood the testimony of time whilst truths discovered statistically and analytically change with the passage of years! That is not to say that statistics and research analysis are useless. They have a role, perhaps in one kind of exploration which deals with measurable quantities. But it would be foolish to apply them indiscriminately to the field of qualities. And it is here that India needs to rediscover her native genius. She has been like a custodian guarding the truth of qualities and all that exceeds quantity and quality, form and name, substance and spirit. And it is India that must rise and give these truths to the world once again, for while the truth of quantity can be used for good or evil depending upon the quality of the user, the truth of quality can save by giving us the right use and right law of things and not merely their properties and measurements. But first India must rediscover these truths for herself by diving deep into her secret soul, bringing to the front what is carefully hidden under the cover of numerous myths, parables, and symbols; in works of art, history, sacred texts and traditions. No doubt her countless treasures and pearls of deep wisdom have been covered by the dust and smoke of centuries of corrupting influences. Yet each is a priceless gem that can still save the world.

The Subjective-Objective Dilemma: An Artificial Divide

A question is often raised about the validity of subjective experiences and the need to study them. Most material scientists brush them off as imaginations with no objective proof. As a result, a whole series of inner experiences—spiritual feeling, sense of oneness, inspiration, revelation, psychic love, psychic discrimination, peace, ananda and many others—are simply rubbed out in one stroke. And yet, these very experiences open the doors to a deeper subjective self in man. They arise in some unseen depths of our being—not the unseen depths of the subconscious where our animal and subhuman past lie hidden in the folds of some abysmal darkness—but the unseen ranges of superconscious heights where future gods lie concealed in the light yet to be born. Their first tread into our narrow human corridors is felt as peace, calm gladness, wideness, an uplifting perception, a changed outlook and inlook towards the self and world and the spontaneous birth of luminous qualities and capacities latent in nature, such as inspiration, divination, revelation, courage, true love, a growing equanimity, etc. All these are subjective experiences, but are they less real or of less value than all the so-called hard facts of the world? The individual who experiences them does undergo a change, at first only a momentary one while the experience lasts, then a change that spreads around the moment as a penumbra and later, a more or less sustained change. This change makes him not only a better individual, but also helps him better serve the world-cause and evolutionary march of mankind because he is inwardly equipped with a greater light, sublimer will, higher purpose and diviner energy. The fact that such individuals have always existed and continue to exist, is proof of such a possibility. That the majority do not experience this is not a sign that it is unreal or imaginary. It simply points to a possibility that has not yet been generalised in our race. Neither can this possibility be compelled to take one single form that is rigidly defined by one narrow formula. The touch of a higher consciousness translates itself differently in different individuals since each individual has a unique past and a still more unique present and future. The human mind is a subtle and complex organ and when the higher beyond-mind consciousness touches it, the mind translates its touch differently in each individual; and even though some of these responses are universal, there is still a great freedom, flexibility, infinite variety and plasticity here. For the touch of the higher consciousness is not the touch of some limited finite quality or quantity but the very touch of the Infinite. The interesting part however is that though the objective experience (what we witness ‘as if’ outside us) may be different in each one, the subjective side (with which we are experientially identified) is almost always the same—deep unconditional peace and joy, loving trust in the Divine, an aspiration and surrender, a certitude in Knowledge, a strength that can endure suffering, wideness, sense of immortality, etc.

In other words, spiritual experience, like everything else, is both subjective and objective. But the objective side (visions, for example), takes place in subtle fields of consciousness, in hidden territories and planes of existence. Now, these planes of existence are not normally accessible to the average man for various reasons. Firstly, humanity as a mass is not yet ready or open to them, just as rabbits and monkeys are not yet ready or open for the world of thought. Secondly, we are too preoccupied in our engagement through the senses with the world as it appears to us. We are almost in a state of perpetual hypnosis, bound by our senses and therefore unable to disengage ourselves from appearances and know reality. Thirdly, we do not have sufficient will, aspiration or concentration to do so, just as not everybody is temperamentally inclined or suited to be a scientist, though all human beings are equipped with the same mental apparatus. But equally, just as the discovery of a material scientist helps the masses if they can trust his word, so too the discoveries of spiritual scientists can and do help. Statistical validation may not be possible here, since, unlike the physical world, these other worlds are not yet a common experience of humanity. But they have another kind of validity, not statistical, but empirical and experiential. Humans who follow their trail can and do have the same experiences and realisations. Unfortunately few, even among the elite of humanity, have sufficient aspiration to do so. But for this very reason, the work of these great beings should be treated as a rare treasure for research, lest we lose the path left by them and our civilisation becomes a prisoner of its own technological advances, a slave to its material perfection by closing all the inner roads to man’s true freedom and unity.

Finally, is not all experience in its basis subjective? We speak of facts and figures, evidence and proof, but whose testimony do we rely upon for them? Only the senses and our sense-bound mind! One may say that well, they are true because the majority experience them. Now this is a strange and fallacious argument, and yet, it is at the base of all that we term, ‘statistical evidence’. Briefly, it implies that the sun does not exist in a country of the blind. And that the sun moves round the earth because the majority experience it. Yet we are quite willing to believe a handful of scientists who could, through complicated calculations and experiments, prove otherwise. But when it comes to the inner life, we tend to distrust the few spiritual scientists who dedicated their lives to this search and discovery.

What are they saying after all? It is simply this that we are unable to experience, know, understand and perceive the ‘Reality’, because man and man’s instruments are not developed enough. This does not mean that the world is unreal. It means that we know only a very small fragment of the objective reality called the ‘world’ and that too only because it presents itself to us through the meshes of our dull senses. To another kind of sense and another level of cognition, the world would appear differently and a different set of causal links, laws and processes would appear before us. It is as if we simultaneously lived in multiple worlds that interlace each other at certain points. The laws of each world work within that frame except at the interacting junctions which are themselves not fixed but change as everything moves in different time-space zones! It is the immense complexity of the world-machine that makes any oversimplistic theory and its application or predictability so difficult when it comes to more than mere physical matter. And even there we find an unpredictability which goes on increasing till we find the most unpredictable of all—man—because he is the one most open to diverse worlds and influences. It is only through thorough study of this complex dynamics of diverse influences—the subconscious, subliminal and superconscious—that we can arrive at a true and in-depth understanding of the human enigma. This understanding will immensely increase the scope of a trans-formative intervention in some not too distant future, that modern science (including the psychological and social) can only presently dream of or imagine. And the doorway to this understanding begins by studying the subjective dimensions, of which probably man alone is truly capable.
(to be continued)

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