Science and spirituality - Theory of Everything
o Nous (Intuitive Mind) [subtle]
o Soul/World-Soul (psychic)
o Creative Reason (vision-logic)
o Logical Faculty
o Concepts and Opinions
A group of blind men encountered an elephant and tried to decipher what it was. The first blind man touched the elephant leg and reported that it 'looked' like a pillar. The second blind man touched the elephant's tummy and said that it was a wall. The third blind man touched its ear and said it was a piece of cloth. The fourth blind man held on to the tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope. All of them argued vehemently, absolutely sure of their conclusions. They never resolved their differences and remained convinced that the others were crazily wrong.
Like all classic fables, this one conveys many meanings. How we are often mistaken though very sure of ourselves, how it is worthwhile trying to understand another perspective no matter how strange it may seem. Most of all, it illustrates how there may be many 'truths', each supreme in its domain and yet, totally erroneous from a holistic perspective.
Divorce and Distrust
Today, we are said to be in an age where knowledge reigns supreme. But what is this knowledge we are talking about? That which enables us to go to space, or that which enables us to create bombs capable of destroying the entire planet? That which enables us to speak across the globe, or see another part of the world while sitting in our homes? Certainly this is progress. But these are mere technological advances, tools created by 'clever' minds. It is not knowledge, let alone wisdom.
In the area of pure knowledge, we know the entire map of this planet and its surrounding areas, but do not know when it may begin to tremble. We can see the embryo in the womb but don't know when it will decide to leave the comfort of the womb to enter the world. We do know the structure of our physical body in minute detail but do not know what might suddenly stop the heart from beating.
Of course, investigations are on. There is a constant search for answers but many a time, we find we have reached a deadend.
Imagine the blind men trying to decipher and detail each part of the elephant with greater precision, but still not listening to one another. The dimensions of the pillar, the texture of the cloth, the thickness of the rope and the solidity of the wall are described in detail. What purpose does that serve? They are still nowhere closer to realizing that they have encountered an elephant, which is the sum of all its parts. If anything, they move further and further away from this realisation.
This of course sounds silly, but somewhere along the way, humanity too started charting individual paths of exploration without trying to see the whole picture.
The goal of both science and spirituality is the same - to seek truth. Why then is there a deep-rooted distrust between them?
A look into one of history's most infamous encounters between these two disciplines would perhaps help us understand this. Sometime in the 1590s, Galileo began to believe in Copernicus' theory of a heliocentric solar system (where the planets orbited the sun, and not the earth as previously believed). The telescope confirmed his beliefs and emboldened him to speak out. Galileo saw the Milky Way, the valleys and mountains of the moon, and - especially relevant to his thinking about the Copernican system - four moons orbiting around Jupiter like a miniature planetary system. Little did he think that he was going to trigger the split of science and established religion. Ironically, Galileo himself was a devout person and soon after his peep into the physical universe, he offered "infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries".
Of course, the Catholic Church was firmly against this discovery, fearing that it would threaten its authority. The rest - Galileo's several pleas for understanding, the Church's rejection, the publication of his book and the final trial condemning him and forcing him to retract his theory - is history.
We have come a long way since then. Science reigns supreme today. Anything that can be seen and proven is what we accept as the 'truth'.
But is that enough? Are we able to get all our answers from a physical view alone? It does not seem so.
Science, which is about the external objective world, is not enough to give us all the answers that we seek. Spiritual traditions that give us the knowledge and wisdom about the 'inner cosmos' of consciousness are equally, if not more, important.
For too long, these two paths have remained divorced from each other. Fortunately, a small but sure movement is underway to correct this flawed approach. A movement that seeks to understand the various levels of our existence, their interconnectivity and ultimately, their oneness.
Philosopher and systems theorist Ervin Laszlo in his work, Science and the Akashic Field, makes the case that science is finally in a position to produce a Theory of Everything (ToE). Drawing on anomalies and advances in cosmology, quantum physics, biology, and consciousness studies, he shows how the discovery in physics of the zero point energy field (ZPE), is also the discovery of a universal information field.
Quantum physics has discovered that underlying the manifest world of matter and energy is a universal field of quantum potential - the ZPE field. It is the source or foundation for all physical reality. Everything we know, everything that exists, comes from the ZPE field and sooner or later returns there - to be 'recycled' back into our world in some other form, or perhaps into another universe. The discovery of this field may be final confirmation from science of a profound insight into the nature of reality from ancient Hindu cosmology, the notion of the Akashic Field. Like ZPE, the Akashic Field records everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen, from the birth of our cosmos till its ultimate end. In scientific terms, the 'everything' that is recorded is the sum total of all events and the information they contain.
As all those with interest in consciousness studies would know, since long, spirituality has been telling us the same thing. For instance, the following classic verse from the Isha Upanishad gives in a nutshell the teaching of the Upanishads, 'Poornamadah poornam idam poornat pooranam udacyate / Poornasya poornam adadya pooornam eva avasishyate.' This translates as, 'That is whole, this is whole; from the whole the whole originates. When the whole is taken away from the whole, the whole remains.'
Another thinker in the field of merging science and spirituality is Ken Wilber. In his book, Brief History of Everything, and more recently, The Marriage of Sense and Soul, he brilliantly attempts to integrate religious thought and scientific principles while making a clear distinction between their domains.
According to Wilber, the first step to integration is to define what we mean by religion. Evidently, any belief of a particular religion alone cannot qualify for integration as that would automatically mean excluding all other religions from this integration. Hence, the first attempt is to find a common core of all the world's religions. Is this possible? Can we really reconcile the patriarchal God of Christianity, the teachings of Islam, mythological Shintoism, the many-flavored Hinduism, to give just a few examples?
The answer, astonishingly, is yes.
First, in this quest, religion must focus on the core and set aside (if not discard), its exterior - such as the parting of the Red Sea by Moses, Lao Tzu being 900 years old at birth, the emergence of the man-lion Narasimha, and various other non-verifiable myths. Shorn of specific details, the core in all great religions is very similar. Perhaps it would be better to call this core a 'wisdom tradition' as the term 'religion' has been misunderstood for too long.
Great Chain of Being
All wisdom traditions recognize that reality is a rich tapestry of interwoven levels, with each senior level enveloping and encompassing the junior. Wilber calls this the 'Great Chain of Being'. Broadly, one can classify this as matter-body-mind-soul-spirit. The number of levels and the way it is expressed could be expressed differently by different traditions, but essentially, a simple hierarchy in which the senior level 'transcends' the junior, that is, inherits its characteristics and adds some of its own, has been the dominant worldview. An example Wilber gives in this context is shown in the Table below.
Unfortunately, science began to move away from these wisdom traditions mainly because of an unprecedented growth in the knowledge of the physical, exterior domain but also because of orthodox religion's antagonism to science, as mentioned earlier with Galileo's example.
While arguing for integration, Wilber also cautions that one cannot confuse one with another. For instance, not all that is studied in the spiritual domain can be verified by empirical results. For the realms of science is the physical world and that of spirituality, the inner world. He classifies the different domains in four quadrants - interior-individual, interior-collective, exterior-individual and exterior-collective.
The exterior viewpoints are those that are validated and recognised by conventional science. Calling this a 'holorachy', a hierarchy that comprises many parts that are wholes in themselves and a part of something bigger, Wilber points out that "evolution produces more depth and less span". For instance, the cell is bigger than a molecule, which is bigger than the atom, whereas a nation is smaller than a planet, which is smaller than a galaxy.
On the interior side, we have the development or states of development of an individual and that of society. The specific stages of development are not that important - the point is that one needs to consider the interior too. We are familiar with the individual's stages but less familiar with the cultural interior - but it is certainly a reality. Nobody can understand a country with a map alone. The soul of a nation or society is as much a reality as the physical structure.
Taking the discussion further, Wilber calls these quadrants the concerns of 'I', individual interior, 'We', collective interior and 'It' - objective truth - both interior and exterior.
Objective truth that became the mantra of modernity has crushed the other aspects of consciousness, the 'Good' (morality and ethics that give meaning to our lives) and 'Beautiful' (arts, aesthetics, literature). Put differently, a simplistic Satyam crushed both Shivam and Sundaram. This, Wilber calls the collapse of the cosmos and the emergence of a flatland - a world of interwoven 'its', devoid of morals and arts. By doing so, truth itself is being done a disservice as truth has many layers and is not empirical, objective truth alone.
While passionately making a case for integration, Wilber is clear that integration does not mean fusion, like many post-modern thinkers have attempted.
Imagine the blind men deciding to change places. They would see a cloth instead of a pillar, a wall instead of a cloth, and so on. Would they then understand what the full picture is? In most likelihood, no. They would just end up being thoroughly confused.
Wilber cites a famous misconception according to which science is not knowledge of the world but mere interpretation. Therefore, it has the same validity as poetry or the arts. Wilber points out that by reducing science to the level of 'one of the interpretations' or 'paradigms' that one can use, the marriage of science and spirituality would end before it began, as science itself, one of the spouses, would die.
Similarly, an attempt to verify mysticism with objective, scientific evidence is neither possible nor warranted. We cannot use the eye of the mind to see that which can only be seen with the eye of contemplation.
What is required then, is a validation and acceptance of subjective truth as acceptable and scientific in its own domain of internal contemplation. This is verifiable and validated by direct experience alone. Thus, Zen, yoga, contemplative prayer, zikr, daven, shikan taza, tai chi, are all deep sciences of the interior that have concluded and found the different levels of consciousness, which is nothing but the Great Chain of Being. The contemplative prayer of St Theresa of Avila, Patanjali's yoga, Rumi's zikr, Ramana Maharshi's self-enquiry, the shikan taza of Bodhidharma, are a few examples of seekers who have experienced and expounded this truth.
Going back to the Great Chain, if we are able to make more progress in the higher levels as we have in the lower ones, focusing on higher stages of individual growth and development, cognitive growth and interpersonal growth, we might well be on the way to an integral view of the entire cosmos.
Imagine the blind men deciding to use a different approach to resolve their differences. They could discuss what they encountered, take into account each other's experience, and then map out the entire result. They could also use their other senses, those of smell and sound instead of just touch. In all likelihood, sooner or later, they would realise that what they have encountered is neither a pillar, a cloth, a rope or a wall, but a splendid animal.
Through an integrative approach, hopefully, we too will be able to place each part of the cosmic 'elephant' in its right place, there by getting a glimpse of the 'whole picture'.
Subject: Update science comprehension of reality... - 14 February 2012
Universe-Energy-Mass-Life Compilation A. The Universe From the Big-Bang it is a rationally commonsensical conjecture that the gravitons, the smallest base primal particles of the universe, must be both mass and energy, i.e. inert mass yet in motion even at the briefest fraction of a More...
by: Dov Henis
Subject: science and sprituality - 21 December 2009
it is need of hour,we will take it as life mission.
by: dev dutt
|HOME | SUBSCRIBE | WALLPAPERS | ADVERTISING | POLICY | PRACTITIONERS | WRITERS | PEOPLE | ABOUT | CONTACT|