Science and Spirituality (HH 224)

A Talk by Alok Pandey from the “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)


Recently we saw the passing away of the famous physicist, a genius of sort, Mr Stephen Hawking. His life is no less inspiring than his work. And yet with all his genius, the question of science meeting spirituality in some way and at some point remains unresolved. The only possible way that this can happen is either if the Scientist becomes also a spiritual seeker or else the spiritual seeker or a Spiritual Master is also a scientist in his own way. Meanwhile it is better that each explores in his own self-given field with a sincere seeking for Truth and Perfection. Surely a time must come when these two lines, even as many other lines of human advance and seeking, will unite as the rays returning to their parent sun from different fields become one. We need to wait for that hour without haste or impatience. It is against this background that we shall read something from the Mother on this issue.


Words of the Mother

July 4, 1962

The other day, Pavitra said to me in passing, “Modern science would neither follow nor believe us.” According to him, scientists acknowledge only “essential hypotheses,” and not having the experience, would take our science for a set of “non-essential” hypotheses. I didn’t argue, or else I would have told him, “We don’t make any hypotheses, far from it, we simply state our experiences.” They are free to disbelieve us or to think we’re half crazy or hallucinating – that’s up to them, it’s their business. But we don’t make hypotheses, we speak of things we know and have experienced.

For several hours afterwards I had a vision of this state of mind and found absolutely no need to make hypotheses (you see, Pavitra was speaking of “hypothesizing” the existence of different states of being). It’s just as I told you: I have passed that stage; I don’t need inner dimensions any more.[[ See conversation of May 24, 1962. ]] And observing this materialistic state of mind, it occurred to me that, on the basis of their own experiments, they are bound to admit oneness – at least the oneness of matter; and to admit oneness is enough to obtain the key to the whole problem!

Once again it made me realize that this last experience [of April 13] may in reality have come to free me from ALL past knowledge, and that … to live the Truth none of it is needed. I need neither all this terminology nor Sri Aurobindo’s terminology nor, of course, anyone else’s; I don’t need all these classifications, I don’t need all sorts of experiences – I need ONE experience, the one I have. And I have it in all things and in all circumstances: the experience of eternal, infinite, absolute Oneness manifesting in the finite, the relative and the temporal….

To be not merely in what is objectified, but also in That which objectifies.

That’s all. With that, I need no other theory.

***

To see the composition of the sun or the lines of Mars is doubtless a great achievement; but when thou hast the instrument that can show thee a man’s soul as thou seest a picture, then thou wilt smile at the wonders of physical Science as the playthings of babies.

It’s the continuation of what we were saying about those who want to “see.”

Do the wonders of physical science make you smile?

The wonders are all very well, it’s their business (!) But it’s their overweening self-assurance that makes me smile. They think they know. They think they have the key, that’s what makes one smile. It makes one smile. They think that with all that they have learned they are the masters of Nature – it’s childish. There will always be something that eludes them as long as they aren’t in contact with the creative Force and the creative Will.

It’s an experiment that can be done very easily: a scientist may explain all the phenomena before our eyes, he may even use physical forces and make them do whatever he likes (they have obtained amazing results from the material point of view), but if you just ask them this question, this simple question, “What is death?”, in reality, they have no idea. They will describe the phenomenon as it occurs materially, but … if they are sincere, they are compelled to say that it doesn’t explain anything.

There always comes a point when it no longer explains anything. Because to know … to know is to have power.
(silence)
Ultimately, what materialistic thought finds easiest to admit is the fact that they cannot foresee. They foresee many things, but the course of world events is beyond their predictions. I think this is the only thing they can admit: there is a gray area, an area of the unpredictable that eludes all their calculations.

I have never spoken to the typical scientist having the most modern science, so I am not entirely sure, I don’t know to what extent they admit the unpredictable or the incalculable.

What Sri Aurobindo means, I think, is that when you are in communion with the soul and have the soul’s knowledge, that knowledge is so much more wonderful than material knowledge that you almost smile with disdain. I don’t think he means that the knowledge of the soul makes you know things of material life that science can’t teach you.

The only point (I don’t know if science has solved it) is the unpredictability of the future. But maybe they say that’s because they haven’t yet reached the perfection of their instruments and methods! For instance, maybe they think that just when man appeared on the earth, if there had been the instruments they now have, they would have been able to foresee the transformation from animal to man, or the appearance of man as a result of “something” in the animal – I am not aware (Mother smiles) of their most modern pretensions. In that case, they should be able to measure or perceive the difference in the atmosphere now, with the intrusion of “something” that wasn’t there – because that still belongs to the material field. But I don’t think that’s what Sri Aurobindo meant; I think he meant that the world of the soul and the inner realities are so much more wonderful than the physical realities that all the physical “wonders” make you smile – it’s rather that.

But the key you speak of, that key they don’t have, is it not precisely the soul? A power of the soul over Matter, a power to change Matter – to work physical wonders, too. Does the soul have that power?

It has that power and it uses it CONSTANTLY, but the human consciousness is unaware of it! And the great difference is that the human consciousness becomes aware, but it becomes aware of something that’s ALWAYS there! And which the others deny because they aren’t aware of it.

For instance, I’ve had the opportunity of studying this: For me, circumstances, characters, all events and all beings move about according to certain “laws,” if I may say so, which aren’t rigid, but which I perceive and because of which I can see: “This will lead to that, and that will lead there, and this person being like that, such-and-such a thing is going to happen to him, and …” It’s growing increasingly precise. I could, if it were necessary, make predictions based on that. But the relation of cause and effect in that domain is, for me, absolutely obvious and corroborated by facts. While for them, who do not have that vision and that consciousness of the soul, as Sri Aurobindo says, circumstances unfold according to other, superficial laws, which they consider to be the natural consequences of things; quite superficial laws that do not stand up to a deeper analysis, but they don’t have the inner capacity, so that doesn’t bother them, they find it obvious.

I mean that this inner knowledge doesn’t have the power to convince them, that’s an experience I have almost every day. So that when, concerning some event or other, I see, “Oh, but it’s perfectly, perfectly obvious (for me): I saw the Lord’s Force act there, I saw such-and-such a thing happen, and so, quite naturally, this is what must take place,” for me, it’s as obvious as could be, but I don’t tell what I know, because it doesn’t correspond to anything in their experience, so to them it’s raving or pretension. Which means that when you haven’t had the experience yourself, another’s experience isn’t convincing, it cannot convince you.

The power isn’t so much of acting on Matter – that’s something happening CONSTANTLY – but … unless hypnotic means are used (and they are worthless, they don’t lead anywhere), the difficulty is to open the understanding (gesture of breaking free at the top of the head), that’s what is so difficult…. The thing which you haven’t experienced is nonexistent.

Even if in front of them a kind of miracle takes place, they will find a material explanation for it; to them, it won’t be a miracle in the sense of the intervention of a force and power different from material forces and powers. They will find their own material explanation for it, it won’t be convincing.

You can understand only if you have yourself touched that domain in your experience.

And you see very clearly – very clearly: it’s insofar as something is awakened that there is the possibility of an understanding. This is the solid ground, it’s the base.

Only, owing to man’s very constitution (because there is so to speak no human being who doesn’t have at least a reflection or a hint or a beginning of relationship with his subtle, inner being, his “soul”), owing to that, there is always a flaw in their negation; but they consider it a weakness – and it’s their only strength!

It is really when you have the experience – the experience and knowledge and identity with the higher forces – that you see the relativity of external knowledge; but before that, no, you cannot see, you deny the other realities…..

Basically, one cannot lead to the other. Except through a phenomenon of grace; if there is inwardly an absolute sincerity enabling the scientist to see, to have the foreknowledge, the perception of the point at which things elude him, then that may lead him to the other state of consciousness, but NOT THROUGH HIS METHODS. There must be … something must give in – something must give in and accept the new methods, the new perceptions, the new vibrations, the new state of soul.

Then it’s an individual question. It isn’t a question of class or category: it’s the scientist who becomes ready to be … something else.

***

The Divine is the fourth dimension for us. It … belongs to the fourth dimension. It’s everywhere, you see – always everywhere. It doesn’t come and go: it’s always there … everywhere. It’s we, it’s our stupidity that keeps us from feeling it. There’s no need to go off anywhere … no need at all, none at all.

To be conscious of your psychic being, you must be able to have felt the fourth dimension, felt it once, otherwise you cannot know what it is…. Oh, Lord!

It’s been seventy years since I’ve known what the fourth dimension is – more than seventy years.
(silence)
Indispensable, it’s indispensable. Life begins with that. Otherwise, you are in falsehood – in a hodgepodge of confusion and ignorance…. The mind! The mind! The mind!

Otherwise, to be conscious of your own consciousness, you must mentalize it. It’s dreadful, dreadful!

 

Words of Sri Aurobindo

The Nature of Spiritual Force All the world, according to Science, is nothing but a play of Energy—a material Energy it used to be called, but it is now doubted whether Matter, scientifically speaking, exists except as a phenomenon of Energy. All the world, according to Vedanta, is a play of a power of a spiritual entity, the power of an original consciousness, whether it be Maya or Shakti, and the result an illusion or real. In the world so far as man is concerned we are aware only of mind energy, life energy, energy in matter; but it is supposed that there is a spiritual energy or force also behind them from which they originate. All things, in either case, are the results of a Shakti, energy or force. There is no action without a Force or Energy doing the action and bringing about its consequence. Farther, anything that has no Force in it is either something dead or something unreal or something inert and without consequence. If there is no such thing as spiritual consciousness, there can be no reality of Yoga, and if there is no Yoga force, spiritual force, Yoga Shakti, then also there can be no effectivity in Yoga. A Yoga consciousness or spiritual consciousness which has no power or force in it, may not be dead or unreal but it is evidently something inert and without effect or consequence. Equally a man who sets out to be a Yogi or Guru and has no spiritual consciousness or no power in his spiritual consciousness—a Yoga force or spiritual force—is making a false claim and is either a charlatan or a self-deluded imbecile; still more is he so if having no spiritual force he claims to have made a path others can follow. If Yoga is a reality, if spirituality is anything better than a delusion, there must be such a thing as Yoga force or spiritual force.

It is evident that if spiritual force exists, it must be able to produce spiritual results—therefore there is no irrationality in the claim of those sadhaks who say that they feel the force of the Guru or the force of the Divine working in them and leading towards spiritual fulfilment and experience. Whether it is so or not in a particular case is a personal question, but the statement cannot be denounced as per se incredible and manifestly false because such things cannot be. Farther, if it be true that spiritual force is the original one and the others are derivative from it, then there is no irrationality in supposing that spiritual force can produce mental results, vital results, physical results. It may act through mental, vital or physical energies and through the means which these energies use, or it may act directly on mind, life or matter as the field of its own special and immediate action. Either way is prima facie possible. In a case of cure of illness, someone is lying ill for two days, weak, suffering from pains and fever; he takes no medicine but finally asks for cure from his Guru; the next morning he rises well, strong and energetic. He has at least some justification for thinking that a force has been used on him and put into him and that it was a spiritual power that acted. But in another case medicines may be used, while at the same time the invisible force may be called for to aid the material means, for it is a known fact that medicines may or may not succeed—there is no certitude. Here for the reason of an outside observer (one who is neither the user of the force nor the doctor nor the patient) it remains uncertain whether the patient was cured by the medicines only or by the spiritual force with the medicines as an instrument. Either is possible, and it cannot be said that because medicines were used, therefore the working of a spiritual force is per se incredible and demonstrably false. On the other hand it is possible for the doctor to have felt a force working in him and guiding him or he may see the patient improving with a rapidity which, according to medical science, is incredible. The patient may feel the force working in himself bringing health, energy, rapid cure. The user of the force may watch the results, see the symptoms he works on diminishing, those he did not work upon increasing till he does work on them and then immediately diminishing, the doctor working according to his unspoken suggestions, etc. etc. until the cure is done. (On the other hand he may see forces working against the cure and conclude that the spiritual force has to be contented with a withdrawal or an imperfect success.) In all that the doctor, the patient or the user of force is justified in believing that the cure is at least partly or even fundamentally due to the spiritual force. Their experience is valid of course for themselves only, not for the outside rationalising observer. But the latter is not logically entitled to say that their experience is incredible and must be false.

Another point. It does not follow that a spiritual force must either succeed in all cases or, if it does not, that proves its nonexistence. Of no force can that be said. The force of fire is to burn, but there are things it does not burn; under certain circumstances it does not burn even the feet of the man who walks barefoot on red-hot coals. That does not prove that fire cannot burn or that there is no such thing as force of fire, Agni-shakti.

***

The invisible Force producing tangible results both inward and outward is the whole meaning of the Yogic consciousness. Your question about Yoga bringing merely a feeling of Power without any result was really very strange. Who would be satisfied with such a meaningless hallucination and call it Power? If we had not had thousands of experiences showing that the Power within could alter the mind, develop its powers, add new ones, bring in new ranges of knowledge, master the vital movements, change the character, influence men and things, control the conditions and functionings of the body, work as a concrete dynamic Force on other forces, modify events, etc. etc., we would not speak of it as we do. Moreover, it is not only in its results but in its movements that the Force is tangible and concrete. When I speak of feeling Force or Power, I do not mean simply having a vague sense of it, but feeling it concretely and consequently being able to direct it, manipulate it, watch its movement, be conscious of its mass and intensity and in the same way of that of other perhaps opposing forces; all these things are possible and usual by the development of Yoga.

It is not, unless it is supramental Force, a Power that acts without conditions and limits. The conditions and limits under which Yoga or sadhana has to be worked out are not arbitrary or capricious; they arise from the nature of things. These including the will, receptivity, assent, self-opening and surrender of the sadhak have to be respected by the Yoga-force—unless it receives a sanction from the Supreme to override everything and get something done—but that sanction is sparingly given….

Still the Yoga-force is always tangible and concrete in the way I have described and has tangible results. But it is invisible —not like a blow given or the rush of a motor car knocking somebody down which the physical senses can at once perceive. How is the mere physical mind to know that it is there and working? By its results? but how can it know that the results were that of the Yoga-force and not of something else? One of two things it must do. Either it must allow the consciousness to go inside, to become aware of inner things, to believe in and experience the invisible and the supraphysical, and then by experience, by the opening of new capacities it becomes conscious of these forces and can see, follow and use their workings just as the scientist uses the unseen forces of Nature. Or one must have faith and watch and open oneself and then it will begin to see how things happen; it will notice that when the Force was called in, there began after a time to be a result,—then repetitions, more repetitions, more clear and tangible results, increasing frequency, increasing consistency of results, a feeling and awareness of the Force at work—until the experience becomes daily, regular, normal, complete. These are the two main methods, one internal, working from in outward, the other external, working from outside and calling the inner force out till it penetrates and is sensible in the exterior consciousness.

But neither can be done if one insists always on the extrovert attitude, the external concrete only and refuses to join to it the internal concrete—or if the physical Mind at every step raises a dance of doubts which refuses to allow the nascent experience to develop. Even the scientist carrying out a new experiment would never succeed if he allowed his mind to behave in that way.

***

Concrete? what do you mean by “concrete”? It [spiritual force] has its own concreteness; it can take a form (like a stream for instance) of which one is aware and can send it quite concretely in whatever “direction” or on whatever object one chooses.

This is a statement of fact about the power inherent in spiritual consciousness. What I was speaking of was a willed use of any subtle force (it may be spiritual or mental or vital) to secure a particular result at some point in the world. Just as there are waves of unseen physical forces (cosmic waves etc.) or currents of electricity, so there are mind waves, thought currents, waves of emotion, e.g. anger, sorrow, etc., which go out and affect others without their knowing whence they come or that they come at all—they only feel the result. One who has the occult or inner senses awake can feel them coming and invading him. Influences good or bad can propagate themselves in that way; that can happen without intention, automatically, but also a deliberate use can be made of them. There can also be a purposeful generation of force, spiritual or other. There can be too the use of the effective will or idea acting directly without the aid of any outward action, speech or other instrumentation which is not concrete in that sense, but is all the same effective.

CWSA 29

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