2.32-33 On Relation of Spiritual and Physical in the Nature of Diseases and Their Treatment

2.32 That could simply be because the original or the background physical cause is not yet tackled, such as an organ damage or a system disorder, or as we say today, the genes?

Well, these are only so many steps in the physical itself. We can trace it this way:


In other words, even on a purely physical level, disease arises due to not one but many factors. Some of these factors have been partially understood, some not at all, and some we do not even know. For example, we do not know how genes and environment interact. At best, it is an extremely complex process. We do not know what really constitutes as ‘environmental factors’.

Is it only the physical and physiological environment or does our psychological and other internal states also have a role to play in triggering a gene or directly affecting an organ/system or upsetting our chemistry? After all, we have tried all kinds of chemical/physical methods and manipulations and though there has been some success, often much hyped up by an overenthusiastic and hopeful medical community, the limitations are already becoming more than obvious. In fact, it is precisely due to these limitations that the study of physical causes is being pushed to its extreme limits – the gene. Like the atom, genes are the last wall that our purely material paradigm of man must face and cross. Since we have only begun to explore this area of genetic manipulation, we cannot say how far it will go and can go in finding the perfect answer. Yet, a little common sense, logic and empirical evidence will tell us that genes cannot solve the human enigma. They are but one piece of the puzzle, especially in the physical domain. They may be an important piece, but certainly not the last or even central piece in the human puzzle.

A logical fallacy here is that, that which is being explained is much more and greater than that which explains it! Explaining life and all that happens to our body and mind on the basis of genes is like explaining everything in a beautiful and many tiered mansion, its aesthetics and the thought of the architect etc on the basis of the arrangements of the bricks in its wall. Now it is true that the bricks are everywhere and the very foundation of the house stands upon them. Blow away the bricks and the house collapses, get some poor quality stuff and the building will not last long, align them wrongly and the building becomes unsafe—even the design depends upon the way they are laid. But to say that they explain everything is absurd. Least of all the bricks can tell us is about the dweller within the house. It is just the same with the computer analogy. The hardware does not explain the software, it only supports it. Nor does it explain the mind of the user – it only imposes certain limitations to his uses.

33. In the face of worldwide enthusiasm for gene-therapy, what then is the relation between the spiritual and physical, if there is any at all?

This kind of enthusiasm had been present earlier too with drugs and certain methods. But enthusiasm and hope are often outweighed by a reality check. Enthusiasts are often people who have a great faith in the method of physical science. But there is a fundamental flaw in this method itself. The very first fallacy lies in the threefold assumption that:

– Matter and physical world are the only reality: This assumption puts science within a box with fixed and rigid boundaries that are already beginning to crumble.

– Sensory evidence is the only proof of fact: This seals the boundaries with strong bars and is being increasingly questioned by fresh evidence.

– Rational analysis is the only way of knowing the truth: This puts a lock on our own personal growth and our capacity to know and explore; we are beginning to discover that there is an intelligence, an inherent ‘knowledge’ and ‘will’ in every element of the universe.

The universe is not only a material but also a spiritual fact. And these two different orders of reality are not disconnected and cut off from each other as if the spiritual world has no bearing upon the material. The spiritual, the material and all the other intermediary worlds with their forces and energies all influence each other. And in this complex chain, the spiritual is the first cause, the base and support of all things, whereas material is the last, the result. But in the material itself there are several steps and one may easily confuse any of these to be the final or sole determinant cause. It is a top-down view of things and not from below above or from the surface to the depth.

Now if we cut off all the rest and only adhere to material causes then we have serious gaps in our knowledge and a fractured understanding of things. Thus, for instance how are we to explain how an ‘unconscious’ gene acts with such precision in steps so as to create a conscious, thinking being? How do ‘unconscious’, ‘inanimate’ chemicals create conscious living creatures? How do ‘blind neurons’ create a ‘foreseeing thought’? What is the role of will, aspiration, faith and love? Are these also genetically determined? Are they just a fantastic illusion created by the play of genes and the brain and body’s neurochemistry? And if that is so, then what is the reliability of all our knowledge, evidence, analysis and data?

It means we are ultimately relying on certain chemicals in order to know other chemicals! But as we understand, chemicals are essentially incapable of intelligent analysis and knowledge! Besides, what is cause and effect in a ‘random world’? What we observe instead is an intelligence, a conscious working, even an aim if we may say, an intelligent working out in steps towards a goal adapting a means to an end, a recurrent pattern, rule and law and mathematical order behind everything in Nature. In other words, what is more likely to be true is the deep and profound ancient Indian seer-sight that matter is born out of energy and force, energy and force is born out of consciousness, and consciousness itself is inherent in the being. If that sounds abstract (it is not but it’s just that we are not habituated to look at it in this way), then we can put it simply in this way – it is the formless spirit that has assumed a form; it is the limitless infinite consciousness that has become a limited and finite consciousness that we call life; and even an ‘apparent unconsciousness’ that we call matter. But everything is pregnant with consciousness, there is a conscious Intelligence far surpassing the human intelligence that is operating everywhere. What we term our mind is itself one form and aspect or even the result of this self-limitation of the one infinite Consciousness. But since here upon earth, all this is based upon matter, rooted in matter as it were and hidden in matter as a limitless possibility, all seeming to be so heavily dependent upon matter, it has no independent reality save as an epiphenomenon or result of material processes alone. In other words, we can take three possible approaches to reality.

First the physical world and matter are the only dimensions to study. If matter explains itself and we understand the chain of material processes by our material mind alone, then we can find ways to correct whatever goes wrong in this chain by just material means, thereby making ourselves free from disease and death. And since, according to this theory, everything is a question of genes and chemistry, we may also find a chemical means to change our mind, attitudes beliefs, hopes, etc. and make man free of evil and suffering as well. This is an attractive hypothesis. But the big question here is that even if it were possible, is it really worth it? For then one may ask who or rather what am I, this ‘I’ that wants to be free of disease, evil and suffering? They are as unreal as the solidity of objects themselves! Besides leading to a dangerous form of genetic fatalism, this makes everything in life that is grand, noble and beautiful at once worthless and meaningless. The question is: if at the end of things, we have an atomic void waiting for us, is it worth the trouble to explore? Finally, it leads to serious gaps and the biggest of all unanswered questions: why there is something at all and not nothing? How is material existence born? How did creation arise in this meaningless void?

Second, there is a spiritual reality other than the material but both—the spiritual and material—are closed boxes complete within themselves and with no meeting point or mutual influence. The soul comes from one box and steps into the other for whatever strange reason and then goes back to its home. Both run together like parallel worlds that cannot meet. Such a doctrine raises even more questions and further confounds the confusion. It does not fill the gaps but only widens them. The riddle becomes worse – what need has the spiritual self to enter at all into the material if it has nothing to do with it? If both are closed boxes then how does it enter at all? What is the use of such a supernumerary and what kind of experience must it take from the material world to which it neither belongs nor has no particular point of contact or any specific influence?

Third, and this is the position that a comprehensive spiritual vision, experience and thought takes – the spiritual and material worlds and all the intermediary ranges are interlinked in a single chain. The spiritual or rather the highest levels of the spiritual are the source and cause of all things and are therefore most free, all-knowing and powerful. The material, or even further below, is the world that is most bound and therefore most resistant to change, least conscious and least able to exercise a will of its own. Man in his present evolution stands somewhere between these two poles, but at a crucial point. He can bring into his body, mind and life the influx of a higher spiritual consciousness, knowledge and power, and change things here, even physically, including the genetic imprints if that is necessary. If the mind can do it without direct spiritual assistance (indirectly it is always pushed by the spirit from behind to exceed itself and exercise new possibilities) then how much more would it do if it opens to a much greater power beyond mind, a power out of which mind and matter both are born? But the means to open to that higher power is through an inner Yoga and not by a technological manipulation of matter. That is why we are less enthusiastic about things like gene therapy, which though useful in their place, cannot give the ultimate solution since they are not the sole and final determining cause. The final answer lies elsewhere


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