Science, spirituality and the new World Order

  • By P Parameswaran
  • March 2005

Editorial, Yuva Bharati

In one of his usual get-togethers with young students, Dr. Abdul Kalam, one bright student asked our Rashtrapathi. “Sir, does God exist?” Rashtrapathi is reported to have replied. “Look at the sky at night. You see countless stars twinkling and glittering. One intuitively gets the feeling that there must be a creator behind these wonderful phenomena. It can only be God”.

Dr. Abdul Kalam is a scientist by training and temperament. But, he did not try to explain what he felt about the existence of God in the usual, and often-incomprehensible, scientific jargon, probably because he was chatting with young students. He spoke like an ordinary man with faith and insight. The logic is simple. There cannot be such a complex and magnificent creation without a creator. A highly sensitive mind, cultured and refined, spontaneously experiences a great mystery behind this visible universe of sublime beauty and majesty. Even the great scientist Albert Einstein spoke about the mystery he experienced. There is no wonder that the midnight sky studded with shining stars of varying brightness lifts up a sensitive mind to realms far beyond the material. This accounts for genuine spirituality as well as sublime poetry. That sums up Dr. Abdul Kalam’s explanation.

Yes, a creator created all creatures and the whole universe. That is the faith of almost all Abrahamic religions, the Jewish, the Christian and the Islamic. They all believe in a creator, pre-existing all creations and causing them to be created. That is the simplest of the simple explanations. But according to Vedanta or Sanatana Dharma the explanation is totally at a different level. Creation is generally understood to mean making something, which did not exist prior to the action of creation - something coming out of nothing. According to Vedanta that cannot be. Our commonsense also says that nothing can come out of nothing. So according to Vedanta there is nothing like creation. Swami Vivekananda has explained in clear terms that the Sanskrit word ‘Srushti’ has its origin in the root ‘srij’ which means to ‘project’. ‘Srushti’ means projection - projection of something which pre-existed, into new forms. ‘Srushti’ is only the process, of the unmanifest becoming manifest. What is thus manifested will ultimately go back to the state of the unmanifest from which it came. That is called ‘pralaya’- dissolution. It is a cyclic process - beginningless and endless.

The ultimate cause behind these “manifest-exist-nonmanifest” phenomena is what Vedanta calls ‘Brahma’, or more commonly, God. Without God, the Ultimate Reality, no ‘Srushti’ or manifestation or projection can take place. If the term creation means only projection or manifestation and not something coming out of nothing, then it all boils down to the same thing. There is no problem ideologically if God is both the creator and the creation, the cause and the effect. God exists not outside of his creation but immanent in it and is also transcendent. This is a perfectly logical, rational, and, if I may say so, scientific explanation.

It is very interesting to find that of late, even confirmed, life-long atheists are turning out to be believers in the existence of God. Antony Flew, a British Philosophy Professor, 81, who had been a leading proponent of atheism for more than 50 years, has now become a true believer. “I am thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins” – Mr. Flew said.

He still accepts the Darwinian Theory of Evolution, but doubts if it can explain the origin of life.

Throughout his career, uptil now, he had expounded the lack of evidence for the existence of God. But, now he says: “My change of heart has been a gradual process prompted by new scientific research”. Speaking on ‘Has Science Discovered God?’ Prof. Flew argues: “The investigation of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved”.

The first indication of his about-turn came in a letter to ‘Philosophy Now’ magazine in which he said: “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first producing organism”.

In the new edition of a book (God and Philosophy), Prof. Flew has written: “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads”. Prof. Flew was teaching Philosophy earlier at St. John’s College, Oxford, and King’s College, London.

It seems that genuine scientists are slowly coming to accept the Vedantic position that in the beginning was consciousness, which got involved in matter, or took a plunge into what became and then started evolving into various expressions and manifestations. But among scientists there is no unanimity about the existence of God. Many do believe and many do not. A scientist needs proof-solid and verifiable proof. The existence of God has to be proved in a laboratory and it must be reproducible anywhere, anytime under similar circumstances. Here comes the difficulty.

Scientists have been trying to go to the root of the how of creation of the universe. They will not accept any scriptural authority, which cannot be tested and proved in their laboratory. The mystery eludes them. Various theories about the origin of the universe are advanced. Now, they have been trying to discover a “Theory of Everything”. The ‘Big Bang Theory’ the ‘String theory’, and the ‘Black Hole Theory’ have fascinated the scientist. Even non-scientists, and thinking intellectuals all over the world are engaged in their quest for God – the original cause or the first principle.

How did the universe originate? Was there a creator or not? If there was no creator, then how did the creation come into being? Fundamental researches on such issues have been going on for many decades. It is difficult for ordinary intellectuals who are not scientifically trained in the various disciplines even to have a preliminary grasp of the nature of their findings. Ordinary intellectuals, who are curious to know about the nature of their findings can, of course, have access to a plethora of literary materials, fairly authentic, produced by knowledgeable writers, some of them in the form of fascinating fictions.

Till about 20 years back, the Big Bang theory was holding the field, but since then the String theory has become a challenger and it is widely debated though still far from being universally accepted. In a recent article in Frontline, (1st 14th January 2005, ISSN 0970-1710). Dr. T. Jayaraman who interviewed Prof. Andrew Strominger, a leading scientist and Professor of Physics in the Harvard University writes, “The String theory, which considers that the fundamental building blocks of nature are strings rather than point-like objects or particles as has been believed hitherto, has become a major theme of research in the discipline of theoretical high-energy physics”. Hailed by its practitioners as the ‘Theory of Everything’ because of its ability to provide a framework to unify all the fundamental forces of nature, the string theory has both fascinated and mystified physicists.

“The String theory was a very reassuring signpost that we are on the right track though very far from a proof that string theory is correct”, says Prof. Andrew Strominger. But its opponents ridicule the theory as “Theology”. Scientists are bewildered. One scientist exclaimed, “It is clear that String theory is going somewhere. Where it is going is not clear”.

But from the point of view of ‘Vedanta’ the theory is very interesting. The Bhagavad Gita also puts forward a ‘String theory’, which can be described as “The Theory of Everything”, of course at a very different level. The equivalent of the term string in Sanskrit is ‘Sutra’; The Gita proclaims that the great Lord is ‘like’ the string that unites all the beads in a garland. God is the one force, which unifies all the forces of the universe in one single garland of existence. That is the ‘Theology’ of Vedanta but Vedanta does not stop there, God is not only the string that unites but He is also all that it unites. In other words, as was pointed out earlier, God is both the creator and the created. There is nothing other than God. The Gita and also the Upanishads unequivocally proclaim the unity of all existence in God. The Gita says, “There is nothing in the universe except myself. The whole universe is pervaded by and is an extension of mine in an invisible form”. According to Vedanta, God rightly understood, provides “Theory of Everything” which the scientists are frantically seeking but have not yet been able to discover. According to Strominger, “we know we are moving but we can’t see the end of the Road. I think there is still a lot that we are missing”.

Though there is an apparent convergence about the ‘Sutra principle’ of Vedanta and the ‘String theory’ of science, both run parallel. The Vedantic theory is spiritual, and the other, scientific. One is experiential and the other is experimental. One is subjective whereas the other is objective. Whether the two can ever meet poses a big question mark. Scientific quest is concerned with the external nature. Its deals with master in its various forms. It can be tested and verified in the laboratory, which is also constituted by matter. It functions outside oneself.
But the spiritual experience, which validates the ‘Sutra theory’, is experienced in the laboratory of one’s inner world. Spiritual experience is self-assuring, but for the scientists it may be mere hallucination. Undeterred by stumbling blocks on the ways, the scientist’s quest for the ultimate Truth in the external world continues. Occasionally he is encouraged by a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. But often this optimism turns into a ‘Chimera’. The spiritualist has no such dilemma. What he experiences is absolutely unquestionable for him. It is as good as food satisfying one’s hunger, irrespective of what others feel or say about it. Hence he remains immersed in the joyful state of self-realization, which is also God-realization.

Most of the scientists are in quest of a Truth, which can be put to effective use for a successful life in the day-to-day material world. He wants to convert scientific truth into technological innovations and useful gadgets. Often they are found to be at the beck and call of ambitious politicians and statesmen, even autocrats and dictators, who value science only for its technological applications. They don’t want scientific truth for the sake of Truth. Truth is only a handmaid for ulterior use. That has been the bane of science and also the world.

In the case of spiritual seekers, who are also scientists in their on way, knowledge of Truth is an end in itself. It is purifying and liberating. It puts an end to all miseries and bondages. It is pure bliss itself. The real difference between the scientists as understood today and the real spiritualists is that for the former truth fattens their ego, whereas for the latter knowledge eliminates the ego altogether.

There is an excellent comparison and contrast between the scientist and the mystic in ‘THE TAO OF PHYSICS by Fritjof Capra’ “I see science and mysticism are two complementary manifestations of the human mind; of its rational and intuitive faculties. The modern physics experiences the world through an extreme specialization of the rational mind; the mystic through an extreme specialization of the intuitive mind-both of them are necessary, supplementing one another for a fuller understanding of the world. Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but man needs both.

But the real problem and the relevant question is that of the attitude and approach of the mystic and the scientist to the world and its problems, which is of great concern for the future of the world. The mystic or the spiritual person gets totally transformed by his inner experience. A mystic who realizes the unity of existence becomes transformed by the experience and cannot behave in a manner, which goes counter to that. In the case of a scientist the truth that he discovers beings objective, does not necessarily involve a change in his inner being, nor does it alter his pattern of behavior. There is a mismatch. Though the latest discoveries in science have pointed towards an interdependent, interconnected and integrated universe, that discovery has not been translated into socio-economic or political institutions and realities, which are products of a much earlier scientific perception-the perception of Newton and Descartes.

As ‘Fritjof Capra says in THE TAO OF PHYSICS’ “I believe that the world view implied by modern Physics is inconsistent with out present society, which does not reflect the harmonious interrelatedness we observe in nature-it will depend ultimately, on our ability to adopt some of the attitude of Eastern mysticism; to experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony”. It all boils down to this: There must be a happy marriage between India’s spiritual realization and the most modern scientific discoveries resulting in the birth of a new world of harmony based on the essential unity of all.

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