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The Role of Science and Spirituality for World Peace

Address of the chief guest at the Inaugural Session World Philosophers Meet 98, Geneva, 18-21 August 1998

Prof. Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
Minister, H. R. D., Government of India and Former Head of Physics Department, University of Allahabad

His Excellency, Mr. Gerard Ramseyer, Hon’ble President of the Council of State of Geneva, Hon’ble Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad, Chairman, WPM’98, Geneva, Switzerland, His Excellency Mr. Walter Gyger, Hon’able Dr. Kim, Director, Division of Philosophy and Ethics, – Personal Representative of the Director-General, UNESCO, Paris, His Excellency Dr. Karan Singh – Key Note Speaker, Hon’able Shri Pamod Navalkar, Minister for Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra, other dignitaries on the dias Adv. B. E. Avhad, Vice-President, MAEER’s MIT, Pune, our President Dr. Suresh G. Ghaisas, Dr. Sampatkumar, Secretary-General, WPM’98.

It is indeed a matter of great privilege for me to be here with you all and join you on this momentous occasion when we have assembled here at the International Centre of Geneva to discuss and understand the role of science, religion and philosophy to evolve the moral and ethical code for the 21st century. Friends, we are here to pay our respects to all those great saints, sages, seers and scientists of the world who have shown to us all possible ways and means to establish a holistic society and make our human life comfortable, happy and contented.

All great children of our MOTHER EARTH have been highly evolved souls who had experienced eternal bliss by realising the Supreme Soul – Brahman. I am proud to tell this gathering of learned audience, that whenever the whole world was under chaos and confusion in the East or the West, either Lord Krishna or Lord Jesus Christ were born at appropriate time and they have shown the DIVINE LIGHT of love and compassion to the whole of suffering mankind and established the true religion of humanity in the world. Seven centuries ago, when whole of India was engulfed in confusion Great Philosopher Saint Shri Jnaneshwara of Alandi, or Great Saint Francis of Assisi, or the great scientists of today they have always worked for the betterment of humanity.

I salute all the great saints, sages, seers and scientists of the world.

Over past several centuries human society has witnessed tremendous scientific progress and growth of material affluence in many parts of the world on the one hand and a serious erosion of moral and spiritual values on the other. Mankind today is facing a multidimensional civilisation crisis which has engulfed almost all perspectives of our lives, material and spiritual. All nations, whether rich or poor are nations with a troubled soul and are in search of new paradigm. The question is how can science and spirituality contribute to world peace. In the teachings of Indian sages like Swami Vivekananda we have answers to this question.

The scientific thought dominating the western mind for the past three centuries evolved as a result of the works of Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, René Descartes and Isaac Newton. The foundations of scientific rationalism were laid when Galileo for the first time combined experiments with mathematics. Bacon propounded a clear theory of inductive procedure and Descartes declared, “all science is certain and evident knowledge”. Descartes also constructed an entirely new system in which events were mathematically described. His statement “Cogito Ergo Sum” (I exist because I think) resulted in a fragmented human personality with “Mind” separated from the “Body” and functioning as a controlling authority of the body. Descartes with his analytical skill portrayed universe and all the objects which constituted it as automata. For past three hundred years, probably because of his great influence, the scientists till the first quarter of the current century made special endeavour to unravel the mystery of the working of this Great Machine. As a natural corollary of these ideas nature or universe could be understood in terms of huge machine with the multitude of the celestial bodies hinged together as its parts and operating under some laws which the human mind could discover. This world-view received further support from the works of Isaac Newton who developed his machines on the basis of the Cartesian view of the universe and made it the foundation of classical physics.

Newton showed the western world that the Universe was rationally comprehensible. In fact Newton’s statement, “I make no hypothesis” (Hypothesis non fingo) became the foundation for the rapid development of experimental sciences particularly in physics and ultimately resulted in some of the most wonderful scientific and technological discoveries. The industrial revolution could only be propelled because of his discovery of laws of motions which demonstrated that Celestial bodies also obey the laws valid on our planet. Human mind could, thus, comprehend what till then was believed to be purely the domain of the divine. If Descartes developed the discipline of mathematical analysis and proved that Nature could be pictured as a Great Machine, it was Isaac Newton who discovered the laws on which the machine operated.

The Newtonian world view was mechanistic, wholly deterministic and governed by the principle of causality. In Newtonian physics the position of a moving object at any future time could be predicted provided one had the requisite information about its present position and the laws governing its motion. Similarly its past position at an earlier time could be retrodicted. Thus, according to this concept the Giant machine was operating like a pre-recorded tape where nothing could change and every event was predetermined right from the moment the Machine came into existence. All this required the existence of an extra-terrestrial agency to set the machine in motion in accordance with some divine laws. In the Cartesian scheme the nature could be described objectively by a set of mathematical equations and the existence of an observer was not necessary. The synthesis of these two ideas retained universe as a machine but bade a good-bye to God. Cartesian dualism between spirit and matter thus created a deep spiritual void.

Some of the philosophical consequences of Cartesian-Newtonian approach can be summed up as under:

a. The Universe is a Giant Machine and is governed by certain universal laws which can be discovered through experiments and rational understanding. By applying these laws one can extend the horizon of his knowledge and can obtain further information about the nature or universe.

b. There is an external world which exists apart from us which can be observed and measured in an objective manner without producing any change in it. This external world is impersonal and the observer can strive for “Absolute Objectivity”.

This concept of absolute objectivity is based on the assumption that there exists an “External World” independent of the observer, that “I” as an observer exist “in here” and “out there” exists the external world to be “observed”. The philosophy of scientific rationalism also maintained that every event in this external world was predetermined so there was nothing to be chosen by the observer. And if there was nothing to choose what use would one have for this knowledge? The answer was that with persistent refinement of the experimental techniques and mathematical methods the scientist would one day observe the ultimate reality of the Universe, the nature would be forced to reveal all its secrets. Scientists pursued this path vigorously till nineteenth century when various physical phenomena were successfully interpreted in terms of atoms, molecules and their motion. The Cartesian belief in the absolute certainty of scientific knowledge created a paradigm in which science and technology were given dominant role. Science was more and more secularised.

The mechanistic view and the reductionist approach dominated the western mind during nineteenth century when this model was extended to chemistry, biology, psychology and even to social sciences. Newtonian model became more complex in order to resolve the problems in various disciplines. Eighteenth century saw the rapid spread of the mechanistic world view and reductionist approach and many thinkers started developing subjects like “social physics”. In the late seventeenth century the well known philosopher John Locke had published his work which was deeply impressed by the Newtonian model. This had tremendous influence on the eighteenth century thinkers. Locke developed an atomistic view of the society by reducing the patterns of social behaviour to individual behaviour. Obviously psychology and political philosophy were all to be influenced by this unconventional approach. Locke’s ideas provided a new value system and had a deep impact on the development of modern political and economic thought. Entire western world was under the spell of Newtonian model till certain developments of far reaching significance took place during the nineteenth century.

The theory of evolution developed as a result of certain researches in geology, biology and the work of Pierre Laplace and Immanuel Kant. In physics itself the discovery of the electromagnetic phenomenon was not compatible with Newton’s mechanistic model. The biologist started questioning the validity of the Cartesian concept that the universe came into being as fully and perfectly constructed machine, they instead proposed an evolutionary paradigm in which the present day complex universe has evolved from simpler structures. Such a paradigm was also purely materialistic and also accepted the view that the evolution of the external world can be uniquely and objectively observed by an independent observer. The spiritual elements were missing even in this approach. Despite these developments science continued to quantify and measure, improve its experimental techniques and the Newtonian mechanics continued to be the basis of all physics till Einstein arrived at the scene.

Since the beginning of the 20th century science has made advancements revising many concepts. Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty has given a deeper insight in understanding the behaviour of sub-atomic particles. The strict cause and effect relationship breaks down in their domain. The determinacy of the Newtonian model in the Universe is replaced by indeterminacy in the sub-atomic world. After the successful experiments of J. C. Bose the distinction between living and non-living has disappeared. Bose started investigating the responses of non-living like metals, and the animals. He discovered the fatigue of metals and then moved on from physics to physiology. In 1901, May 10th, J. C. Bose demonstrated all his experiments in England. Scientists saw with wonder the similar curves of muscles and metals, when they were responding to the effect of fatigue, stimulation, depression and poisonous drugs. He made the following remark after completion of his demonstration:

“I have shown you this evening autographic records of the history of stress and strain in the living and the non-living. How similar are the writings! So similar indeed that you can not tell one apart from the other. Among such phenomena, how can we draw a line of demarcation, and say, here the physical ends, and there the physiological begins? Such absolute barriers do not exist…It was when I came upon the mute witness of these self made records, and perceived on them one phase of pervading unity that bears with in all things – the mote that quivers on ripples of light, the teeming life upon our earth and the radiant sun that shines above us – it was then that I understood for the first time a little of that message proclaimed by my ancestors on the banks of the Ganges thirty centuries ago: They who see but one, in all the changing, manifoldness of this Universe, unto them belongs Eternal Truth – unto none else, unto none else.”

Examples can be multiplied to prove Bose’s thesis, the Viennese biologist Raoul France, Clean Backster of America, the Japanese scientist Dr. Hashimoto and many others confirmed what J. C. Bose had demonstrated. The mechanistic world view can not explain this inter-connectedness of organic and inorganic.

Science today is confronted with certain questions which it earlier considered outside its domain. But as a result of some of its own discoveries intellectuals are asking, “Is matter related to consciousness in any manner?” If so, then what is the nature of this relationship? It all began sometimes around 1924-25 when Louise de Broglie put forth the hypothesis of matter waves. Erwin Schroedinger – the father of wave mechanical model – proposed his new equation of motion for a free particle in case of electron. Then came W. Heisenberg with his Principle of uncertainty and stated if you are certain about the position of a moving particle like electron you are uncertain about its velocity and vice versa. The natural corollary of Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty was that

a. you can not know what exactly a fundamental particle is

b. in subatomic world the strict law of cause and effect breaks down and

c. the strict division between an observer and the observed withers away.

The efforts to discover the ultimate reality through experiments are, therefore, meaningless. The classical concepts were thus no longer tenable in subatomic world. The phenomena in this domain are statistically describable, it is impossible to describe the behaviour of one particle with certainty.

Modern physics is now dealing with this new paradigm of quantum mechanics. The central question is, what is it that quantum mechanics describes? The answer generally accepted is known as Copenhagen interpretation. This interpretation simply states that the quantum mechanics is about correlations in our experiences. It is about what will be observed under specific conditions. Einstein, however, opposed this till his last. His famous statement that he did not believe in a dice- playing God expressed his disagreement with the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics.

The most startling consequence of the Copenhagen Interpretation was that the physicists under pressure of their own findings, were forced to accept that a complete comprehension of reality lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. It is significant that Einstein never agreed with this. However, the quantum mechanical paradigm unhesitatingly stated that the new physics was not based on “absolute reality” but upon us. The world “out there” was inseparable from the observer “in here”.

Einstein who believed in causality could not accept Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. In order to disprove Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen published a paper: “Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?” The authors postulated that if principle of uncertainty was correct that causality does not hold good in the domain of subatomic world, then it will lead to a strange paradox, that two same kind of subatomic particles must somehow be phenomenon did exist was proved by successful experiments in 1972 by David Bohm, in London, Clauser and Freedman in USA and a team of Alain Aspect in Paris in 1982. The impossibility of superluminary connections as propounded by the theory of Relativity is no longer valid. Hence, “an interconnectedness in events taking place at space like distances is valid”.

J. S. Bell, a physicist at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) gave a mathematical formulation of the EPR effect. The astounding implication of Bell’s theorem is that “at a deep and fundamental level, the separate parts of the Universe are connected in an intimate and immediate way”. In 1975 Jack Sarfatti stated, “not only superluminal connections exist but they can be used in a controllable way to communicate messages”. Henry Stapp, in 1975, said, “Bell’s theorem is the most profound discovery of science.”

The most startling consequence of all these discoveries is that the Cartesian concept of reality as parts joined by local connections does not fit in the Quantum Mechanical Paradigm. Henry Stapp again concludes by saying “the theorem of Bell proves, in effect, the profound truth that the world is either fundamentally lawless or fundamentally inseparable”. Bell’s theorem implies that whatever happens in one part of the universe on a single entity has an effect which can be detected in any other part of the universe on a similar entity. According to Malic Kapec, Bell’s theorem has laid the foundation for the neodeterminism or superdeterminism in science. The initial conditions can not be changed. The universe could not be anything but what it is.

David Bohm suggested that quantum physics demands a new order. “Instead of starting with parts and showing how they work together, we start with the whole.” This is also in consonance with Bell’s theorem. The separate parts of the universe are not separate parts. Says Bohm, “Parts are seen to be in immediate connection, in which their dynamical relationship depends, in an irreducible way, on the state of the whole system (and indeed, on that of broader systems in which they are contained, extending ultimately and in principle to the entire universe). Thus, one is led to a new notion or unbroken wholeness which denies the classical ideas of analysability of the world into separately and independently existing parts…”

Explaining his hypothesis of apparently random subatomic phenomena, David Bohm says, “Particles may appear in different places yet to be connected in the implicate order. Particles may be discontiguous in space but they are contiguous in the implicate order.” Matter according to Bohm is a form of the implicate order as the vortex is the form of the water – it is not reducible to smaller particles. Like “matter” and every thing else, particles are forms of the implicate order. The question which arises now, is “What is the ‘implicate order’ the implicate order of?”

As Gary Zukov says, “The implicate order’ is the implicate order of that – which – is. However, ‘that which is’ is the implicate order. This world view is entirely different from what we are using in classical physics.” In the words of David Bohm “Description is totally incompatible with what we want to say”. Says Gary Zukov, “Because of the deep rooted Greek notions in the western mind, it is unable to comprehend this new paradigm. The Greeks believed that only Being is. Therefore, Non-Being is not. Actually in the new paradigm Non-Being also is. Both Being and Non-Being are ‘that which is’. Everything even “emptiness” is that which is. In Bohm’s physics, there is nothing which is not ‘that which is’. Bohm’s theories have striking parallelism in Eastern thought, in the Upanishadic statements.

The Chandogya Upanishad gives a dialogue between Svetaketu and his father. When Svetaketu returned home after learning Vedas for twelve years, his father asked him, “Svetaketu, have you asked for the knowledge by which we hear the unhearable, by which we perceive the unperceivable, by which we know the unknowable?” – “What is that knowledge?” asked Svetaketu. His father Uddalaka said, “That knowledge is knowing that by which we know all.” And further explaining the father pronounced, “In the beginning there was Existence, One only without a second. Some say that in the beginning there was non-existence only, and that out of that the Universe was born. But the question is how could existence be born of non-existence? In my opinion in the beginning there was Existence alone – One only. He the one thought to himself: Let me be many, let me grow forth. Thus out of himself he projected the Universe, and having projected out of himself the Universe, he entered into every thing. All that is has his self in him alone. Of all things he is the subtle essence. He is the truth. He is the self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.”

In the Brahad Aranyak Upanishad the sage informs king Janaka about the true nature of Brahman, “Brahman can be apprehended only as knowledge itself – knowledge which is one with reality, inseparable from it. For he is beyond all proof, beyond all instruments of thought. The eternal Brahman is pure, unborn, subtler than the subtlest, greater than the greatest. By the purified mind alone Brahman is perceived. He who knows Brahman to be the life of life, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, – he indeed comprehends fully the cause of causes. In Brahman there is no diversity. He who sees diversities goes from death to death.”

The quintessence of the Upanishadic thought is given by the following:

All this is Brahman, I am Brahman, So art thou and

That which is in microcosm is also in the macrocosm.

Brahman is all pervading, it is subtler than the subtlest and larger than the largest.

The implicate order of David Bohm has striking parallels in the ancient Hindu Philosophy where the Cosmic consciousness connects every being with the rest of the Universe.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad says:

Thou art the fire,
Thou art the sun,
Thou art the air,
Thou art the moon,
Thou art the starry firmament,
Thou art Brahman Supreme,
Thou art the water – Thou
The creator of all!
Thou art woman, thou art man,
Thou art the youth, thou art the maiden,
Thou art the old man tottering with his staff.
Thou facest everywhere.
Thou art the dark butterfly,
Thou art the green parrot with red eyes,
Thou art the thunder cloud, the seasons, the seas.
Without beginning art thou,
Beyond time, beyond space,
Thou art that from whom sprang
The three worlds.
Filled with Brahman are the things we see;
Filled with Brahman floweth all that is;
From Brahman all – yet is he still the same.

The famous Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (as translated by Griffith) contains the following stanzas:

Who verily knows and who can here declare it,
Whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than the world’s production,
who knows whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven,
He verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

The Mundaka Upanishad beautifully sums up the concept of Brahman:

Brahman verily is this immortal being.
In front is Brahman, behind is Brahman
To the right and to the left.
It spreads forth above and below.
Verily, Brahman is this effulgent universe.

The scientists today are facing multidimensional questions, science aimed at discovering the ultimate reality through experiments and mathematical analysis, but the reality or Truth continues to defy all such attempts. The spiritual leaders of the world are also seeking the ultimate Truth. When the scientists desired to remain objective, the observer-observed dualism appeared on the scene and rendered any absolute observation impossible. This is particularly true for the subatomic world. This unpredictable and uncertain behaviour of quantum particles has led to an interesting interpretation of quantum mechanics. Hugh Everette and John Wheeler in their Many World Theory have suggested that all the possibilities which the wave function of Schroedinger’s equation presents are real, and they all happen. The interpretation that only one of the possibilities contained in the wave function of an observed system actualises and the rest vanishes is untenable. This theory of Everett and Wheeler says that all of them actualise, but in different worlds. The Everett-Wheeler-Graham theory admits that the Schroedinger wave equation generates an endlessly proliferating number of different branches of Reality (the Rope snake illusion and Ram Krishna’s story of the farmer).

So we notice that the language which many modern physicists are using is converging to the language of spiritual leaders. It is in this context that the teachings of Swami Vivekananda are extremely significant. Enunciating the Vedantic world view Swamiji says, “This external world is the world of suggestions. All that we see, we project out of our own minds… The wicked man sees this world as a perfect hell, the good as a perfect heaven and the perfect man sees nothing but God.” Vedantic Philosophy believes that it is our consciousness which creates the world outside. Vivekananda elaborates, “All senses before us are projections of our intellectual (activated by the presence of our consciousness). The only seer is the self (the pure consciousness) inside us. This self can not be seen because it is itself the Seer.”Max Planck also believed that matter was derived from consciousness. “Consciousness,” said Planck, “I regard as fundamental. I regard matter to be derived from consciousness. We can not get behind consciousness. Everything we talk about, everything we regard as existing postulates consciousness.” Schroedinger writing in his book Mind and Matter tried to provide an outlook of non-dualism. Wolfgang Pauli wrote, “From an inner centre the psyche seems to move outward in the sense of an extroversion, into the physical field.”

Said Swami Vivekananda, “The internal universe, the real is infinitely greater than the external, which is only a shadow projection of the true one. This world is neither true nor untrue, it is the shadow of the truth.” He goes on elaborating the Advaita or non-dualism in his own way when he says, “Matter is only externalised thought.”

“On the subject the object has been superimposed; the subject is the only reality, the other a mere appearance. Matter and the external world are but the soul in a certain state; in reality there is only one.”

We have seen that it is the subjective world that rules the objective. Change the subject, and the object is bound to change, purify yourself and the world is bound to be purified.

“That we have inside, we see outside, the boy has no thief inside and sees no thief outside. So is with all knowledge.”

How strikingly similar is the language of the modern scientists and the Vedantin Swami Vivekananda, who interprets spiritualism in the light of the Upanishadic teachings. Just as Bell’s theorem has proved that the Universe is a stupendous hologram where each part is interconnected with the rest of the Universe, so also is the view of the Upanishad.

Says Karl Pribram, a brain researcher and a neurosurgeon, that brain’s deep structure is essentially holographic. Each brain cell is a miniature brain itself. So is the Vedic statement that each soul is the manifestation of Brahman. Karl Pribram continues, “What if the real world is not made of objects at all? What if it is a hologram?” These statements have raised deeper questions like who was looking through this hologram and who was looking at this hologram? Who was running the brain computer? “Was it a ghost in the machine?” enquired Arthur Koestler. Who interprets the hologram? Was the million dollar question before the scientists?

Pribram supports the holistic view of the universe said in 1977: “This is science as it was originally conceived in the pursuit of understanding. The days of the bold hearted technocrat appear to be numbered.”

Lord Krishna in the Gita says: “I have interpenetrated through the entire Universe, like pearls strung on one string.”

Pribram admitted that this holographic concept of a holistic Reality was first given to the world by Eastern philosophy. He said, “Eastern philosophy has come into Western thought as in the past… whether it will stick this time or we will have to go around once more will depend on you. The spirit of the infinite could become part of our culture and not a little far out.”

And said Vivekananda a century ago: “This mind is a part of the Universal mind. Each mind is connected with every other mind, wherever it is located, is in actual communication with the whole world.”

It was in 1893 in the Chicago Parliaments of Religions when Swami Vivekananda had defined science as “nothing but the finding of the unity”, in his famous Madras lecture he had said, “One atom in this Universe can not move without dragging the whole world with it.” Swamiji had also said, “One man contains the whole Universe. One particle of matter has all the energy of the Universe at his back.”

So we find that both science and spirituality in their pursuit of truth are converging to a grand unification of matter and spirit. I do believe that the message of 20th century world to the coming generation is to realise the most blissful state of essential unity pervading all through the Universe and announce: ATMAN IS BRAHMAN. SCIENCE IS TRUTH AND TRUTH IS BRAHMAN. So said Vinoba, science and spirituality is equal to world peace, and I believe that this statement is perfectly valid. Today science and spirituality are converging, so the chances for a peaceful world are on the horizon salutes to Saint Jnaneshwara.