Saturday, July 14, 2012

Science and Spirituality

Many people feel that science is beginning to merge with spirituality. There is a feeling that science is getting closer, by degrees, to the supreme truths as expressed by the sages for millennia, and that eventually science and spirituality may unite. This idea has also been contemplated in regard to the teachings of Meher Baba in God Speaks, and in fact some consideration has been given to the idea that Baba may in fact help to promote this progress in science toward the spiritual by inspiring those in the new science, currently grappling with new discoveries, by giving them hints. However, this view misunderstands a fundamental difference between spirituality and the new science, which makes a merger of the two not just unlikely, but actually impossible.

However, we only mean to refer to the new science as it is currently practiced. It remains entirely possible that one day a newkind of science might emerge, as a result of Meher Baba’s revolutionary teachings on The Theme of Creation, that will in time come into closer tandem with genuine spirituality. But it is not the case with the current science, even when speaking of the newest of new. This is because it is simply headed in the opposite direction from spirituality, outward rather than inward, regardless of how inspiring its terminology and metaphors sound. To understand the sense in which this is true consider the following analogy.

Let us for a moment say that we have all the films of Federico Fellini. And let us further suppose we have a theater in which to study them on a giant screen with excellent sound, etc. We can freeze frames, back it up, go slowly through sequences, turn up and down the volume, ask the projectionist to repeat it. Let us also say we can take all the notes we like on these films as we observe them on the screen and think about their content as much as we like. We could in fact spend a lifetime studying the works of Fellini, as they are so rich. And since there are a limited number of them, since Fellini is dead, we could also be quite thorough.

Now from our notes about these films we could create some great theories about them: what the jokes convey, the subtleties of the stories, we could break down the characters, look for ways to describe or explain the relationship between these characters and the tone and theme of the films and so forth, essentially ad infinitum. We could even psychoanalyze the filmmaker, whether or not we knew who he was, and conceive around him a theory about his motivations, why he made them in the order he did, on and on, etc. etc.. In other words we could sit in a theater and study the films of Federico Fellini and learn an awful lot about them, and even guess more about them just by watching them.

But no matter how many times we watched Fellini's movies on a movie screen and no matter how much we studied them, even if we sat on the front row with perfect acoustics and were very attentive and intelligent, we could never discover in them the secret of film emulsion and its chemistry that is causing us to see them. We could never ever be able, simply by studying the show on the movie screen, to guess one single thing about the difference between reversal and negative Kodak raw stocks, the chemical properties of the coatings applied to celluloid that effectively create these visual effects we are observing. For this information is not in any of Fellini's films. It's just not part of the subject matter of his films. So we couldn’t possibly learn it there. We wouldn’t even guess these effects from a lifelong study of the scenes we watched, the colorful costumes, interesting editing, long cinematic camera-takes. It simply isn't on the screen to find there.

Rather, the chemistry of the emulsion of the raw stock of the film is part of the trick that made that picture on the screen possible. In a sense we’re looking in the wrong direction. For the source is not in front of us, but behind us, in the sound-proof projection booth over our heads and behind us.

So, now, what are we saying about science and spirituality with this analogy? We are saying that science is studying the screen, the movie, representing in the analogy the world we perceive. But what Baba is talking about in God Speaks is not most importantly the picture on the screen at all, but is about the trick that the sanskaras (an entirely psychological event) play upon the soul to produce that picture in front of its senses. This soul and these sanskaras are not in the phenomenal world. Thus they can't ever be found there, no matter how hard we look for them. In fact they can never even be guessed by watching the movie screen, the world of appearances, just as the chemicals of the emulsion and other properties of various types of film used to make motion pictures can never be guessed by studying the movies themselves.

Now why is this necessarily so? Haven't the latest physicists begun to guess some things like Baba says about the sanskaras? Absolutely not. The scientists are not guessing anything even remotely close, no matter how “spiritual” their words may sound at times. Such wording is misleading, and to point out the subtle difference is the objective here.

The sanskara is an exceedingly simple concept. The manner in which it produces the world is so simple, in fact, that there is very little a person can say about it once they grasp the mechanic of it. But it is purely a psychological process, a mental one. Baba is discussing the psychology producing the images and sounds we experience, while science is studying those images and sounds and then hypothesizing theoretical objects analogous to them, in erroneous belief they are getting at their cause. So science necessarily moves in a little loop, much like the person watching nothing but Fellini movies is moving in a loop if, in attempting to find the root cause of the whole show he is watching, he hypothesizes something analogous to the things he sees in those movies.

Making matters even worse, with every new so-called development in contemporary theoretical science—every newtheoretical entity or theoretical event that science postulates as yet another way to explain the show—science takes a little step further from the truth. For the theoretical scientist is inventing even yet more things that he now has to explain, and so he is not moving toward the source of his experience, but away from it. The contemporary theoretical scientist clings to a faith that the ultimate answer, the primal cause of the universe, will eventually be discovered in the front of the theater on the screen that encompasses his experience. It is because of this stubborn faith that he will never, by such thinking, guess that the true source is in the back of the room (in our analogy, analogous to the sanskaras), having lost himself so thoroughly now in the show of illusion.

So what is the analogy saying? The source of what the scientist sees is in fact his own mind, his own sanskaras, and not God particles, dark matter, worm holes, superstrings, multiverses, probabilities, and all that malarkey he has conceived. Scientists are going away from Ultimate Truth, not toward it, as we speak. And this is significant, and obviously can’t be kept up forever. Eventually science will have to begin to realize this simple fact.