Spirituality, Science and Technology
ONE of the central issue of today is that of the uses and misuses of Science and Technology, of Science and Values, of Science and Spirituality,—in brief, the issue of what Sri Aurobindo has called the denial of the materialist and the refusal of the ascetic.
Fortunately, it can be said that humanity has over-passed the stage of naive materialism, which was based on the vicious circular argument that physical senses are the only means of knowledge, since this very statement cannot be established by means of physical senses. No more are we like the uninstructed stranger who on witnessing the operation of the steam engine insists that it is the piston that produces the steam and has no patience to inquire that the reality might be that it is the steam that propels the piston. A new climate of patient and undogmatic inquiry is now being created where scientists are beginning to study the phenomenon of consciousness with fresh eyes that might
detect that it is not the brain that generates consciousness but that it is the other way round. The latest trends are knocking the doors of the primacy of consciousness.
A major difficulty involved in a possible dialogue between science and spirituality lies in the insistence laid by the long-established habit of physical sciences on the application of their methods on all sciences, even when the subject-matter is not physical in character. But it should be evident that the demand for physical proof of supra-physical fact is irrational and illogical. For the method of knowledge should be appropriate to the object of knowledge. We have to note that the occult, psychic and spiritual sciences have developed various kinds of evidence of the existence of other planes of being and communication with them. They include objectivisation of the outer sense, subtle-contact, mind-contact, life-contact, and contacts through the subliminal in special states of consciousness exceeding our ordinary range. We should note that in any field of experience, error is possible; error is not the prerogative of the inner subjective or occult part of us. Even when the physical and objective methods are employed, there is room for error. A mere liability to error cannot be a reason for shutting out a large and important domain of experience. As in the physical sciences, so in the supra-physical sciences, it is a reason for scrutinising it and finding out in its true standards and its characteristics appropriate and valid means of verification. It is also important to observe that the very basis of our objective experience is our subjective being; hence, it is not probable that only the physical objectifications are true and the rest unreliable. The supra-physical consciousness, when rightly interrogated is a witness to truth and its testimony is confirmed again and again even in the physical and objective field; that testimony
cannot, then, be disregarded when it calls our attention to things within us, or to things that belong to planes or worlds of a supra-physical experience.
As Sri Aurobindo points out: "Consciousness is the great underlying fact, the universal witness for whom the world is a field, the senses instruments. To that witness the worlds and their objects appeal for their reality and for the one world or the many, for the physical equally with the supra-physical, we have no other evidence that they exist."
The question is whether there is or there can be a science of supra-physical data, the scientific character of which is as great as that of sciences of the physical data. Often, we seem to be hesitant to answer this question, and often our claim for spirituality and its validity is sought to be authenticated on the basis of a few examples of intuition, inspiration or random but radical experiences of the soul and the spirit. It does not occur to us that Indian culture has developed over millennia a multisided science through the pursuits of those faculties, which lie above the ranges of physical sciences and rational intelligence. This science is what Swami Vivekananda called science par excellence; this is the Science of Yoga, developed and matured by Rishis and yogins of the Veda and the Upanishads and still further perfected in unbroken chain throughout the history of India right up to our own times.
This Yoga has been looked upon as practical psychology and yogic methods have something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scientific handling of the natural force of electricity or steam to the normal operations of electricity or steam. And they, too, are formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result. In yoga, again, the object is an assured
method of personal discovery or living repetition and possession of past discovery and a working out of all the things found.
Spirituality is not'a matter merely of sporadic or of occasional experiences but a matter of vast and authentic possession of knowledge of all that lies beyond limitations of the human mind as also positions of effective power of realisation and action. It is on the basis of this science that we can bridge the gulf that seems to exist between sciences and spirituality. It is on the basis of the yogic knowledge that we can confidently hope to seek enlargement of physical sciences and also to develop the requireed power of transformation of human limitations, human passions, human ignorance and all the facilities which are found in the human nature.
Again, if philosophy has to play its legitimate role, it has to deal with the field of spiritual experiences and spiritual realities on the basis that is integral. For the varieties of spiritual experiences can easily pose the baffling problem of conflict amongst them. Fortunately, in the spiritual experiences recorded in the Veda and the Upanishads, we have already the statements of supra-mental and integral experience. Sri Aruobindo has shown, in our own times, the profundity of the ancient synthesis of the Vedic Yoga and the Upanishadic Yoga, on the basis of which his own Integral Yoga is founded, even though it. has built new methodologies for purposes of a new objective in order that the supra-mental knowledge can be harnessed for purposes of the highest collective welfare and for the mutation of the human species which would result in the development of a new humanity or super-humanity.