Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wilber divides the 20th century physicists into two batches

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The Country and Nationalism Sri Aurobindo 7
Sri Aurobindo, Namaste Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswati 10
Sri Aurobindo and The Veda Kireet Joshi 14
The Path of Nachiketa Alok Pandey 34
Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharata in
Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri Prema Nandakumar 41
Sadhana and Sahitya : The Early
Years in Pondicherry Richard Hartz 52
Sri Aurobindo and the Bengal
Renaissance Debashish Banerji 67
Sri Aurobindo’s Concept of Freedom Sonia Dyne 95
Nation and Beyond – Aspects of
Sri Aurobindo’s Political Vision Dasharathi Sengupta 103
Five Martyrs of Bengal Amalendu De 120
Beyond Mind : A New Paradigm
of Psychology Based on the Mystical
Exploration of Nature Kundan Singh 128
Science and Religion Georges Van Vrekhem 142
The Theme of Urvashi in the Indian
Renaissance : Madhusudan Datta,
Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo Ranajit Sarkar 168
Rabindranath and Sri Aurobindo :
Towards Divine Humanity and
Human Divinity Saurendranath Basu 181

Nation and Beyond – Aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s Political Vision
Dasharathi Sengupta
Sri Aurobindo stands apart from and above all other philosophers and humanists of modern India. He is also regarded as the foremost and, perhaps, the only original political thinker of 20th  century India. The centenary years of the Bengal chapter of his life provide an occasion to remember our indebtedness to this great mind. Shafts of light emanating from this source did not leave untouched even the apparently insignificant parts of human life and society. They travelled from sociology to culture, from history to politics and economics, from the spiritual to the mundane, from the problems of the body to those of mind and soul. In him culminates the tradition whose germination can be traced back to the Vedas and which flowered through subsequent ages to reach the likes of Vivekananda, Rabindranath and Gandhi. […]
Sri Aurobindo thus moves beyond the parameters of nationalism, and writing at a time when the League of Nations was still in its embryonic stage, visualises the European Union of the present UN era. Centripetal forces, comprehended and harnessed by human mind, are sure to lead mankind towards international unification. The great vehicle of this progress is human consciousness, derived from and blessed by the Supreme, the Divine Consciousness. It is not a unilinear progress, but is achieved through life expriences, through conflicts with centrifugal forces, through division and strife, through violence and bloodshed, through Kurukshetras and Gettysbergs32.
These forces operate, not on physical or vital, but on mental plane, and lead inexorably to what Sri Aurobindo describes as ‘The idea of humanity as a single race of beings with a common life and a common general interest…’33. This is the ethical essence of internationalism which Sri Aurobindo defines as ‘…the attempt of the human mind and life to grow out of the national idea and form and even in a way to destroy it in the interest of the larger synthesis of mankind’34. Nation has a space in this synthesis, but not the whole space. It cannot be made to disappear in the interest of world-unity. That would be against the law of ‘natural evolution’. But nation is not the end of the road either. The ideal it represents is destined to flower into ‘the ultimate ideal of a free association of free human aggregates’ 35. 
Nobody can predict exactly as to when the process would reach its terminal point. May be there is no terminal point, an ascent with no climax. Hence there is no time-frame either. The Supreme creator of Time has plenty of it at His disposal. The concept of such a timeless process shaping human destiny is apparently Hegelian. But Sri Aurobindo, while absorbing the tenets of Hegel’s philosophy of history, outgrew the latter in his political vision. National liberation was for him a necessary step towards Human Liberation36. In Hegel’s  Philosophy of Right, the State (in which the soul of nation finds its body) is the march of God upon earth. Sri Aurobindo would not disagree. But for him God (meaning the Divine) marches also beyond the nation, or the nation-state as its political embodiment. For He is Infinite Unity37.

Science and religion
Georges Van Vrekhem
Scientists pro and contra
Ken Wilber was one of the thinkers who reacted strongly against the thesis of popular books like  The Tao of Physics and  The Dancing Wu Li Masters. He “disagreed entirely” with such books “which had claimed that modern physics supported or even proved Eastern mysticism. This is a colossal error. Physics is a limited, finite, relative, and partial endeavour, dealing with a very limited aspect of reality. It does not, for example, deal with biological, psychological, economic, literary, or historical truths; whereas mysticism deals with all that, with the Whole.”29
One of Wilber’s least known books is  Quantum Questions, in which he examines the sources of the thought that created 20th century physics: Einstein, Eddington, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Born, Pauli … some of whom he quotes extensively. “Everyone of the physicists in this volume was a mystic,” he writes. “They simply believed, to a man, that if modern physics no longer objects to a religious worldview, it offers no positive support either; properly speaking, it is different to all that.” It is different because physics was and is a work of the mind, and the mind is only part of the Whole, incapable of grasping the Whole. “They all shared a profoundly spiritual or mystical worldview, which is perhaps the last thing one would expect from pioneering scientists.”30
Wilber quotes Arthur Eddington: “Briefly the position is this. We have learned that the exploration of the external world by the methods of physical science leads not to concrete reality but to a shadow world of symbols, beneath which those methods are unadapted for penetrating. Feeling that there must be more behind, we return to our starting point in human consciousness, the one centre where more might become known.”31 A mathematical formula can never tell us what a thing is, only how it is moved. It can only specify an object through its external properties: movement, measure, mass.
Wilber also quotes Erwin Schrödinger: “The scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously. … In brief, we do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. … From where do I come and to where do I go? That is the great unfathomable question, the same for everyone of us. Science has no answer to it.”32
This is of course a tone which differs altogether from much that we have heard before. These physicists, among the very greatest, dared to reflect and to speak out on the essential problems of our lives and on the relation of science to them. The difference between them and the parochial reductionists we have become acquainted with, is considerable. Moreover, “their writings are positively loaded with references to the Vedas, the Upanishads, Taoism (Bohr made the yin-yang symbol part of his family crest), Buddhism, Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Berkeley, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Kant, virtually the entire pantheon of perennial philosophers.”33
Consequently Wilber divides the 20th century physicists into two batches: the open-minded “mystics” including all those named above, and the mathematical theorists of the next generation like Dirac, Weinberg, Feynman and Witte, plus most of the physicists active at present. As to the latter, one quote from Steven Weinberg says it all: “Among today’s scientists I am probably somewhat atypical in caring about such things [the concept of God]. On the rare occasions when conversations over lunch or tea touch on matters of religion, the strongest reactions expressed by most of my fellow physicists is a mild surprise and amusement that anyone still takes all that seriously. … As far as I can tell from my own observations, most physicists today are not sufficiently interested in religion even to qualify as practising atheists.”34
Whence this huge existential and perspectival difference? The “mystic” physicists lived on the fault line between two eras, between two Kuhnian paradigms in science. They personified the transition between the Newtonian era, as it were, solidified by the 19th century positivism we have met in the lives of Lamarck, Darwin and Wallace, and their own 20th century thinking which put everything into question. An important factor here is that religion was no longer part of the equation. Spirituality, or “mysticism”, or “the oceanic feeling,” yes; dogmatic religion, no. To Einstein, Eddington, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Born and Pauli – to name only the best-known – re-thinking the universe in the terms of physics was their life task. In their quest, time and again, they found resonances and references in the testimonies left behind by others who had undertaken a similarly daunting task, though necessarily in other terms: the “mystics” in West and East, who had put their life on the line for similar reasons: to find out about Reality. Those who say that physics (and science in general) has nothing to do with “mysticism” are ignorant of its copiously documented history of a century, and less than a century, ago.

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