Seminar for Science Teachers
SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY
by Al Drucker, Visiting Professor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prashanti Nilayam, India
A Unity of Understanding
This seminar is taking place in a very special place, a gorgeous college setting which abounds with the exquisite beauty of nature that has manifested here in great splendor. At the same time, this place is also filled with the spiritual vibrations that Bhagavan has planted here. Therefore, being here, one is twice blessed, to have both nature and the spirit.
Well, nature and spirit is the subject of this article. Since this is a seminar for teachers with a strong background not only in the sciences but also in the spiritual traditions of this country, many of you must feel a desire to bring the sweetness and grandeur of spirituality into science, in other words to bridge the gap that frequently appears to separate the two. Being a Westerner who spent much of his life in science and technology, I want to approach from the other direction. I would like to show that the way science itself is evolving today, the bridge is already there, having naturally come into place. Most scientists and most spiritual seekers don't realize this as yet, but those who are ready can even now walk across this bridge and find a familiar world on the other side. In fact, even the metaphor of the bridge is not quite appropriate, for science and spirituality are not two different things, separated by some gulf. As Sai Baba has told, they are more like our two legs; we need both to progress forward towards our goal. In this article we will explore the concept of evolution (including nuclear, chemical, biological, cultural and spiritual evolution) as the unifying link that ties together science and spirituality.
Most of the world, today, has placed its faith in the secular beliefs of science. Much of what we read in newspapers and news-journals is conditioned by the scientific outlook. So to reach a large part of humanity, an approach to the spiritual has to be made through science. Science itself will have to open a way, which in fact is already in process. The first thing to see is how closely comparable in overall form and approach, science and spirituality are. We usually focus on their differences, but let us examine the basic role of each in the light of what is common between them.
Science for a long time was called natural philosophy. It has been primarily concerned with the study of nature, attempting to understand the underlying organizing principles that govern nature. Similarly, spirituality has also been concerned with understanding nature, albeit our inner nature. In both cases we are primarily involved in discovering or revealing what already exists. We might say that science aims at progressively clearing away our ignorance of the outer nature while spirituality aims at progressively clearing away our ignorance of the inner nature. In each case we penetrate ever deeper into finer dimensions; in science we generally delve into the particular using our organs of perception and our thinking mind, whereas in spirituality we delve into the universal, relying more on direct inner experience and our intuitive mind. But then we find that when we plumb the furthest depths in both areas, we finally reach the same source.
Accustomed as most of us are to a life-time conditioning of looking outwards, the ways of science seem natural to us and we become fascinated with its discoveries, for they are objective discoveries that can be shared by all. The great discoveries of spirituality, on the other hand, are subjective and therefore more personal. They can't be known by the ways of science. They have a means and purpose of their own. Whereas science answers the how questions that arise when we seek to understand the make up of the world and our phenomenal experiences in it, spirituality tackles the deeper why questions that arise when we seek insights into the purpose of existence, itself.
We see that the relationship between spirituality and science is complementary. They naturally go together; the one is the genesis of the other. One is primarily concerned with causes, the other primarily with effects. But there is no sharp distinction; cause and effect, the basis and the manifestation merge into each other and can't be separated. Together they make up one unified body of knowledge. That they have not always been seen in this light is due primarily to the rocky road that western science had to tread when it attempted to re-establish itself in Europe after the thousand year lapse of the middle ages. When some of its discoveries came into conflict with the teachings of the Medieval Church, strong opposition developed. Even now, 400 years later, we have inherited some of this controversy. But it is just a historical perturbation; events themselves are putting to rest any artificial differences that remain. The present course in both areas is pointing towards a unity of understanding.
Evolution as the Unifying Link
The unifying concept that has recently emerged and yet has been with us for well over a hundred years in the sciences, and since vedic times in spirituality, is that of evolution. It may come as a surprise to many that evolution, which as a scientific theory stirred up so much controversy and religious opposition, should serve as the unifying link; but we shall see that when we examine our present understanding of evolution in both its spiritual and scientific contexts, we will discover that it provides the deepest insights into both the makeup and purpose of the world, and the purpose of individual existence. Before we take up evolution as it is understood today in both the sciences and in spirituality, let us first look at some important historical developments in science.
Science, as it has evolved through the centuries, has been undergoing a progressive change in emphasis. In the 18th Century and before, the primary scientific interest centered on understanding the properties of matter. The great discoveries of the 19th Century shifted the emphasis into the realm of energy, a more subtle concept than matter. The 20th Century saw the unification of energy and matter; with this has come the realization that all matter in the universe must at one time have been freely convertible with energy. Energy is the finer more subtle form; matter is latent in energy.
The mid-20th Century saw a new shift in emphasis to the realm of information, a still finer and more subtle form; information can control both energy and matter, and organize them into any number of diverse activities and forms. Before manifestation into a physical form, organizations of energy and matter are latent in the form of information. From the message or the blueprint or the plan, the physical form arises.
With the above comes the realization that the universe itself, even prior to its primordial state as pure energy when it exploded as the cosmic fireball, existed in a latent state as information; the information was contained in the laws of physics, specifically in the universal force fields (the gravitational, the electro-magnetic and the nuclear) which governed the subsequent unfoldment of events. Given their specific forms and areas of influence and given the specific constants and parameters built into them, they have been responsible for organizing energy and matter from the very beginning, into the present world as we know it. It is believed that under the conditions prevailing at the time of the Big Bang, the moment of creation, all these fields were combined into a single unified field, which contained in its form the over-all plan for the construction of the universe.
We are only now beginning to appreciate the fortuitous choice of field parameters that permitted this world to evolve out of the millions of possible alternative worlds, wherein a large-scale expansion of space and a small-scale clumping of matter makes possible the unique feature of galaxies and stars, on which our very existence depends. The natural question arises as to who set up these unique initial conditions and watched over their unfoldment? Who was the master architect who formulated the plans? In other words, was there a higher consciousness at work, choosing the particular field parameters that would premit life to eventually evolve on one small planet associated with one undistinguished star in the backwater of one fairly ordinary galaxy, in a universe of many billions of galaxies, after billions of years of cooking up the whole infinitely complex stew? Was there a maker, a higher consciousness, behind all this? At this point in its development, science cannot give the answer. It knows about elementary particles, it knows about matter, it knows about energy, it knows about information, but it knows little or nothing about consciousness. For that we must look towards spirituality to discover if there is a divine mind that projected all this.
With the above as background we can now proceed with our discussion of evolution. The first thing to realize is that evolution as it is now becoming understood in science is a process that proceeds in the realm of information or message. This unifying thread that ties together the whole history of the universe in a purposeful succession is visible in the domain of message, but is quickly lost when we concentrate our investigations on the incredible diversity of manifestations in the physical world. It is for this reason that we emphasize this great discovery of the underlying informational character of evolution. To gain some insight into this let us take an example from biology.
We know that over a billion years of evolutionary history separates us from the amoeba. We are certainly different in form and function. Yet we also know that at the beginning of our biological career in this life, we existed for a short time in the form of a one-celled organism, as a fertilized egg in our mother's womb. For 24 to 36 hours after conception we were a single cell, complete with nucleus, organelles, cytoplasm and cell membrane, much like any other one-celled organism. Next to us in the womb there might have been an amoeba. Both in the amoeba and in the human cell, within about 24 hours, chromosomes would have formed and the process of cell division started. In the human cell 46 chromosomes would have appeared; in the amoeba 50 chromosomes. Otherwise there would have been little difference chemically or structurally or size-wise to distinguish the two. Superficially they might look different under a microscope but there is little difference in their essential characteristics as cells.
Nine months later, the single human cell will have differentiated and integrated and organized itself into the magnificent, trillion-celled organization we call a human body, a new-born baby, whereas the single-celled amoeba will not have gone any further than having made more single-celled amoeba like itself. Wherein lies the difference between them? We now know that the difference is primarily informational, reflecting the different messages contained in the genetic code, programmed on identical DNA molecules. That is one of the great discoveries of these past 35 years, namely, that the DNA molecules embedded in the chromosomes are the same for all life forms; only the messages they contain differ. So we see that ultimately, biological evolution consists of progressive changes in the DNA messages. It is these different messages that express themselves as the host of different organisms that inhabit, and have inhabited the Earth, since the beginning of life.
The Five Evolutionary Epochs
In terms of science, evolution can be seen as one continuous process starting with the origin of the universe and spanning a period of about 14 billion years (the approximate age of the universe), to culminate in evolution's highest development, the human experience. That total history of the universe can be divided into the brief initial period of creation, and then followed by a series of major epochs, or periods of evolutionary development, each characterized by a different carrier of the evolutionary message.
Initially came the creation itself, as space and time, and a soup made up of energy and a host of exotic particles, emerged out of that most powerful singularity event which we call the Big Bang. The incredibly high information content of that initial event, points to the existence of a cosmic blue-print which governed the succession of events that followed. As the newly-born universe expanded and cooled down the many exotic constituents that appeared during the first brief moments of creation disappeared. What remained was pure energy forming into, and interacting with, the various elementary particles that make up our present universe. This first epoch resulting in the formation of a world made up of the familiar elementary particles of matter (electrons, protons, and neutrons), lasted for only a small fraction of the first second of existence. Within that short but eventful first epoch, the grand cosmic evolution commenced.
We can speak of the second epoch as the evolution of matter, from its simplest beginnings as elementary particles to the complex forms of matter that constitute the world today. This stage of cosmic evolution of matter proceeded under the influence of the information contained in the universal force fields. Several hundred thousand years after the creation event, the expanding universe cooled down sufficiently for the simple atoms of Hydrogen and Helium and some Lithium, to form; these in turn, became the matter constituting the first stars. Some of this matter was processed through nuclear transformations in the bowels of those stars and then ejected out into space during the deaththroes of the larger stars. Some of this matter which was ejected out into space, eventually including the 100, or so, higher chemical elements, went on to form later generations of stars, whereas other matter was processed through various chemical transformations in space.
When the Earth formed, because of the special conditions existing there, the chemical evolution quickened, and stage by stage, matter progressed from the realm of fundamental chemical elements, to form millions of complex molecules and compounds that we now find in the world. Although the process continues even today, and at a highly accelerated rate because of the presence of life, we can speak of that second evolutionary epoch, consisting of the transformation of matter, as lasting about 11 billion years. Out of this came the mineral constituents with which the emergent life on Earth would both house and feed itself.
We can speak of the third epoch as the evolution of life on Earth, from its simplest beginnings as one-celled, bacteria-like organisms to mammals and other complex life forms. Here, as already mentioned, the information of the evolutionary development was contained in the genetic message encoded on the DNA. The message, and hence the organisms, changed with time as survival pressures forced life to adapt itself to drastically changing environments.
Although this process continues even today, this third epoch, which took the evolution of life up to approximately the mammal stage, lasted close to 3 billion years. Then we can distinguish a fourth epoch, which can be called the evolution of the reasoning or teachable mind. We can trace its earliest beginnings to the first mammals and lower vertebrates, then to the order of primates, and finally to the greatly expanded mental capacity that appeared in primitive man. With the advent of vertebrates, the evolutionary opportunity presented itself to develop mental capacity for solving survival problems as they appeared, or in other words, to live by one's wits rather than by instinct alone.
As symbolic language arose in early man, it became possible to teach successful survival strategies to the offsprings through the spoken word. This development reached its most advanced stage with the advent of modern man some tens of thousands of years ago, where much, if not most, of the information needed in preparation for adult life was imparted to the young during the long maturation period between childhood and adulthood. With this epoch the evolutionary message shifted from the DNA to the body of cultural information that could be transmitted to the teachable mind. In this process, evolution freed itself from biological reproduction. The transmitted information could be utilized for a broadly enhanced living capability to acquire food and shelter, and to manufacture tools and weapons and structures that greatly extend body functioning in varied environments. Finally it would be used to change the environment itself.
Once the accumulated wisdom of the survival experiences of past generations could be taught to the offspring, the individual could go on to build on that store of knowledge with his own experiences and creative successes; then we had the beginnings of individual evolution, continuing throughout life and effectively expanding the cultural experience pool, as information was passed on from the elders to the young. Of course, this process continues today; this epoch has been with us for a very long time, it really became significant after the first appearance of truly human-like beings.
With the above discussion we have almost come to the limit of what science can tell us about evolution. That we have understood this much is in itself a magnificent achievement of human insight into the underlying unity of nature; yet we know from our own experience that there must still be further steps yet to be explored. We know there is a later stage we can call the evolution of moral or ethical man. This fifth epoch is clearly a stage beyond survival considerations, beyond the struggle for existence which had previously dominated the development of life for 3 billion years of its evolutionary history. Nor is this merely another more sophisticated part of the cultural program that is imparted to the teachable mind. We are concerned here with a faculty that is beyond the function of mind, as we have spoken of it so far. It involves a personal evolution towards perfection for some higher end, beyond the individual's biological role of reproduction and passing-on survival information to the young. Here the evolutionary information is contained in a body of moral values and ethical principles.
These principles can be taught, but they will have little impact until a higher mind, variously called conscience or buddhi or the creative intelligence and intuition, is awakened in the man, generally by touch or sight or word from the right teacher. At this point the outer environment plays a progressively smaller part in advancing the course of personal evolution; individual readiness and willingness determines progress. Hence the emphasis is on purification and personal effort, for the higher knowledge will not make itself known until the inferior, the biological survival struggle with all its adjuncts, has abated and withdrawn from its previously prominent role as the shaper of life. This fifth epoch has probably been with us for less than 10,000 years, which finally culminates in the end of the long evolutionary journey, the spiritual illumination of the self-realized sage.
From a Purposeful Beginning to a Purposeful End
As we see from this present discussion, we have slowly shifted over to the realm of the spiritual. Before we pursue this in earnest, let us take a moment to summarize what we have learned so far. We have traced out an overall story that led us from the information contained in the force fields and the laws of physics, to an explosion of energy in an expanding space-time, to matter in the form of elementary particles, to matter in the form of minerals necessary for life, to life itself, to the development of mind, and then to the higher mind or buddhi, at which point man knows himself as a developing center evolving towards perfection. We have discovered one long evolutionary thread starting with a seemingly purposeful beginning of the universe and leading, stage by stage, to a seemingly purposeful end, namely an awakened universal consciousness in man.
The order of evolutionary unfoldment that has been described here is itself reminiscent of the ancient Upanishadic story of Brighu's enlightenment, marking the successive stages of the unfolding consciousness.
Brighu said to his father who was a great sage, "Sir, I have heard you speak of the supreme, eternal, Divine Principle. Please teach me THAT, for I yearn to know It." The father said, "It has no attributes, it has no form; it is pure, of the nature of consciousness; it is present everywhere, for all time; it has always been and always will be; it is the basis of all existence; from it all beings emerge and in it all beings dissolve, but It remains ever full." Brighu listened attentively but he could not catch the meaning. On the suggestion of his father he went into the forest to do penance and immerse himself in contemplation. It was through his own efforts and through his own direct experience that he was to gain the knowledge of the Divine. But his father gave him a direction; he told him to concentrate on THAT by which all beings are born, in which all beings exists, and in which all beings die. When he knows THAT, he will know all.
Brighu soon returned and told his father excitedly. "Father, I understand the nature of the Supreme. It is matter, for from matter all beings are born, in matter they subsist, and to matter they return when they perish." But the father was not satisfied with this answer. "Son, there is a flaw in your reasoning. Go back and try again to know THAT in which all beings are born, in which they exist, and in which they die. Know THAT and you will know the Supreme." Brighu returned to his penance. Soon he realized that life was more basic than matter. In life all entities are born, in life they subsist, and when life is over they die; life is the basis of all creation, sustenance and dissolution. Therefore it must be life that is the eternal truth. But his father's eyes did not light up when Brighu came back with this answer; the father was not satisfied. "Son, there is still a flaw in your reasoning," he said. So Brighu returned once more to the forest.
In this way he came back again twice more, first announcing with a firm resolve that mind was the Supreme, for the mind's influence extends beyond birth and death and it can lead one to bondage or liberation. But then after further contemplation he concluded that buddhi, or the higher discriminating mind, must be the Supreme, for it ruled over the lower mind and brought order and purpose into existence; without it life was a living death. At each stage Brighu had gone deeper, into finer levels of organization, moving progressively closer to realizing the truth of the eternal Absolute. Thinking over this last answer he himself was not satisfied, so he returned to the forest yet one more time. When he didn't return the father set out to look for him and found him deep in meditation with a serene glow illuminating his face, for he had finally found the answer in his own experience. The Supreme is bliss (Ananda), changeless, lasting, steady and pure, beyond comprehension. Immersed in that bliss, Brighu became one with that effulgent One; absorbed in the knowledge of the Absolute, he realized himself as being that Absolute.
Science and knowledge of the world have brought us very far, but still only up to the thinking stage. To discover the deeper meaning of our lives and the source of infinite joy within us, we must simultaneously with science pursue the path of the spirit. Here our reasoning minds and scientific method cannot help us much; the spiritual pursuit lies in a different domain from science and requires different methods and practices. It is a reality which must be lived and experienced directly to be understood.
The story of Brighu gives a little insight into that process. He was ready for the spiritual knowledge and he was eager to pursue the quest. His mind was the instrument that initially took him along the path charted by the teacher; but eventually he had to transcend the mind to gain direct experience of the unbounded joy that is always there, beyond world, beyond body, beyond life, beyond mind, and even beyond buddhi, yet ever-present within us. The spiritual dimension is filled with such apparent paradoxes, but that is the experience of the Divine. It is not more knowledge on how things are or even why things are. It is a heart-filling experience of pure bliss, an immeasurable sweetness and lovingness. It is the basis, the underlying organizing principle of both the universe and of our own lives, the principle that we have been searching for outside. Now we find that it has always been present within us, waiting to be known and enjoyed.
That all-pervading Consciousness, presiding over the birth of the universe, lovingly tended and guided the evolutionary message through the whole long saga of cosmic history, until it could finally be delivered to its rightful destination, to be the seed for the developing higher consciousness in man. Bhagavan Baba has spoken of that long track to the Divine. "....Consider how man has been shaped since billions of years for this high destiny . During the primeval chaos, there were two phenomena struggling to overwhelm each other. On the one side was the fiery lava flood vomited by the volcanoes and emanating from the crevices and chasms that scarred the horrifying face of the Earth. The destructive conflagration swept in all direction. On the other side, scarcely noticed, microscopic amoeba clung desperately in the cracks of rocks, keeping the faint spark of life unharmed from fire and flood.
"Who would have predicted at that time that the future was with the animalcule or amoeba? Who could have foreseen that these minute specks of life could hold out triumphantly against the devastating onslaught? Sheer perseverance, adaptability , and willingness to live, helped it to defeat the mortal fury of the elements. By the unfoldment of its life-consciousness the amoeba blossomed into various species of living beings, gigantic and microscopic. At last it grew into man; in man it bore fruit as goodness and virtue, sympathy and sacrifice, learning and worship, martyrdom and sainthood. That is the reason why man is said to be the zenith of creation. This is the purpose for which he has struggled through stone and grass, tree, bird and beast, so he can move forward to Divinity."
The Grand Journey from the Divine to the Divine by the Divine
When we come to know of the divine current pervading through every atom of the Universe, our vision and our whole life changes. Other dimensions of reality than the previously familiar ones, impose themselves on our awareness. We discover an inter-connectedness between events and experiences which should by all reason be unrelated. We become aware of God, the unseen consciousness behind the scenes, directing all our moves; and not only our moves but everyone else's. It is as if our lives become a series of unfolding scenes and events on an already existent tapestry, telling the story of a great flow homewards. We discover the Unity that is the basis of all nature and the essence of all life's experiences. With this realization we then begin to see the grand play in which we are at once both the actors and the audience. Evolution takes on a deeper understanding for us. We become aware of the Divinity progressing through all kinds of bodies and forms for Its own delight, to arrive finally into union with Itself. We become aware of the sweet play of that adorable Divine Child.
On various occasions and in various ways Baba has given us a little bit of insight into this divine drama that gives Him so much joy, when out of the one He projected the many so that the many can return back to the One. Once He said, "... The Divine Principle is ever engaged in a constant play with Itself. It wills Itself attributes, manifestations, energies, elements, activities, creations, and dissolutions. It is like a lonely, imaginative child in a room filled with mirrors. It amuses itself by playing with Its own images, sometimes painting different animal bodies and plants and trees and human bodies, some with mustaches and beards, some with hairdo's and dresses, on the different mirrors to differentiate one image from another; and the images are distinct or distorted according to the angle, curve and surface of each mirror. In this way, in order to have some change and amuse Itself in Its serene loneliness, It creates this multifaceted Universe as a reflection of Itself ..."
Now we are ready to describe a somewhat different view of evolution, as seen from the spiritual side. We can say that out of His blissful eternal Self He fashioned the Universe and entered into it as its very substance. Having projected this huge stage for His play, He then assigned Himself innumerable roles, as He simultaneously played the part of countless individual souls, Jivas, deluded into believing themselves as small, separate and limited entities, unaware of their own true nature. They have their moments on stage and go through their parts. They start their acting career as a dumb rock or sea or a cloud and they move on to become a plant and a fish and a bird and an animal and a cave-dweller and a city-dweller.
They sit, they move, they fight, they love, they weep, enjoy, gain and lose, they eat, sleep and experience, and finally they fall.....to run offstage for a quick change in costume and part, and then return for further pratfalls and heroics, in an ongoing melodrama. But throughout there is a story line. After many changes of costumes and many exits and entrances, the parts become more cheerful and heartful, and the acting becomes more noble, for we are reaching the high point of the drama. As Jiva takes on the role of the spiritual seeker, the Divinity that is at once the actor-director-playwright-audience and theater, increasingly enjoys the performance, for now He plays the part of Jiva searching for the Divinity and then, to its astonishment, discovering that it itself is the Divinity.
When the Divinity finally throws off all costumes and parts, His joy is unlimited and He hugs Himself with love unbounded and overflowing. For the long delusion is over; He again recognizes Himself as the one Self. A sweet, knowing smile crosses His face as He enjoys His own play, Himself playing all the parts. It was His compassion for His own creation and His delight in the surprise ending that kept the parts steadily flowing through all their joys and pains and struggles towards their divine culmination. What a marvellous performance He has given Himself, as He started it all off with a Big Bang and followed it with an endless variety of parts, inanimate and animate, until finally the realized souls appeared... a great journey from the Divine to the Divine by the Divine, believing Itself to be small, limited and separate, until the crowning final scene.
This is perhaps too whimsical an account of such a serious subject as the creation of the universe and the evolution of matter into life into mind and into higher consciousness with which we started this article; yet, even if it jars some of our cultivated sensibilities, some inner spark of the Eternal within us resonates and rings with this innocent child's view of a Universe whose very core is one of joy and delight. One is reminded of an American movie from the 40's which started with a fearsome tornado, enveloped in darkness, crossing the plains of Kansas, wreaking destruction in its path. A house with a little girl in it, is pulled up and carried off by the whirlwind into the unknown. Then the movie dramatically changes from black-and-white to brilliant, vivid color as the little girl is safely set down on a beautiful, winding yellow-brick road, surrounded by buttercups and daffodils, and leading to a magical Kingdom shining like a jewel on the distant hills. Darkness and destruction had changed into a cheerful, sunny day, ablaze with color and goodness and filled with melodious song.
When spirituality roots itself deeply in our lives, our science turns from mooted black-and-white into the beautiful variegated hues of the eternal play. A consum- mate sweetness begins to penetrate and permeate our inner being. As our devotion deepens and we attach more and more to the spiritual, and detach more and more from the worldly, we discover the Divinity which is everywhere and in everything, and whose essence is pure sweetness, joy and love, and eternal delight. When we discover our own reality that is what we find.
The Sun never knows shade or shadow or darkness, even though the clouds, which are his own creation, whisper amongst themselves about the play of their shadows on the Earth; when he burns them off to get a good look at this strange phenomenon of darkness, he sees only light, the reflection of himself, everywhere. That is the message of the spirit. We are in truth pure consciousness and infinite bliss. Our destiny is to evolve and free ourselves from these limiting Upadhis (sheaths) and limiting environments that bind us. We can expand and become unlimited, and realize the Unity, the one Reality which is our true Self. With that understanding we can now get a glimpse of the deeper purpose of evolution.
Evolution is an essential part of the divine lila, the unending miracle of creation. It is through evolution that the soul clothes itself in a succession of vehicles as it goes through this grand play of sojourning in the world, playing all those funny parts, but all the while struggling and longing to free itself and return to its source. Again and again it seems to get lost, alone and forlorn on the vast stage. Such a Herculean task it is to get free, and yet so little progress there is to show for all these many lives! An anguished prayer for help escapes its lips. A fervent call pours out for the Savior to come and deliver it. O, what a magnificent play! The Savior incarnated as Jiva, now convincingly plays the part of Jiva crying out for the Savior. The prayer is heard. Grace descends.
Already manifested in every Jiva, the Supreme takes on a special role. After a lapse of thousands of years, He blesses the world with birth as Avatar, to hasten Jiva's progress. A divine figure now occupies center stage. He seems aglow from within, as the inner God is revealed in the perfection of the outer man, as the eternal is made manifest by the life He leads as man. "My life is My Message", He announces. "Come follow Me!" Now Jiva takes heart; it finally has a light to lead it home. And where is that home? There within itself. It has been carrying 'home' around with it inside, all this time. Finally it sheds the heavy chains of delusion and ignorance that have been its load for so long. Now the fruit has ripened; it realizes its own great truth. And all the false notions of 'I-ness', of individuality, of attachment to life and body-consciousness, to family and possessions, and all the other worldly brood of attachments, leave it forever.
Once jiva knows its reality as the One, its part in the play is over. It merges back into Him from whom it has come, and who truly never left it; it returns to being the One it always was... the infinite, the eternal, the blessed Self. Such joy! Such heights of love and such sweetness! What a fine story! Evolution has done its job well. The Divine child is highly pleased with Its play.
May we all soon reach that endearing Child... our own blessed Self.
Comments on Time and Entropy
To complete the story of this article, which deals with the grand drama of evolution from matter to consciousness, a few words might be said about the relationship between evolution and entropy. When we meditate on the role that time plays in the grand design, we discover that it manifests itself primarily through these two great opposing principles, evolution and entropy, which function in the phenomenal world. From the viewpoint of science, evolution is characterized by organization, adaptation, differentiation, diversification, expansion and survivability, whereas, entropy is characterized by dissolution, disorganization, decay, disorder, destruction and death.
We observe that in all forms, in all organisms, after birth and after an initial flowering and blossoming of the individual, there is the downward pull of the forces of degeneration and disorganization working to disorder that individual form. The individual, through its inherent nature, resists the onslaught of these noxious forces. But the struggle is a futile one for it can only stave them off for a while. It tries to preserve itself in various ways, and for a time succeeds, but in the end it always succumbs to the inevitable entropic collapse leading to its ultimate death and destruction as a separate entity.
On the other hand when we observe whole populations of many different individuals, we see that as a result of the cumulative struggles and adaptations of many generations and species, there is an evolutionary thrust which lifts up the whole population over a period of time, towards higher levels of order and organization. Individual bodies die, and sometimes whole species die, but the greater population lives on, evolves and prospers.
For any individual existing in a material form, there is only the prospect of death to look forward to after a brief sojourn and struggle in the world. His is a dim future. Even man's efforts to preserve some mark of his passing through progeny and works is doomed, for eventually his name, his family, his community and even the nation to which he belongs is likely to perish in the sands of time.
But, if we now invoke the deeper insights of spiritual knowledge, we realize that we have existed in many bodies and in many individual lives, and hence are truly one soul in countless forms, having inhabited a whole population of bodies, human and otherwise. And so, we can speak of another kind of evolution of a population, namely the evolution of the individual soul, as he occupies a population of different forms. We realize that each life lived serves an essential purpose as a stepping stone in the expanding unfoldment.
In light of these revelations, we see that our true experience as spiritual beings is that of being on a sacred journey flowing upwards in an irresistible surge towards the divine; as contrasted with the outer perception of the individual body and life's eventual downward journey towards disease and death. In this understanding, science can only provide the outer view, whereas spirituality provides the underlying essence view, the inner view which unlocks the deeper and profounder meanings hidden within. Together they lead to the lofty experience of the divine life, wherein we realize the oneness, the pure consciousness that has served as the substratum for all the creation, which is the basis of every name and form, and on which takes place the drama of birth and death and the evolutionary migration of the soul towards perfection.
As has already been discussed in this article, the whole history of the universe, starting with the primeval cosmic fireball and the subsequent creation of matter through its many forms, leading eventually to life, can be seen as one continuous evolutionary progression, producing ever more complex physical forms and ever more refined living organizations and mind forms, ultimating in evolution's highest achievement... the human experience. These findings are consistent with the greater spiritual understanding of evolution, which sees evolution as the manifestation of the divine will acting through the law of Karma. In the spiritual context, evolution is a direct consequence of the underlying spiritual nature of the world. It is the outward expression of a profound movement in the subtle consciousness that pervades the whole universe, to provide the appropriate vehicles for each successive stage of the soul's journey through the world until it reaches the peak of self-realization in the revelation of its own divinity.
Science and Spirituality - A Summing Up
As pointed out by Bhagavan, philosophy must take a subject to its ultimate cause if we are to find the reality behind the outer appearance. In Sanskrit parlance this is called mimamsa. Let us take an example. We drive down a country road and see a cow. A cow eats grass, grass gets its energy from the sun, the solar energy comes from hydrogen being transformed into helium, hydrogen is made up of the basic particles, protons and electrons, which originated from the energy of creation, the Big Bang, which was contained as a message in the force fields, which came from the supreme Consciousness, which is Brahman. The car we are in uses petrol, which is burned in the engine, releasing chemical bond energy, which turns into kinetic energy of motion, which takes us from one place to another so we can do the work of our life, whose ultimate purpose is evolution, the goal of evolution is self-realization, and that Self is Brahman.
The petrol itself is a derivative of oil, which comes from fossil plants, whose energy came from transformation of hydrogen, which originated with the Big Bang, which is governed by the cosmic blueprint that is the sankalpa of the Creator, who is the cosmic manifestation of pure Consciousness, who is Brahman. And the bodies of the cow and car and ourselves, came from atoms of chemical elements, which were created in massive stars, which exploded in space as supernova, which produced dust clouds in space, out of which the solar system and planets were formed. Massive stars came from earlier clouds of hydrogen which, as we have seen, traces back to Brahman.
Like that every activity, every name and form has a lineage, every speck contains in itself the whole history of the universe, and can be taken back to its ultimate cause or forward to its ultimate goal; either way, we reach the same conclusion, that all is Divinity. In Vedantic parlance, everything in the world is made up of five qualities: Asthi, Bhati, Priyam, Nama and Rupa. The first three of these speak of an unchanging divine splendor within, the latter two refer to the changing names and forms without. Everything is equally divine in essence, only the outer appearance undergoes change, both to greater levels of order through the process of evolution and to disorder and death through the process of entropy. But the divine basis, the Asthi, Bhati and Priyam, or the Sat, Chit and Ananda, as it is also known, is unaffected by these outer changes; it remains as the witness of all comings and goings.
When a potter makes a pot, he can be considered to be the direct cause for the creation of the pot. Since pots are made of clay, clay may be considered to be the material cause of the pot. In the case of the world, the potter is Brahman and all the clay is also Brahman; here, everything without exception is Brahman. That is the unity of creation... that everything is God. Once we come to know this we spiritualize everything in our lives, seeing everything as merely appearances, changing names and forms playing on the one all-pervading consciousness. When we spiritualize science, we find ourselves marvelling with wonder at the exquisite makeup of nature and we seek to discover the unifying thread that ties it all together in a beautiful tapestry of interconnections and relationships, and does so with a sweetness and poetic wholeness that makes our heart leap with joy. Even if we follow no religious tradition and practice no spiritual observance, we can't help but feel a great gratitude and appreciation to be given a chance to experience the beauty and magnificence, and to realize that we ourselves are part of the grand play, which we are also enjoying as witness. In that way, devotion naturally comes and wisdom follows.
Butter pervades every drop of milk, but it cannot be seen and will not manifest itself without first going through the process of curdling and churning; the Divinity pervades every atom, every name and form, but it will not be experienced and will not manifest Itself without some preparatory process, which is really a change of thinking. We must open the door to let the sunlight in. Then it will flood the room with its splendor and dispel the darkness of ignorance that prevailed there. This awakening to the effulgent light of the spirit is the destiny of science today in the unfolding Sai era.
Beyond Science and Evolution
One last comment, directed not to the scientist but to the spiritual seeker. The foregoing has given some prominence to the history of the universe, the cosmology of science, as this story has emerged in recent years; but this is not meant to suggest that knowledge of these theoretical discoveries in science is particularly important. It is important only in a science-dominated world; but, ultimately it is not important to a spiritual man.
Part of the concept of information, which really means in formation, is that whatever we believe strongly, that in time we become. If we see ourselves as small and limited, then so we will be...the thought creates the form. If we see ourselves as the crowning jewel of a 15-billion year transformation project of the Divine, the most exquisite treasure in the universe, then we become like lions, fearless, noble, gracious. When we see ourselves as divine we become the embodiments of love and ananda that Baba calls us. Mankind, at large, has been raised to a level of intellectual understanding that is unprecedented in history, through the knowledge of science and technology; yet, individual man frequently thinks of himself as small and powerless, lost and insignificant in a cold, hostile universe. It is for these that the story of evolution described here is relevant.
But when you have the higher knowledge, the Atma-vidya, then you don't have to bother with the worldly knowledge; the latter is then useful mainly for our day-to-day functioning in the world and for helping others to progress along the road. When you know THAT which when known all else is known and that which when not known nothing else is truly known... then you have the one knowledge which is really important.
Evolution is part of the phenomenal world. When the dream goes, evolution disappears with it. Find out how to wake up, Baba tells us, rather than seeking to know where the dream came from or where the Cosmos came from. Know your own reality. That is the superior knowledge. Science is the lower, but it can lead to the higher. The picture we worship is not God, but the picture conveys a message, a beloved image which evokes a deeper response, which in turn makes us more conscious of God. Thereby, the picture raises us to God. So also science can raise us to God. And this article suggests that this is already happening in a very natural way. Science had a role to play in the development of man and now it is headed towards a higher integration. It is no accident that this is happening at a time, after such a long absence from the world scene, when the Avatar has come again to grace us with his presence and lead us home.
This is a very exciting time of great transition, and among the major changes taking place is the progressive advance of science towards spirituality. We are all very fortunate to have front-row seats, to watch the final heart-warming scenes of this long unfolding drama, of which we have only recently become aware.
OM TAT SAT
A Tale of Elfs and Eels — An Allegory
There is a story about elfs. (Note, herein I have characterized the elfs and the souls, which they represent, as female, although as the story progresses it becomes obvious that elfs and souls are obviously not gender specific. Nor are the eels, or the blessed Lord, or Death, who are the other characters inhabiting this allegory.) The elfs have been sent by the blessed Lord to bring the world out of the darkness and ignorance into the brilliant light of pure consciousness. They are called elfs because they are the evolutionary life force, laboring unceasingly through all eons of time to counteract the destructive effect of their arch-enemies the eels, the henchmen of Yama, the prince of death. The eels are the forces of darkness, the forces of entropy, which disorganize and chaotisize and randomize all patterns of matter and useful forms of energy, turning order into disorder, organization into disorganization, organisms into disorganisms. For each elf there are many, many eels. The eels, which are called thus, because they are the entropic energy losses, swim along with the current in the river called time; in effect, they are indistinguishable from it. This river flows down the mountain into the sea of undifferentiated ignorance and disorder. Continually, second after second, day after day, year after year, the river of time falls into this sea carrying with it countless thousands and thousands of eels who have gorged themselves on the forms and patterns that sprout forth and prosper for awhile along the sides of the river, until they are destroyed by the relentless onslaught of eels.
The army of eels hatch out of the ground by the river, where all these many forms have blossomed forth, emerging in a dense stream particularly at the lower elevations of the great mountain. The soil making up this mountain, is the accumulated upheaval of all of life's unresolved and uncompleted experiences...it is the soil of Karma, from which all life sprouts forth and from which the forces of death sprout forth to destroy that very same life. Were it possible for us to climb up this mountain despite the impenetrable brush and forms clinging to its sides, we would find that as we go up, the air gets progressively purer, the vegetation and forms become simpler and sparser, and the remaining amount of Karma above us capable of generating both life and death, is getting constantly smaller. When we reach the very top of the mountain we are beyond Karma and beyond the ravages of eels and time; we are immersed in timelessness, we are at the summit of infinite order and purity.
The river of time arises from many streams and tributaries which form all over the mountain when the rains come. These rains come from clouds that originate in the sea, the great void of chaos and disorder. The rains are sent by the Goddess Maya, the divine illusion, which wields the primal energy that nourishes all phenomena and experiences in this world of space and time and things that cover this mountain. As the rains strike the mountain we witness what appears to be a continuous creation of new forms, gathering into a thick foliage that packs the sides of the mountain at the lower levels. Each of these forms carries on its worldly existence, prospering for awhile on the slopes. But soon it become prey to the emerging eels pouring forth out of the earth and devouring everything in their way. What is left is overtaken by the torrential rains bringing with them new names and forms, the old ones being swept down the mountains by the many streams which merge into the river of time.
With so much water and so many forms constantly pouring down the mountain, we would expect the top of this mountain to have eroded long ago and have washed into the sea, if it weren't for an unusual phenomenon discernible in the middle of the river. There we see a counter-current providing a strong flow upwards. When we look closer at this current we see that it's really made up of our friends the elfs, intrepidly paddling upstream against the downward flow of eels and time. Each elf has her own little boat made up of the boughs and reeds and living forms growing along the banks, and held together by the binding clay of Karma from the earth along the slopes.
If we pick out any one elf and follow its progress upstream we immediately become aware of her great struggle to make headway against the powerful eel stream. She constantly has to fight off these hungry, ferocious predators attacking her boat, and she has to make her way against tremendous resistance, particularly at the lower elevations, where there are powerful currents and huge whirls of material streaming at breakneck speeds through rapids and cataracts and cataclysmic changes, all hurtling towards disorganization and chaos.
Only our valiant elf has the courage to brave this watery hell, bucking the current, deftly maneuvering her fragile little boat up the mountain against the flow of time, towards increasingly higher levels of order and consciousness. Her little boat takes a beating; it gets battered and punctured by treacherous rapids and hordes of assaulting eels. At times it takes all the elf's energy just to keep the boat afloat; when that happens she'll be busy patching the leaks inside or scraping clear the outside, while she and the boat drift uncontrollable downstream. Then, in a mighty spurt of activity she will recover control and bound forward, until the inexorable eel current once again overwhelms her little vehicle.
Sometimes when her boat is caught in a maelstrom of eels, our elf will tie a rope around her waist, tie the other end to the boat, and as the boat is pushed downstream and mauled by the attacking eel horde, she will heroically jump into the river and swim upstream to a quieter place. Then with a tug on the rope she'll try to free the boat and bring it up to her sheltered area. Hers is a solitary struggle, but sometimes she gets a hand on the rope from a sister elf, or a brother elf moving by or already further upstream, to whom she can throw the rope. Frequently, though, the rope breaks or the pull is just too strong, and the little boat is washed down the river to be devoured by eels and end up in the void. When that happens, she pauses on the river bank and slowly puts together another suitable boat which can take her on the next lap of her journey upstream. It is in her nature not to pause very long but to continue her struggle until she reaches the top.
Through the unceasing effort of our indomitable elfs, the mountain of consciousness never diminishes although time washes all names and forms, all structures and patterns, all ideas and concepts and glories...hurling everything towards a watery death. The only thing that endures and raises itself to the pure light is this elf, the evolutionary life force, which is the individual soul. The little boat she rides in that takes her upstream to the higher levels of existence is the body-mind. Sometimes the soul must push on while the body-mind washes downstream into chaos; occasionally the little boat is saved from total disintegration by a strong pull on the rope, an act of grace, a new lease on life.
But often it is too late for that, and the body-mind must be discarded to be taken by time and consumed by eels and reduced to nothingness in the formless energyless void of the great dark sea. Then the soul forages for a new vehicle to continue her journey up the mountain. Sometimes she gets lost in thick marshes filled with strange names and shapes, or in powerful whirlpools that hurl her around and around until she has totally lost her direction. Then she calls out for help, and the Lord comes to guide her back onto the mainstream and ease her way.
Even though the enormous task of pushing up the mountain is hers alone, the soul faces all trials with complete equanimity and confidence, for she always feels safe with the knowledge of the ever-present protection of the Lord, who is calling her home. Perhaps she has never learned the reason for her coming down the mountain in the first place, but one thing she is always sure of is that she is heading back up to her true home on top.
Who would struggle so incessantly, so one-pointedly in the face of all obstacles, taking on time, taking on fate, taking on marauding eels, taking on and conquering the goddess Maya herself, except one who is returning home. For, up there is where the soul, the elf, belongs. There in the heights she is free. Free of past, free of future, free of Karma, free of all cause and effect. There her work is done and she has no further need to struggle with bodies, minds and eels. There she is always in Sat-chit-ananda, the highest peace, the highest bliss. There she is one with God.
In this struggle with the forces of darkness there is much that can be done with these physical bodies to help the soul along. First and foremost, we must be confident that we are not the evanescent body-mind, but that our true identity is the elf, the Self, the imperturbable, undiminishable soul, shining forth with Atmic splendor, returning home to the pure light of God. Once we know that, we realize that our principal work in this plane of existence is lightening the load, cutting down the resistance and drag caused by unessential baggage of ego attachments such as name and fame, which make our vehicle so unstable and difficult to manage in the river of time.
The Avatar has come and has directed us to be in constant remembrance of God, and to live a life of love and righteousness, being in service to all of humanity. And we are also directed to question what comes and what goes and what is eternally unchanging, what is real and what is unreal, and who we really are and where we came from, and whether in truth we were ever really born and whether we can ever die. When we plumb such depths with undistracted focus and live our lives in that awareness, our little boat will be fortified with sides of steel and protect us against the onslaught of eels; and our little boat will have sails of blessings and a rudder of grace to help us on our way; and so, it will bring us ever nearer and dearer to that sacred One who is, and always has been, our true Self.