by Swami Krishnananda
We go back to where we stopped, viz, the ways in which we try to probe into reality. Obviously, we have three ways or three avenues of observation and we cannot think of a fourth method. We look outside and try to see what is there; we look inside and try to find out what is within us; also, often, we look up and wonder at what is above us. This has been the attitude of all investigators, whether in the field of science, philosophy or religion.
Fundamentally, we noticed that there is the usual objective approach of science which is remarkable for its achievements these days, and which almost goes about as a gospel. We have to see how far it has succeeded before we can enter into a contemplation of other methods and ways of approach. What is science doing? What is the way of the specialist in the field of observation and experiment? Whoever tries to discover truth by observation and experiment is a scientist, and we try to do that in our own humble way in our attitude to things in the world. We look at the world. All our business in life is objective, external and material for the most part. We see the oceans, we see the wind blowing and we see the stellar system; we see the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether. What else can we see in the world? There was a time when our specialists in the field concluded that the world consists of the five elements, and we cannot see anything else. We are also acquainted with the advances made later on, further to these main observations of the five elements merely.
We have the great advancement of physical science, which has gone deep into the structure of matter, by which we mean all the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether. All these constitute matter in its essentiality. Physics goes into the structure of matter. What is matter made of? Of what is it constituted? Primarily, we say matter is only five elements, but we have seen that further experiments are performed, and have noticed that this solid earth is porous, a well-known fact. The earth is not an indivisible mass. Water is porous; air is porous. Even fire is a continuity of processions of energy. So, none of these four visible elements is really the hard or impartite thing that it appears to be. All these are complex substances and not compounds. A compound is indivisible; a complex is divisible. These elements are divisible and are not an indivisible substance. This was discovered later on.
So, our original observation was not correct, viz., that there are solid elements. Now, if matter is divisible, into what is it divisible? 1t is divisible into molecules. These are the chemical substances. All these, including our own bodies, are reducible to certain chemical elements. There are only bundles of chemical molecules to which our bodies can be reduced and to which anything on the earth can be reduced. The molecules are chemical in their nature, but these chemicals are also constituted of finer particles called 'atoms'. They are more difficult to apprehend than the chemical substances. Scientists as well as philosophers have given varying opinion about the nature of atoms. There were people who thought that the Earth-atoms are different from the Water-atoms, and the Water-atoms are different from the Fire-atoms or the Air-atoms. We had in India at least some schools of thought which believed in the atomic structure of matter, but also held at the same time that the atoms vary one from the other. The Earth-atom is different from the Water-atom, etc. But this was not the finality of the discovery. We, today, are told, again and again, that there is no intrinsic difference between one atom and another atom. The so-called difference is not due to the inner structure of the atom but because of the arrangement of the constituents of the atom. So, Earth differs from Water, Water differs from Fire, etc., not because their atomic essentiality varies but because they are arranged in different patterns constitutionally.
But all this is what is known as classical physics. We may safely say, this is the physics which brought us down to the time which is a little later than what they call the Newtonian Era, when classical physics reached its climax and it was decided, once and for all, that matter is contained in space, space being regarded as a receptacle for the material contents. The great discovery that Newton made was the law of gravitation, the pull of the material parts in regard to one another due to the mass and the distance of these parts of matter.
But, we have come today to the twentieth century, beyond half of it, and people are dinning into our ears the greater discoveries of a strange picture that is before us of even the world of matter, of which even Newton would be surprised if he were to be alive today. There are not even atoms. There is only a continuity of energy, so that we cannot know where is earth, where is water, where is fire, where is air, where is ether. We are not here to discuss science, and mention is made of all these only as a kind of preliminary introduction to the ways in which science has been moving in a search for reality. Our interest in this regard is philosophical.
Where has it brought us finally? Where are we standing after all this discovery? Are we more informed about the nature of truth, today, than we were at the time when we were told that there are only five elements in their gross form? Are we better off today socially, philosophically, religiously, ethically, or spiritually, merely because of the fact that we have discovered a continuum of energy in the Universe instead of the gross five elements? The crux of the matter is something which eludes our grasp. We are not in search of what matter is constituted of. That is not our interest. It avails us of nothing, if we know what another possesses. You may possess anything, and what does it matter to me? Why should I go on enquiring into your property, your bank-balance, your relations in the world, etc.? What does it matter to me, whatever you are, unless there is some connection of these informations with my life which I am attempting to understand?
How are we benefited by these discoveries? If the world is a continuum of energy, what does it matter to us? Let that be. Are we better off? Well, we know well that we are in the same condition in our personal lives and social lives, in our aspirations and in our searches today, as our ancestors must have been centuries back. Where, then, is the difficulty? And it has somehow been missed. This is the defect of a purely scientific approach of the experimental type. The advantage of scientific discoveries has been a rapid technological development in this age. We have fast-moving aeroplanes and subtle submarines, and gadgets of every kind. All are discoveries, inventions made as a consequence of the knowledge that people have gained today of the components of matter. But, finally, it has kept us in a state of unhappiness and anxiety, because of the ostensible fact that our lives are not connected with these discoveries. There is, to put it in a more technical form, an epistemological gulf between the seer and the seen. The knowledge pattern remains the same today, as it was a few thousand years back. And what is the knowledge pattern we are referring to? The student has to be very attentive here, because this is a little novel theme and perhaps a little difficult to comprehend, because here is the essence of the whole problem.
Our life is inseparable from our experience. What we call life is nothing but experience, and this is important to remember. And experience, whatever be the nature of it, is inseparable from a consciousness of that experience. There is no experience without a consciousness of it. We are aware that we are undergoing a process or are in a state of experience. If the awareness is absent, we cannot be said to be in a state of any experience at all. To have no experience is to have no awareness of what is happening. Now, our life being identical with a conscious experience, and our search for reality being observational and experimental in the scientific fashion, we have to find out how the panorama of external nature, as it stands before us from the point of view of science, is connected with our personal life.
The world is as unmanageable today as it was many years back. Merely because we say that there is a continuum of energy in the universe, instead of the five elements, we have not bettered the things. It means the same thing, finally. Why is it the same thing, and why cannot there be a difference? Because our disconnection from the world remains today the same thing as it was before. Our sorrow is due to the dispossession of ourselves from things we call real or reality. We cannot control the earth or the water, the fire or the air. And the vast space outside is enough to take one's breath away.
Likewise, today, we cannot control the atoms or the electrons or the energies or the forces that be, because we are outside them. Our life, to repeat again, is a function of consciousness, and so long as our consciousness is not en-rapport with the reality that we are in search of, we are not in possession of that reality, and so long as we are not in possession of it, we have practically nothing to do with it. It is like a treasure that belongs to somebody else, about which we have only a theoretical information and with which there is, practically, no relationship. Our disconnection from reality - let us be contented just now with the scientific definition of reality as external objects, the world that we see – is also our weakness. Our strength enhances as we gain more and more control or possession of reality.