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Science And Spirituality
The process of civilization has been a continuous movement of physical discovery and experience repeated over and over in the society and gradually formulated and distilled as mental knowledge. It is a movement from below upwards, from the physical to the mental, a movement of unconscious or subconscious learning maturing into conscious knowledge.
The development of science has followed the same course. Modern science broke down the confining limitations of superstition and religion by an intense observation and experimentation with material phenomena leading to concepts and theories which appeared to directly contradict those propagated by the religions of the day. The development of technology, the improvement in instruments for observation and measurement, made the scientific revolution possible. Physical observation, experimentation and technical innovation have been primary tools of modern science.
The process of scientific discovery is one of seeing new relationships between known facts. In all great discoveries a change of perspective or perception occurs revealing order and relationship in place of isolated phenomena. This act of perception or intuition is a rising of the consciousness of the scientist to a plane in which relationship becomes evident. It is a reverse moment from idea to fact, mental consciousness to material fact. But unlike the movement from below upwards, it cannot be mechanized and it has not been codified by the scientist.
The primary instruments which have supported the development of science limit its growth and power of discovery. Having based itself on physical observation and verification as a corrective for the exaggerations, speculations, excesses and wishful thinking of religion, science isolated and eliminated all that was not immediately verifiable or measurable through physical instrumentation. As a result, science has been able to uncover the mechanisms governing many material phenomena, but it has not succeeded in discovering the underlying reality and the process of creation which governs all phenomena in nature.
The Vedic rishis worked in the opposite direction from above downwards, raising and expanding their powers of consciousness and then directed that consciousness to illuminate the reality of nature. They discovered the underlying reality from which all phenomena are created. Sri Aurobindo says this discovery is of greater practical significance to the world that the discoveries of Copernicus and Newton. In Life Divine, he has described in logical and rational terms that reality and the complete process of creation by which it manifests in the universe as mind, life and matter and evolves from matter higher forms of life and higher levels of consciousness.
Spiritual vision reveals that the fundamental reality and the process of creation are the same in all fields and planes of existence. Only the forms and expressions of manifestation vary. The laws of physical and social evolution are the same. Mastery of the process in any field of life implies the knowledge and power for accomplishment in that field.
We have sought to apply the knowledge of this process to many fields. At the level of the individual, this mastery is the knowledge and power of the Complete Act which is the capacity to make any act generate the desired results.
At the level of the organization, the process of creation gives rise to fundamental principles of management by means of which a company can achieve high rates of growth and high levels of profitability. We have written three books on management presenting aspects of this process to the corporate world in common management parlance as practical principles and examples. Without knowing the origins of our thought, leading management thinkers have highly appreciated the approach. Peter Drucker wrote that our first book was "full of profound insight-indeed wisdom". Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, described it as "a rare and superb job of unearthing both the ‘soft' and ‘hard' factors that underpin sustained corporate success". These books are oriented toward practice, not theory; but the theory has been framed for presentation at the appropriate time. If fully developed, the theory would form the basis for making management a true science.
We have attempted to convey the power of this knowledge by asserting that any company which employs it can double its profits within one or two years. This claim, which was controversial when first made, is now widely accepted and has been achieved by many companies. Companies lose money when they act out of incapacity, which means exercising force without the required knowledge. If the world fully understands this process, there would be no losing companies.
In addition to writing on management, we have worked with companies as consultants to apply the principles and demonstrate their effectiveness. We completed a study for Bajaj Auto in early 1987 at a time of intense competition when more than 30 new companies entered the field including all the leading Japanese manufacturers. Over the next four years, Bajaj's profits rose six-fold, from Rs.29 crores to Rs.180 crores. A similar study was undertaken for First Leasing Company of India, which faced competition from more than 300 new leasing companies in four years, FLCI's profits rose nearly eight-fold, from Rs.2.5 crores to Rs.19 crores. This is the result achieved by a partial knowledge and a force acting subconsciously. Not long ago we proposed to demonstrate the power of the approach to the Managing Director of Henry Kissinger Associates by doubling the profits of one of their multi-billion dollar corporate clients.
If application of the process can generate material results in one field, it can be done in any field. The Mother once said that if a physician with consummate knowledge of physiology were open to this approach, a major breakthrough could be achieved in curing diseases that plague mankind. Given the right person, an experiment can be made that will generate practical results in at least one or two areas of medicine.
Similar advances can be made in the field of biology and genetics both in practice and theory. For the past century science has been guided and limited by Darwin's theory of the evolution of biological forms giving rise to species with higher powers of consciousness. Sri Aurobindo, who calls his approach "the Yoga of Spiritual Evolution", has revealed that an evolution of consciousness determines and expressed through the external evolution of forms, not vice versa. Application of this approach can usher in a new theory of evolution that serves as the basis for scientific discovery in the next century.
A marriage between science's experimental knowledge of the infinitesimal and a spiritual knowledge of the infinite can generate a major conceptual breakthrough at the level of pure science, leading to unifying concepts in the life sciences similar to those already developed in mathematics. Biology still puzzles over the ultimate origins and cause of life's emergence from matter. The process described by Sri Aurobindo explains in rational terms both the cause and method by which animate, conscious life manifests in inanimate, unconscious matter. Elucidation of that process can form the basis for discoveries of great practical utility.
In physics, nuclear fission has proved to be highly dangerous and a commercially viable method of nuclear fusion still evades the scientists. A scientist - whose character is wholly positive and who is open to the spiritual knowledge of the origins and constitution of matter - can make discoveries that will neutralize the negative effects of fission and harness the powers of fusion.
The ultimate standard of truth for all knowledge lies in its power for effectiveness in life. Sri Aurobindo applied this knowledge spiritually to work for Indian freedom and saw that it had been achieved in the subtle plane thirty years before independence. Sri Rama fought on battle field against Ravana. Sri Krishna came to the battle field to lend his support to the Pandavas but he refused to physically fight. Sri Aurobindo fought the Second World War from his room, calling it, "Mother's War". He said that life has never failed to respond to his will, sooner or later.
We are arguing for a harmonizing of scientific fact with spiritual knowledge. If there is validity in the ideas presented here, the mere act of their being considered with an open mind by an eminent scientist should be reflected or echoed by external events in the near future. We have seen this phenomenon over and over - in giving innovative ideas for Indian development, in the dramatic shift of world opinion on disarmament after the establishment of ICPF, and in hundreds of other instances. Though we cannot base our actions on these indications, they do serve to confirm the significance of the effort.