Times Are Changing

by Henryk Skolimowski
(Times of India dated 22-01-2011)

We aspire to enlightenment and truth; we are convinced that genuine spirituality is an indispensable vehicle for our ultimate quests. We are less certain that traditional religions are necessary for our inner lives. And we are doubtful if science can play a major role in our ultimate fulfillment, especially as science has been tainted and is partly responsible for the world’s pollution and our psyche.

Yet the allure of science is formidable and sometimes irresistible. Since Swami Vivekananda’s participation at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893, many attempts have been made to reconcile religion with science. They failed because of at least two reasons.

One was that scientists and their institutions were never truly interested in such reconciliation. Believing that science is truth, scientists tend to look at spiritualists with condescension, if not contempt. Scientists implicitly demand that spirituality subsumes itself into the matrix of science and its truths; or better still that science is recognized as the supreme religion.

The second season for the face off is more fundamental. Spirituality and science dwell in two different universes. The former is governed by empirical truths, while the latter is governed by spiritual truths. Science is about measurable facts while spirituality is about immeasurable like love and bliss. But are facts always all that clearly defined?

Naked facts do not exist. Facts are fictions of our theories. Karl Popper has demonstrated this convincingly. Times are changing. Many have come to the conclusion that humanity in the future will develop outside the foundations of science and technology, but predominantly on spiritual foundations. In this context the bell is tolling for science. Science must work out its own spiritual foundations, yes by going deeper into cosmic principles which underlie its existence, yes, by reading the laws of the universe with a new depth and imagination. Science must base itself on cosmic and not empirical foundations alone, for, empirical foundations are so flimsy. I never speak about religious foundations or religious truths but only about spiritual ones.

We should be aware that the tables are now reversed. Science must have the humility to learn for the tradition of spiritual truths. I am not talking about religious dogmas. I am talking about the underlying matrix of spiritual truths, which pervade the cosmos- thus these principles and insights, which enabled the human mind to transform the mundane and the vulgar into the transcendent and divine which enable us to overcome brutishness in favour of love, which enable us to share altruistically all the riches of this wonderful universe.

My discourse has relevance for the existing spiritual traditions. They also leave something to be desired. They are too partial, too self centred, too isolated. They also need to look much deeper into the underlying structures and principles of the universe. The search for the source has not ended. The understanding how it is all connected in the underlying structure of harmony and beauty is still beyond our grasp. There are many partial truths. But great truths are not that many. Do we have courage and wisdom to rally around these great truths- with compassion and without competition?

In closing: the bell is tolling for science and existing spiritual traditions. They both need a renewal at the fundamental level.

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