Science and the Sacred: Eternal Wisdom in a Changing World

Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois, U.S.A.2000


Sample Excerpt
The last section of the article titled

Healing the Soul: Truth, Love and God

The soul is not only the arena of the struggle between our carnal nature and our spiritual nature, it is also the faculty of awareness of this struggle, manifesting primarily in the ability for self-reflection, and in an aspiration to be oriented to the whole. Although strictly metaphysically speaking one may wish to maintain that every human being by the very fact of being human has a potentiality for inner awareness or self-reflection, in practice, not many of us have the luxury or the requisite freedom from fear and self-importance to engage in much inner awareness. Thus, in the sense we are using the words here, not all of us have a soul; and those who have it do not always have access to it.

On the other hand, our soul can be more and more refined; in other words, the ability of inner awareness can be cultivated. Much emphasis is placed in great traditions on attending to the inner world. The most ancient Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (I.4.15), says. “Whoever departs from this world without having realized their own inner world, to them life has been of no service; it remains unlived, like the unrecited Vedas or any other undone deed.”

A great deal of emphasis has been placed by the traditions on self- knowledge, the kind of knowledge that transforms and heals the soul. The words written over the ancient library of Ozymandias, the king of Egypt, meant The Soul’s Cure. Self-knowledge is a prerequisite to, if not synonymous with, knowledge of God. According to Plutarch, the inscription at Delphi, ‘Know thyself’, is an injunction addressed by God to all who approach Him.5 Human beings see "the nature of Brahman through the nature of their own self, as by a lamp,“ says Shvetashvatara Upanishad (II.15). Plotinus said, "Those who seek to penetrate the nature of the Divine Mind must see deeply into the nature of their own souls, into the Divinest part of themselves."6 In fact, it appears that the only way to God is by self-knowing, dying to one's superficial self and being born to a deeper self. Clearly, there are differences in detail and emphasis, but there is no other point on which there is a greater unanimity of principle among the various masters of spiritual becoming. One of the non-canonical sayings of Jesus Christ is: "The Kingdom of heaven is within you and whosoever knoweth the self shall find it. And having found it, ye shall know yourselves that ye are the sons and heirs of the Father, the Almighty, and shall know yourselves that ye are in God, and God in you. And ye are the City of God."

Obviously, there are levels of self-knowledge which correspond to a development of or to a deepening of being. Different traditions refer to these levels in many ways: as a seven-storied mountain, as rungs of a ladder, or as levels of consciousness. Within ourselves at the level of ordinary humanity, where we usually are, there is confusion and chaos. We are like "a troubled sea, a sea that cannot rest, whose troubled waters cast up mud and filth" (Isaiah, 57:20). We have conflicting desires and our compulsions are in constant flux; there is nothing abiding, nothing that could be properly called self. As Pascal said, "We are naught but lies, duplicity, contradiction, and we hide and disguise ourselves from ourselves." Only deeper down is there the possibility of increased understanding, integration and wholeness. Only in a state of collectedness, composure, openness, and alertness can we know anything objectively. In all other states our perceiving apparatus is out of tune and it introduces its own noise arising out of the internal or external distractions and afflictions. Nothing that we decipher in these dispersed states is ultimately trustworthy. One of the purposes of the various spiritual schools is to help human beings repair themselves so that they may gradually come to a state of preparedness, freed of subjective desires, expectations, and fears. As long as we keep making our little noises, we cannot truly hear. Only when quietened within, may we encounter what is real.

In a purified and integrated state, arrived at after a long and arduous spiritual journey, we can discover our deepest self, which sages call by various names: ‘the spirit of the soul’ (Eckhart), ‘acumen mentis’ (Hugh of St. Victor), ‘center of the soul’ (St. Teresa of Avila), ‘spark of the soul’ (St. Jerome), ‘the divine person who is beyond the beyond’ (Mundaka Upanishad). These are all attempts to name the nameless, but as Eckhart said: "The God who is without a name is inexpressible, and the soul in its ground is equally inexpressible, as He is inexpressible... To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the ground of God and the ground of the soul are one and the same."

Healing of the soul is both a finding of the soul and its refinement and right ordering, an attunement to what is subtle and real and on which the manifest world is evidently dependent. Transformative self-knowledge is thus both a discovering and a sculpting of the soul. Sages often declare such a soul to be eternal, always there from the beginning, but constantly threatened by fragmentation and perdition. To say that human beings are made in the image of God is a statement of the Real, not of the actual. For the actual to mirror the real needs work and spiritual discipline, a way, a yoga. In the process, the soul is healed as it finds its proper place in the Whole.

Healing of the soul quite naturally leads to the healing of our planet, in fact of the whole cosmos. In the universal traditional idea of a correspondence between a human being and the cosmos, the microcosmos-macrocosmos homology, it can be easily forgotten that this correspondence does not apply to every human being. It is only the fully developed person (mahapurusha) who is said to mirror the whole cosmos. To become such a developed and whole person requires a transformation of the natural self. Then we discover not only that we are one with the cosmos in its physical and biological materiality and lawfulness, but also that the cosmos is one with us and has many inner and spiritual aspects.

In our attempts to find objective knowledge, which is the great aspiration of science, we cannot eliminate the person or the soul. What is needed in fact is an enlargement of the being of the person –freed from the merely personal and subjective. In order to truly comprehend, one needs to be comprehensive. This does not require a horizontal extension of more and more knowledge, but depends upon a vertical transformation which allows a participation in the universal being. Such a transformed person is naturally inclusive and compassionate.

More and more, as one is freed with the aid of spiritual disciplines from fear and self-importance, one can come to clearer and clearer perceptions –so that we can see things as they really are, things of time as subsets of eternity. Such cleansed perceptions reveal objective reality –which surely includes not only what we can measure, but also that which can take the measure of our own being. Such perceptions always carry a sense of universal significance derived from their participation in the Mystery. An example from William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

The spiritual yoga –whether of the East or of the West, for Spirit by definition is non-sectarian and inclusive11 – aims at the realization of the transformed being, a Mahapurusha. Such a person is deeply in accord with one’s own inner core as well as that of the cosmos, manifesting the First Person Universal. Such a person loves what one knows. Only such can know without opposition and separation, freed from any desire to control or to manipulate. A person whose soul is healed, that is to say is whole, is naturally a sage.

Apart from the selflessness (and the accompanying absence of pride) and the natural feelings of compassion and love, which are characteristic of all the sages, there is one feature which needs to be underscored, and which is rarely remarked upon. A sage simultaneously sees the oneness of all there is and the uniqueness of everything. One cannot be unmindful of the seeming paradox implied here. However, we are speaking about the experience of the sages and not about the limitations of our ordinary minds. It is a fact of their existence and behaviour that, in relationship with others, the sages are aware that each human being is a manifestation of One Divine Energy, but that at the same time each person presents a unique potential (and corresponding particular difficulties) and is a wondrously unique expression of the Vastness. Each person is related with the oneness, but no person is replaceable by another. The One is unique in each manifestation. Everyone is seen by the sage as both one with the Source as well as uniquely oneself.

Excerpts from Reviews

Received a designation of ‘Book of Distinction’ from the Templeton Press.

“Ravindra’s exposition of the remarkable similarities and profound differences between the pursuit of science and the pursuit of spirituality goes to the heart of the matter. Complex issues are presented with delightful clarity.” Shimon Malin, author of Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, A Western Perspective.

“I personally find this book captivating and mesmerizing. It is very important because it speaks not only to the spiritual and psychological health of humankind, but to the survival of our planet. It is refreshing to read the opinions of a first-rate mind who is willing to unabashedly speak out about the primacy of spirit and to call into question many of the assumptions Western scientists make about the world, most of which go unchallenged in our culture. Larry Dossey, M.D., Author of Space, Time and Medicine, Beyond Illness and Recovering the Soul.

“Ravi Ravindra’s treatment of the theme is to say the least about it, brilliant. Almost every page contains statements which cannot be rephrased. It almost appears that they are self formulated, not created by the author, though of course it is the author with his first rate scholarship, profundity and unusual spiritual sensitivity who deserves all the praise for the creation of so significant a work as ‘Science and the Sacred.’… RR’s theme is expressed forcefully, convincingly and yet with great beauty.”—Prof. L. R. Ganesan in Mountain Path, 2002.

It may be of interest to note that having looked at some of the articles later collected in Science and Sacred, and in particular “Perception in Yoga and in Physics” published in Re-Vision, Jour. of Knowledge and Consciousness in 1980, Ken Wilber, who has since then gone on to great fame, wrote to me in a letter in 1980, “You are the only writer of significance with whom I am in substantial agreement.”