Sacred and Secular Science
Most thoughtful people are aware that the world is going through a process of momentous change. In fact, many of us have gathered here in Florence to share our visions of that change and to discuss its implications for the coming millennium. Owing to the widespread breakdown that accompanies a shift of this nature, some may feel that we are living through the biblical apocalypse. But others, more sensitive to the dynamics of our collective evolution, recognize this chaos as a precursor to a great leap forward in human history. The focus of my presentation to the Congress will be to identify the root cause of the collective chaos presently churning around us, and to suggest certain creative solutions to these problems which will allow us to embrace these changes as part of an optimistic evolutionary vision.
For Havel, and other men and women of vision, the chaos of the post-modern world is not an unexpected development, but rather a predictable reaction to the deep-rooted secularism which has overtaken all areas of human life. The world which modern science has created is on the verge of collapse precisely because it has lost touch with meaning, purpose and the inner dimensions of human experience. It has not only alienated man from himself, but also from nature and the cosmic sense of his own being.
Growing numbers of people are beginning to recognize that a paradigm shift toward a more Integral world-view is crucial to our survival, but most are unclear about how this might occur. Havel suggested two theories, found in ancient spiritual traditions, which he believes might inspire a recovery of man's cosmic awareness. The "Anthropic Cosmological Principle" is a theory which presumes that the universe was purposely formed with precisely the right values to support intelligent life. A collateral theory, the "Gaia Hypothesis", affirms that we are all interdependent parts of a greater intelligent whole. While these theories are laudable in their presumption of purpose and wholeness, it is uncertain how they can be used to alter the present course of scientific materialism. Yet in a way, Havel has given us an important clue. The key to understanding our present dilemma is by seeing it in contrast with the wholeness of ancient civilizations. It must be noted however, that it is not the theories of the past which will inspire a renaissance in human consciousness but a recovery of the knowledge and vision which inspired those civilizations.
In matters of enlightened knowledge we must defer to the sensitives of the race, the poets, seers and mystics who live in a higher light and who can penetrate the causal dimension of our worldly experience. In our present age we are blessed with many realized beings but there are three people who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Sri Aurobindo, the yogi of Pondicherry and his collaborator, the Mother, are no longer in the body but have left a legacy of the most integral and all embracing spiritual knowledge ever revealed to mankind. They are succeeded in their knowledge and mission by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet who continues their work today and has carried their evolutionary vision on to completion.
The disparity of development to which Sri Aurobindo refers is nowhere so evident as between the two great forces which drive our modern civilization: Science and Spirituality. This, however, was not always the case. Thousands of years ago Spirituality and Science were one, the sage was the scientist, astronomer, astrologer and priest. Around the end of the first millennium, a process of differentiation began to occur in which Spirituality and Science became polarized with each retreating further into its own nature. It was as if each hemisphere of our collective neurology began to outpicture in an asynchronous and autonomous manner, manifesting as the two limbs of western philosophy: Aristotelian Logic and Platonic Mysticism.
Much in the way a child might leave his home in the arrogance of youth, Science, abandoned its native connection with Spirituality and struck out on its own to explore the mysteries of the physical world. This event marked the departure of knowledge from wisdom and began a thousand years of estrangement between these two great world-views.
From its classic origins, science has sought to describe and explain nature. With Rationalism as its tool and Empiricism as its method, it set out to conquer the diversity of the material world and make it conform to a uniformity of thought. Its eventual goal was the discovery of a single theory which could describe the order of the universe. Science's search for this ultimate theory led inevitably to the origins of matter and a process of reductionism which broke everything down to its constituent elements and reassembled the pieces to fit a preconceived scientific hypothesis. These committed observations predictably led to a model of an unchanging deterministic universe in which Cartesian dualism and Newtonian physics joined to describe the cosmos as a great machine.
In contrast to the fragmented scientific view, the ancient sages embraced Spirit and Matter as One. The essence of both was realized as consciousness in different states of vibration or resonance. The bridge between the transcendent and physical realms was articulated by ancient systems of integration based upon an enlightened understanding of the Cosmic harmonies. The sages recognized that the universe was created in such a way that its very structure contained the secret of a sacred and eternal order. This order manifests as Cosmic and Planetary harmonies before reaching a highly specific individuation in the human domain. When properly understood, this occult order provided a key to the inner meaning of any given situation or event and also its relevance to time and place. But with the departure of Science on its quest to classify and conquer the material world, Spirituality abandoned this high knowledge. In order to protect its transcendental integrity and cope with the pain and suffering of an irredeemable creation, it retreated into a denial of matter. Philosophers and mystics began to announce that all creation in matter was "Maya" or illusion, a deceptive veil that seekers of truth must tear through in order to reach a timeless Absolute. As a result of this development, the connection between Spirit and Matter was lost, the intermediate passage fell into obscurity and was soon considered irrelevant. Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet explains the profound consequences of this turn of events.
Starting with Buddhism, every spiritual realization in the last two thousand years has taken us farther away from the material world through an escape into otherworldliness. Religions began to proclaim that, salvation, if it exists at all, may only be obtained in an after-death heaven or nirvanic void, anywhere except the world we inhabit. As a consequence of these life-negating philosophies, religion soon forfeited its right to guide the evolution. Science moved in to fill the void that spirituality had left and displaced religion as the dominant authority in worldly affairs. It was at this dark moment that the scientist usurped the province of the sage and became the official maker and keeper of the story of the cosmos.
The Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm with its rigid deterministic model of the universe marked the height of Science's estrangement from Spirituality. Religion, on the other hand, reached a similar poise by consolidating the perception of an untransformable material creation out of which some form of escape must be found. The effect of this polarization is still in place today. We have religion which has pathologized matter on one end of the pole, and science in abject denial of the subtle realms of reality on the other. The chasm between the two has deepened to the point where harmony and integration seem impossible to achieve. The influence of these incomplete and antagonistic world-views have driven Science and Spirituality to the threshold of a major crisis in which both must discover a new and integrative paradigm in order to experience any meaningful continuity of existence. For each in its own way has constructed a conception of the cosmos which is totally devoid of meaning and purpose and which begs the question of human life. The societal problems which face us today, drugs, violence, and disintegrating moral values are a direct expression of these life-negating philosophies.
A paradigm shift of this magnitude will not be easy for religion, for it has reached a point in its quest for transcendence where salvation is now conceived as a static and unchanging reality. Moreover, there is a growing realization that this transcendent reality is essentially the same in all religions though the form it takes may vary widely from culture to culture. "Spiritual Progress" therefore is likely to take form as an effort to unify the disparate religions of the world rather than a move toward a more comprehensive spiritual vision. There is of course the phenomenon we have come to call "New Age Spirituality", but it has not introduced anything new. It is simply a revival of the old and ineffective systems of the past in a reaction to the spiritual poverty of our modern secular culture. The only authentic change in spiritual understanding - a greater face of truth of which most are still unaware, has come from Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet in a Supramental knowledge which, for the first time, integrates Spirit and Matter, Being and Becoming, and Time and Eternity. "True spiritual development', said the Mother, 'will only occur when the people of the world replace the exclusivity of separative religions with the vast faith of KNOWLEDGE."
In contrast to Religion, Science is more comfortable with shifting paradigms. Since it is constantly seeking a more unified theoretical base, it is obliged to embrace new ideas as a means to that progress. In fact, the history of scientific conceptualization may be seen as a continuously shifting landscape of ideas flowing toward a more coherent model of the universe. In past centuries, however, these paradigm shifts were few and far between. It took some 400 years for Aristotelian Cosmology, which taught that the Earth was the center of the universe, to give way to the Copernican revolution, which held that the Earth and planets moved in a circular orbit around the Sun. It took another hundred years for Johannes Kepler to prove that the planets moved in an elliptical orbit and for Sir Isaac Newton to propound the laws of gravity which caused the Earth and planets to follow that elliptical path.
With its fixed ideas of space and time, Newtonian physics became the basis of science for nearly 200 years until 1905 when it was overturned by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Einstein's discoveries were followed in the 1920's with the development of Quantum Physics which is based on the belief that the molecular and atomic properties of matter might provide important clues for deriving its macrocosmic properties.
Since the 1920s there has been an ongoing revolution in scientific theory. When scientists like Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans began to announce, "the stuff of the world is mind stuff, that the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than a great machine", they called into question all of the most basic scientific assumptions. This hastened the collapse of the old Newtonian paradigm and gave rise to a variety of new theories regarding the nature of matter. Exciting new concepts emerged carrying science closer and closer to the foundations of reality. And some of these promising new theories introduced the element of consciousness into the scientific equation.
Over the last half century we have seen the rise of brilliant theorists like David Bohm who introduced the idea of a "Holographic Universe" an interdependent reality in which each part reflects the whole. In his book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Bohm gave science a completely new understanding of the origins of matter and the dynamics between the subtle and physical realms. His work with "zero point energy" eventually led to the postulation of the Quantum Vacuum, an invisible sub-quantum field believed to be the ground state of the universe, and source and sink of all matter. On closer examination, this theory bears an unmistakable resemblance to the subtle plane described by the ancient sages as the Luminiferous Ether.
Today, scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic theoretical models; Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which deals with the large scale structure of the universe and Quantum Mechanics, which deals with physical phenomena on extremely small scales. These two conceptual models are known to be inconsistent with each other especially in regard to gravitational effects. The approach that seems to offer the best hope of integrating these incompatible theories is for scientists to extrapolate back to an earlier moment of creation - a more dense quantum era where everything in the manifest universe was undifferentiated and squeezed into a singularity smaller than an atom. In time measure, this initial density would have existed in the first millionths of a second after the Big Bang, a measurement known as 'Planck time', named after the physicist Max Planck. They believe that if they can reproduce the physical laws which existed in that exotic state, they will be able to understand the changes which occur during the inflationary phase which follows and eventually come up with a model which will integrate all natural forces into a Grand Unified Theory of Reality.
Considering the progress and direction of science over the last 50 years, it seems evident that it is moving closer and closer to describing a reality consistent with ancient wisdom. But, in spite of these advances, scientists are still faced with a monumental problem: no matter how close science seems to come to the truth, it is hopelessly blocked by the form of its inquiry. "What we are observing, said the Nobel laureate Werner Heisenburg, is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." And this is the problem with all branches of science; they have fallen into the error of identifying appearance with reality and with no appreciation for the greater reality which lies beyond.
Sri Aurobindo explains:
Thankfully, science's mechanistic paradigm, which posited material explanations for all events, is beginning to give way to a more inclusive view of the universe. The empirical method, once considered inviolable, is now regarded as a means to only a partial truth, a single dimension of the total reality that a cosmos contains. Scientists are now beginning to admit that any theory which hopes to provide a complete understanding of the universe must be Cosmological because Cosmology, 'mother of all science', embraces the whole of reality and describes its order. This means that science must develop an entirely new method of inquiry and entertain new theories of reality which go beyond the merely physical. In other words, it must now be willing to explore the metaphysical.
A paradigm shift of this magnitude will not be easy for modern science, for it is well known for its mistrust of the metaphysical and its almost evangelical zeal in condemning it as ignorance and superstition. In a recent conference of the world's leading cosmologists in Chicago, one of the presenters brought up the "Anthropic Principle", a theory which holds that the universe was created with precisely the right properties to support intelligent life. This was greeted by the scientists in attendance with hisses, hoots and jokes about this theory being unscientific and hopelessly mystical. This kind of behavior bears evidence to the statement of one former physicist who claimed that post-modern science has become uncomfortable with intimations of purpose and now seems to welcome all evidence that suggests a meaningless creation.
These profound truths lay fallow in the Vedic scriptures for millennia because most Sanskrit scholars believed that the hymns were merely primitive stories of barbarians concerned with only the most material gains and enjoyments. It was not until the 20th century and the discoveries of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet that its complex metaphysics were finally unveiled. "The true sense of the Veda,wrote Sri Aurobindo, is to be found in its inner meaning where it reveals itself to be the highest spiritual truth of which the human mind is capable."
Clearly the most important feature of Vedic cosmology is that it begins with fullness and unity and proceeds from there to establish an integral web of causation. Science, on the other hand, begins with Chaos and disorder and tries [unsuccessfully] to reconstruct a prior principle of order through extrapolation to an earlier time. Their lack of success in this direction has led to the apparent conclusion that there is no underlying order to the universe, only coincidence - a view that has been roundly denounced by some of its more enlightened critics.
But there is no coincidence, says Sri Aurobindo, "...From the beginning the whole development [of the universe] is predetermined in its self-knowledge and at every moment in its self-working - it is and moves to what it must be by its own original Truth, and will be at the end that which was contained and intended in its seed." All material creation proceeds from this original involved 'seed' as involutionary forms move across the event horizon, extend themselves, multiply, and grow, in accordance with the laws of causation and the principles of time. In the language of scientific cosmology, this point or seed is the 'singularity' from which the universe exploded into being. In Vedic metaphysics it is the sacred syllable "OM", the primordial vibration or sound out of which the creation emerges and has its origin.
Sri Aurobindo's realizations of this Seed and its underlying order formed the lines of a new and integral Yoga which he and the Mother developed over their 36 year collaboration. It represented a revolutionary departure from most extant spiritual systems which conceived the world as a painful illusion from which one should attempt to escape. Their new Yoga envisions a world in which the polarities of Spirit and Matter, Being and Becoming, Time and Eternity are harmonised in an integral vision. If our destiny is prefigured in the seed of things, said Sri Aurobindo, it is by understanding Time and Becoming that we will arrive at an integrating truth and a Life Divine.
Time became an obsession for Sri Aurobindo which he pursued until his passing in 1950. He was seeking the consolidation of a formula which might reconcile the Timeless Infinite and the Time Spirit deploying itself and organizing all things in time. He carried us to the portals of this discovery in his epic text, The Synthesis of Yoga and closed the book with a chapter entitled, Toward the Supramental Time Vision. Although he had unveiled the possibility of a unifying Time vision, he was never able to complete its exposition. It was not until the 1970s that Sri Aurobindo's Time vision could be brought to completion and fully articulated by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. Her realizations concerning the nature of Time are based upon a direct experience of an objective order which she has extended into a cosmological framework known as The Gnostic Circle.
While Sri Aurobindo gave us a broad overview of the Vedic knowledge, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet takes us into the innermost secrets of Time. Her ability to see with such detail comes about because she has pierced into the most intimate dimension of human consciousness, the 'center' or individual Soul. This realization, known in the Veda as "Swar", yields an immediate awareness of the occult laws and correspondences which exist between the Individual and the Cosmos. Moreover it allows for a verification of these Vedic truths through a profound self-knowledge: "As above so below" said the Rishi. An exquisite correspondence exists between the Macrocosm and Microcosm; a sacred and eternal order is hidden in what appear to be the random cycles of a human life.
Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's cosmology represents this quantum leap beyond the partial realizations of the past because she has reconciled precisely what they declare cannot be reconciled. She has resolved these age old paradoxes by piercing into the deepest truths of Reality which include the Being as well as the dynamics of the Becoming. "Time, says Norelli-Bachelet, is the vehicle, the medium for the Absolute or Supreme Consciousness to Be and to Become and it is knowledge of this principle which integrates the Spiritual and Physical dimensions." It is this integral vision, or gnosis, which grants the individual a direct experience of the Divine within the physical manifestation.
Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's discoveries have revolutionary implications for both science and spirituality because, for the first time, they establish a connection between man and the universe he inhabits through the revelation of a common center. Moreover, her cosmology extends that connection into a means of alignment with the higher planes by demonstrating the time harmonies which join the higher with the lower. This new knowledge overturns religion's long-standing perception of Time as 'the destroyer' and offers an entirely new awareness of Time as an integrative mechanism through which order and purpose are expressed in the world.
Without the insight of self-knowledge and the laws of correspondence which define the individual's relationship to the cosmos, science is limited to empirical proofs - only what it can see and measure. Consequently it has no reliable knowledge of how the universe was created...what came before the 'Big Bang' so to speak. While science may wish to explain the nature of creation, it denies the existence of a non-material cause. For science, the universe is causally closed which means that they are obliged to begin their inquiry at the end of the creation process - with the chaos following the Big Bang and from there they attempt to reconstruct a pre-existing unity. But since their basic premise is flawed, this naturally calls into question everything that follows.
One of the most fatal flaws in scientific conceptualization, directly related to its lack of self-knowledge, lies in its misunderstanding of the structure of the universe. For example, Relativity Theory is based on the belief that the universe has neither boundary nor center but is self-contained within the curvature of space-time. But according to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, nothing could be farther from the truth. In her numerous books and articles, she has given indisputable proof that order and organization in the material universe are only possible because of contours, limits, and boundaries. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet explains:
This axial alignment, common to both the human being and the material universe is the basis of the creation myth of Vedic India known as the, 'Churning of the Milky Ocean at the Dawn of Time'. 'The Churning Myth tells the tale of an act of churning which results from the eternal struggle of two powerful forces, the gods and the titans. The churning takes place on the back of a turtle upon which the god Vishnu conducts the operation. The myth illustrates the 'alchemical' process between opposing forces which generates the passage from chaos to cosmos. While extremely ancient, the churning myth is surprisingly relevant to our understanding of the chaos presently afflicting the post-modern world. It also holds precious clues to the origins of the universe. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet explains:
'The [Churning of the Milky Ocean] myth is concerned primarily with establishing the central role of the 'Axis' in creation... For this is the meaning of the myth; it is the birth of that which moves, and hence of Time as it evolves in our material universe from the seed of itself. This simple tale sheds light on the very structure of form. Indeed this is the purpose of the myth. And this feature pertains to macrocosms as well as microcosms. It pertains as well to the primordial age as well as to the stages of cosmic evolution well beyond the so-called 'Big Bang'.
The discussion of the Axis and its relationship to the "Vedic Act of Seeing" brings us finally to the most important issue, the perceptual differences between the scientist and the sage. For each in his own way sees the world as a reflection of his most intimate self. In a manner similar to the way a dysfunctional individual unconsciously projects his shadow and fears onto the world around him, the scientist unknowingly projects his own centerless and misaligned condition onto the self of the world. And in his quest to understand what he sees, the scientist uses a linear reductive logic to analyze its physical appearance. But the linear intellect moves in a closed circuit from which it cannot escape. Therefore, it is compelled to pursue increasingly abstract speculations which inevitably produce conclusions having little relation to human life. The Sage, on the other hand, approaches his goal through a process of identity. The focus of his vision is not linear but spherical, a product of an axial alignment which perceives from a central 'seed' in all directions simultaneously. In this perfectly aligned poise, which casts no shadows, the Seer is able to follow and measure the evolving in time of the seamless order which was involved or compressed into that central seed. The Act of Seeing, the creative feedback from this integral vision, leads the sage from truth to higher truth allowing new perceptions to be registered which produce breakthroughs in field after field. An intrinsic feature of this Act of Seeing is its organizing influence on what it observes. And this is the most critical difference between the scientist and the sage.
Thus the observer does indeed affect the outcome of the observation, and in the case of modern science it is all random because none of the speculative theories emerging today are part of a Cosmos of Light born of a true center and consequent axial alignment. In order for scientists to achieve this level of non-speculative seeing, they must accept the reality of this axis and its influence on the observational process. They must seek within themselves that same 'center' or Soul and discover its correspondence with the Cosmos. For without this shift in axial alignment there will be no corresponding shift in knowledge. Science will go on forever speculating about what appears to be instead of creating a direct knowledge by identity with What Is.
This is the direction that science and spirituality must pursue if they expect to make any real and significant progress. What is required, says Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, is a definitive paradigm shift which radically alters the way that both have come to perceive and conceive. Each must embrace a 'New Way' which encompasses our everyday existence and understanding of life... something that can actually change life on this planet.
Through her discoveries, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet has given us this New Way - this new paradigm. She has rebuilt the bridge between Spirit and Matter in a seamless continuum, using the harmonics of our very own cosmos to describe its order. She has provided the keys to a unique synthesis which can finally unify the Sacred and Secular worlds and open the way for a new and productive dialogue between ancient wisdom and modern science. It is now up to each of us to embrace that 'New Way', that new paradigm; because a gnostic society cannot establish itself in the midst of the present level of collective consciousness. For a real truth conscious society to come forth, however limited in number it may be, there has to be an uplifting of the general level of society that would allow all people to perceive the new and be favorable to its rise. This would allow the Gnostic Society to come forward and fulfill its function upon earth.