A hiccup…; a trickle of amniotic fluid crosses the lifeless lips… that wake up suddenly; a first breath rushes in the new-born’s lungs, the first of a very long series. A tremendous venture in airborne life begins after an aquatic start, nine months before. Innumerable cells work together to perpetuate life. Two hundred thousand years of adaptive history in our species introduce the baby to a series of vital behaviours: s/he expresses oneself, asks for help, looks for nipples, memorizes her mother’s odor, her relatives’ voices…
But our instincts are rather restricted compared to other species. Some young can even manage without parents since birth. It’s about slowly evolving species that live in rather stable environments. We are very young and bet on a fast adaptation to a changing world. On the other hand we must learn the world, gravity, the danger from fire… An instinctive learning engine gives meaning to our perceptions. This instinctive engine is fundamental for every species harbouring a nervous system. Effects are associated with causes and their recognition can help to foresee what could happen after specific perceptions, and to prepare an adequate response in order to survive in the best way. Every object, every situation will be listed according to its importance for survival and life’s quality. This instinctive engine builds progressively a world’s image and gives meaning to it.
Probably no species perceives Reality as it is, but an illusion forged while it adapted to its specific environment; an image enriched by the history of the individual. For humans, oriental philosophers discovered long ago that it is MAYA: the illusion of a universe composed of different and independent objects that are, for Yoga, only dynamic forms of interacting energies.
Since childhood our instinctive engine that looks for meaning works with our rational mind in order to build what becomes our “common sense”. It’s not only the association of perceptions to discover causal relations, automatically, but also a conscious analysis of the relations in order to build a rich and personal world’s image.
This image is largely enriched by our culture. We are a species so dependent on learning that to become humans we must communicate with other humans! We benefit from millenniums of cultural discoveries that complement our personal world’s image. And this representation becomes so powerful that it’s very disturbing to look at it as a mere illusion!
QUEST FOR MEANING
In the realm of culture, this quest expressed itself through Religion then Philosophy which in turn, gave rise to Science. Experimental Science questions Nature and looks for links between causes and effects to deduce (or induce) a model for the world, a model useful as a guidance in our life to benefit from intellectual satisfaction, serenity, comfort, pleasure and helps in our search for bliss. Since 4 centuries Science models more and more this world’s image, sometime to the detriment of religions, mythologies and even philosophies.
Since its origin in the seventieth century, Science opened our perspective from the Middle Age’s world which was centered on humans only. It led us through many copernican revolutions that made us more and more insignificant, in a larger and larger universe, and it became weird and incomprehensible since 1900 and the new Physics. Common sense, acquired in our childhood through our five biological senses, isn’t anymore able to make us understand the universe. Only mathematics can help us because it can work with logics only and beyond our biological limitations. We can’t imagine a four dimensional universe… but we can calculate its behavior! Science gave us tools to change our world’s image and even to find meaning in it!
Descartes and his friends were looking for reliable answers when they questioned the world we live in. A series of three founding dreams one night of 1609 led Descartes to understand that his goal could be reached by applying the mathematical way of thinking to the understanding of the MATERIAL realm, and of this one only! The creators of Science knew that it couldn’t be applied to the spiritual realm: that didn’t lead them to deny any importance to spirituality! But, after four centuries of continuous and overwhelming discoveries thanks to Science, the great majority of the philosophers, now called scientists, convinced themselves that only matter matters! That wasn’t the conviction of the creators of Science! They only knew that the method wasn’t appropriate for answering questions about spirituality and let these to philosophy and theology.
Finally, at the end of the 19th century, a radical interpretation of Science gave rise to Positivism; it has an interest in objects only and denigrates the understanding a subject studying the world could have about them. Positivism condemned every subjectivity, every interpretation that wouldn’t come from quantification only. And this destroyed any possible quest for meaning, of course. We are very far from the creators of Science who looked for an understanding of the world. Unfortunately an excessive valuation of objectivity dehumanized the world’s image Science suggests today.
One of the method’s pillars is OBJECTIVITY. To be accepted by Science, a result needs to be reproducible by everyone who gives oneself the material and intellectual tools to repeat it: it shouldn’t in any way, be related to the personality of the experimentalist. Said another way: the experimentalist must become INSIGNIFICANT and in an ideal world, a well programmed robot should be able to repeat the experiment and collect the same results! Again, the majority of scientists forgot that this feature was only a powerful tool on the way to understanding and not reality! It led them to the loss of meaning through the insignificance of the experimentalist which progressively, became the insignificance of humans… and the world with them! It wasn’t at all the conviction of the creators of Science! They would be stunned if today, they could come back to see how their invention evolved! The paradigm today is very different from theirs! It was a dualistic world in which matter and spirituality were the basis of two fundamentally different realms. It became a monist and reductionist world in which only matter is real and composed of different parts that can be unrelated to each other. The soul no more exists and ideas are only an emergence from brain’s activity.
BUT ANOMALIES ACCUMULATE!
« Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real. »; Niels Bohr
« As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter. »; Max Planck
We are far away from radical Positivism! Science is finding back the values it lost on its way since four centuries. While looking for the ultimate constituent body of matter… it found the quantum vacuum that creates matter-energy! In pursuit of absolute objectivity, it found the fundamental importance of the observer… Experiments display disturbing anomalies that seriously shatter our convictions… What we see as continuous is not; what we perceive as solid matter is essentially void; paradoxically the void is full of energy which is one of the two states of matter, as space and time build together an invisible dimension that put into perspective what we feel as absolute; objects can be at many places at once… if not observed; they can disappear then reappear elsewhere, instantaneously… Instead of being resolved by new discoveries, anomalies accumulate, diversify and become more and more disturbing to physicists!
What we’re left with, is the creation of a new paradigm: these unconscious frames in which our concepts are built, where our imagination assembles mental images which we absolutely need to understand the world. A conceptual frame of thoughts that should be compatible with all the stunning results found since a century and that seem to point in the same direction… a participative universe. We are in a turning point in history, reminding the Renaissance, when every dogma inherited without critical mind was analyzed and subjected to rational personal conviction instead of being blindly accepted. Today our most fundamental convictions are found to be false: there is a “veiled reality” beyond what we perceive directly, whose nature is wavelike and subtle. What seems to us separated in space and time is fundamentally linked through this veiled reality… To take in account these realities, inescapable since decades already, invariably reproduced and confirmed since a century for some of them, forces us to think anew the nature of reality and our place in a new world.
Paradoxically this new paradigm should be more like the one in which the philosophers created Science in the 17th century, than the one in which their heirs live today! Indeed, since the birth of Quantum Physics in 1900, Science is finding back the values it lost on its way since four centuries. While looking for the ultimate constituent body of matter… it found the quantum vacuum that creates matter-energy! In pursuit of absolute objectivity, it found the fundamental importance of the observer… and one discovers that meaning is coming back in the procedure!
What we’re left with, is the creation of a new paradigm. A conceptual frame of thoughts that should be compatible with all the stunning results found since a century and that seem to point in the same direction… a participative universe. A universe where interactions seem more real than the objects which interact; an ecological universe, more spiritual than material in a way!
« Small amounts of philosophy lead to atheism, but larger amounts bring us back to (spirituality). » Francis Bacon