I.K.Taimni – India
Materialism Without Matter
It is the duty of all serious students of Occultism not only to disseminate the truths of the Divine Wisdom in the world as widely as possible but also to influence and guide as much as possible the development of thought in those fields which are of vital importance to humanity. These truths of the Divine Wisdom are not meant only for those who are prepared to accept them and utilize them for their inner unfoldment. They are meant for humanity as a whole. This is quite clear from the fact that the Great Ones who are the guardians of humanity attach as much, if not more importance to the work for the evolution of the humanity as a whole than to the spiritual unfoldment of individuals who are sufficiently mature for this purpose.
The phenomenal development which is taking place in different fields of Science is a proof of the keen interest taken by the Great Ones in this development and the importance which they attach to this work. There can be no doubt in the minds of those who have been watching this rapid and unexpected development that it is being guided from above. The manner in which the extraordinary discoveries made in different fields of Science during the last fifty years have been prepared for and coordinated systematically shows the guiding and intelligence which has made these discoveries possible.
It may appear rather strange to those who believe in the spiritual basis of the universe and the incomparable superiority of the spiritual outlook over the prevailing materialistic outlook, that while such extraordinary and effective help is being given from above for this scientific development, the help for the moral and spiritual evolution of man is comparatively poor, and moral and spiritual evolution seems to be lagging far behind intellectual evolution.
When we feel inclined to judge the wisdom of Divine guidance by our standards of ignorance it is good to remind ourselves that our vision is too limited and our knowledge is too meagre to enable us to form a correct idea of the significance of the prevailing trends and the nature of the future developments. We see frequently in our individual life that an incident which appears like a disaster in the present proves to be a blessing in the future. Similarly, many developments in the world which at the time appeared undesirable and even dangerous prove ultimately of far-reaching benefit to the human race.
The extraordinary and spectacular development in many fields of Science which has taken place during the course of the present century is a case in point. It has placed tremendous power in the hands of man who is still morally and spiritually undeveloped. It has led to an extraordinary growth of the materialistic outlook and preoccupation with the material needs of man. Looked at from our narrow point of view, these developments may appear undesirable and even dangerous. But who can say what form they will take in the future? The control and utilization of the forces of Nature may be freed gradually from its evil potentialities and usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and contentment. This will provide the requisite basis of social stability which is needed for the moral and spiritual evolution of man.
The growth of the materialistic outlook and the abundance of physical amenities and luxuries provided by Science may give humanity the opportunity to drink the cup of physical satisfactions and pleasures to the last drop and realize that these satisfactions are illusory and ephemeral in their nature and cannot provide real and lasting satisfaction to the real man imprisoned in the physical body. This surfeit and consequent dissatisfaction with a life of purely physical satisfactions will inevitably lead at least the more intelligent section of humanity to search for happiness in new directions and incline them to give a trial to the spiritual ideals which they have ignored. Signs of this reaction against a life of mere physical comforts and enjoyments, which is essentially a life of the animal, have already begun to appear and these may gradually grow into a pronounced swing in the direction of the spiritual outlook and a life guided by spiritual ideals. Nature is a hard task-master and if we cannot learn a needed lesson through wise discrimination makes us learn it through bitter experience.
An unexpected development of the greatest significance has already resulted from the extraordinary and spectacular growth of Scientific knowledge. In its search for a Godless reality which underlies the unreal world of sense-perception Science has found merely an elusive world of mathematical symbols and formulae which are utterly incomprehensible and meaningless. The world of matter and energy on which it had erected its edifice of scientific materialism has disappeared into a phantom world of mathematical abstractions.
Having rejected in the very beginning the idea of the independent existence of mind, Consciousness and a Divine Reality underlying the material universe, Scientists are now feeling confounded and confused by these unexpected developments but are not yet ready to do some rethinking with regard to their basic assumptions upon which scientific materialism is based. They are taking refuge in all kinds of strange ideas which can be seen easily to be nothing but excuses to maintain their orthodox points of view. They are trying to compensate for the inadequacies of their philosophy by an abnormal and almost pathological concentration on the development of technology. But how long can they resist the logic of facts which they themselves have discovered and the necessity of a more reasonable and satisfactory philosophy for making human life purposeful and meaningful. The human Spirit cannot be kept satisfied forever with an assortment of scientific gadgets and mathematical abstractions which nobody can understand, not even those who have discovered them.
In the present mood of scientists and the chaotic conditions prevailing in the world at present it is perhaps not possible to do more than state clearly the implications and significance of recent scientific discoveries and relate them as far as possible with the Occult doctrines. The powers that have brought about the favorable developments in Science will also, in due time, provide the necessary channels of communication between Science and Occultism. But before we can utilize these channels which may be created, we should be clear in our own mind about the significance of these scientific discoveries and their bearings on Occult doctrines.
Since most of the important scientific developments which have taken place in the present century [note from the editor: published in 1974] have found their expression and integration in Einstein's Theory of Relativity this theory and its conclusions have a, special significance for the student of Occultism. In this theory he can find many ideas which partially corroborate and throw light on many important Occult doctrines and thus make the study of these doctrines more thorough and meaningful. He can also discover in this Theory many points which can serve as bridgeheads for building bridges between modern Science and ancient Occultism. Scientists may not feel inclined to use these bridges in their present state of mind but if the bridges are there it will be easier to establish communication in due course of time. For, Science will have to come to Occultism ultimately for the solution of its insoluble problems and take to the Occult method for finding the Divine Reality which is hidden within the heart of the universe. The search for the reality of the materialistic conception is doomed to failure for it is like the proverbial search in a dark room for a black cat which is not there.
So, let us briefly review in outline some recent developments in Science which are of special interest to the student of Occultism. It is not necessary for our purpose to go into the mathematical and technical aspects of these developments which the ordinary student cannot understand without acquiring the basic knowledge of Science and higher mathematics.
Since the fundamental point of contention between Occultism and modern Science is with regard to the ultimate basis of the universe—the former maintaining that it is spiritual and the latter that it is material—let us first review the scientific developments which have led to the conclusion that matter, as Science conceived it originally, does not exist and so scientific materialism has lost its material basis. According to present knowledge the ultimate and only basis of the. universe is radiation either bottled-up radiation" which we call matter or free radiation which is known as light or other electro-magnetic waves of different frequencies. There have been many other interesting developments along different lines but this is the most important because it has deprived scientific philosophy, which believes in concrete things only, of its very substance and left it floundering in a morass of abstract ideas. As this is a very important development from the Occult point of view in its contention with scientific materialism it will be worthwhile reviewing the sequence of scientific discoveries which have led to this unexpected and startling conclusion.
Naturally, since the whole fabric of the universe has been reduced to radiation the problem started with the study of radiation. Everybody knows that when heated bodies become incandescent, they emit a red glow that turns to orange, then to yellow and finally to white as the temperature increases. All efforts to find how the amount of energy given off by such heated bodies varied with wavelength and temperature failed until Planck found by pure mathematical analysis his famous equation E=nv which satisfied the results of experiments. He made the unwarranted and strange assumption that the radiant energy is emitted not in an unbroken stream but in discontinuous portions which he termed quanta. He had not the slightest evidence for such an assumption but made the assumption because it was only on this basis that his empirical equation E=nv could be made to tally with the results of experiments. It was one of those cases in which assumptions are chosen to suit the conclusions which have been arrived at on the basis of experimental results. The trick lies in working backwards from the conclusion to the original assumptions and choosing those particular assumptions, however strange or unjustified they might be, which will lead to the predetermined conclusion. This is not unlike putting the cart before the horse in the reasoning process and the device is adopted to give to the theory an apparently reasonable appearance when actually it has no basis in reason.
Herein lies 'the weakness of the scientific theories and the philosophy of materialism which is based upon them. Scientific knowledge is essentially empirical and the veneer of reason which is generally provided is to give it a respectable appearance in the eyes of the public. Scientists are concerned mainly with the “how” of the natural processes and have always and persistently avoided facing their “why“ aspect. That is the source both of their strength and weakness. Because they have a reliable knowledge and complete control of the how of the processes, they can manipulate these processes perfectly and utilize them in producing extraordinary and spectacular results. And because they have not seriously tackled the why of these processes and are not really interested in it, owing to the absence of the true philosophical spirit, they have not been able to gain true knowledge with regard to the real nature of anything and the whole field of scientific thought is strewn with the wrecks and remnants of ever-changing and out-moded theories. But the scientists have a firm grasp over their empirical facts and by continuing to produce spectacular results can always camouflage the weaknesses and the inadequacies of their philosophical thought.
This discovery of Planck's Constant by this irrational and apparently unjustified method also incidentally throws some light on the manner in which scientific thought, or as a matter of fact, any kind of development in human affairs is guided from above or from behind the scenes. An idea or some hint with regard to a course of action is put into the mind of the person who is engaged in the work, is adopted by the person concerned without any rhyme or reason, sometimes without any justification, and the development of thought or movement is assured sometimes with far-reaching consequences. The descent of such ideas and solutions from above is recognized even in scientific circles, but they dismiss such occurrences as cases of intuition ' Nobody asks what intuition is and how such important ideas, sometimes apparently irrational and unjustified are received from nowhere and adopted by hard-headed intellectuals without question. Planck's Constant has dominated the computations of atomic physics for half a century, but it owes its discovery not to the cold logic of reason but the mysterious fluke of that much suspected faculty called “intuition.”
On account of the lack of justification and apparent absurdity of Planck's fundamental assumption—that radiant energy is emitted in discontinuous bits or portions—very few scientists took Planck's Quantum Theory seriously till 1905, In that year Einstein published his Theory of Relativity to account particularly for the puzzling phenomenon which was referred to as the photo-electric effect Einstein postulated in his Theory that all forms of radiant energy—light, X-rays, etc., travel through space in discontinuous quanta and so, practically adopted and incorporated Planck's Quantum Theory in his Theory of Relativity. It was this fact which showed the far-reaching implications of Planck's Theory which was till then regarded merely as a clever conjecture. According to Einstein all light or rather radiant energy is composed of individual particles or grains of energy (which he called photons) and the greater the frequency of the radiation the more energy is contained in its photons. If the wavelength could be small enough, one single quantum could have all the energy of the universe, theoretically.
Einstein's theory that light consists of discontinuous particles was in direct conflict with the then prevalent theory that light is made up of waves. The theory that light consists of electro-magnetic waves was based firmly on the existence of the phenomena of diffraction and interference which arc strictly wave characteristics and could not possibly be shown by particles of any kind. And yet Einstein's Photo-Electric Law showed that light must consist of photons or light particles. Which of these two diametrically opposite views represents the actual facts? This fundamental question—whether light consists of waves or particles of energy—has not yet been answered in spite of a tremendous amount of research work having been done by topmost scientists. In fact, the deeper they try to go into the problem the more baffling it becomes. It will be seen from the above how• these unexpected and startling developments had the effect of abolishing completely the distinction between matter and radiation (or energy).
It is interesting to note how physicists have tried to resolve the paradox presented by waves of matter and particles of radiation. They now maintain that it is not necessary to consider the properties of an individual electron or any other fundamental particle of matter. For, in experimenting with these particles in the laboratory we do not deal with single particles at all, but with billions of particles en masse. As we have to deal with mass behavior the problem can be tackled by the statistical method which is based upon the laws of probability. Two German physicists, Born and Heisenberg, developed mathematical expressions which enabled the physicists to interpret quantum phenomena both as waves or particles. But in this ingenious method to resolve the paradox the incomprehensible “waves of matter” were made still more incomprehensible “waves of probability.”
And so the modern physicist thinks that he has resolved the paradox of matter behaving like waves and radiation behaving like matter. But to the intelligent man who thinks that no problem can be considered as solved unless the solution is at least intelligible, the above developments seem to have made the nature of matter and radiation and their mutual relationship far more mysterious. To provide a set of mathematical formula or a certain phenomenon is no more solving the problem than writing √-1 is resolving the mystery of the square root of – 1. As everyone knows, in mathematics defines only the relations between things and leaves the question of their nature untouched. Mathematical formulae can therefore only define and help us to understand the Processes of nature. They can tell us how things act and behave and not what they arc. As Science is interested only in the how " of things, so that it can exploit them, these mathematical formulae may be adequate for its purpose but to claim that they resolve the paradoxes posed by Nature, as is frequently done, means that we do not really know what “knowing” means.
To “know” things as they are, we cannot evade the question of their “why” as is done by scientists. It is true that when we proceed to know the “why “of things the answer to every question which we solve raises another question in its place and so the search for a solution seems to be interminable. But for the serious seeker this is really not so. For there is a Reality hidden within the universe and this Reality contains within itself a real solution for every problem and a counterpart for every illusory and external fact of existence. To know things as they really are and to resolve paradoxes posed by them, we have to penetrate through our mind and consciousness into this world of Reality. Then we can " know " in the real sense the partial reality corresponding to any definite fact of existence or the Whole Reality in which all these partial realities are contained in a perfectly harmonious relation. The technique of this discovery as is well-known to the students of Yogic psychology is called Sabija and Nirbija Samädhi. But it is too much to expect hard-headed orthodox scientists to adopt or even to consider these unorthodox methods of knowing the Truth when all they are really interested in is the phenomenal side of Nature and the exploitation of natural processes for their extremely limited purposes.
The Reality which is the basis and source of the physical universe is of the nature of consciousness and so it cannot be discovered or known by physical methods or by mathematical analysis. It can be known only by our consciousness, or in our consciousness, by methods which are appropriate to the uncovering of consciousness. So, the hope of the scientific world to find the underlying reality of the universe by physical methods aided by mathematics is doomed to remain unfulfilled and they will have to remain contented with the meaningless and incomprehensible “reality” of mathematical abstractions and equations.
How long man can remain satisfied with these abstractions and continue to regard himself “merely as an ephemeral conformation of the space-time field” is for the future to show. But if the Divine Life is present within the heart of every human being, and he is destined to know his Divine nature, it will not allow him to remain in this state of confusion forever. A time must come, when he throws off the shackles of scientific materialism, asserts his Divinity and starts to find his Real nature in the only way this can be done.
To be continued
[From: Science and Occultism, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar 1975. The author, Iqbal Kishen Taimni, (1898 – 1978) was a scientist, leader of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), and scholar in the fields of Yoga and Indian Philosophy.]