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Interview

with Ravi Ravindra


Can science help us know the the very word ‘God’ are much
nature of God through his more likely to be sympathetic to
creation? the God of Spinoza or Einstein in
which, in the words of Einstein,
So much depends on what one
there is a cosmic “intelligence of
thinks or imagines ‘God’ is. If there
such superiority that, compared
is some sort of a personal God
with it, all the systematic thinking
nothing in science can show us the
face of such an anthropomorphic and acting of human beings is an
Being. Those scientists who are utterly insignificant reflection.”
not completely driven away by (Ideas and Opinions, 11)
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What science can do and is doing emphasis. As a general comment,
quite well, is to reveal such amazing the God of process theology rejects
Intelligence pervading the cosmos. the omniscient God knowing and
But when it comes to ‘personal determining all future becomings.
God,’ this is what Einstein said, This release of the process of
“In the struggle for ethical good becoming is much more congenial
teachers of religion must have the to scientific activity dealing with
stature to give up the doctrine of events and the process of change
a personal God, that is give up the in time.
source of fear and hope which in
the past placed such vast powers How can religion help us solve
in the hands of priests.” (Out of scientific problems that humanity
My Later Years, 28 -9)
faces today like global warming?
It is useful to remember that
all the major theologians even
There is no monolithic meaning
in the Biblical traditions, where
of ‘religion’ any more than that of
the idea of a personal God is so
‘God.’ For a great many people,
predominant, would be aghast at
religion amounts to a set of beliefs
imposing human characteristics on
in some ancient scripture and
God. In other traditions, especially
codified by some councils many
in Buddhism and in Vedanta,
centuries ago. Mostly what goes
the Ultimate Reality transcends
any notion of God in the Biblical on in the name of religion is close-
traditions. These trans-theistic mindedness; unfortunately far too
perspectives are sometimes often resulting in fanaticism and
erroneously regarded as atheistic. bigotry. However, for some people
a religious mind is a learning
What does process theology tell us mind, willing to be surprised,
about the nature of God? and open to all reality. For such
people, concern for and care of
Different process theologians all of nature, including the planet
have understandably different Earth, is a part of being more
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and more fully human. For them Can science explain religion?
any problems facing our planet I have an impression that much
or humanity in general need our of what goes on in the name of
attention, resources and energy. religion, and the consequent
Depending on their sphere of psychological attitudes and
activity, such religious people will behaviour, can be fairly well
make their contributions as voters, explained by increasingly subtler
tax payers or as scientists in solving scientific investigations in the
the relevant problems. fields of psychology and psychiatry,
largely because much of this
Can nature and beauty help so called religious behaviour is
bring together scientists and driven by ordinary fears of the
theologians? unknown and desires for comfort
and security. However, the religion
Both nature and beauty help pertaining to the spiritual realities
human beings towards a clearer experienced by the great sages
mind and a larger heart whether and mystics in all traditions—such
they are theologians or scientists or as the Buddha, the Christ, John
anybody else. Then it will be easier of the Cross, Rumi or Ramana—is
for them to feel that there cannot beyond all categories of interest
in principle be any contradiction available to science.
between scientific research and
spiritual search. However, if the Is science capable of proving
scientists in question are addicted the reality of the transcendent
to scientism and regard the dimension of life?
universe wholly in materialist terms,
or the theologians in question No, simply because the
are dedicated to the defense of transcendent dimension
some dogma, it is unlikely that transcends the very categories
anything—including nature and and aspects—such as space-
beauty—will bring them together. time, matter-energy, causality
and the like—in which scientific
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research operates. One can come from which previous scientific
to the Sacred only at the end of attainment is invited to retire is
knowledge—vedanta. Knowledge with admirable dexterity claimed
is always not only in time and as a playground of some religious
space, it is of time and space. The ideology that cannot really use it
Sacred manifests in great vision profitably, because its [religion’s]
which cannot be formulated or true domain is far beyond anything
codified. in reach of scientific explanation”
(Nature and the Greeks, 8).
Would science better serve the
spiritual potential of the human How does your interest in the
race by acknowledging the various religious traditions of the
inherent limits of its domain? world inform your practice of
science?
Most if not all of the first class
scientists—Einstein, Newton, What interests me in the various
Swedenborg, Darwin, Neils Bohr, religious traditions are the various
Schroedinger, to name only a spiritual practices and disciplines
few—acknowledge the inherent and not so much their dogmas
limits of science. Here are some or belief systems. Even a slight
comments of Schroedinger, awareness of any of these
the father of Wave Mechanics: disciplines, and certainly a serious
“Physics has nothing to do with engagement with any one of
religion. Physics takes its start them makes one aware of the fact
from everyday experience, which that all spiritual traditions speak
it continues by more subtle of various levels of reality both
means. It remains akin to it, does inside us as well as outside. Just
not transcend it generically, it as a human being has physical,
cannot enter into another realm” emotional, mental and spiritual
(Science, Theory and Man, 307 -8). aspects so does the cosmos. Also,
He characterizes such attempts that there is a correspondence
as “sinister.” “The territory between internal and external
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levels. In the words of St. Paul, the hand, is not especially interested
eyes of the flesh can see the things in the quality of the persons
of the flesh and the eyes of the practicing science. However, any
spirit the things of the spirit. serious spiritual undertaking is
Therefore, the purpose of the suffused with a scientific temper
spiritual disciplines is to cleanse so that one relies on a clear mind
our perceptions qualitatively so and direct perceptions, not on
that we can begin to see, feel and somebody else’s authority.
sense the spiritual dimensions of
whatever we look at—nature, What is it that really motivates
other people, other cultures and science? And how is that different
the whole universe. The more from what motivates spiritual
one is spiritually oriented, the pursuit?
more one can engage in scientific
research out of wonder and joy, Other than survival, food and
not necessarily out of competition. the like, there are two great
human needs, needs of the soul:
Has being a scientist affected your knowledge and meaning. Science
spiritual evolution? is the quest for knowledge. The
search for meaning in one’s life
The entire enterprise of spiritual immediately brings one towards
disciplines is oriented towards the relationship—with oneself, with
enhancement of the quality of the other humans and with the
the person, ultimately resulting Ultimate Reality. That is why in
in a complete freedom from me- spiritual literature one can hardly
me-me. If one is not moving escape the great emphasis on
towards more compassion and love, compassion, freedom from
love, a clearer understanding of selfishness and the like—all the
one’s place in the cosmos which necessary requirements for any
naturally frees one from more pride meaningful relationship.
and arrogance, one is not spiritual. Scientific research and spiritual
Scientific research, on the other search both proceed from a sense
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of Mystery—mystery inside and primarily by the measure and the
mystery outside, both aspects of the sense in which he has attained
Great Mystery. Scientific research liberation from the self.” (Ideas
has to do with trying to know and Opinions, 12).
the unknown, but this unknown
is in principle knowable. Spiritual How can the internal process of
search, or search for the Sacred, religious and scientific thought be
has to do with the cultivation of a reconciled?
relationship with the Unknowable
Mystery. Spiritual mysteries—such It should be clear from the answers
as God is love (1 John 4.16), or to the previous questions, that
Atman is Brahman (Mandukya according to my understanding
Upanishad 2)—cannot be solved there cannot in principle be
in the sense that the solution can any conflict between scientific
be articulated in rational terms research and spiritual search. No
and passed on to someone else. true scientist can be untouched
However, in a contemplative state by the grandeur of the vastness
of a quiet mind these mysteries can of the cosmos and the harmony
be dissolved. Then one no longer of the intricate natural laws. If
denies the Mystery or fears it; one such feelings are not suppressed
celebrates the mystery. A dancer by some cultural conditioning, the
celebrates the Mystery in dance, a resulting rapturous amazement
musician in music; and a physicist is bound to lead one to an
by engaging in doing physics. ardent reflection on one’s place
Although it is not generally the in this immensity. These feeling
case, science itself can be, and has experiences are the intimations of
been for some scientists, a spiritual the Sacred.
path gradually freeing them from Similarly, anyone touched by
the ego. As Einstein said, echoing the spiritual Truth is naturally
the insight of all the great spiritual interested in the incredible order
sages of the world: “The true value displayed by the manifested
of a human being is determined universe. In principle, even at
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the most ordinary level, every be open to the Great Mystery. The
human being is both potentially more science reveals the workings
a scientist—interested in the of great nature, the deeper the
external cosmos as it presents Mystery becomes.
itself to our senses and mind—and Two forms of awareness can reside
a spiritual searcher—interested in in the same person: on the one
the meaning of one’s life and one’s hand, direct subtle supersensuous
true place in the vastness. perceptions and, on the other,
reasoned scientific theorizing
What is your view of the future and experimentation with its
perspectives on the intersection of corresponding philosophical
science and religion, especially as abstractions—however rare
scientific discoveries and advances actual instances of this may be.
continue? The reconciliation of religion and
science needs to take place in the
Treating science and religion as soul of the same whole person
abstractions and trying to oppose so that there can be purposive
them or to reconcile them is a action without self-centeredness,
wrong-headed approach. Each individuality without egoism,
human being wishes to be whole— wholeness without loss of
uniquely oneself but participating uniqueness. For many great
in the oneness of all there is. These scientists, the Sacred was not
abstractions interfere with the discovered or proved by science.
search for wholeness. At the end of The Sacred called them, pervaded
learning, a serious person returns their lives, and gave significance to
to himself. Then one sees that not their scientific activity, as it would
only I know very little, but that the have to their other activities, such
whole of humanity knows very as music or poetry or painting, if
little. This sense of not knowing they had been called to celebrate
is not a celebration of ignorance, the Sacred through the arts, as
but a quality of innocence in the were Bach, Kalidasa, and El Greco.
presence of the Vastness. One can
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