Lecture, May 25, 2003, International Theosophical Centre, Besant Hall, Naarden, The Netherlands
Science and Religion
Good morning friends,
We said on the first day that most of the problems that we are facing in society all over the world, can be traced to the lopsided development of the human mind; extremely learned and capable in the field of knowledge and science and having very little understanding of itself.This morning I want to go into this question whether one can have a mind that is both scientific and religious at the same time. After all, both science and religion have been major quests of humanity. Science has been our quest for understanding the order that manifests itself in the external world around us and religion has been our quest for discovering order in the inner world of our consciousness.
Somehow a feeling has developed in society that science is antagonistic to religion and therefore in education they have chosen to cultivate science and eliminate religion.
I want to examine, from first principles, whether there is really an antagonism between science and religion or it is a feeling that has developed because we give to both science and religion rather narrow definitions. So I ask myself: from where did they originate? And it seems to me that they have a common origin, which lies in the inquisitiveness that is intrinsic to human consciousness. The human consciousness is perhaps the first in the course of evolution, which has this quality of enquiry. If some drops were to start falling from the roof just now, the first question we would ask is, what's happening up there, how is this happening? There is not always a motive or a purpose for which we enquire. If we ask ourselves the question why the human consciousness has enquiry in it, we cannot answer that. We have got it as part of nature's order. So human beings have asked the questions: why does the sun rise and set?, why do seeds become trees?, why is the sky blue?, why are there so many different species of life?, and so on.Our attempts to answer these questions have resulted in what we call science.
Similarly man must have asked: what is the purpose of life?, who am I?, is there something beyond death?, why is there violence in our consciousness?, is it possible to end sorrow?, and questions like that regarding the inner world of our consciousness.Our attempts to find answers to these questions created the religious quest.So it seems to me that both science and religion have a common origin. And for a long time there was no division between them. One found that a learned man was learned both in science and in religious issues. I think this division started in the time of Gallileo, when some of his findings contradicted the beliefs of the Christian Church and the Church persecuted him for that. And ever since then, somehow we have not really looked at this issue, because we have mistaken religion to mean belief. And of course science will not accept belief, because it is basically an enquiry into what is true. So that has created the feeling of antagonism between science and religion.
We have progressed tremendously in the scientific enquiry, but we are lagging behind in our understanding of ourselves, which is the essence of religion. We saw in the last two days that there is very little wisdom without self-knowledge, and without wisdom there is no order in consciousness and therefore there is very little virtue, which is, after all, the essence of all religions.So we need to enquire why it is that we have progressed so much in the scientific quest, but lagged behind in the religious quest, which is what has created the lop-sided development of the human mind, and that we said is responsible for the problems which we are facing in society today.
Let us look at the development of science first.Science exists because there is a tremendous order in nature. There are definite cause-and-effect relationships. If nature was not ordered and if it did not function according to universal laws, there could be no science. The order in nature already exists and therefore we only need to observe the phenomena and discover the order, which they follow. The scientist does not create the order. The law of gravitation was there before Newton and it is there after Newton. He merely discovered it and discovered the mathematical form in which it can be expressed. And we are able to read through books whatever he did in a whole lifetime and students learn that in two or three years and they build on that. So the progress of science is additive, like the development of knowledge.
In the religious quest, knowledge does not have the same role. We can read what Jesus has said or what Buddha has said, but that doesn't reveal the truth to us and the intellectual understanding of the truth,does not act on consciousness. Also, order does not already exist in human consciousness; it has to be discovered through the ending of disorder. And knowledge does not help us to end that disorder. We saw that yesterday, that you need to have a deep insight into what is true and what is false, to free the consciousness of disorder. Not that insight is not needed in science. Every new discovery in science also needs an insight. But after it has been discovered, it can be taught to others in the form of mathematics or logic. And though others may not have the same insight as the discoverer had, they can use the formula and the formula works.So engineers use these formulae which scientists have developed and they construct bridges and make cars, without necessarily having a deep insight into the source from which that formula comes. But in the religious quest: if you don't have insight, you have ashes because the formula does not work ! What you need is the ordering of consciousness and not merely a formula of what to do and what not to do in life. And it seems to me that that is the mistake we made in all religions and in all cultures.
Just as there were great scientists, like Einstein, Gallileo and Darwin, in the same way there have been great religious personages in every culture, in every part of the world who discovered virtue in their consciousness and spoke about it to the people around them. But the people around such personages, instead of finding out what the teacher meant and inquiring into it, built a church around this individual, spread his teachings and organised a system of do's and don'ts and that became the institutionalised religion.So the institutionalised religions, to my mind,are the by-product of the religious quest and the mistake that we have made is to consider the by-product to be the religion.Similarly,engineering and technology are by-products of the scientific quest, not its aim.This was very beautifully illustrated in a talk given by Faraday when he discovered the laws of electro-magnetism. He demonstrated his discovery in a large hall like this by taking a metal coil and pushing a magnet towards it and showing that a current flows in the coil which deflects a galvanometer. It was a totally new discovery of a connection between magnetism and electricity. At the end of his lecture, somebody got up and asked,"All this is very well, but of what use is this?". And his reply, which has become a classic in the history of science, was:" It is a newborn child, of what use is a newborn child?".The scientist is not discovering the truth about nature in order to make motorcars and aeroplanes. The use of this knowledge or these discoveries for the benefit of man is a separate quest. Technology is not the purpose of science; technology is a by-product of science.In the same way it seems to me that the different institutionalised religions are by-products of the religious quest. They are not the reason for the religious quest.
Unfortunately, in the religious quest we have not been very intelligent. If in the scientific quest, people had made the same mistake and built a temple to Newton and said, we are Newtonians and we are going to propagate his words; and another group of people had done that for Einstein, would we have accepted them as scientists? We would have said,"What is it that you have understood about nature?". Without a deep understanding of nature, you are not a scientist. But in the religious quest, we have been very gullible. We do not insist on the order in the consciousness. We accept a man as religious if he wears a certain dress, performs some ceremonies,has knowledge of the scriptures, which means we are taken up just by the outer form and we are not insisting on the spirit of religion.It seems to me that it has been a mistake to consider religion as synonymous with belief. And that is what has created this division between science and religion.
Actually, they are two complementary quests for truth. Science is our quest for discovering the truth about the way nature functions and religion is our quest for discovering truth and ending illusion within our consciousness.With the ending of illusion there is the ending of disorder in consciousness and the discovery of a natural order.So, the religious quest can also be regarded as our quest for discovering what it means to live with a consciousness that is in harmony with the order of nature. Not an order formulated and created by our own mind; not an order that is a blueprint for action but a natural order, which comes from the ending of disorder.This quest is more difficult than the scientific quest, firstly because the order doesn't already exist,secondly because knowledge doesn't help us much here and thirdly because the observer is not separate from the observed.
In science when we are observing nature, the observer is separate from what he is observing. Of course the emotions and likes and dislikes of a scientist can enter and colour his observation and he may see certain facts which support his theory and ignore others which are against his theory. But other people doing the same experiment and verifying the results of this scientist quickly correct this error.
So ultimately, science is independent of the observer, which is also its limitation, because it can't study the observer ! It's a body of universal truths, which have been accepted independent of the discoverers. In the religious quest, I am learning about myself and the observer is the same as the observed. Therefore the coloration and the interaction between the observer and the observed is very strong.
I would like to illustrate this with an example. If I try to study how I go to sleep, I can watch up to a point, but after that, because I am going to sleep, I cannot watch clearly. Therefore it impossible for a human being to discover how exactly he goes to sleep. And also of course the coloration due to desire, due to the ego process, is much stronger and this interference of the observer in the observation is a great barrier to the discovery of truth.In the religious quest there is a somewhat complicated situation in which I want to discover the truth and I am myself also in the way ! That's why it is necessary to so completely understand the observer that this interference from one's desires, from one's conditioning ceases. This means it is far more difficult to be objective in the religious quest than it is in the scientific quest.
However difficult it may be, if we discover that that is necessary, then that's what we should be doing. But unfortunately we have eliminated the religious quest from education and we are directing the mind of our students, only towards the understanding of the outer world, ignoring the understanding of the inner world of our consciousness. So I feel that we need to take a fresh look at education and create a mind that is enquiring not only into the external world, but also enquiring about the inner world of our consciousness, so that it can also come upon self-knowledge. So both knowledge and self-knowledge need to become aims of education. And this is possible because the two enquiries are complementary to each other. The outer world and its order exist and so does the inner world and the disorder in the inner world. And the enquiry into the outer world in no way contradicts the enquiry into the inner world. In fact when you understand science and religion in their true meaning, then they are two complementary quests into two aspects of a single reality, which includes space, time, matter and energy as well as consciousness.
When we specialise and we say we can only understand the one and not the other, we have a partial, fragmentary understanding of life and of reality and this is the error that we have made. Einstein, who was perhaps the greatest scientist of the 20th century, made the famous statement that science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. So we need to cultivate a mind that is both scientific and religious at the same time; scientific in the sense of being rational, precise and religious in the sense of coming upon love, compassion, respect for all life and a sense of beauty. One without the other goes wrong. If you have a man who is only intellectual and lacking the emotional, he can be a hard-hearted, cold monster. On the other hand if you have a human being who lacks the rational, you can have an overly sentimental, neurotic, emotional being, which is also an unbalanced state.It's only when these two go hand in hand and you have a balance between reason and love that there is a possibility of having a more holistic intelligence.
Krishnamurti said, there is no intelligence without love and compassion. In a talk in Bombay he said, put your intellect in the heart, otherwise it has no value. These are statements of the same truth, namely, that we need to come upon a mind that is both scientific and religious at the same time.
Question: If the observer is the observed, does it mean that I must then surrender to whatever is ?
P.K. : No. I'm saying that when you are watching yourself, the watcher is not different from that which he is watching.Therefore my desires, my judgements, my valuations colour my observation. As I pointed out, that happens also in our study of nature but there it is easy to eliminate that interference and scientists have evolved a definite method by which you can eliminate such errors. But in this field, where we are observing ourselves, it is far more difficult to be objective.Also one human being's findings cannot be communicated to another. You must take the findings of another as a question, not as an answer, because the knowledge of the truth is not the truth. And the knowledge doesn't work on consciousness; only perception does. So if you take all the answers from Krishnamurti, you will only become a professor of Krishnamurti philosophy, which is trivial, because unless you free your consciousness of conflict and sorrow ,you are not a deeply religious person, you haven't discovered virtue in your consciousness.
So that's the real difficulty of the religious quest. Each individual has to rediscover the truth for himself, otherwise the disorder in his consciousness doesn't end. And in this quest, that is what has to be done in order to discover order.In the scientific quest, the order already exists. There is no disorder in nature. That is a major difference.