May 04, 2009

Spiritual Science - talk by Dr. Hans-Peter Durr - Part1

We had a unique honor to have Prof. Hans-Peter Durr addressing us at the Vishalakshi Mantap in Bangalore ashram on 1st May. His most important discovery has been “Everything is nothing” – something known to the ancient seers in India 10,000 years back and is the essence of the Advaita principle.

His presentation was titled, “We experience more than we can grasp”. And appropriately, in that one hour all of us experienced something more than we can grasp. Yet, I am attempting to put down my understanding of his message. (Some things may not be verbatim).
Apart from scientific research, he also advocates responsible scientific and energy policies. According to him, one of the biggest challenges we face is that we are still living with a 19th century mindset, 20th century technology and trying to shape the 21st century.

What is Reality? Nothingness and Perception

He said that we do not understand how technology works, for us it is just a technique. He gave an example of the mobile phone. If you wondered how it works, you would say that there are waves travelling from my phone all around to all parts of the universe, but some how reach my friends phone. When we say a wave travels, there are no particles that are travelling/ wiggling. You may say it is ‘ether’. But, there is nothing called ether. It is the nothingness present in-between that wiggles and that manifests in matter. It is this nothingness that has the potential to manifest into what we can see, touch or hear – it is the cause.

He chooses to use the word
Wirklichkeit, and not reality to describe the world. This word is a philosophical definition of Reality – it couples the ‘reality’ as we understand and the potentiality. In classical reality, there is duality, the Subject and Objects are separate. In the absolute reality (Wirklichkeit), there is a communion, an experience. The fundamental disaster of classical science is that it cuts the connection between Subject and Object.
World is what we perceive. If you look at some optical illusions, there are multiple ways in which you can perceive the same photo.

If as a child, I am told that there is an old woman in the photo, I will grow up with that notion and tell my children also the same thing. That is how customs develop and grow. This would go on until someone discovers that it is can also be seen as a young girl.

So, to get a complete picture/ understanding, we need to keep and understand the connection between the Subject and Object. We can see/ hear only a small spectrum of frequencies, so what we perceive is biased with what we already know. Like, all of us have a blind spot in our eyes, but our brain fills it in – we never realize that the blind spot exists.

Limitations of science

He explained the limitations of classical science using Eddington’s parable: A scientist spent years researching fishes in sea water. He used to catch them and observe their characteristics. He came up with 2 hypotheses – all fishes have gills and no fish is greater than 2 inches. He once met a philosopher who questioned him – he told him that if you would go deeper into the sea, he may have found some fishes without gills. But, he was catching fishes with a net that was 2 inches wide – so he would have never been able to catch a fish that is less than 2 inches!!!

The scientist was furious and said that he had spent years doing this research and in that case, anything less than 2 inches is not a fish. If you ask an economist, he would say that he has never seen a fish less than inches in the market – so there must be no fish less than 2 inches!!!

He joked that never believe the scientist or the economist :-) they are limited by what they can observe and measure.

Characteristic of non-living things is that “The more likely happens more likely”. The order has a tendency to disorder and not the other way round. If a room is in an orderly state, it has a tendency to become disorganized and then it cannot become orderly again on its own.

Characteristic of living things is that “Unlikely does not happen unlikely”. Like from a chemical soup that existed 3.5 billion years ago on the planet, an evolved (orderly and complex) system like a human being has come into being. This is something classical science cannot explain and it finds the limitation.

And, if we keep the Subject and Object separated, it compounds the limitation.

Continued in Part2...
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