Friday, February 15, 2013


SPIRITUALITY 4 – CONVERSATIONS

Last week has been very satisfying for I have been having continuous conversations with my friends regarding my earlier posts on the subject. I could gain further insight into how each individual looks at the concept of God and religion. Each one charts out a philosophy of life to guide him through his living. What would matter ultimately is whether one has found happiness and fulfilment on this chosen path. More often than not one finds himself under a compulsion to change paths as he finds the goal receding further and further and as he understands more and more about the world he lives in from the experiences he has undergone. After all I guess the ultimate goal in life is to find peace. When you find it, there would be no more need for a God or religion.

To maintain continuity I am listing down some of the comments my friends have made on ‘Spirituality’. I wish to share it with a wider audience so that it rings a bell in their own thought processes. I know a discussion on this subject can be expected to go on and on and there will be as many opinions as there are individuals:

“Most people need the name of God, as it gives rise to hope. Hope is what makes all of us move on from one day to another”.

“God is everything that is pure and infinite. Self realization is just removing the cobwebs of Maya and dig deeper into that pure self”. 

Further there are two comments which I shall reproduce in full below because they look at it from the standpoint of scientists. It is interesting because belonging to the same fraternity of rational thinkers (I would like to believe all scientists are rationalists) they have expressed contrarian views on the subject. One is a biologist and the other a physicist,

1) "...all religions offer ‘hope’ in the form of God. That is not bad at all for that is what has bound the social fabric through the centuries." - Yes, it did, for the lack of anything better. By the same logic, we could say Ayurveda worked in curing diseases for centuries too; but this is not an argument against its near ineffectiveness in the present world, in comparison to Allopathy. In the past, we have had religions to 'explain' (not really anyway!) the unexplainable, but now, when we have science explaining so much more in a mere 4-5 centuries, so what need do we have for them anymore? 

And when I say 'false hope' I mean that it is a hope that is unlikely to help in a tangible way. Would you prefer that a person suffering from disease rest their hope in God and prayer? We know that this does not help, which is why we consult a doctor first and not a deity, when we are sick. Is it not right that I wish my fellows do the same too, that they choose an option that is most likely to help them? (And if you say, it's not necessarily a choice between one and the other, that a person can consult a doctor and pray, well, where do we draw the line then? I am not trying to make the Slippery slope argument here; all I am saying is, at what point do we say, 'X belief is okay' or 'Y belief is detrimental to a person or society'? The only consistent way to approach this is using the scientific method: Is there evidence to justify belief X or Y? If yes, we take the belief as fact, and if not, we take it as falsehood for all practical purposes.) Ultimately, we all have to strive for a more rational world because reason and logic (as embodied in science) are the only principles that have succeeded in explaining how the world works and therefore helped in bettering the human condition. Religion on the other hand, personal or otherwise, is an antithesis to scientific thought by its very nature, and consequently detrimental to humanity. 

And lastly, I agree in general with your contention that we label God. (Although I would go further and say that wecreate God!) But I think your definition of God, as someone within all of us, renders the whole concept of a deity so inconsequential as to make both of our positions indistinguishable for all practical purposes. I will accept your definition and say, what need do we have of a concept of God then, when all we need is respect and love for fellow humans!”
2) “I have been following the discussion on spirituality keenly. I am of the opinion that the idea that science can replace religious beliefs is based on the assumption that man is a purely rational being. But unfortunately the rationality of man is only an outer shell. Inside the shell he is a completely irrational being pushed around by emotional upsurges which can be traced to his animal ancestry. The modern man, in spite of his great scientific achievements is emotionally quite often at the same level as the street dogs. Evolution has mucked the human condition. Imagine the street dogs quarreling with each other with nuclear bombs and biological weapons. We are coming to a critical stage where the very existence of mankind is threatened by the scientific discoveries. 
The problem can be solved only if mankind can evolve emotionally in tune with his intellectual advancement. It is here where the concept of God and spirituality plays its role. The idea of God as the unifying supreme force brings harmony and emotional solace to man which science at no stage could provide. People who deny the need for God are people who do not have any understanding of the duality of the human psyche.

Unfortunately we are having competing concepts of God which in itself is generating strife and disharmony. But I think this will be a passing phase and synthesis of these religious concepts will take place after a crisis. I am an optimist.”Delete
Interesting isn’t it? Though I know both of them, I am in a position to talk more about the second person who I term as a physicist. He is a very close friend of mine, a fellow banker who quit his job years ago to pursue his passion for physics. At present he has submitted his papers for a Phd in the field of quantum field theory. He has also done work in the field of Relativity.

Very significant discoveries have been made by human kind over the last few centuries, very true. As stated by me earlier the more one finds the more there is to discover whether at the macro level or at the micro level, whether it is the Big Bang or the Boson.

Years ago I read ‘The Tao of Physics” by Fritzof Capra, where he tries to reconcile the parallels between theoretical physics and eastern mysticism. Though science has advanced tremendously over the last few years, the book has still retained the interest of the readers. When one delves into the quantum world it is always an uncertainty and a probability. Fritzof Capra’s book has come in for criticism from a portion of the scientific community while there has also been appreciation. But there is one telling statement of Capra that is worth a mention here “Science does not need mysticism nor does mysticism require science, but man needs both”.

Carl Jung who is considered as one of the greatest explorers of the human mind, while he was writing of his personal experience of his youthful rebellion against the church said “At that time I realised that God - for me, at least – was one of the most immediate experiences”. In his scientific works Jung seldom speaks of God; there he is at pains to use “the God image in the human psyche.” This is no contradiction. In the one case his language is subjective, based upon inner experience; in the other it is the objective language of scientific inquiry. In the first case he is speaking as an individual, whose thoughts are influenced by passionate powerful feelings, intuitions, and experiences of a long and unusually rich life; in the second, he is speaking as the scientist who consciously restricts himself to what may be demonstrated and supported by evidence. His subjective statement will be acceptable only to those who have had similar experiences – or, to put it another way, to those in whose psyche the God-image bears the same or similar features. – This is reproduced from the introduction to Jung’s autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’.

I repeat what I said about hope that it is never false or true. So there is no question of  “ a false hope that is unlikely to help in a tangible way”. Next is the question of whether we would prefer a person suffering from a disease to look to God and prayer for a cure or go to a doctor. The answer is – of course he will go to a doctor. But that does not stop him from seeking solace from God and prayer. What happens when the doctor throws up his hands and says it is not possible to do anything further?

I guess this discussion can go on and on but contrarian views are essential for us to have a more complete understanding of the world we live in and the world within us. Science makes us understand the world we live in, what about the world inside? I agree with my physicist friend when he says “The problem can be solved only if mankind can evolve emotionally in tune with his intellectual advancement”.

6 comments:

Ram said...

Why 'connect' spirituality and God! God is a matter of faith. Full stop. Like a kid being asked to jump in the arms of the father in the dark. The child has immense faith. There is no logical explanation needed.
One can be spiritual even if one does not believe in 'God'.

gssubbu said...


Kerala Varma How come today nobody prays to Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon and Zeus? In India hardly anyone worships Mountain, Ocean, Sun and Wind, except for purely ritualistic purpos...See More
Friday at 7:33pm ·

gssubbu said...

Gopalasamudram Subramanian Maybe thats where you have found your God, in the loneliness of the long distance runner, I can understand that. I do not know what your intellect says about long distance running, you do find it satisfies some inner need in you. we move on, one God replaces another:)

gssubbu said...

Pratap Singh Rathaur It is all within you...and as long as it comforts you,without discomfiting anyone else, its all right.


gssubbu said...

Varsha Uke Nagpal God and the business of worship associated with it will continue as long as the vested interests with it continue to exploit the people for their personal gains. We have enough ignorance to allow this business to continue. Spirituality is different. It is all about you, your inner strengths, and your being, where there is no give and take, no seeking favours and no bribes involved.

kishor kulkarni said...

The reason why most of us do indeed go to a doctor when sick is that we are cast in the mould of karma. We are by nature forced to act when in a situation which is not to our liking. And we choose an action that seems to be indicated by our past conditioning. Since we live in a modern society where we get conditioned by the idea that doctors and medicines cure our illness, we resort to that action. Imagine the prehistoric man living alone. What would he do when fell sick? If he had, by then, "discovered" a magic potion or a curing plant, he would reach for it. Otherwise, he would suffer through it and survive if his lifeline was still remaining! So, it's all about our conditioning and what we can find peace with. Getting cured, however, is an altogether different issue. We will get cured if we have to get cured! That is why even doctors put up that placard "We treat, He (god) cures!"