A Sense of Direction

The needs of our Spiritual Nature can never be met by other than spiritual happiness.

—H. P. Blavatsky

As far back as 1881, a great Indian Sage wrote: "Exact experimental science has nothing to do with morality, virtue, philanthropy—therefore can make no claim upon our help until it blends itself with metaphysics."

Much has happened since then in the realms of science and technology. Almost phenomenal progress has been achieved in every branch of scientific knowledge; yet the position on the basic issues of morality, virtue, and philanthropy has not altered.

A suffering and bewildered humanity is still groping in the dark, seeking for the meaning of human life, for a solution to the numerous and diverse problems it faces and the seriousness of which increases with every passing day.

The fundamental assumption of materialism is still the chief characteristic of science, and the scientist in his all-absorbing search for more and more knowledge remains aloof from and unconcerned about human affairs. Rightly has he been accused of living "apart," indifferent to human behaviour, accepting no responsibility for the social ills of our times.

And yet too many still confuse progress with the advance of science and the multiplication of mechanical inventions. They continue to look to science for guidance, blind to the fact that science itself cannot answer the question, "Whither Science?" since it has no answer to the question, "Whither Man?" One is reminded of the conversation between Alice and the Cat in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:

"Cheshire Puss," Alice began, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.

Where indeed do we want to get to? How many among the scientists or among laymen can answer the question, "Where do I want to get to?" And if we do not know where we want to go, have we not lost our way? Are we not walking aimlessly without rhyme or reason? Nay, more—are we not in danger of losing ourselves?

A few here and there are beginning to suspect that science is not the answer. Science is after all an abstraction in one sense; its power is wielded not by it, but by Man. It is Man and only Man who can give science a sense of direction. To do this the scientist must first orient himself. He must know where he wants to go and where he wants mankind to go. We fear very few among our scientists could answer the question Puss put to Alice!

There are, however, a few among our men of science who have awakened to their own responsibility. A most welcome and promising sign is the discussion taking place already in several scientific circles as to whether or not the scientist has the right to disclaim all moral and social responsibility for the misuse of scientific knowledge. Does not the very fact that he knows more increase his responsibility as an individual?

After all, when all is said and done, a scientist is a Man before he is a scientist and to be a Man is to be a morally responsible being. Divest Man of his individual moral responsibility and you have destroyed him. Man has ceased to be man and has become a mere animal.

The dehumanization of Man is the greatest threat, the most serious danger we face today. The machine enthroned by man may now usurp altogether his place. This is no mere fancy or exaggeration, but an actual possibility. In fact, it is positively shocking to find that some are already speculating seriously on the development of computers so perfected and so skilful that they may altogether replace the human mind. Man need no longer think or initiate action: the computer will direct and tell him what he should do! This nightmare, formerly only a theme for the writer of science fiction, is now seriously discussed by intellectuals. The day is envisaged when computers will have become "guides, philosophers, and friends" to human beings and the latter will willingly submit to being the passive instruments of a machine! This is alarming indeed, and it is high time that we recognized the error of equating scientific and technological progress with the progress of Man.

Let Man once renounce his most precious prerogative, the power to think and to choose, and his evolution will be at a standstill. More—since nothing can ever remain still, a downward movement will set in; retrogression will commence and Man will be ultimately annihilated. For that which makes man human is his capacity to think and to determine his own course of action.

Shankaracharya, commenting on the Taittiriya Upanishad, asks: "In what does the pre-eminence of man consist?" And having raised the question, a basic one, he gives the answer. Man's pre-eminence lies in his free-will and knowledge, jnanakarmadhikarah.

Therefore the true philosopher views with growing concern the present trends in science which increase automation and mechanization and threaten to rob man of his humanity.

Verily, all that deprives man of his individual freedom, all that makes for regimentation and uniformity, all that dehumanizes man, is injurious to his progress and should be strongly opposed by all who have at heart the welfare and the evolution of humanity.

At this dark hour in the history of Man, when the individual is in danger of being submerged altogether, when he is threatened by ultimate extinction, it is more necessary than ever before to proclaim the true nature of Man. To the scientist and the social reformer, to the politician and the educationist, to the professional worker and to the manual labourer, to the artist to the mechanic, we must cry out: "Pause and look within. Know yourself before it is too late!"

Again and again it has been said that the crisis the world is facing today is a crisis of character. If so it can be resolved only through a change of heart. The individual holds the key to the regeneration of humanity. But if we persist in abdicating our free will, if we continue to hold a mechanistic view of Nature and of Man, if we accept a behaviouristic philosophy of life, we shall hasten our downfall. We have adopted false values, material instead of spiritual, quantitative instead of qualitative. We must change our viewpoint and learn to see Man as more than his physical envelope.

Man is neither animal nor angel, but both; and much more than either beast or deva. His position is unique. He alone is aware of his identity; he alone is a Thinker; he alone has the power of speech. "The Soul is everything," said Aristotle. But we have forgotten the Soul and allowed the flesh to rule; and, as if that were not bad enough, we now want to be governed by a machine!

To those who fear that by giving Man his rights as an individual we sow the seeds of disunion and of anarchy, we must explain that this is so only when we overlook that the individual is part of a larger Self, that as individuals we are all united in the One Self. Only a materialistic concept of Man can result in anarchy. The Perennial Philosophy teaches non-separateness: unity in diversity. This is true of the Universe as of Man. The unity of Man lies in Being and his diversity in Becoming. We are one in Being; we are different in Becoming. Being is the power to become. In Being is the potency to unfold, to grow, to progress, and for Man this means self-effort, self-induced ways and means.

When it is said that "all men are created equal" it is really meant that in every man there is the same potentiality that is also in all men. And yet in the process of becoming, every man is different from every other man. This is why the individual must be given full respect. "No man may be used only as a means by another. Each is himself an end," stated Kant.

That is the first principle to be understood. All men are integral parts of an indivisible Whole; yet each is an individual who must exercise his own freedom to think and to determine.

Man is for ever caught up between the two poles in him: the divine and the demoniacal, the spiritual and the material, the godlike and the animalistic. This duality in everyone has been dramatically portrayed in Chapter XVI of the Gita. It is the eternal conflict between the Self of Spirit and the self of matter, between Unity and separateness, between Light and darkness. Each one is free to choose one or the other. When he identifies himself with the body and believes he is but a biological phenomenon, he exhibits the demoniacal side. Such gross and brutal materialists are described by Sri-Krishna thus:

...they know not purity nor right behaviour, they possess no truthfulness. They deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying that it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no Spirit; they say creatures are produced alone through the union of the sexes, and that all is for enjoyment only. (Bhagavad-Gita, XVI, 7-8)

What a true portrait of our civilization! And the root cause is indicated: namely, the denial of the Spirit, the belief that there is no truth and no moral order in the Universe. If that be at the root of all the ills that assail humanity today, the cure lies in restoring to mankind the perception of the reality of the Spirit and of the existence of a Moral Law. We can never despair of humanity, for the Divine is also there in every man, and, once we succeed in reawakening his spiritual intuition, every man will be a revelation to himself and able to transform his lower or demoniacal nature into the pure gold of his inherent divinity.

Let once man's immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the "builder of the Temple."

May we subdue the self of matter and seek guidance from the Self of Spirit! May the Divine Self guide our every thought and action, that we may help dispel the present darkness and usher in a brighter morrow!

Nothing is stationary in the universe. Everything is constantly changing, in motion, becoming something else.


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