Friday, June 19, 2009

Talks,Jokes,Letters On James Jeans And Arthur Eddington

151. A man came to a scientist and wished to be instructed; this instructor showed him the revelations of the microscope and telescope, but the man laughed and said, "These are obviously hallucinations inflicted on the eye by the glass which you use as a medium; I will not believe till you show these wonders to my naked seeing." Then the scientist proved to him by many collateral facts and experiments the reliability of his knowledge but the man laughed again and said, "What you term proofs, I term coincidences, the number of coincidences does not constitute proof; as for your experiments, they are obviously effected under abnormal conditions and constitute a sort of insanity of Nature." When confronted with the results of mathematics, he was angry and cried out, "This is obviously imposture, gibberish and superstition; will you try to make me believe that these absurd cabalistic figures have any real force and meaning ?" Then the scientist drove him out as a hopeless imbecile; for he did not recognise his own system of denials and his own method of negative reasoning. If we wish to refuse an impartial and openminded enquiry, we can always find the most respectable polysyllables to cover our refusal or impose tests and conditions which stultify the enquiry.
152. When our minds are involved in matter, they think matter the only reality; when we draw back into immaterial consciousness, then we see matter a mask and feel existence in consciousness alone as having the touch of reality.
Which then of these two is the truth ? Nay, God knoweth; but he who has had both experiences, can easily tell which condition is the more fertile in knowledge, the mightier and more blissful
Sri Aurobindo's Thoughts and Aphorisms(Jana)
At one time physical science claimed to explain everything according to its laws. Now they admit they can explain nothing.
PURANI: The law of causality which once allowed no exception is now said to be not absolute. The physicists can't determine the causes of phenomena in every case because in trying to observe the phenomena they interfere with the process and thus vitiate it. This they now call indeterminacy.
SRI AUROBINDO: The attempts of scientists like Jeans and Eddington to find Reality by science are futile. You can't found metaphysics on physical science; for, when you have built your philosophy, after some thirty years or so science will change and your building will tumble down. All you can say is that certain conclusions of science agree with and correspond to certain conclusions of metaphysics. You can't make metaphysics depend on physics.
PURANI: The Continental scientists have now refused to build philosophy on science. They say it is not their business to explain but only to lay bare the process. Eddington says in his Gifford Lectures that the human mind, the subject, ultimately accepts one conclusion out of a number of conclusions not because of the nature of objective reality but because of the nature of the observing subject. That 8+8=16 and not 61 points to some correspondence in the material world to the movement of the thinking mind.
SRI AUROBINDO: It is the accumulated experience- the invariable experience-that gives that sense. Man has found by putting 8 and 8 together that it makes 16.
PURANI: Again, in regard to the rainbow, the scientist study the wave-lengths of light while the poets make a play imagination over it. We have no means of saying that the real rainbow exists for the scientist and not for the poet.
SRI AUROBINDO: I should say it exists for neither. Only the scientists get excited over the process and the poets over the result.
PURANI: Eddington also admits that we have no ground to say that non-scientific knowledge and experience are less real than physical science.
SRI AUROBINDO: Of course not...source
1. The question about science and spirituality would have been of some moment some twenty years ago and it filled the minds of men in the earlier years of the twentieth century, but it
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is now out of date. Science itself has come to the conclusion that it cannot, as it once hoped, determine what is the truth of the things or their real nature, or what is behind physical phenomena; it can only deal with the process of physical things and how they come about or on what lines men can deal with and make use of them. In other words, the field of physical science has been now definitely marked off and limited and questions about God or the ultimate Reality or other metaphysical or spiritual problems are outside it. This is at least the case all over continental Europe and it is only in England and America that there is still some attempt to reason about these things on the basis of physical science.
The so-called sciences which deal with the mind and men (psychology, etc.) are so much dependent on physical science that they cannot go beyond narrow limits. If science is to turn her face towards the Divine, it must be a new science not yet developed which deals directly with the forces of the life-world and of Mind and so arrives at what is beyond Mind; but present-day science cannot do that.
2. From the spiritual point of view such temporary phenomena as the turn of the educated Hindus towards materialism are of little importance. There have always been periods when the mind of nations, continents or cultures turned towards materialism and away from all spiritual belief. Such periods came in Europe in the nineteenth century, but they are usually of short duration. Western Europe has already lost its faith in materialism and is seeking for something else, either turning back to old religions or groping for something new. Russia and Asia are now going through the same materialistic wave. These waves come because of a certain necessity in human development – to destroy the bondage of old forms and leave a field for new truth and new forms of truth and action in life as well as for what is behind life...source
I think X bases his ideas on the attempt of Jeans, Eddington and other English scientists to thrust metaphysical conclusions into scientific facts; it is necessary that he should appreciate fully
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the objections of more austerely scientific minds to such a mixture. Moreover, spiritual seeking has its own accumulated knowledge which does not depend in the least on the theories or discoveries of science in the purely physical sphere. X's attempt like that of Jeans and others is a reaction against the illegitimate attempts of some scientific minds in the nineteenth century and of many others who took advantage of the march of scientific discovery to discredit or abolish as far as possible the religious spirit and to discredit also metaphysics as a cloudy verbiage, exalting science as the only clue to the truth of the universe. But I think that attitude is now dead or moribund; the scientists recognise, as you point out, the limits of their sphere. I may observe that the conflict between religion and science never arose in India (until the days of European education) because religion did not interfere with scientific discovery and scientists did not question religious or spiritual truth because the two things were kept on separate but not opposing lines...source
Your faith in it seems to he strengthened by Sir James Jeans's exposition of modern physics in his most important book so far. Physics and Philosophy. According to you, Berkeley's view of mentalism was a limited and imperfect one, only a beginning in fact, but a beginning in the right direction, which agrees with the trend of present-day physics.
When you ascribe anti-mentalism to Sri Aurobindo you are at
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once right and wrong. Right if you mean that he does not accept the mental consciousness in any form as the world-creator. Wrong if you mean that he does not accept consciousness at all as the creator of the world. Mind, to Sri Aurobindo, is not a synonym of consciousness: it is just one degree. Are you ascribing anti-mentalism to him by yourself employing the word "mind" broadly to signify consciousness and thinking he assumes for matter an existence outside consciousness altogether? I can quote you passages galore from The Life Divine to demonstrate that when a broad sense is read into the word "mind" Sri Aurobindo is not anti-mental in the least. Here is one: "The world is real precisely because it exists only in consciousness; for it is a Conscious Energy one with Being that creates it. It is the existence of material form in its own right apart from the self- illumined energy which assumes the form, that would be a contradiction of the truth of things, a phantasmagoria, a night- mare, an impossible falsehood." Sri Aurobindo is anti-mental only when the sense is narrowed. Correctly, the sense should be narrowed; else we confuse the issue at stake. I for one act the anti-mentalist with the narrow sense in view, and if I aver that the drift of Science is away from Berkeley I must be taken to mean not that modern physics thinks matter contains its own explanation but that, in the first place, it does not agree to Berkeley's foundational premiss — "matter exists wholly as a percept of our consciousness" — and that in the second place, the term "mentalism" or "idealism" is mal à propos in science as in philosophy.
On page 203 of Physics and Philosophy Jeans says that before mentalism "can be seriously considered some answer must be found to the problem of how objects can continue to exist when they are not being perceived in any human mind". Is it not evident that Berkeley's foundational premiss is negated by Jeans? And once it is negated, what remains of Berkeley? You will argue that Berkeley postulates the mind of God as that in which objects when unperceived in any human mind exist. But this is an arbitrary step on the Bishop's part. If our percepts are sufficient, God's mind is not required; if they are not, why choose God's mind rather than matter's independent externality..source

I chuckled, Sir, to learn that you held the chart horizontally, because of its length! And E is none of those high sounding "extravagant" words. If you had just looked about you for a moment, lifting your eyes from the correspondence, you would have discovered that E stands for nothing but a simple evening. Clear?
No. What has evening to do with it? Evening star? "Twinkle, twinkle, evening star! How I wonder what your temperatures are?" But I suppose Sir James Jeans knows and doesn't wonder. But anyhow E for Evening sounds both irrelevant and poetic.
March 25, 1936
No, Sir, it is not at all irrelevant, though poetic. I swear it is evening. You know they take these pulse and respiration rates Morning and Evening of which M and E are short- hands, and one of which I suppose you will make mad and the other one of the three you have divined! But what is this "Jones — knows and doesn't wonder"?
Jeans, Jeans, Jeans — not Jones!
Sir James Jeans, sir, who knows all about the temperatures, weights and other family details of the stars, including E. ..source

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