In a recent theosophical discussion with a Periava (elderly soul), I started getting impromptu verbal insights into the nature of philosophy, science, and religion. This has been happening often recently where my abstract mental visions and intuitions (Dhi) have condensed into words (Vak) as I get questioned on various subject matters by Periava. In this post, I am going to document the verbal insights I had on the nature of philosophy, religion, and science as I explained about the differences.
If we go back in time, in some era, humans started questioning the world around them as they learned to speak and communicate abstractly. And with this, I believe, philosophy was born. Philosophy, in my view, is the questioning of things and events around us. What is that? Who created it? Why does it happen? Where did it come from? How is it possible? All these are philosophical questions. In the begining humans were full of questions. They didn’t know why the sun rises everyday and they didn’t know how the floods came.
To answer these questions, humans developed different methods of inquiry. In Hindu philosophy, we call them darshanas. Roughly translated to “Hindu schools of thought” by western Indologists. But they are much more than that. Broadly, it is my understanding that, science, religion, and metaphysics arise out of philosophical inquiry and thought. They are all subsets of philosophical inquiry by human consciousness. For example, early humans may have discovered control of fire using rough stones by chance, but they did question what is that fire itself and how it came about.
This led to different methods of answering the questions. From a fire God, explaining away the phenomenon of fire, to friction, thermodynamics and even quantum physics dictating its origin and how it works. We can call the former the religious method and the latter the scientific method. Then there is a metaphysical way that tries to provide a spiritual framework to understand the universe and ourselves interrelating both.
In Hindu philosophy, these ways or ‘darshanas’ are many. For example, Carvaka and Vaisheshika are materialistic and meta-physical, but correspond more to modern scientific inquiry. While Yoga and Vedanta are more spiritual and create a religious ideology. Though western Indologists like to categorize in black and white Hindu darshanas, as theistic or atheistic and orthodox or heterodox, the reality is much more complex and colorful like many things from Hindu culture.
All darshanas incorporate a combination of methods of inquiry into them. And I believe this is how modern sciences and religions also will develop from their separate ways now. Science, having answered all the mundane questions, may have to borrow from religion and metaphysics soon as it probes deeper into the nature of our universe and consciousness. And religion and metaphysics may have to borrow from science and each other too, as they evolve to satisfy the minds of their followers.
Now, the question arises if one method is better than the other? Many of us modern humans may agree unanimously that the scientific method is the best. As it has, by trying to answer philosophical questions, helped us ‘progress’ materially. We can live longer, go to the moon, communicate across vast distances in an instant, and have more comfortable lives undisturbed by the wild world and weather around us.
But at this point we may have to ask another question:
Does more comfort, increased life span, enjoyable material things and pleasures that science has created for us change the fundamental nature of our existence and happiness? Is it that the cave man was burdened by his existence and more unhappy than us?
The answer that we may arrive at contemplating on such a question may be a resounding “No”. This is even when we imagine the cave man’s situation from our times and biased by our comforts, which he would not understand about to even feel the need for.
Such an answer tells us something profound. No method is better than the other to satisfy our philosophical nature. They all together help us find meaning for our existence and explain to us the nature of this universe. Even the science now, as it probes much deeper for a “unified field theory”, may soon arrive at an equation that can explain the fabric of the universe and our consciousness in one.
It may then conclude the same as the Mahavakya (great saying) from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad — Aham Brahmāsmi (अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि):
I am the Universe.