A Mystical Philosophy of Science

Posted on 1 October 2006

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Science grows out of the observation of coherence and order in our shared experience. Regardless of whether or not we attribute “objectivity” to this order, it still seems to be an aspect of experience. It is this apparent order that science attempts to isolate and express in the form of natural laws. There is a passage from Pathways Through To Space by Franklin Merrell-Wolff that relates to this topic:

If, now, we substitute for the term “relative unconsciousness” another term which is fundamentally equivalent, i.e., “ponderable matter and form,” we may give the foregoing philosophy a transformation that fits more closely the terminology of modern science. This leads to the judgment that ponderable matter and form constitute a state of relative vacuity or nothingness in the essential sense. …Actually he [the physicist] is studying a relative nothingness. This fact does not detract in the least from the practical values of his studies, but simply means that he is dealing with the obverse of metaphysical actuality. Further, once it is realized that he is unfolding the laws governing the obverse of the Real, his knowledge can be employed as a Way to the Recognition of that Reality. I can see how our present physical science is unfolding a peculiarly beautiful Path to Yoga. So I certainly have no quarrel with physical science as such. In fact, I feel quite otherwise. (Pathways, Ch. 61, “The Nature of Ponderable Matter”) 

To put it in Wolff’s terms, our experience of the world is a kind of relative unconsciousness, and this apparently is not a random or chaotic process of “blanking out” but has some kind of pattern or order to it. One possible way to view this universal order would be to make an analogy with our personal conditioning. As individuals we learn ways to view and interpret experience, and these are somewhat flexible. The laws of science appear to be deeper and less flexible forms of conditioning. This is perhaps what helps create the illusion that the aspects of experience correlated with the physical world seem to have an objective existence. Now one can view science as a kind of deep form of self-inquiry that unveils or brings to consciousness these deeper levels of conditioning that govern the “blanking out” process which creates the universe.

This view of science, I think, would go a long way to helping make sense of science (and, generally, the appearance of an objective order in experience) in a way that is compatible with mystical philosophy. This would be valuable because, currently, one of the primary perceived strengths of materialism is its ability to make sense of the objectivity and order of the world. Scientists are very reluctant to adopt any other worldview that does not also give some coherent account of science. As long as materialism is seen as the only viable option, it will continue to dominate the scientific community and, as a result, our culture at large. That, in turn, promotes unnecessary suffering for many people. Thus, it would help promote happiness to have a worldview which is both compatible with both mystical realization and science. Wolff, it seems, provides a foundation for the development of a mystical philosophy of science that can be part of such a worldview.

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Posted in: Philosophy, Science