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The following paper was published in a locally circulating journal entitled Constant Remembrance as part of the Sahaj Marg meditation method that I have been practising for many years. IF YOU think about it, were we to design a universe we would want it to be as perfect as possible, to be under our control so that there would be no chaos or disruptive behaviour. Interestingly, this is just the way Newton conceived the universe to be organized. However, this view of the world did not begin with Newton. With the advent of the renaissance, Galileo (1564–1642) in Italy and Francis Bacon in England brought about a fundamental change in the direction of science. Galileo stated: Scientists should restrict themselves to the essential properties of material bodies – size, shape, number, weight and motion. Only by means of an exclusively quantitative analysis could science attain certain knowledge of the world. This prophetic statement set in motion a revolution in science which ultimately made possible the extraordinary technological achievements that we see all around us in the world today. But this emphasis on mechanistic progress is not the whole of reality, as R.D. Laing made clear in the following comment: ‘Galileo’s programme offers us a dead world – out goes sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, and along with them have since gone aesthetic and ethical sensibility, values, quality, soul, consciousness, spirit . . . We had to destroy the world in theory before we could destroy it in practice.’ Around the same time Francis Bacon (1561–1628) introduced the idea of experiment, which was an important contribution to the progress of science. He is said to be the father of empirical science. However, as Fritjof Capra has pointed out, from ancient times the goal 35. Love and Respect for Freedom 470 of science had been the pursuit of wisdom, understanding the natural order and living in harmony with it. Bacon took a radically different view. He equated the goal of science with the acquisition of knowledge and power, to enable ‘man’ to dominate and control nature. He said nature had to be ‘hounded in her wanderings’, ‘bound into service’, ‘made a slave’ and that we should ‘torture nature’s secrets from her’. It was this more than anything else that gave rise to all the horrors of colonialism – that white men could ride roughshod and destroy whole races and cultures, simply because their skin was of a different colour. It is this view too which has led ultimately to the widespread destruction of nature, the elimination of thousands of species, threatening the very existence of life on this planet. The great French philosopher Descartes made a further significant contribution to the development of mechanistic science. He was a brilliant mathematician and developed the concept of ‘analysis’ – the ‘whole’ is always to be explained by the parts of which it is composed. He doubted the existence of everything except that he could think, annunciating the famous statement: Cogito ergo sum – (I think, therefore I am), thus mind and matter were fundamentally different. It is this notion that has had such a detrimental effect on our thinking ever since he stated: ‘There is nothing included in the concept of body that belongs to the mind and nothing in that of mind that belongs to the body.’ To this day, we have no language to describe a human being as a unity, and the best we can do when we want to look at illness from a broader perspective is to use the term psychosomatic. The conceptual framework created by Galileo and Descartes was completed by Isaac Newton (1643–1727). He developed a consistent mathematical formulation of the mechanistic view of nature – the world as a perfect machine governed by exact laws of cause and effect. His theory of gravity is a classic example. It is embodied in one simple equation, which says that two bodies will experience a mutual attraction that increases with their masses and decreases as the square of the distance between them. It was the centrepiece of his Principia (1687). He saw time as a separate dimension, which was absolute, having no connection with the physical world. In the seventeenth century, Newton used his theory calculus to describe all possible motions of solid bodies in terms of a set of differential equations. Einstein described this achievement as ‘perhaps the greatest advance in 471 Love and Respect for Freedom thought that a single individual was ever privileged to make’. From the second...


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