|In the year 2101 CE a conversation takes place
between two students through their telelinks.
Their dialogue revolves around a lecture
which states convincing reasons
for the rise in faith during the 20th century.
Three reasons have been attributed to that resurgence of faith...
A physical separation of 5,300 miles was no reason people could not be together nowadays. After all, 2101 CE provided enough conveniences. Tilak, resting on a cozy beach, and Shãnti, enclosed within the four walls of his home due to an illness, were as close as face-to-face thanks to their tele-links. Tilak, realising that Shãnti had probably missed last week's lecture entitled 'Then and Now' by Vignãnswarup Swãmi, relayed the discourse to Shãnti. Having taken a few minutes to pause and ponder over the provoking assessment of the staggering changes during the past two centuries, Shãnti again engrossed himself in the lecture...
"Edwin Hubble had once defined the Science of the twentieth century with the following words: 'Equipped with his five senses, man explores the world around him and calls it Science.' But if a title had to be given to the last century, it would have to be 'The Age of Faith'. After centuries of searching through the senses, man has learned to search deeper than superficial realities. Our five portholes to the world and our minds have been assessed for what they really are. Now, faith reigns over reason. The happenings of the last century has proved Napoleon right when he claimed that all scholastic scaffolding falls as a ruined edifice before one single word - faith."
Wondering about the cause of such developments, Shãnti pressed the only button on his info-link, labeled 'Why?'. Info-links had long ago been rid of the archaic keyboard as a device of interaction. Voice was much more natural. The modern 'keyboard' was one button. At any point during a human's interaction with an info-link, one could press the 'why-button' to find out the reasons behind the topic of discussion. Man still had not lost his inquisitiveness. Having pressed the button, the previous images froze and shrunk into a small, virtual box in the corner of Shãnti's room. The info-link, using its intelligence, searched its global resources for all the causes of the resurgence of faith, and in a flash began to display the results in mid-air...
"The three fundamental reasons for the reawakening of faith:
1. Acknowledgement of the limitations of the sense organs and the senses themselves.
2. The discovery of fallacies and inconsistencies in logic itself.
3. Realisation of the extra-rational nature of reality itself."
With these words, the tele-link methodically elaborated on each of the stated points.
"Point 1: Acknowledgement of the limits of the sense organs and the senses themselves... Wise sages had long ago talked of two types of knowledge: 'Parã' and 'Aparã' - transcendental and non-transcendental. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin were designed to function reasonably well in the 'Aparã' realm, but when it came to experiencing the 'Parã', they simply fell short. The eyes, for example, can experience only a minute fraction of the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, thus proving that the vast ocean of 'reality' can never be perceived by our meager organs. Although they provide 75% of the information which the brain receives about the environment, the fact is that the eyes alone are an imperfect index to reality. As in the story of the well-frog which couldn't initially comprehend the concept of a beautiful world outside the well, even when a frog from 'outside' explained to him as best as he could, man initially could not grasp the limitations of his well-world experience. But as sages from 'outside' explained to him in patient terms the boundaries of this world and the beauty of the world above, he began to believe.
"Moreover, the knowledge man gains of the 'Aparã' world is also prone to error due to the fallibility of the sources of knowledge - the sense organs themselves. Everything man knows about the world originates from the sense organs themselves. But it is a common experience that they can be very easily fooled. Believing the senses is akin to trusting the words of a drunkard who constantly claims to see images of cows floating in mid-air, while the rest of the world is considered insane because they cannot see it. Tele-links, for example, display images vividly in mid-air and can arouse anger, fear, love and a host of other emotions. But in reality, the images are nothing more than a technological slight of hand. In the old days, television had a similar arousing effect. But, in reality, the cause was nothing more than the antics of a single dot illuminating phosphorus pixels on a screen. Yet, people could be intensely influenced by it.
"Another commonplace experience is the fact that the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin often switch off in the presence of continuous stimuli. Listen to a noise continuously for a while and the brain masks it out as background noise. Village-dwellers find it difficult to sleep in the noise and commotion of the city. But the brain soon becomes accustomed to it and begins to classify it as background noise. Walk into a perfumed room and one enjoys the sweet aroma. But after being in the room for a prolonged period of time, the brain no longer acknowledges the aroma. It has become accustomed and thus masks the data sent by the nose. The same phenomena occurs for the other senses.
"Most fundamentally, there is also the problem of ensuring that observing the world doesn't affect it. After all, seeing requires photons. But by bouncing photons off electrons, something about the electrons may be altered. Man is a participant of reality, not merely an observer! That is why Heisenberg was prompted to say, "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our methods of questioning." If the universe refuses to stand still while man categorizes it, how can man hope to understand it as it truly is?
"Point 2: The discovery of fallacies and inconsistencies in logic itself... All of Science is based on logic. But men eventually discovered that the foundations themselves were shaky and imperfect - logic was not as complete and flawless as people had once thought. Paradoxes abounded. Consider the statement spoken by the famous Cretan Epimenides, "All Cretans are liars." Now, the question is: Are they? If they are, Epimenides has told the truth about Cretans being liars. If they are not, he has told the truth and thus refuted the statement about Cretans being liars. Consider also the case of an artist in a building trying to draw an exact picture of everything in the building. As he begins to insert the drawing of his own drawing - which is also in the building - he has to include a smaller drawing of the entire version of his drawing of the drawing. The question is: When does he stop? So, on one hand, logic is considered rigorous and helpful, yet on the other hand, it often leads to fallacies and paradoxes.
"Further, logic often seems impractical when applied to the real, day-to-day world. If one person can construct a building in 100 days, it seems logical that two should be able to construct it in 50 days, and four in 25 days. Using this progression, 100 people should be able to construct the building in one day and 144,000 should be able to complete it in one minute. Of course common sense says that that would be impractical. Besides, intuition plays a very important role in life. No artist paints with a '1+1=2' mentality. If that were the case, everyone would be able to become artists by using the same canvases, colours and brushes as Michelangelo.
"Many centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Zeno pointed out another paradox. He used logic to show that motion, as everyone knows it, is simply not possible! He argued that before any object can move from point A to point B, it must first reach the half way point. But before it can reach there, it must reach the 25% mark. But before it can reach there, it must reach the 12.5% mark, and so on. Now, an object simply cannot travel an infinite number of points in a finite amount of time. Thus, motion is impossible! But of course, the very fact that Zeno was able to pen down his ideas proved that motion is a reality, even though it may seem impossible logically.
"Point 3: Realisation of the extra-rational nature of reality itself... The deeper man penetrated into reality, the further he moved away from 'common sense'. Science talked of the 'strangeness' of quarks. All physical objects show the same face when rotated 360 degrees. But in the subatomic world, logic is an outcast. Certain quarks must 'spin' 720 degrees to show the same face again, while some do so by 'spinning' only 180 degrees! Science talked of particles which play a dual role - photons behave as both detectable particles and as intangible waves, simulta- neously! Even more strangely, Schrodinger found strange results regarding consciousness playing with reality. With experiments on the wave nature of particles, he showed that a conscious observer affects the results of the experiment. But how do lifeless particles 'know' they are being watched? He even devised a clever experiment to show that the future could determine the past! As a result of these discoveries, claims by ancient sages were given a faithful consideration. Seemingly contradictory and impossible statements about the nature of Brahman seemed possible. 'Yato vãcho nivartante, aprãpya manasã saha |' [From there, the speech returns and even the mind reaches not] and 'Anoraniyãn mahato-mahiyãn |' [That Brahman is smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest].
"In this manner, the senses and even the mind were labeled incomplete and unreliable sources of information. Rational knowledge came from rational thought. Other sources of knowledge were not irrational, only extra-rational. Man learned to recognise where intuitional judgements are appropriate and where scientific arguments are appropriate. Thus the resurgence of faith."
With those words, the tele-link concluded its explanation of the Age of Faith.
"And so, here we are," continued the holographic lecture through the tele-link, "powered by Science, guided by Religion and poised with Faith. Certainly we still face problems, but they are much, much more docile. Now we are as confident as ever about our future. With God as lantern unto our feet, we shall certainly overcome all hindrances which may menace us in the next century. Thank you very much." The image slowly dissolved into thin air and left Shãnti alone in thought. But before he could proceed further, Tilak came back into view.
"How was it?" yelled Tilak, hoping to rouse a quick reply.
"It was great," replied Shãnti. "Thought-provoking. It really helped take my mind off my illness. You know, after I get well, I want to meet you in person to discuss these and more points in further detail. Although these tele-links are handy gadgets, nothing beats seeing a man face-to-face."
Seeming to continue the train of thought, Tilak added one more point to the discourse, "You know, after many discussions with KayVee, we thought of an interesting afterthought. Specifically, we use technology to spread our message to the masses, but when it comes to individual salvation, no external implements are necessary. When a man is born, God has granted him all the necessary tools for ultimate freedom within his physical-mental-spiritual frame.... Oh! Enough for now, Shãnti. Why don't you get some rest. You need it."
"Sure. Keep in touch."
With those words, the two tele-links, which broke the 5,300 mile distance between two friends went to rest, waiting to be summoned again in future. Shãnti eased his head back into his pillow, trying to relax his mind after an enlightening day. Far, far away, Tilak leaned back in the warm sand and relaxed. Both thought about how good it was to be alive in such good times. It had taken 100 trying years to come here, but it was well worth the wait.