doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.80 Published online 21 May 2012

Science and Spirituality

The dimension of spirituality that exists beyond the physically known universe remains largely unknown. In this new series, Pawan Dhar will explore the possibility of a unified view between the two apparently divergent fields of science and spirituality.

Spirituality is the science of the 'life giving substance'. In physics, we have moved from molecules to atoms to the sub-atomic world and identified many fundamental forces. However, these forces only attempt to explain how matter is formed. They do not explain the composition and nature of the life giving substance itself. Due to this reason, there is still a huge divide between spiritual sciences and physical sciences.

Is their a unified view somewhere?
© Subhra Priyadarshini

Thus, to understand the fundamental difference between the living and the non-living, we might need to look in the space beyond the known physical universe. We might need to differentiate between 'energy and intelligent energy', 'motion and emotion', 'mind and matter'.

Given that the same carbon atom that makes charcoal also makes a human being, it is clear that the science of matter cannot explain the fundamental difference between living and non-living. Several questions arise when we leave known physical dimensions and move into the unknown space of life energies.

What is the composition of soul? Does soul have a periodic table? What needs to be added to solar energy to make it 'soular energy'? How many layers beyond the physical body are we composed of? Are there any scientific means to explore spiritual dimensions? What are the technological innovations needed to capture each layer? Can we photograph mind and soul? What is their address? Does the address remain static or does it change?

We know about DNA, RNA and proteins. We are also familiar with terms like genotype and phenotype, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and so on. Currently, biological science deals with the space between molecular inventory of an organism and its phenotypic outcome. The trouble is that DNA, RNA and protein molecules are 'practically dead' on arrival. They can be chemically synthesized and crystallised. What is chemically synthesized can be part of the living system but cannot be the 'life giving substance' itself.

Thus, to get a fundamental understanding of life, we must connect chemistry with consciousness and beyond. To do so, it would be important to define relevant terms first. Three terms have been explained below. There could be more, depending upon our perception and experience.

Body is what we experience at the gross level. A chemical analysis of the human body shows that it is made of 28 elements of the periodic table with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen contributing 96% of the body mass. The question is: what happened to the rest more than 82 elements. Why didn't they participate in the formation of body mass? At what time and how was the chemical inventory of the body frozen? If environmental context determined formation of bodies, will the composition of body change if the environment also changes? What are the tolerable replacements? Where do we draw the boundary?

Life energy is like an operating system that runs the show but remains unknown. The subject of life energy has largely remained unexplored. As of now, the scientific community swims at the cellular and molecular surface, studying waves here and there and calling them path-breaking discoveries.

The question is how to scientifically find what runs us? How to see ourselves as operating systems? What kind of preparation is needed? Can we use technology to understand the life giving substance? Logically such technology needs to be equally sophisticated or maybe a little more sophisticated than the life giving energy itself? Can we ever find such a technology? How does it feel like experiencing life in its purest form, without any additional attributes? We do not know.

Mind is what we think of as a buffer between subtle life energies and the gross body. It is like a 'metabolic pathway'that stays between the 'genotype of life energy' and the 'phenotype of the gross body'. It would be nice to scientifically document the contents of the mind to see its dimensions. We see the body, imagine the mind and believe in the life giving substance. This needs to change.

Could there be more gross layers and more subtle layers than this naïve abstraction? People use terms like consciousness, sub-consciousness, super-consciousness, emotions and awareness to describe life. Though one can play with these terms, in reality we only talk about individual perceptions.

To get a clear understanding of life giving elements, their attributes, their interactions, their structural and functional correlates, the subtle-to-gross pathways, we need to generate additional evidence in the space of existence and extend the intellectual front end of science.

People in the spiritual domain use mind as a lab, intent as approach and intensity as the key. People in the scientific world use a reductionist approach to split a system into constituent elements and weave the information into an integrated model.

In the first approach, the technology exists within the body. In the second, technology exists outside the body. To find a meeting point of science and spirituality, it would be prudent to find commonalities between both and propose a logical and evidence-based approach that probes deeper into the spiritual space.

This article is the first in a series entitled 'Science and spirituality'.