Miracles and Science
(interactive session on 12.4.2013)
Keynote address by Ms. Sharmila Bhawal
(Other participant speakers: Smt.Sikha Majumdar, Smt.Kalyani Chakrabarti, S/Shri P.C.Jha, R.K.Gupta,Ranjan Chatterjee, Ramesh Chanda,Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Ashok Sengupta & Dr. Suhas Majumdar.
Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K.Raha)
Miracles and Science, one would think, are ideally antithetical or mutually exclusive in
scientific parlance as by definition—
• Miracles are: extraordinary and welcome events inexplicable by natural and scientific laws, generally attributed to divine intervention
• Science is an intellectual and practical activity involving the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation, hypotheses and experiment…which is to say that the twain shall never meet! But the key note speaker’s contention was that though the two seemed to be strange bed fellows, in reality they were quite inseparable. When we saw them as disparate it was more to do with our perspective and perhaps blinkered vision rather than the absence of a liaison between the two.
2. The speaker gave an example of her first encounter with miracle through an Enid Blyton book—The Mountain of Aventure where an anthropologist used the phenomenon of eclipse to ensure the release of his family, kidnapped by a faction of the Aymaran tribe of Mt. Andes on the west coast of South America. The scientist exploited the ritualistic worship of Inti, the Sun God, by the primitive Aymaran tribe to pass the solar eclipse & its subsequent emergence in its resplendent glory for a miracle, so as to set his family free from the scared tribe. While the tribesmen cheered at the miraculous reappearance of the Sun, the anthropologist thanked his almanac which had listed the solar eclipse! What was miracle to one was a mere scientific phenomenon to another…
3. The speaker further related a newspaper article about a Hathayogi Baba who could perform miracles including return from apparent death!. A study was planned to check the veracity of his claims that his BMR, pulse and heart rate, etc. were minimal by his will due to his meditative powers. The yogi was wired to machines to monitor his vital parameters before, while and after the experiment, as he was sealed in a casket and buried in soil. His vital parameters fell enough to declare him clinically dead for practically the whole day and towards dusk the rates improved till he came to the state of deep sleep. When the hathyogi was let out of the casket he explained that Hathayoga believed that one had a limited number of breaths and the slower one breathed, the longer he would live…So a hathayogi is trained to breathe so slowly that his BMR drops, so does the consumption of oxygen to a minimal level so that the available air in the casket lasts much longer than one would expect it to! Was it a miracle or a scientific feat?
4. Miracles associated with highly revered souls such as Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Kabir, Shirdi Sai Baba, Guru Nanak and Jesus, were discussed where a look, a touch & a word from these enlightened souls was enough to heal the long suffering individuals… REIKI, Sanjeevani, Shambhavi healing etc. source the Universal Life Force Energy and channelise it to the ailing organs and tissues OR activate the life force energy within the individual. Science and sceptics accord these forms of healing grudging respect and dub them as alternate healing…Science has been unable to disprove the visible healing effect but has not been able to furnish explanations as to how!
5. References to Ram Thakur, Shirdi Sai Baba and Guru Nanak who transcended the barriers of this three dimensional world, were seen at two different places simultaneously. Guru Nanak is believed to have given ‘darshan’ to his distant devotees while remaining seated elsewhere among his disciples. Such transmigration of souls is also seen in reincarnation, during planchette sessions through ‘mediums’ or in séances where souls are believed to come from the other world to answer queries. These are phenomena which are evident to senses and yet defy scientific explanations.
6. The moot questions that were thrown open to the house were—do we refuse the existence of miracles whenever science offers no plausible explanation? Is the lack of scientific justification a proof of the limitations of Science or that one needs to expand one’s mind beyond the physical plane? Can the gulf between miracles and Science be bridged?
7. In response, many participants exchanged personal experiences or anecdotes of miracles that defied scientific explanations such as: a son declared dead came back to life in corroboration of his 17 year-old mother’s statement that Allah had assured her so; a chance glance of a stray advertisement on cancer worked as a reminder to visit a friend in the last throes of cancer; a disciple initiated into meditation by his Guru (Master) in a cave experienced his past life vision which on verification was found to be true; a distant healer able to see the condition and nature of illness of an unknown patient; a backache being cured by the healing white light; three cholera victims lying dead but one of them having a vision of her Guru asking her to enter the body as she had works to finish…(that individual is now 85 and still alive); an accident patient lives on after the clots from his feet travelled to his lungs but not to his heart or brain, only to meet with a second accident when his head hit a window screen to shatter it without any haemorrhage to his brain; a mother while lying in ICCU in a hospital at Calcutta visits a close person in Madras etc., etc.
8. Miracles were also related to occult science prevalent all over the world, and known to all known religions, be it Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jaina etc. Many a time, such occult power has been castigated as black magic or witchcraft. In India, however, occult power has been recognized as a science and has been sourced to Atharva Veda and has been variously described as Tantra, Samudrik Vidya, Hatha Yoga, Aghor Vidya, Kriya Yoga etc. Those adept in that science are able to perform feats that are not normally attributable to human power, such as transmigration of soul, entering into another person’s body, connecting and communicating with dead souls as also other species, seeing the future, curing an otherwise incurable patient, reviving a dead person and casting spell or spelling doom of a person(s) etc.
9. According to many thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, a miracle is an event when a force from another level of consciousness impacts the physical world. Since the laws of the vital or mental or various levels of the spiritual world are different from that of the physical world, unusual or miraculous events take place. We get example of such miracles in the stories connected with séance, ghosts (spirits), telepathy, clairvoyance (prakamya or vyapti) which have been discussed by Swami Vivekananda in his book ‘Power of Mind’. ‘Surya Vigyan’ (Solar Science) and ‘Gyan Ganj’ (Abode of Wisdom) authored by Gopinath Kabiraj and the Autobiography of a Yogi authored by Swami Yogananda dwell upon the science of miracles to a large extent. While in Surya Vigyan the science of conversion of a substance from one form into another has been elaborately discussed, Swami Yogananda has explained the science of transmigration of soul when an awakened soul can drive the atoms & sub-atoms of his/her mortal body in the speed higher than that of light to configure and manifest at a place of his/her choice. Like-wise, God or the Super Mind can bring about a genetic engineering in a human to survive under water like a fish.
10. According to M-theory protagonists like Stephen Hawking, there may be as many as 10 to the power of 500 universes, each with its own laws. But it is not necessary to invoke God to set the universe going (ref. Grand Design – Stephen Hawking). What constitutes the true miracle, according to Hawking, is that abstract logic leads to a unique theory that predicts and describes a vast universe full of the amazing variety that we see. The phenomena like ‘Big Bang’ that exploded the cosmic egg and created as many as 10 to the power of 500 universes from a super-dense point mass, the speed of expansion of the universes at the time and temperature of radiation at 10 to the power of 32 degrees, attribution of creation of matter and gravity to vibration in the string that pervades through 12 dimensional universes conceived by the M-theorists, appear no less than a miracle. Although there may be an explanation as to how it all happened, we have no answer as yet as to why it did happen. That surely brings us to the possible existence of a super-conscious force/entity behind the Grand Design of creativity, who may be called a ‘Grand Designer’. This explains why Kepler in 16th century was convinced that God had created the universe according to some perfect mathematical principle; and Newton showed that the laws that applied in the heavens applied on earth; and Einstein posed to his assistant Ernst Straus “Did God have any choice when he created the universe?”
Although there has been considerable research in material, particle and genetic sciences, there has not been enough objective research in science of mind/consciousness. The latter has been largely left to the domain of sages, yogis and saints on one hand and psychologists and psychiatrists on the other. Conceptually, there is a major difference between scientific research and spiritual quest in that the former does not dwell upon the possibility of existence of ‘Universal Consciousness’ or ‘Super mind’ as a factor behind the creation or evolution of the universe while the latter finds it as the ultimate cause. Ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning ‘nothing comes out of nothing’ is a well-accepted scientific postulate. In light of the above postulate, physicists need to extend their research to the domain of consciousness to find the ultimate source of individual consciousness, including their own. In the process, they might discover an altogether new dimension of consciousness that may turn out to be the ultimate cause of our entire creation/evolution. Till then, the ‘Theory of Everything’ that eluded Einstein but claimed to have been somewhat traced in M-theory by Hawking can continue to be researched into to find an acceptable scientific explanation for all the miracles that remain till date in the domain of mind and consciousness.