Scientific Truth and Divine Truth

The methodology of physical science requires that any scientific fact established as a truth of science must be verifiable and reproducible. Recently some scientists conducting experiments at a particle accelerator obtained some results they thought showed that certain particles exceeded the speed of light, which was an established truth. This created an enormous controversy and after attempts at reproducing this result failed, the “faster than light” theory was discarded. One can see the benefit and value of strict rules regarding “what is truth” in the physical realm.

An objection is sometimes raised, particularly from those for whom this “scientific method” is the established rule, that the province of the mystic and the knowledge acquired by the mystic is not subject to such independent verification and reproduction. The implication then is that mystical knowledge is not knowledge at all.

Sri Aurobindo points out that since it is impossible for physical intellect and methods of knowledge to adequately or completely judge the truths of the Spirit or the infinite Reality, a different faculty and type of knowledge must be utilised when research in these areas is taking place. “for the object of the mystic is self-knowledge and God-knowledge, and that can only be arrived at by an inward and not by an outward gaze. Or it is the supreme Truth of things that he seeks, and that too cannot be arrived at by an outward inquiry through the senses or by any scrutiny or research that founds itself on outsides and surfaces or by speculation based on the uncertain data of an indirect means of knowledge. It must come by a direct vision or contact of the consciousness with the soul and body of the Truth itself or through a knowledge by identity, by the self that becomes one with the self of things and with their truth of power and their truth of essence.”

In answer to the objection that this method leads to multiple different forms of truth, Sri Aurobindo points out that the immensity and complexity of the Reality goes so far beyond reduction to any one formula that it would be both natural and correct to recognise that different individuals would approach the Reality from different angles or positions and thus, would naturally tend to describe their experience of that Reality in various ways. “Spiritual truth is a truth of the spirit, not a truth of the intellect, not a mathematical theorem or a logical formula. It is a truth of the Infinite, one in an infinite diversity, and it can assume an infinite variety of aspects and formations: in the spiritual evolution it is inevitable that there should be a many-sided passage and reaching to the one Truth, a many-sided seizing of it; this many-sidedness is the sign of the approach of the soul to a living reality, not to an abstraction or a constructed figure of things that can be petrifified into dead or stony formula. The hard logical and intellectual notion of truth as a single idea which all must accept, one idea or system of ideas defeating all other ideas or systems, or a single limited fact or single formula of facts which all must recognise, is an illegitimate transference from the limited truth of the physical field to the much more complex and plastic field of life and mind and spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”