(Based on the speech delivered at 7th International Likhachev Scientific Conference from May 24 to 25, 2007, at St Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, Russia)
On the one hand, there is a force that is trying to assert the powers of infra-rational such as those of terrorism, which are likely to develop new forms of barbarism within the civilized state of society. Or else, it is possible to utilise the present scientific and technical knowledge to create an order of existence in which physical and vital wants of the human being can greatly, if not fully, be satisfied, and this order of existence can be maintained by mechanical and even destructive devices; and it is obvious that application of power of machines can imprison the human spirit. It can be said that the latest trends of competitive methods of governance of individual and collectivity are likely to nourish the modern exploitative economic order. On the other hand, there is likely to be still a new lease of life for the scientific and philosophical rationalism; the contemporary post-modernism may come to be overpassed, and rationalism may come to drop its dogmatism that binds it to assume that only the sensible is intelligible but this alternative is not likely to resolve the deeper issues of the conflicts of civilisations and cultures. We have, therefore, to look for a third alternative. And this alternative can be greatly helped by the process of dialogue which can uplift the contemporary thrust of the quest for the loftiest peaks of knowledge and noblest means of actions that seeks the highest welfare of all members of humanity. This would mean that the quest of religion is uplifted into a quest of spirituality, and the quest of knowledge which is pursued by science is uplifted into the quest of cosmic consciousness that seems to be vibrating, according to the latest trends of science, in all domains of existence?matter, life, mind and spirit. It is, therefore, by harmonising science and spirituality that the dialogue amongst civilisations and cultures of the global world of today can heal the conflicts and provide to humanity an assured foundation for durable harmony and unity.
The most helpful element is the recent breakthroughs that we find in physical sciences, biological sciences and even in psychological sciences. Roger Penrose has, in his celebrated book, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, contended that there are reasons for believing that there is in the realm of physical laws a hidden non-computational action and that phenomenon-like consciousness should be inherent at least potentially in all material things. David Bohm and other scientists are struck by the revelations of Quantum Physics and they have come to consider these revelations a serious challenge to the mechanistic order. Western Eurocentrism and their general theory of conflicts among civilisations are both structuring of a mind that has been shaped by the mechanistic or the fragmentary world-view based on Cartesian-Newtonian model. According to this view the ?whole? is composed of separately existing ?parts? and scientists should explore their interrelationship in order to understand the ?whole?. As David Bohm has argued, ?Then society as a whole has developed in such a way that it is broken up into separate nations, and different religious, political, economic and racial groups etc.? Bohm further argues: ?So fragmentation is in essence a confusion around the question of difference and sameness or oneness (that is the question regarding identities??We? and ?They?). To be confused about what is different and what is not, is to be confused about everything. Thus it is not an accident that our fragmentary form of thought is leading to such a wide-spread range of crises, social political, economic, ecological, psychological etc. in the individual and the society as a whole. Such a mode of thought implies unending development of chaotic and meaningless conflict, in which energies of all tend to be lost by movements that are antagonistic or else at cross purposes.?
But the new physics has overpassed this approach and instead of starting from parts now scientists are talking of ?wholism? that ?whole? is not merely the algebraic sum of its ?parts? but something more. Accordingly, the human society is not an aggregate of different nations, races or religions, it is an indivisible ?whole?. The differently existing parts are at a deep and fundamental level interconnected. This fundamental unity or interconnectedness between humankind and its environment opens up a new dimension for resolution of conflicts in a truly global world. In the field of life sciences, scientists like Roger Sperry have come to acknowledge that the new macro mental paradigm of behaviour science permits integration of matter and consciousness. In the field of psychological sciences, the neurological model appears to offer a plausible explanation of how we experience the mystical state of pure awareness. The behaviouristic psychology has come to be questioned because the phenomenon of understanding, it seems, can be explained only if consciousness is present as an indivisible reality of the functioning of the physical brain. On the other hand, in the field of spirituality, there are new trends which have come to accept that the physical world is not an illusion created by physical senses, but a dynamic reality reflecting the operations of spiritual consciousness. Science and spirituality are today advancing so rapidly that the Cartesian model or Newtonian model is already overpassed, and with the increasing proof of the unity of matter and spirit, we are at a point where the conflict between science and spirituality can be overcome. As a result, conflict among seemingly different groups can be resolved more harmoniously and more and more convincingly.
In the holistic approach life and its problems are to be understood in totality. The human society and its environment constitute one single whole, all its components are interdependent and mutually interacting. It is not possible to call the world truly globalised, if it is global in terms of trade and commerce, science and technology while the cultures and civilisations are in perpetual conflict. For a truly global world trade and commerce, science and technology, culture and civilisation and environment should all remain in harmony. This may be termed as idealistic but that should be our aim if mankind is to survive. Remember, in the holistic approach disturbance in one component of the system travels throughout the system and this may lead to the collapse of the system. The world leaders have to apply their wisdom and resources to prevent such a catastrophe. They have to show the necessary will and desire to produce the attitudinal changes, and the transformation from the mechanistic to the holistic worldview. It is hoped that humanity will rise up to the occasion and seek the resolution of conflicts of civilisations and cultures through this route of synthesis of science and spirituality and this route admits only one method: the method of dialogue and with a focus on the underlying unity in diversity. ……(Concluded)