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The evolutionary journey of medical science

Medicine, like everything else that has the stamp of human creation upon it, evolves with the evolution of mankind. But the cycles of evolution do not always move in a straight line. As historians tell us, humanity has moved through many a curve and spiral of development and retrogression. Of course, when we speak of development we do not refer merely to the technological side but to man as a whole — man in his totality, his self-regard and his relation with the world he inhabits.

In the beginning

There have been spaces of Time when man saw himself and the universe as a living and conscious Reality. He recognised or realised that he exists not only as a physical body, but also and even more importantly, as a psychological and spiritual being. Extending this self-discovery, he further discovered that not only he himself but all the elements of the cosmos, in fact the earth, the sun, the stars, the plant and animal kingdoms, the mountains and rivers, the wind and fire, nay the universe itself exists at once as a material as well as a spiritual fact. He further sought to relate his own being not only to the material but also the occult and spiritual side of the universe. He sought to understand and master not only the forces of material nature but also those that belong to the subtle domains of thought and feelings, will and impulsion, forces occult, forces spiritual. These were the hay-days of science, a science that was truly holistic, since nothing was left out of its ambit of study and the physical, occult and spiritual aspects of the Reality were seen as interwoven in a single continuum.

In the middle

Things have changed since. For various reasons that we need not discuss here, the high point of the previous spiral gravitated down towards where we stand today. Step by step, the human race came down the ladder. At first there was dissociation from the spiritual side, or rather it was reduced to a mass of formulas. Spiritual philosophy, religion and occultism were the natural results of this downward trend. The eclipse of the spiritual, vast and free and infinite, into fixed mental formulas further shifted one notch lower to a mass of rituals, superstitions, customary thought and formal practice. This too had to suffer a further breakdown leading to a complete veiling of this deeper side of existence, so much so that we came to believe that man was nothing but matter, the earth was nothing but matter, the universe nothing but matter, that matter alone exists and all else was either a fantasy or imagination, a madness or romanticism, a chimera that does not exist.

The new age

This too had to go. A new curve of ascent had to start and it has just begun. The signs are obvious. The gospel of materialism has left man only more and more disillusioned, it has created a commercial brute, a sophisticated thief and educated barbarian. What we observe today is this terribly mixed state in humanity. On the one side we find scattered the ruins of a past cycle, too defaced to be recognised for its true value. Waiting to be discovered amidst the debris of superstitions and rituals of the primitive man are fragments of a past knowledge that still can save the world. The primitive is perhaps not an original darkness but a fall from a previous height. That is why there still lingered in his memory some remnants of a past wisdom and knowledge, however imperfectly held and misapplied by his mind and sense. However as civilisation advanced along the lines of the present cycle as determined by the Zeitgeist, the forward movement took place at the expense of this loss, this near complete blotting out of these once living truths from our active memory. No wonder modern medical textbooks make us believe that medicine as a true science started only as late as a few centuries back. Before that, they inferred that there was nothing much but some speculation and superstition mixed with much imagination. This may be true of the last few hundred years or so by which time all the priceless things of the past had already suffered enough disintegration to be recognised as anything worthwhile. But though the forms have been destroyed, these ‘things’ or rather ‘truths’ once alive and pulsating are seeking to be reborn under new forms and names. The Zeitgeist has completed the material curve. The eye of the Time-Spirit is now turning upward and inward to find and discover the eternal Source of all things born in time. One result is a sudden upsurge of interest in long-lost formulas of the past, an effort to revive and restore, even reactivate the valuable elements of the past knowledge and integrate it with discoveries of the present and carry it all for a more complete future understanding of man and the cosmos.

The dangers of the new age

It is here that we have to tread carefully during this transition. On the one side there are several new possibilities opening before mankind. These possibilities are not just about discovering new methods and the technology to deal with the problems that vex us but also the realisation of the untold potential that lies secret and untapped within us. There is an increasing recognition that we hardly use the full potential that is given to us. The body itself has a remarkable ability to adjust and adapt, even beyond its so-called known limits. Crisis situations have often brought home the point that we have an enormous inner reserve that is hardly used in the normal operations of our life. Besides we have several examples of astounding feats that a trained and educated body can achieve. There is also an exploration into the untapped potential of the mind and its powers to help or hinder. Above all, having explored the boundaries of the mind and the body, the human quest is naturally turning to ‘other’ dimensions and unexplored fields of Nature. We cannot surmise exactly where all this will land us. All that we can say is that a beginning has been made, the beginning of a voyage across uncharted seas of knowledge and power.

At the same time, there lies the danger that in our hurry to be different we may construct hastily and on unsteady grounds. This too we see happening today. For the ‘new age’ gurus are multiplying by the dozens and the commercial market is quick to capitalise and sell us hopes and dreams with an evangelistic fervour. But false hopes are often as harmful as fears for they keep us tied down to the surfaces of life. We may be able to save a rare gem or two from the scattered ruins of the temples of the past but what we need is not these gems as much as the Deity that presided within its sanctum-sanctorum. We need the real thing, not the imitative templates, Hanuman (*) and not just any monkey to amuse us! This is the other difficulty, the inability of an inexperienced humanity to differentiate truth from lie, especially when it is still groping in the darkness and clinging to hopes in a state of despair. But a restless desperateness will lead us nowhere. Both extremes need to be avoided, an unchanging set of rigid laws or else a fantastic display of miracles made to order any time anywhere. It is the same illogic that declares that there is no God since this world is governed by law and process; mechanism and method. Of course one can simply turn around the logic and say that that is why there is God or a supreme Intelligence! Yet behind this illogic is the human mind’s crude and infantile demand for miracles that dazzle and over-ride all the processes that have evolved so far since life had emerged and struggled upon earth.

We need to avoid both extremes. Instead what is necessary right now is to focus our energies upon the growth intended by Nature in us humans; the evolutionary leap that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother speak about. It means a growth towards true freedom, one that is possible only if we free ourselves within from all external dependencies, whether on drugs or on rituals, whether on allopathy or other ‘pathies’. Indeed no power can free us unless we decide to be free ourselves and rather than look for help outside, substituting one crutch for another, start looking for strength within us. It is towards this perennial and limitless possibility that our attention must be directed. Naturally it is not going to be easy since it means passing over millenniums of habit. Nature will not let us pass through easily. A period of conflict and a rather protracted struggle is inevitable when the old laws that have governed human beings so far will wrestle with the new possibility in the chambers of the same heart. But however long the passage, if there is a lasting way, it is this one. And if the Time-Spirit here and the gods above have sanctioned the change, then it may not even take so long. Perhaps it is already round the corner and we have to just reach out to the little door that is opening and pass through. In medicine too, the little door is opening despite the resistance of the past and it is bound to open further and wider with the passage of time.


The thrust is towards holism and integration, but an integration of what? Most certainly man himself. It is no use comparing and contrasting systems or trying to combine them through a superficial understanding or a practical approach that is moved by fear and governed by a false view of man himself. We must first of all discover an integral view of man himself, for the approach that we shall take will depend largely upon how we look at man.

Each system has looked at man through a certain angle of vision and each has come up with its own remedy for the ills that afflict mankind. Each has its place but none is a secure or fool-proof panacea. Once we understand this, then we can take one of the two approaches, perhaps both together. The first and pragmatic approach is that we have realistic hopes and do the best we can to alleviate suffering and help improve the human condition. The second is to keep pushing towards a better and better understanding of man himself. And this pushing must go on till we get at the last secret, not just of man as an individual organism but man as one form of life amidst many.

The problem is compounded because knowledge does not always automatically translate into power. To be aware of a possibility does not mean that one realises it just by the fact of knowing it. The mind may decide to set course in a certain direction towards a specific goal, the eyes may see it as well at some distant horizon, shining as a golden peak as the first rays of the sun fall upon it, yet our feet must walk one step at a time. The mind’s conception and the eye’s vision must be followed by another step, the walk towards that which is seen and conceived. Many new age therapies simply seem to ignore this simple fact. Thus it is one thing to know that positive thinking is good for health and one does not need anyone to tell this to us any more. This is established. The problem is how to change the human mind from a negative mode of functioning to a positive mode. Again, it is now generally accepted that faith is a crucial if not a central factor in cure. But the problem is how to induce faith in someone who is habitually full of doubts. The time lapse between the eye’s vision and the actual reaching is an important issue that cannot be ignored. For all things express themselves here through a continuum of Time-Space causality. That means bringing in a world of forces between the cup and the lip. One needs to study that and understand this vast complexity called the universe where Fate and Freedom, Chance and Order constantly play with each other and often walk arm-in-arm. While it is good to simplify, there are also dangers of an oversimplification that denies the effort of thought and observation to study this vast and complex universe of which we are a little fragment.

The human complexity

And yet this is the beauty of its design that this little fragment contains all its potentialities. The worlds lie concealed within us. The cosmic forces, not just the physical but the subtle and occult forces of life and mind and the higher spiritual regions, even those that arise as dark fumes from our subconscious parts, have admittance in our house of life. Behind the human scene lurk unknown entities, some formidable and immense, many small yet critical. They can provide help at crucial moments or unknowingly harm us. What we call man is merely the frontage of an intricately complex design. Man is not mere matter but much more. This we can understand rather easily. Even a little introspection can reveal this to anyone who cares to reflect with some honesty. But what we do easily know, for no introspection can reveal that to us, is the nature of these non-material forces, powers, energies and beings that stand behind creation and influence its outcome. We may say that it does not matter, for we come under this or that influence only through a conscious choice of will. These forces can affect us only if we do chose to do so. True, but do we know that what we call as our choice is hardly our own? Besides, human beings are perfect in the art of self-deception and it is not easy to avoid the cosmic snare or cut through its complex design. Neither mere knowledge of the design nor strength of the will is enough; one needs sincerity; a great sincerity to act upon these veiled parts of nature, or else a Grace, a special Grace in fact that carries some people almost sheltered through this maze. So long as we are subject to this universal ignorance, we shall also remain subject to suffering in one form or another.

The way out

This cannot be done by any system or ‘pathy’, least of all through drugs or popular paperbacks. All these may be useful in their time and place but are not enough. They do not have the power to carry us beyond the bar and circle of Ignorance in which we find ourselves stuck or trapped. It is only through an integral yoga that at once takes into account the complexity of this universe as well as man that we can arrive at a perfect control and mastery over the cosmic forces and thereby to a perfect control and mastery over the causes of disease and suffering.

But we must also accept the fact that not everyone is called upon to undertake the adventure of yoga. Besides, the entire journey of yoga is long and if one has to wait for everybody to realise the Integral Truth that governs life and cosmos and us within it, we may then well expect to wait until the next millennium. And who knows whether by that time humanity with this half-knowledge and power sitting atop an animal consciousness may not well destroy itself, if not through disease, then through wars, pollutants and environmental imbalances? The pressing need of the hour is a paradigmatic change in our view of man. It is enough if a sufficient number of human beings accepts the new paradigm and starts acting upon it with faith growing into a greater and luminous experience confirming their faith.

The limits of Science

Does this sound unscientific? Not more unscientific than the present-day physician prescribing drugs with a faith in their action and side-effects based on what is published in the journals or standard books on the subject. What we mean by this is that always, in any field, there are only a handful of people who actually gather the hard evidence or are face to face with it. Others accept it upon trust in them and in their methods. The problem therefore is not that we do not have the direct experience ourselves of the cosmic forces and spiritual consciousness. Still, it may not be an exaggeration to say that perhaps more persons have some kind of experience of contact with these forces and energies than they have with the drug molecule and the actual processes involved in relief. Most of these experiences pass away unnoticed since we do not look that way!

The problem is whether we, that is, the men, are willing to put our faith in the spiritual explorers and occult scientists and in their methods. Here it may be useful to note that the spiritual and occult fields have their own processes and methods that are perfectly comprehensible and reproducible if we understand the rationale behind them. These methods may be and in some ways are different from the way material science operates but that in itself is not a reason for disbelief. In fact it is only natural since the field that material science explores and the one that occult and spiritual sciences explore, are very different and need different means of knowledge and confirmation. Thus surrender to the Divine Consciousness as a means for arriving at Truth may sound absurd in the circle of material science since it has limited its field to matter and its faith in the power of senses to observe and reason to analyse. These are its a priori assumptions. But let’s take the other case. If there is a higher and greater Divine Consciousness as mystic experience affirms, if there are subtler senses and it is within the ambit of our possibility to awaken them, then surrender, meditation, concentration all become at once comprehensible and even rational. Besides, just like any other science if we accept the conditions, then we can actually experience these truths. The confirmation is not statistical (though one suspects it could well be so if one sincerely explored it that way) but experiential. It is not statistical since very few people are willing to fulfil the conditions. They just want to see an impossible miracle somehow. That may well happen but not to order. Even the occult, and the still higher spiritual consciousness, follows certain laws of its own, especially when it deals with matter and it is not some arbitrary God performing magic with a wand. Such notions of God and spiritual are obviously rather primitive and have long delayed any serious search into the realms that are deeper and higher than what we are accustomed to acknowledge. The reproducibility is there provided you fulfil the conditions, even if the condition is of faith and receptivity, surrender and openness to a higher intervention. The idea that one must fulfil it through the conditions of another medium is a rather juvenile demand.

Even in the strictly material field, where the laws are fairly fixed, we see two or more sets of laws depending upon whether one is observing the gross physical world of hard matter or the subtler quantum world of the atoms and the larger stellar spaces. So too the laws of the spiritual and occult world do not necessarily follow the linearity of the material world. Why should they? They belong to another Space-Time continuum, if we like. Thus, for example, it is perfectly possible that in a higher spiritual world, the time lag between a cause and effect may be infinitesimally small or a large gap may intervene between the force and its action or as some have experienced the effect may precede the cause, at least to our observation since we observe things only when they have manifested far down the scale, on the gross earthly plane!

The new way

For the moment we see the winds of change blowing simultaneously in certain directions. Firstly it is pushing towards an enlargement of the field itself beyond what we had ever imagined. Secondly there is an attempt, however early or rash and premature, to unify the different dimensions of exploration. Thus today we have many paradigms operating in the field of human understanding and it is left to each one to accept or reject one in favour of the other. Thus, for instance, we have the purely biological or rather bio-chemical model of man that is generally followed by the conventional medical man trained in the modern scientific way. Whatever his merits, it will however be foolish to believe, as some self-deluded practitioners do, that nothing else exists beyond the scope of their textbooks. There are ways of looking at the human enigma and each has its merits and its fault-lines. None may give us the full picture and it falls by that, but each touches some portion or aspect of the human complexity and thereby helps alleviate the human condition through the understanding that it brings. Man is matter to the physicist; he is living matter to the biologist; he is a thinking matter to the psychologist; he is matter in which where all the energies and forces of the hidden dimensions and other worlds meet and have their play to the occultist; he is matter awaiting its spiritual deliverance to the mystic. Man is all this and much more.

The hour is fast approaching when all these different ways of understanding and helping the human condition would come closer in a rich and varied synthesis. For man is the bridge thrown across the gulfs of life, one end of which is in the dark labouring nescience of matter while the other strives to mate with the skies of a luminous beyond. His feet are placed firmly upon the ground of earthly realities, yet he stares at and dreams of crossing distant horizons.

This is at once the reason and the resolution of his unease that often precipitates in him a state of disequilibrium, leading to diseases and quarrels within his organs and with the world around him. He has lost the natural harmony of the plant and the animal kingdom, yet negotiating through a narrow and perilous gorge strives to arrive by this loss to the greater harmony of a divine spontaneity. Indeed this passage seems difficult and to some even impossible. It is full of seen and unseen obstructions of which disease and pathologies of various kinds are just a small visible fraction. Yet it is our faith that there is behind all this a diviner leading, an ascent of man to something greater than man that is being prepared behind the scene through the various challenges and problems that we face today. The breakdown of many man-made systems and institutions, the collapse of our neat world-views and paradigms limited by reason are not the end but the beginning of a new construction and a new basis. It is a new dawn that is being prepared behind the dark veil of Night. Yet after the night and behind it there awaits for the human soul the Light of a greater day. It is in that, which is yet to be fully understood, believed, hoped, dared and arrived, that we repose our faith and not in the shadows of the dusk of our present civilisation. It is not in this or that man-made system that we place our trust. Great and effective that they may be and are, they yet move within the human limits and do not cross a certain boundary imposed upon us by Nature of the limits of our sense-bound mind, thought, feeling, imagination, the limit to which we can dream and dare, the limit to which we are hypnotised by our past and present possibilities.

Greater powers than any we have dreamed so far stand beside the shadows and are waiting for their hour to emerge out of the mighty soul of man. Beyond the arc of our present horizon, there waits a greater kingdom of the Spirit. A vast and mighty Spirit broods over our earthly days, governs our destiny, sheds Light and shows us the sunlit path out of the present towards a glorious and inevitable future, foreseen and worked out, prepared and achieved for us, awaiting our sincere and whole-hearted ‘Yes’ to begin unfolding itself (**).

— Dr. Alok Pandey

(*) Born to the Wind-god Maaruti, Hanumaan is an emanation of Shiva mentioned in the epic Raamaayana as the principle devotee and helper of Raama. Though like a monkey in physical appearance he was an embodiment of wisdom and strength which he surrendered completely for the service of Lord Raama.

(**)“O Force-compelled, Fate-driven earth-born race,
O petty adventurers in an infinite world
And prisoners of a dwarf humanity,
How long will you tread the circling tracks of mind
Around your little self and petty things?
But not for a changeless littleness were you meant,
Not for vain repetition were you built;
Out of the Immortal’s substance you were made;
Your actions can be swift revealing steps,
Your life a changeful mould for growing gods.
A Seer, a strong Creator, is within,
The immaculate Grandeur broods upon your days,
Almighty powers are shut in Nature’s cells.
A greater destiny waits you in your front:
This transient earthly being if he wills
Can fit his acts to a transcendent scheme.
He who now stares at the world with ignorant eyes
Hardly from the Inconscient’s night aroused,
That look at images and not at Truth
Can fill those orbs with an immortal’s sight.
Yet shall the godhead grow within your hearts,
You shall awake into the spirit’s air
And feel the breaking walls of mortal mind
And hear the message which left life’s heart dumb
And look through Nature with sun-gazing lids
And blow your conch-shells at the Eternal’s gate.
Authors of earth’s high change, to you it is given
To cross the dangerous spaces of the soul
And touch the mighty Mother stark awake
And meet the Omnipotent in this house of flesh
And make of life the million-bodied One.
The earth you tread is a border screened from heaven;
The life you lead conceals the light you are.”

—Sri Aurobindo. Savitri. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust,1970, p.370.

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