What creationism and scientific rationalism have in common is a distrust and devaluation of Nature. In fact, this shared attitude is the very fulcrum of the pointless debate between these two camps. Neither believes that Nature represents intelligent creativity as the expression of the will of God.
This problem is the result of neither camp taking a sufficient interest in traditional cosmology and metaphysics. What passes for these subjects today by fundamentalists, both religious and scientific, is a quantification of sensory data. Thus the world was created in 7 days, on the one hand, or 7 billion years ago (more or less), on the other. And although in each case the number is regarded as a fact, they are actually symbolic. The problem here is that “quantity” is understood without reference to “quality”, the principle that defines form.
The ancients believed that all of Nature, i.e., everything that exists, and which in the cosmological system of Samkya is known as Prakrirti, is composed of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. In this view mind, energy and body are all derived from the elements which are symbolic of a gradation of vibratory rates, densities, functions, etc., much of which is far too subtle to scientifically investigate. The elements create “impressions”, known as sanskara(s) in Sanskrit, which is the constituent basis of karma (the modification of identity through experience over time).
Here is the vital point: Nature is nothing but consciousness in different stages of development based on sanskaras.
According to Samkya, Prakriti is not self-existent. It is dependent on Purusha/ God. Purusha is unconscious God seeking to become conscious through Prakrirti/ Nature. God can only know itself through Nature and this is accomplished through the medium of three (in this characterization) bodies: the gross, subtle and mental bodies, which allow for the evolution and reproduction of form through the interplay of form, energy and mind. The gross body is the physical body, the subtle body is the energy that animates the gross body and the mental body is the “seat” of consciousness. The mental body contains and projects the subtle body which in turn contains and projects the gross body. When someone or something “dies”, this refers to the disassociation of the gross body from the subtle and mental bodies. Birth is the re- association of the mental and subtle bodies with a new gross body so as to exhaust past, old karma and simultaneously accrue fresh, new karma. These bodies are nothing but sanskaras: gross, subtle and mental sanskaras which give rise to gross, subtle and mental consciousness!
It is important to emphasize that the incremental evolution of form- the gross body in its innumerable, ascending forms, is a result of unconscious God desiring to know itself consciously as God, in the human form, the last and perfect form.
It is only possible to realize God in the difficult to obtain human form. Some eight million, four hundred thousand sub human gross forms are necessary for consciousness to evolve in order to arrive at the human form with complete consciousness. Even though consciousness is now complete, it is burdened by the evolutionary impressions (sanskaras) accrued during this interminable process.
All of this may sound a bit complicated, but it’s not. If you are self-identified as a stone- you are stone conscious, a rudimentary form of gross consciousness. If you are self-identified as a bird- you are bird conscious, a higher form of gross consciousness. If you are self-identified as a human body- you are (finally) fully gross conscious. The evolution of consciousness is now complete.
But just as it took millions of forms to evolve complete consciousness, it takes millions of lives as a human to sublimate that gross consciousness first into subtle consciousness and then into mental consciousness. There are seven planes of consciousness beyond gross consciousness. The astral body connects the gross body with the first subtle plane of Pran. There are four planes of increasing refinement of Pran. This is the domain of yogis. The higher two planes of consciousness pertain to the mental world. This is the world of pure thought- the fifth plane, and the world of pure feeling- the sixth plane. This is the domain of saints.
But the goal is to realize God as Infinite Knowledge (Mind), Infinite Power (Energy) and Infinite Bliss (Body), the seventh plane of consciousness. This is received as a Gift from a Perfect One, and is earned only after many, many lives of exalted service to yogis, saints, Perfect Masters (man/ woman become God) and Avatars (God become man).
All of Nature is unconscious God. The stone is as much God as a Perfect Master, but is not aware of the fact, because of sanskaras. The stone is stone conscious (a low form of gross consciousness), but the Perfect One is God conscious! Creation exists for the sole purpose of first evolving, and then refining, consciousness, so as to finally know oneself consciously as God, i.e., Infinite Consciousness.
Indian tradition says we are in the Kali Yuga, the most debased of ages, because it represents the cult of the machine which is the height of collective ignorance and self destructive tendencies. Scientists and technocrats are the sages of our time because they posses the knowledge and power to exploit Nature for our comfort and pleasure; She has been dethroned as a Goddess, and defiled as Shakti- the creative and transformative power of God by which He awakens to who He Is. The modern rationalist sensibility, religious and scientific alike, maintains that Nature is without a purposeful and organizing intelligence, that She has no more than face value and doesn’t bear a grudge about being manipulated. But, as we have seen, Nature is God’s beloved without whom He has no idea who He is!
So don’t worry, we are about to find out, like never before, that Nature always has the last word!
This article is largely based on the works of Meher Baba, especially God Speaks, published by Sufism Reoriented.
Bill Gannett is a student of traditional cosmology and metaphysics,
especially as restated in the contemporary works of Meher Baba.