Monday, August 22, 2011

Maya and the Physical versus the Metaphysical

A Woman is hiding behind curtains
Erasmus Darwin's The Temple of Nature
Maya, I have claimed elsewhere, can be approached from two different perspectives. One builds on the assumption that everything “out there” is Maya. Everything we encounter in daily life is illusion, regardless of whether it causes suffering or joy. The second approach is that everything could be real but our minds distort them and turn them into unreal images. In that sense, a cleansing of vision and mind is necessary, the same way a dirty or broken mirror cannot give off an accurate or valid reflection of objects.

Here I want to approach the phenomena of Maya from a slightly different angle. Maya is similar to the first view in that physical objects are not real. Anything that is material is impermanent, so it decays according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Our body, for example, falls into the same category. Moreover, one can claim that physical objects are not what they seem. On a subatomic level, they are merely atoms moving in space and hence their form or rather existence is illusive.

Taken to its extreme, this view would discredit science, which is based on physical phenomena and evidence. It is not to say that it is wrong, but rather that it is not infallible. Science looks at events that are part of an illusive process thus it examines that which is constantly passing away. It is trying to explain and make sense of the inexplicable in a rational manner. In other words, it disregards the “spiritual” elements that are what give each object and person their “life” and “breath.”

As a result, both our bodies and everyday objects only seem to exist as they are. What projects them into our consciousness is their spiritual essence, that which makes each object and body unique. Through the breath of life, they are transformed from an indeterminate physical object to being, and they exist in the concrete reality with space and time as reference points.

How can objects possibly come to life? Therein lies the problem of science. It not only classifies and categorizes but it also presupposes that matter is “dead,” without will and consciousness and hence predictable. This may be the reason why science has generally failed to make sense of humankind and has delegated this topic to the hybrid field of psychology.

But science may also become flawed because it is the scientist who analyzes and determines what science is, adding more speculation and relativity to this method that aims at objectivity. Unless the vision of such a person be cleansed from any framework, i. e. influences or traces of Maya in forms of distortion, illusion, cultural baggage, science will not be fully accurate.

To return to the matter of Maya, it seems that we can break it up into two parts, the physical and the metaphysical. The physical then is all that can be observed, weighed, measured and analyzed. This is mainly the focus of science and scientific pursuits. However, the metaphysical is beyond the grasp of full understanding, as it is slippery, knows and follows no definite rules or laws and elopes human prediction and comprehension, at least at the current point of our limited perspective and knowledge.

The realm of religion and spirituality might give us some hints or answers toward understanding the truth about metaphysical aspects. However, this information ought to be taken with caution as the forces of Maya, in this case ignorance or misunderstanding, can easily overrun the profound spiritual aspects and teachings.

Similarly, a too rigid hold on science and scientific knowledge is also full of Maya as the person is deluded in thinking that the world in all its aspects can be fully grasped and reduced to a simple formula. It boils down to the fact that in order to diminish Maya, we need to render upon science what belongs to science, give religion its own independent territory, while at the same time allowing free and unbiased interchange and exchange of ideas between the two different-minded camps.

No comments: