Are we just purposeless pieces of matter that have somehow come together to form a human body; and has this body mysteriously gained the experience of self-consciousness and the illusion of free-will? Or are we individualised waves of intelligence and creativity on a universal field of consciousness, that create physical bodies to express and reflect upon our own nature?
For hundreds of years there has been a running battle between the materialist and the spiritual worldviews, often wrongly framed as the battle between science and religion. Materialism, which has gained ascendancy over the last hundred years of so, holds that matter is fundamental, that all things, including consciousness and our various mental states, are merely the results of material interactions and that there is no real purpose or intelligence guiding our lives. But there is an opposing view, held by a growing number of scientists and thinkers, that consciousness is primary and our body and the rest of creation are expressions of a single underlying field of pure intelligence and pure consciousness.
In his book Jeremy Bowler explains the conflicting worldviews in a simple, let logical and highly erudite way. He goes on to show how Maharishi’s Vedic Science gives a fresh perspective to this subject and one that brings the field of consciousness directly into the material world and into scientific scrutiny.
Following is a synopsis of The Sage and the Lotus: Mind, Body and the Five Worlds.
Everyone knows that we have a mind and a body and that those two parts of life work together. Yet science has no adequate theory to explain the connection. At the heart of this difficulty is the mind-body problem, which is as much to do with the way we understand reality as with the scientific understanding of our bodies.
This new book by Jeremy Bowler discusses the problem and presents a solution to it based on the teaching of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the sage of the title. For over 50 years, Maharishi expounded a new understanding of consciousness taken from the Vedic tradition of ancient India. He applied it to life in the modern world with great success. In that understanding both mind and body are simply two expressed parts of a more universal, underlying wholeness of life which can be brought to the level of direct experience through Transcendental Meditation.
Opening one’s awareness to that inner reality is called self-realisation. Expanding that inner wholeness into activity in the world creates enlightened living. Both topics are discussed in the book in relation to the mind-body problem and to Maharishi’s teaching.
The book also uses the symbol of the lotus on the lake to connect individual consciousness with the universal value of being that underpins it. This image, adapted from Laya Yoga, beautifully expresses the relationship between individual life and that cosmic value of wholeness. It is a poetic and yet technical description of the structure of individual life and its relationship to the whole.
Part one starts with the polarisation of world views illustrated by science and religion and the difficulty this creates for a shared understanding of reality that includes all aspects of human experience. Those aspects include: the physical, the mental, the social and cultural, and the spiritual. Science only tells us accurately about the physical. Religion deals with the spiritual, yet, for many, religion has become a matter of blind belief leading to actions that can sometimes seem destructive to life itself. The mind-body problem is introduced in terms of these difficulties and in relation to dualism, materialism and idealism.
Part two describes Maharishi Vedic Science as a theory of wholeness in which consciousness is primary. The theory is explained in some detail and then extended to discuss the creation of physical forms, worlds of shared experience and the appearance of matter. Three interacting modes of consciousness are required: the cosmic mode, the individual mode and the collective mode.
Part Three returns to the mind-body problem and shows that it does not exist in Maharishi Vedic Science. Difficulties arise only if we take a limited viewpoint in which wholeness is missing. Mind and body go together, but they are both expressions of a deeper reality in which wholeness is all. This does not have to be left to blind belief, or only to faith. It is open to experience through a process of spiritual development. The techniques of Yoga, properly understood and applied – and exemplified in Maharishi’s system of Transcendental Meditation – are designed to promote the experience of wholeness. The need for a paradigm shift and the conditions required for creating that shift are discussed. A five worlds framework for human experience is proposed, to help develop holistic approaches in every area of practical life. Different cultural and spiritual traditions can use the framework to make their own contributions. The symbol of the lotus on the lake is presented and explained.
Part four gives three examples of how Maharishi Vedic Science can be applied to practical life: spiritual development, which can power a global paradigm shift; education, which develops the mind, and medicine, which maintains the health of the body.
Some final points to ponder include a reflection on life after death and re-incarnation. An appendix outlines Maharishi’s teaching on the seven states of consciousness. Full references are provided.
To purchase, click the link for: The Sage and the Lotus: Mind, Body and the Five Worlds
Review by Dr Ian Birnbaum, PhD, OBE
This is an important book. It presents an excellent summary of the current approaches to the mind-body problem and explains their shortcomings clearly and thoroughly. It then goes on to describe the profound teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and shows how those teachings constitute an integrated and comprehensive theory of consciousness and matter which overcomes the shortcomings of the current theories, all of which are seen as partial. The final part of the book sets out some of the key practical implications of the theory and ends with some stimulating thoughts to ponder.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has wondered about the relationship of mind and body, consciousness and matter, and wants a powerful and stimulating exposition which is very well argued and convincing. Do read this book. You will not be disappointed.
Other readers have commented:
“An enjoyable read …. well written …. fascinating …..easy to read ….helped me make much more sense of my own being …. clear, logical, and comprehensive…. nice book! … I highly recommend it …..a very learned work … a work of great depth ….a very impressive piece of work …. the best explanation of Maharishi’s Vedic Science I have ever read…. “