Science, Philosophy, and the Power of Consciousness

23 May, 2023 | Blog

History supplies many authentic accounts of the power of consciousness over the body, and how the latter can respond to the purpose and focus of the will, such that some individuals have achieved seemingly impossible feats in the most extraordinary circumstances. 

In music, what better example than Beethovenwhose titanic masterpieces were accomplished under the most appalling physical circumstances and ill health. Just one case in point… in May 1809 Napoleon’s troops attacked Vienna and, throughout the following summer, the city shook with mortar fire. Beethoven, whose hearing was severely impaired, suffered both the stress of living under attack and constant painful assaults on his ears. Taking refuge in the basement of his house with pillows wrapped around his ears to preserve what little of his hearing he had left, the master composed a work whose majesty, serenity and nobility has uplifted humanity for centuries – his Emperor Concerto.

The finest instance from science must surely be Stephen Hawking, who surmounted the limitations of his grievous physical condition to attain ground-breaking discoveries in physics and cosmology. But what a tragedy for both science and philosophy that Hawking, the exemplar of the power of consciousness, had no truck with such things as philosophy and consciousness and seemed to attribute all his achievements to his material brain. This attitude was epitomised in his pronouncement: ‘Philosophy is dead’. Why? Because it ‘has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.’ So it is scientists, not philosophers, who are now ‘the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge’. We contend that while the second part of Hawking’s dictum is absolutely correct, the first part is mistaken.

Philosophy, being the ‘love of wisdom’ and, as some would say in addition, the ‘wisdom of love’ can never be ‘dead’ unless the dead hand of scientific materialism (scientism) somehow manages to extinguish both love and wisdom. Whereas the various interpretations of philosophy have indeed ‘kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics’, the philosophical and consciousness-related implications of quantum physics being a prime example, philosophy per sephilosophia perennis, theosophia, gupta vidya – is eternal and constitutes the root and bedrock of all that IS.

Why is it that we are witnessing ‘modern developments in science, particularly physics’? For the simple reason that science, meaning here, let us be clear, mainstream science, is restricted solely to the physical plane. It is this ‘science’ (albeit rather like a body without a head) that has been triumphant in understanding the material universe and applying the laws of nature in the development of new technologies for misuse or humanity’s benefit. We are grateful to it, but to see the full import of the facts it so expertly reveals, we need to re-unite body with head. Re-unite in the sense that in classical antiquity, there was no separation between the two and indeed the head directed the body and gave meaning to it. 

It seems, then, that the answer lies not in the illusory phenomena of the seen world, but in the reality of the unseen world, its noumenon. Let the verdict come from enlightened science itself, then from occult science.

‘Materialism in its literal sense is long since dead’, declared the English physicist, mathematician, Astronomer Royal, and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge, Sir Arthur Eddington OM FRS. ‘It is […] belief in the universal dominance of scientific law which is nowadays generally meant by materialism.’ Moreover, ‘Matter and all else that is in the physical world have been reduced to a shadowy symbolism’. ‘The scientific answer’, however, ‘is relevant so far as concerns the sense-impressions […]. For the rest the human spirit must turn to the unseen world to which it itself belongs’.

Turning to the role of the ‘unseen world’, many decades before the advent of relativity and quantum physics, H. P. Blavatsky, the principal founder of The Theosophical Society wrote: ‘ “Mystery is the fatality of science.” Official science is surrounded on every side and hedged in by unapproachable, forever impenetrable mysteries. And why? Simply because physical science is self-doomed to a squirrel-like progress around a wheel of matter limited by our five senses [emphasis added]’.

And applying this reasoning to the enquiry into the nature of consciousness and mind, Blavatsky says, ‘Scalpels and microscopes may solve the mystery of the material parts of the shell of man [the physical body and brain]: they can never cut a window into his soul to open the smallest vista on any of the wider horizons of being’.

In summary, science is a series of approximations to the truth, the truth investigated by science is relative and not absolute and its theories are ever liable to change. Hence, there must, and always will be new developments in science because, ‘Nature behaving in actu [in actuality] ever esoterically [the noumena – the unseen causes that underlie outward phenomena], and being, as the Kabbalists say, in abscondito [fugitive, or absconding], can only be judged by the profane through her appearance, and that appearance is always deceitful on the physical plane’, a truth realized by Albert Einstein in terms suggestive of relativity theory, 

‘I think we often draw a distinction between what is true and what is really true. A statement which does not profess to deal with anything except appearances may be true; a statement which is not only true but deals with the realities beneath the appearances is really true. [All italics in original.]

We can only know the relative truth; the Real Truth is known only to the Universal Observer’.  

1. Rephrased from Moti Mizrahi, ‘Why not scientism?’ Aeon Media, ed. Sam Dresser, 11 May 2023 <Science is not the only form of knowledge but it is the best | Aeon Essays> accessed 13 May 2023

2. Arthur Stanley Eddington, Swarthmore Lecture at Friends’ House, London, in Science and the Unseen World (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1929), 50–1

3. —— op. cit., 33.

4. —— op. cit., 43.

5. The Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky, compiled Boris de Zirkoff, Vol. XII, 1st ed., The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras, India, 1980, ‘Kosmic Mind’,

6. —— op. cit., Vol. VIII, 1st ed., 1960, ‘The Science of Life’, 241

7. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, ed, Boris de Zirkoff, The Theosophical Publishing House, First Quest Edition, 1993, Vol, 1, ‘Gods, Monads, and Atoms’, 610

8. Quoted in G. R. Jain, Cosmology Old and New (New Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith Publication, 1991), xxvi–xxvii.