This gate deals with education regarding the Indic inner arts and sciences (Sanskrit adhyatma-vidya). It is the point of entry for those interested in Indic and cross-cultural philosophy, epistemology, ethics, linguistics, psychology and mind science, spirituality, meditation, yoga, and other models for and techniques of personal transformation.
There is not only one tradition of Indic inner science; rather there are many varied and diverse disciplines and sub-disciplines of Indic inner science, usually in dialogue with each other over many regions, languages, and centuries, sometimes complementing and just as often competing with each other. Moreover, the diverse Indic understandings of “personal” identity and transformation (the proper purview of the inner sciences) interrelate in extremely complex ways with equally diverse Indic “social” theories (sometimes mistakenly assumed not to exist by contemporary scholars). This interrelationship between Indic inner sciences and Indic social, political, and environmental sciences is an area in critical need of further exploration.
What is inner science?
We have found it useful to subdivide the Indic inner sciences into the following three broad categories:
As an inner science, the field of ethics involves not so much the formulation of normative prescriptions and proscriptions as it does a careful analysis of the way in which an individual’s state of mind, motivations, and so forth can affect his perceptions, experiences, and interpretations of himself and the world. It also includes many practical techniques for deconditioning and reconditioning the mind/body, for systematically cultivating desired states or attitudes such as patience, love, compassion, a sense of universal responsibility, and so forth.
WORLD VIEW (THEORY)
The second broad category, world view (theory), includes many of the critical and analytical branches of philosophy; epistemology; philosophies of language; theories and models of consciousness and cognition; and the like.
The third broad category, technology (practice), includes advanced techniques for the cultivation of transformative insight (identity and reality therapies); coarse physical yogas; yogas of subtle states; meditative technologies; creative imagination techniques; yogas of bliss and beauty; and so forth.
These Indic inner sciences comprise a range of theoretical and practical disciplines which are “scientific” in the sense that (1) they are based on empirical observation and experimentation, and (2) their findings are interpreted through heuristic yet rational models subject to public verification, scrutiny, debate, and revision. Contrary to prevalent stereotypes which dismiss such inner sciences as “merely subjective,” these “inner” sciences are frequently more scientifically rigorous than their “outer” counterparts for the simple reason that the latter, which purport to explore external “objective” realities, are often based upon the naïve assumption that the perceptual data, as captured by the sense organs and organized in the brain, accurately correspond to the “reality” they allegedly represent. As physicist and philosopher Piet Hut has written:
Already, quantum mechanics has shown us that a purely objective ontology of the world is far more problematic than classical mechanics assumed. How a subject, human or machine, measures an object determines in a fundamental way what the outcome can be. Reality seems to reside as an unformed mixture of actuality and potentiality, until a measurement forces a momentary semblance of actuality to appear. Shocking as this would be for a nineteenth-century physicist, who knows what further developments lie in wait, in the next thousand years? As a specific guess, I anticipate that first-person felt experience and third-person description will both become part of an extended form of scientific method, in a framework that will transcend the current dichotomy.
From a very early date the Indic empiricists did in fact problematize this dichotomy. They systematically addressed it by developing increasingly sophisticated perceptual models for sensory and cognitive faculties (our final data gathering instruments), increasingly sophisticated techniques for sharpening these faculties or instruments well beyond their “normal” capacities, and — always in conjunction with these instrumental developments — increasingly sophisticated epistemological methodologies for analyzing the mutually interdependent relationship between the measured and the measurer, between perception and conception.
The paradigms underlying these Indic sciences present challenges and alternatives to the materialistic metaphysics underlying contemporary physical and biological sciences. While these modern sciences have produced many impressive results, their dogmatic adherence to a materialist paradigm has severely restrained their ability to really understand or explain especially the innumerable modalities of consciousness. Biology, the dominant science informing the fields of health, physiology, and consciousness studies, has been particularly limited in this regard. Furthermore, though the impact of the Indic inner sciences has perhaps been most discernable on contemporary cognitive sciences, this impact has been greatly minimized through cognitive scientists’ tendency to veer away from the human subjectivity in the attempt to reduce all “mental” phenomena to material processes. It is not that we should dismiss the possible value of materialistic models — indeed, contrary to popular conception, many Indic scientific disciplines have included materialistic reduction as one possible alternative among many, a paradigm that could be adopted in certain circumstances if helpful toward a specific end. However, these same Indic sciences have also developed many alternative, non-materialistic paradigms that have often proven far more effective at describing and explaining the multitude of phenomena (perceptions, conceptions, states of awareness, emotions, etc.) that take place within or as “consciousness.” Thus, “consciousness studies” is but one important area in which Indic inner sciences can make a very valuable contribution.
These Indic disciplines have given rise to detailed analyses of the mind and mental states, demonstrating that what is often simply treated as “consciousness” is in fact a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, actually consisting of multiple levels of consciousnesses. Likewise, they have given rise to models of the “body” that entail far more than the coarse, material form, models that describe subtle and extremely subtle levels of physiology as well. Furthermore, the psycho-physical models thus developed have provided detailed explanations for how these varying levels of mind and body interact in complex ways, how they function not as dualistically separate phenomena but more as modalities or reflexes of each other (somewhat akin to how matter and energy are conceived in modern physics). Moreover, these models have not been merely descriptive in nature; they have also served to provide diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive information. Thus, they have given rise to thought experiments designed to remove negative emotions and negative thought and/or behavioral patterns, as well as to yogic techniques designed to achieve profound mental and physical transformations, from states of deep relaxation and physical well-being to more deep states of mental clarity, focus, perfect concentration, heightened cognitive powers, and so forth.
In recent years, outer scientific research of advanced yogis has begun to develop descriptive and explanatory models to bridge the coarse physical to subtler aspects (mental/emotional/spiritual) of the person. While this research began with concerns for gross physical health, it grew to incorporate concerns for “stress reduction” and then for more advanced “autogenic training,” revealing new insights about the relationship between the volitional and autonomic levels of human functioning.
There are a great many developmental yogic systems (in addition to the more well-known varieties of hatha and kundalini). In varying ways, they each situate the body/mind within a highly sophisticated evolutionary context in which yogic processes are understood to activate and “mature” latent potentials within the body/mind, potentials which are themselves innate developmental processes. For such reasons, while yogic practices certainly are a type of “technology” (sometimes involving external, even coercive, “techniques”), it is important also to understand such yogic practices as expressions of these latent, innate body/mind processes.
“Ethics” also occupies an essential role in all yoga systems. Ethics is foundational to the healthy functioning of the body, breath, emotions, and consciousness. Yogic models thus convey a continuity of “the ethical” with these constitutive aspects of the individual (situated in his or her cultural and historical context), a continuity that represents the individual’s harmonious functioning of his or her parts or subsystems with one another as well as with greater wholes or macro-systems. Such continuity of the ethical with the “purely physical” appears in the moral tenor of contemporary ecological concerns, concerns that also link the supposed “amorality” of nature systems to discernable principles of harmony and inter-dependency. Here, too, Indic inner sciences are reflected in numerous millennia-old “outer” science, “green,” or sustainable community technologies.
Over many centuries, primarily through the spread of Buddhism (India’s greatest global export), these Indian traditions were transmitted to and became present at the vital core of most Asian civilizations, and thus they have a long and well-documented track record throughout Asia. They have exerted traceable influence on the shaping of those peoples, especially in the character formation of their leading individuals. Modern science is just beginning the process of re-discovering, understanding, and re-validating many of the inner science claims. Some modern scientists have only recently begun to treat living inner scientists as colleagues with a valid theory and method of their own, and to date only a very small percentage of the enormous historical record of these traditions preserved in thousands of theoretical and practical texts has yet been translated into any European language. Given their resonance with modern physics, and given that they have provided the underpinnings of much of modern consciousness theory, we should not downplay the possible future contributions or breakthroughs that the inner sciences might provide in our scientific quest to understand reality. And we cannot underestimate the immense practical applications of even modest improvements in our ability to control and develop the human being’s mental, emotional, and physical powers. The resources spent to explore star systems, genetic structures, and the core energies of the material world need to be complemented by reasonable investments to explore the core patterns, energies, and subtle essences of the inner world. We need to access the resources of these traditions and (where we deem it useful) apply their knowledge to modern education and adapt our modern society and environment to that knowledge. History and opportunity urge us to move decisively.
Scholarly Orientation and Methodology
Our contemporary higher educational system has already produced at great cost a small corps of outstanding inner science scholars who, in spite of lack of mainstream recognition of their field, now hold important positions in major universities. These scholars are as highly trained in their own field as physical scientists are in theirs. They have mastered difficult Asian languages, most notably Sanskrit and Tibetan, and are deeply involved in the exploration of the epistemological challenges and psychological dimensions of “inner space” enjoined by inner science studies, and are committed to seeing that such new knowledge and inner powers be used for the good of all.
Many of these scholars are individually challenging outmoded paradigms and methodologies, restrictive stereotypes, and the “received wisdom” regarding Indic “religions.” The Infinity Foundation (IF) and the Second Renaissance Institute (SRI) have sought to bring into association such isolated individuals to create a critical mass that can have a major impact on the future not only of Indic scholarship, but also of all contemporary academic disciplines and indeed global culture as a whole. We have now nurtured a core working group which will form the basis for further, ongoing collaborative research, publications, conferences, and so forth.
As we have expanded our community of inner science scholars we have developed an awareness of the types of characteristics which seem most valuable to our educational mission. Our current (and future) inner science scholars have not only each mastered their own particular sub-field of inner science, but — of no less importance — they are also well-trained in contemporary academic disciplines, methodologies, and concerns. Thus, they are well equipped and motivated to bring the inner science disciplines “out of the closet” and into serious, meaningful dialogue with mainstream disciplines from psychology to philosophy, sociology, psychotherapy, and so forth. This will involve a sustained effort and commitment to truly translate (as much as possible) terms, concepts, methodologies, and so forth into each others’ language and idiom.
While no scholar or discipline can be (or often should be) “value neutral,” our scholars are fully committed to academic and scientific standards valuing “objectivity” (variously defined and problematized), self-awareness, critical thinking, full disclosure, and so forth. In conformity with long-standing Indic methodology and tradition regarding such inner sciences, (and entirely contrary to the stereotypes of supposedly “mystical” Indic traditions), personal “experience” (whether dubbed “religious” or not) is not necessarily held to trump public, empirical “perception” (whether dubbed “factual” or “scientific” or otherwise) — rather these two are both seen to be mutually interdependent, each affecting the other and posing (as much as answering) the question of “what is really real?” Thus, the many and varied technologies of the Indic inner sciences, and the vast, meticulously categorized array of “altered” experiences and perceptions to which they give rise, have always been positioned in and interpreted through equally varied and sophisticated systems of epistemology. And thus, public debate over such issues as the nature, interpretation, and verifiability of such experiences is and always has been at the very heart of the Indic inner sciences.
Thus, to be “objective” in our pursuit of the inner sciences means that — while we are each informed by our particular contexts, and while our positions on scholarly issues will certainly have measurable impact on issues in the “real world” — we seek to consciously avoid arguments, stances, methodologies, etc. which are themselves driven by particular, narrow agenda, whether religiously sectarian, politically partisan, or philosophically rhetorical. This spirit of scientific discovery and openness (rather than dogmatic apologetics or polemical rhetoric) is necessary not only to “get at the truth” of the inner sciences, but also to ensure that these sciences are afforded the serious, mainstream scholarly attention they deserve.