Building the bridge from the sensory to the trans-sensory
A paper based on the talks and writings of Swami Ranganathananda
Srinivas Venkatram July 2015
I The sensory world On one side we have a world where we live. It is a sensory world – a world where we can touch, feel, experience – in a very physical sense of the word. And it is a world where our external senses and our physically led interactions – whatever they may be – pain, sorrow, suffering, pleasure – determine the reality of our existence. Much of what we call reasoning is the processing of data from the world we know to be real (sensory world) – organizing, making sense, and drawing conclusions from such data. All this is the “real world” that we live in.
II The trans-sensory world There is another world which, let us call, the trans-sensory world. This trans-sensory world is where, we are told, that there is some vast, Unseen Reality. We are told that this Reality shapes existence and life as we know it. We are told that there is a God who is an all pervading Force – directing our lives, and shaping it in multiple ways. Every action is, in a sense, influenced by this Entity or Force. We are also told that the thoughts and words of “prophets” are inspired by that Force, that Unseen. This is the trans-sensory world, of which endless literature is written and countless examples quoted, but remains inaccessible to us as a verifiable, universally livable reality.
The need for a bridge Mankind has long ‘recognized’ or ‘felt’ the need for a bridge between the world of sensory knowledge and this world of transsensory experience. There have been many disciplines which humanity has developed over the ages through which it has attempted to construct this bridge. For example, one of the ways in which humanity has tried to do it is through Art – through symbols, ideas, metaphors, visualizations, and various forms of articulations of inner visions in external ‘sensory’ terms. Mankind has used other ‘creative and intuitive disciplines’ such as music, philosophy, & literature, and through these disciplines it has attempted to transcend the sensory world and find, if I may use the word, a human bridge to this trans-sensory world. One of the hopes of the 21st Century is that there may be a new discipline, a new way, a new method by which this bridge may be constructed, which may be less speculative, less dependent on personal intuitions. The question that comes up is: how are we going to construct this link, and does science or scientific method offer the hope for mankind to build some form of a stable, verifiable bridge – something that is on much stronger foundations than personal intuition? Put another way, any bridge we construct must meet the criteria of good science: it must be impersonal, it must be verifiable by
two or three different entities, and must provide the assurance that the same results will be achieved irrespective of which entity has measured or has undergone that experience. So the discussion really is: can we construct a bridge between the sensory world or reason and analysis based on sensory data, and another world which is based on trans-sensory experience, on a sound and verifiable foundations? This is the great challenge of the 21st Century. In this essay, we explore 5 potential pathways by which this may be accomplished. Each of these pathways are in their infancy, but provide us with extraordinary possibilities for the future.
Pathway 1 The Pathway of Neuroscience: New Instruments The first pathway begins with the question: can the human neural system which can measure, or engage with a trans-sensory reality? Is it possible that the trans-sensory reality is not actually transsensory, but of a finer nature than the gross nature of reality? Can we see the universe as a gradation of gross to subtle, much like the scientists saw the world as a gradation from large objects to microscopic, and beyond microscopic, building blocks? If this were true, then it may be possible therefore to move from the gross to the subtle and to the even more subtle in our understanding of reality.
Can we then, through finer and finer instruments, encounter both the sensory reality and the Trans-sensory Reality? There would not be multiple Realities – one sensory and one trans-sensory – and there would instead be a single Reality – which can be viewed or understood differently based on the grossness or subtleness of the instruments measuring that reality.
Pathway 2 The Pathway of Psychology: Modeling the Mind Here we ask the question – is it possible that the patterns of thinking that emerge in the human mind (which may be born of certain neural patterns at a physical level) are being formed by something deeper, some form of an inner organization of truth, some inner vision of truth? Is it possible that these patterns and structures of thought lead us, step by step, to deeper and deeper structures which represent more closely the reality – until perhaps, as Vedanta promises us, it may be that all structures break down, and one reaches a point where there is no structure beyond all of this. And there is a structureless reality which one may call a non-apprehensible self, which is really that transcendental, trans-sensory reality. This is the second idea we may follow in the 21st century.
Pathway 3 The Architecture of Emotion: Engagement Design
Is it possible that the human mind, and the most powerful force in the human mind which is emotion, be structured, organized, and given direction, so that it ceases to be a river in flood, and becomes instead, like a canal flows. Could emotion cease to be seen either as uncontrolled or suppressed, and be seen instead as well organized flows directed to diverse human outcomes. Could emotion then nurture and feed and fertilize and nourish human thought and mankind in radically new ways? Can emotion itself, lead us to a Trans-sensory Reality? The science of organizing emotion meaningfully is yet unknown. To some extent, the arts and music have attempted to do that. But that will not be enough, as we have pointed out, because emotion is seen as personal, while we need an impersonal structure through which one can see how this entire flow of human emotion can be organized. The answer seems to be lie, as Swami Ranganathananda says, in the science of human energies. The science of human energies is an unknown science. But it is the science, which at a basic level, is concerned with the architecture of human engagement. By reorganizing human engagements meaningfully, we can build in impersonal pathways that direct human energies. This is best understood when we understand that if we see inter-human interactions purely as relationships, then they appear to be built on the foundation of emotion. But if we see them as architectable engagements, then it is no longer about human emotion. It becomes a well-organized and enabling architecture through which members of the human collective can work very differently with each other.
So the entire science of human energy, resources at its highest level â€“ the science and pathways leading to new architectures of human engagement â€“ would become one more great flow through which mankind may find a link between the seonsry and the trans-sensory. Put another way, engagement becomes the link between the sensory and trans-sensory world, not just by being the bridge between one human and another, but also becoming a new lens or framework through which mankind is able to see itself in a different way altogether.
Pathway 4 The Science of Cognition The fourth pathway through which humankind may find this bridge, is through the science of cognition â€“ which may be defined as the architecture and nature of human perception or human attention. The
understanding the very sources of human thought, and by understanding the organization of human consciousness in relation to the specific contexts in which individuals and collectives operate. Put differently, it is the science of seeing how the infinite can be captured in the finite. Meditation may be called an example of this idea of the infinite being seen in the context of the finite. This science is also the foundation of Karma Yoga, which tell us that through the medium of every action, through the medium of
every interaction, an individual should be able to encounter infinitude. This science is also the foundation of Bhakti Yoga, where every encounter with life is seen as a window into a continuous interaction with a trans-personal reality. So many of the spiritual disciplines that many of the worldâ€™s religions have talked about, are all built on this notion of cognition from different points of view. Another way to describe this science is by calling it the science of human attention, where a human being is able to see the infinite in the context of the finite. In other ways, through the finite, you are able to expand every finite experience into a window, into an encounter, with an infinite Reality. So the science of cognition is really at its core, the science of converting every finite human interaction into an encounter with the infinite.
Pathway 5 The Science of Human Possibilities The fifth pathway or bridge between the sensory and transsensory, the design of human personality, is called the science of human possibilities by Swami Ranganathananda. The science of human possibilities attempts to design human personality, through the redesign of human consciousness, through the redesign of human vision of self and of society,
thereby transforming all of society and build a new bridge within each human being. Through this science, we build a bridge, very strangely, not from the finite to the infinite, but from the infinite to the finite! Our task is to build a bridge, within each individual, from the Trans-sensory Core of the individual to the Sensory Form, which is the physical reality we all see. This bridge is built by creating intermediate constructs that help individuals expand themselves and become more than who they are. These intermediate constructs we call ideals â€“ states of being that human beings aspire to become. The science of human possibilities posits that the trans-sensory Reality is within each individual, in the form of Infinite Potential. Each individual thus is both a sensory entity at a physical level, and a trans-sensory entity at a deeper level, and has the ability to make the journey from the sensory to the trans-sensory, by aspiring for, and realizing higher and higher ideals, step-by-step.
Concluding Remarks Through access to these five pathways, mankind, in the 21 st Century, has reached a point of extraordinary inflection. Mankind can, if it chooses to walk on one or more or all five of these pathways, solve the now ancient problem of integrating science and religion by creating brand new bridges between the sensory world we live in, and the trans-sensory Reality that is promised to mankind by mystics, philosophers, and organized religions over several centuries.