This book is the result of thinking for many years about the apparent contradictions between what is accepted as scientific knowledge and various forms of spiritual teaching. These include the "anthroposophy" of Rudolf Steiner, to which I shall refer fairly frequently in the book. These contradictions have preoccupied me since late childhood. Some scientific colleagues are adherents of spiritual movements; they often appear to me to have split their activities and perhaps their personalities in two, without much connection existing between the two halves. The problem is that modern science is based on materialistic assumptions; it supposes that the whole Universe is, in the last instance, explainable by the laws of physics. Such laws are "blind", not requiring any conscious participation. Human beings are then considered to be only very complicated machines. On the other hand, many kinds of spiritual teachings exist. Most religions speak about God or about gods who rule over the world. The existence of non-material components of the Universe like souls, spirits and non-material places that humans can inhabit after death is emphasized in spiritual conceptions, and spiritual development through meditation is sometimes recommended.
Usually only the results of materialistic science based on apparently rigorous methods are considered in the present-day world to be "true", although they seem in many ways to be inhuman, while spiritual ideas, often taught in a dogmatic way, are thought to be mere superstition. Indeed one can argue that differences in religion and religious dogma have in many situations been good excuses for violence and massacres.
It should be emphasized that among spiritual teachers Rudolf Steiner in particular spoke of paths of human development leading to the ability to obtain rigorous scientific knowledge of spiritual truths including, for example, those concerning the spiritual evolution of the Universe and of human beings. This characteristic is certainly a good reason for paying special attention to him. In spite of this side to his teachings, it is still quite difficult to see the connection between what he taught and official science.
The question then arises: is another sort of science possible which does not eliminate the soul and spirit? In this book I look at various basic assumptions of the scientific methods as presently practiced and how they might be changed so as to make another kind of science possible. It now appears clear to me that especially ideas about consciousness, the existence of separate conscious beings and the soul need to be integrated into science; it is not sufficient, as is sometimes done, to make some sort of unorthodox physics if it remains "soulless". In fact, within what is present-day official science it is possible to see that certain great discoveries of the twentieth century can be understood in a different way than as is usual among most scientists. That way, involving the presence of conscious beings with certain soul qualities, is described in this book, as well as why present day physics has something "inhuman" in it. In this work I have been inspired by some of Rudolf Steiner's basic ideas; however, I propose a path for the reader which does not require prior acceptance of the statements made by him or by any other spiritual teacher.
Problems involving human society are also discussed, as they are not completely unconnected with science. I was to some extent also inspired in my approach by activities in political movements of the extreme left in the years following 1968. These activities led me to eventually clearly see the importance of social relations, not only between human beings, but also those involving other types of conscious beings.
I have tried to be as non-technical as possible, only assuming that readers have a certain basic culture and know a little elementary science. The book should therefore be readable by scientists and non-scientists alike. There are very few mathematical expressions. Similarly, the reader does not need to know very much in advance about the teachings of spiritual movements. However, I do expect that he or she be able to think through the various arguments.
Professionally I am an astrophysicist working at the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS). In my normal research I study certain types of peculiar stars, such as novae (which have violent explosions), as well as what are called symbiotic stars (each of which contains two stars interacting strongly with each other) and other stars which seem to be surrounded by disks. These objects exhibit many fascinating phenomena and properties not always easy to understand. It is for this reason that they have excited my interest.
I must here give acknowledgement to my parents, from whom I heard about Rudolf Steiner's teachings when I was a child, and especially to my father, Walter Friedjung. Though largely self-taught, he was able to study the spiritual aspects behind mathematics. Part of the manuscript of a book he wrote was published in German in 1968 (Vom Symbolgehalt der Zahl, Europa Verlag, Vienna, Austria). It was through my father that I became interested in science and concerned about how to relate science to spiritual teachings. When I was a teenager I looked for phenomena in astronomy which then appeared to me to be difficult to understand in the framework of official conceptions. Following the influence of my father, I received a scientific education and eventually started doing research in astrophysics. In addition I must mention that my father correlated numbers and human beings in the latter part of his manuscript. This served as an inspiration and starting point for what I have written in this book about soul qualities and consciousness in the eternal world of pure ideas of mathematics.I wish to thank Daniel Bariaux, who read the manuscript and made many suggestions, Ilunga Mwana Umbela and Irena Semeniuk who, among other things, checked the manuscript for English and typing errors and F.T. Smith for his editorial work. Also E. von Bezold, S. Nordwall, G. Zoeller and J. Zorec for helping to elucidate various points.
To be continued in the next issue of The SouthernCross Reveiw
© 1999 Michal Friedjung
This book may not be archived or reproduced in any way without the express consent of the author.
Michael Friedjung was born in 1940 in England of Austrian refugee parents who had escaped from the Nazis. He was already deeply interested in science at eleven years of age, and uniting science and spirituality eventually became his aim. He studied astronomy, obtaining a Bsc in 1961 and his Phd in 1965. After short stays in South Africa and Canada, he went to France in 1967 on a post-doctoral fellowship and later was appointed to a permanent position at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 1969, where he is now Research Director. After living with the contradictions between official science and spiritual teachings, he began to see solutions to at least some of the problems, which are described in this book.