TOLSTOY ABOUT SCIENCE
By Roza Riaikkenen
When Leo Tolstoy was in his 50s, he asked himself a question: “Does my life have a meaning which wouldn’t be annihilated by inevitable death?” As the author stated in his non-fiction work A Confession, he couldn’t imagine his further life without answering to this question and knowing the meaning of his life. So, he started searching for the answer in human knowledge represented by different sciences.
When exploring the sciences, Leo Tolstoy applied the very essence of his understanding of everything, as he was used to do in any of his searches for truth. In his understanding, science has to lead us to the exact knowledge from the depth of the very source of life, and not just make approximate suppositions and speculations about its subject.
According to Tolstoy, though “the experimental sciences”, i.e. the exact and natural sciences, give us exact answers to their specific questions, but they don’t even ask the question about the meaning of life – this is not their sphere of knowledge. He could only state, from the conclusions of these sciences, that “you are what you call your life; you are a temporary and accidental cohesion of particles.” (L.Tolstoy, A Confession). Consciousness is an accidentally appearing function of these particles – with this understanding, how can we find any meaning in life?
“The abstract sciences” - philosophy and other humanitarian sciences – are dealing with questions about life, but after studying the works of some of the philosophers, his contemporaries, Tolstoy came to the conclusion that they also didn’t see any meaning in human life. He was especially unhappy with Schopenhauer’s philosophy of will, where he couldn’t probably find any love or good for which he sought.
While looking for the answer to his questions in scientific works of other researchers, Tolstoy himself explored life and its operative laws through his writing. In War and Peace, he analysed the events of history and searched for the initial causes of these events. As a result, he came to the conclusion that history in common is going on uninterrupted and everything in the world is interconnected. From there, his idea that everything happening isn’t accidental and has its meaning, found its confirmation.
Tolstoy states that “we are able to learn from that what we see in the manifestations of people’s existence in history; we can also learn when studying the laws of the animal self of human and other living beings; and we receive knowledge from our studies of the laws which define the condition of any substance.” He finds that there is an infinite multitude of learning subjects available, but to come to the understanding of the meaning of human life through these subjects, we need the foundation – the understanding of life itself, from which we could choose our subjects.
Tolstoy regarded the science he knew as being based on a false foundation. It (science) proceeds from the statement that we can explore in detail the outward world of material substance which we observe, applying different instruments, and think that we already know everything about life in common and human life specifically. In reality this is not so, and in this way we cannot find the answer about the meaning of life. Even more, when we, while studying different natural processes, come to the phenomena of real life, then we stop in astonishment and say: “This is a secret, and nobody knows it.”
We can study human brain, but we don’t know how it develops consciousness that is capable of understanding itself. We don’t know a lot of other things, and we are not in hurry to understand them, while we once received the Darwinian Theory which had explained everything in its way and freed us from any further efforts.
So, does the science which would find the meaning in consciousness and life of a human being exist? Tolstoy tells us that in reality humanity never lived without science as its highest wisdom, as its leading thread. “From the very beginning of humanity’s existence, always, all the peoples had their teachers who composed science in its closest to a man meaning: the science about that what a man needs to know most. This science ever had as its subject the knowledge about the purpose and therefore the real good of every man and of all the people. This science served as a leading thread for the appreciation of any other knowledge.”
In such a way Tolstoy spoke about the science of Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Socrates, Christ and other sages who taught people about the purpose and good for a human being. When scrutinising their teachings, Tolstoy discovered that all of them had the same foundation. Human consciousness was the beginning and simultaneously the instrument of awareness in any of these teachings.
“From the very dawn of human existence, some great thinkers appeared in their environment; the thinkers whose mind and conscience asked themselves questions about the purpose and good, and not only for me, but for any human being. What does the power, which has brought me to existence and is my leading force, want from me and from any human being? What should I do to satisfy the inherent requirements of my personal and common good? They used to ask themselves: I am the whole and a particle of something boundless and infinite. What are my relationships with other similar particles – the people - and with the whole – the world?
And from the voice of their conscience, and from their wisdom, and from the consideration of what they were told by other people, ancient and contemporary, who asked themselves the same questions, these great teachers used to take the conclusions for their teachings, simple, clear, understandable to anyone and always executable.” (L.Tolstoy, What should we do?)
But some time ago, science which had designed a multitude of instruments for the exploration of the material world, started believing that exploration of the material world is the only basis for the work of consciousness. Science formed its schools and structures and produced its elite. These schools dictate that what science can or cannot investigate and in such a way are narrowing science’s possibilities. Outsiders with their new and radical ideas are not welcomed or allowed to enter the inner circle of scientific elite. Some theories of this inner circle have monopolised the directions of scientific research for decades and even centuries.
Tolstoy predicted that science, while it is exploring the material world, would come to the minuscule particles of substance and finally to “nothing” or almost “nothing”, where it, science, would find nothing. It came true, but in a slightly different way. Now we can see from the works of quantum mechanics that this science came to the minuscule particles, which turned to be also waves; that electrons started to disappear in space and appear seemingly from nowhere. Physicists couldn’t explain all the phenomena of the micro world and invented the word “strangeness”. Any new hypotheses of brilliant physicists like Bohr or Rutherford couldn’t explain everything to the end, but though eliminating one kind of “strangeness”, simultaneously produced another one.
The micro particles obviously don’t fit into the limited three dimensional space, nor are they compatible with our usual understanding of time. They require us to expand our view of the quantity of dimensions and to change our understanding of time. The research of their behaviour leads us to the idea of the wave, or vibration, origin of matter. It is not accidental that Schrödinger’s formula, which mathematically describes a wave, can be applied to describe as the processes of the micro world as the astrophysical processes, and even to describe the shape of a shell.
From the wave nature of micro particles of which all the matter consists we can come across to the processes of consciousness which is using the waves of thoughts for its work; from there we can come to understand the primary role of consciousness and creation by thought, which is the essence of spiritual awareness about the origin of the world.
Physicians like F.Capra and A.Goswami, who haven’t found any satisfactory explanation for some of the quantum physics phenomena within the boundaries of the traditional science, try to find these explanations in the Oriental spiritual teachings – Tao and Hinduism. Also, we have the example of Albert Einstein who used to scrutinize the esoteric works by H. Blavatsky so intensely that he almost destroyed his volumes of the Secret Doctrine and had to buy new books!
The ancient and eternal wisdom which understands consciousness as the basis of life, according to Tolstoy, makes the best foundation for any scientific research. He discovered that if we wish to find the true answer to our question about the meaning of life, we have to start from our own consciousness, i.e. “to understand ourselves”. Our consciousness is primary, boundless and eternal. It is connected with all the other consciousnesses in the world. It is part of the boundless creating universal consciousness, and simultaneously this consciousness itself. It makes, through human conscience and creative mind, that chronologically indestructible meaning of the person’s life, which can be defined as working for the common good. For this purpose, consciousness applies human personality and physical body as an instrument of cognition and a working tool.