There is a common belief that everyone can know everything. It is false. This false dogma was created at the dawn of modern science to take away the privileged position of Catholic priests and emperors. In Roman times, the emperor was said to be in direct communion with the gods. He was most privileged. The priests were a little less privileged than the emperor but more privileged than the common people. Then some bargains were struck and priests got the special privilege of communicating with God while the emperors had the special privilege of exclusive power over the state. The Pope and the Emperor neatly carved up reality into clearly segregated domains that we can call “that world” and “this world”. The segregation is noted in the Bible as: “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”.
The Protestant Reformation took away these special privileges. Everyone could now communicate with God. Priests did not have special privileges to interpret scripture. The spirit of God does not uniquely bless some people. Everyone became a priest equally empowered to interpret the scripture. The emperor was not uniquely empowered to make laws. Every person was empowered to make laws through a democratic franchise. The doctrine of rights—given by God to everyone—was created to formalize this principle. The right to freedom of religion meant that everyone had freedom to interpret the Bible in their own way. The right to freedom of government meant that everyone had the freedom to vote for the laws.
Modern science was created under the umbrella of these ideas of equality. John Locke stated that we were all blank slates at birth, disregarding the fact that some people are born artists, poets, musicians, sportspersons, politicians, or mathematicians. Everyone was either equally evil or equally good at birth. Since there was no life before this one, therefore, there was no question of more or less qualified people. Just as everyone was free to interpret scripture, they were also free to inquire into the nature of reality. The belief in equality has been a tour de force in Western thinking since then. Just saying that one person is less qualified than another is considered offensive. This false dogma has been embodied in the modern education system that teaches every single subject to every child. A musician or artist by birth is not considered educated unless he has learned calculus, mechanics, and evolution.
Since the dogma of equality is false, therefore, it has been disproven over and over through science. But dogmas are evidence-free claims. No amount of evidence against them disproves them. Evidence is tailored to prove the dogma. If this dogma collapsed then it will take away the basis of modern Western society.
In Vedic philosophy, we reject the dogmatic equality of Western thinking. We accept that each person is unique consistent with ordinary experience. Nobody has identical proclivities, abilities, or opportunities. Some people are more capable musicians. Some are not capable of music but deeply interested in music. Some people get the opportunity to hone their abilities and demonstrate them, while others do not.
Thus, we construct experience through the combination of ability, proclivity, and opportunity. If you see a musician perform on stage, it is because—(a) he is capable, (b) he got the opportunity, and (c) he was inclined to use it. If you went to watch the musical concert, it is because—(a) you are capable of paying for the ticket, (b) you got the opportunity to buy a ticket, and (c) you were inclined to go to the concert.
Ability and proclivity are collectively called guna. Opportunity is called karma. Thus, two words—guna and karma—collectively describe our experiences. I have applied this tripartite model of experience to nearly all essential subjects to (a) disprove the dogma of equality, and (b) explain what is inexplicable under the dogma of equality. Here, I will illustrate the problems with this dogma in another way.
A thermometer cannot measure speed. A speedometer cannot measure temperature. Each instrument is designed to measure one property, which limits the instrument’s ability to measure other properties.
P W Bridgman, a Nobel Laureate, was doing experiments with gas pressures and he found that as the pressures rose, the gauge used for measurement would break down. He would then design a new gauge for higher pressures. But he could not calibrate the higher gauge to the lower gauge because each gauge was not behaving reliably at the extremities of its operational range. Since he was changing gauges, he could not even say that he was measuring the same property. Since his gauges were not calibrated, he could not say if the values determined by these gauges were precise. He coined the term Operationalism which meant that even if objective reality existed, it was unknowable. We can only describe reality with reference to specific instruments we were using to measure it. He came under sharp attack from others, he tried to explain things a little but eventually renounced the effort. He had already won the Nobel Prize.
Our eyes cannot smell. Our noses cannot see. Even if light from an object hits our nose, the nose cannot see color. Similarly, if some molecules of smell hit the eye, the eye cannot smell. Each sense is designed to perceive one kind of property. That design limits the ability to perceive other kinds of properties.
Every mind cannot understand every subject. Some minds are more suited to mathematics. They can perceive a conceptual mental realm of structures, relationships, and ideas. They are often not well-suited to memorize dates, places, names, faces, and events, as required for a historian. A historian’s mind is well-suited for memorization but not for abstract concepts required for mathematics.
At the dawn of modern science, it was assumed that we can either design a single instrument to measure all properties or we can measure all properties simultaneously with multiple instruments. Quantum mechanics disproved this idea with the Uncertainty Principle under which if the position is known precisely then the momentum is infinitely uncertain. But if momentum is known precisely then the position is infinitely uncertain. Neils Bohr coined the term complementarity to describe mutually exclusive pairs of properties. Position and momentum are now like the front and back of a person. You cannot see both at once. You can see one by one, but even then, each time you try to see, you see something different, because both position and momentum are wavefunctions with infinite components and we see only one component on measurement.
The Uncertainty Principle has been proven to experimentally fail in some cases, which is like looking at a person from the side—you can partially see both the front and the back, reducing the uncertainty. The issue is that science has never had a perspective view of reality. If we allow perspectives, then nobody can know the whole truth—after all, they will be like blind men observing a part of the elephant. Hence, uncertainty and complementarity have revived the notions of perspectives on reality although nobody likes to accept that. They cannot abandon the idea of objective reality universally knowable to everyone. If science shows that we are blind men touching the elephant, it will relativize the truth to observers.
There are further problems of quantum collapse which indicate that even if something is knowable it may not be knowable at all times. A particular quantum arrives at one detector, occasionally. Only that detector knows that quantum, not all detectors. Only that detector measures a quantum, occasionally. Other detectors never detect the quantum. No detector measures the quantum consistently.
To understand the quantum problem, we can treat the battery of detectors as our sense perception apparatus. One detector measures heat, another one roughness, another one heaviness, another one form, another one color, and so on. This battery of detectors is one observer measuring reality with his senses. All detections are not simultaneous. They happen one by one. Every observer is not equally inclined toward all sense perceptions. There are different probabilities for different percepts. Despite the probabilities, at some times, we can focus more on one sense perception than another. The things on which we focus become more common at the moment but less common at a later point in time.
Let’s apply this idea to a simple problem of distance measurement. Suppose one of the many detectors is measuring distance. Suppose also that photons arrive at this detector more frequently, just for a short period of time. Their quicker arrival doesn’t violate probabilities if they arrive slower during subsequent intervals. The temporary burst of photons will be interpreted as the greater intensity of light. The Inverse Square Law of light intensity would be invoked to say that what seems brighter is closer. If after some time, the rate of the arrival of photons reduces, then the same Inverse Square Law of light intensity would be reinvoked to say that what seems dimmer is farther. Factually, nothing may be moving. And yet, an illusion of movement can be created by altering the rate of arrival of photons at a detector.
Since all measurements depend on the arrival of some photons, but the arrival rates of photons are not fixed, therefore, no measurement is reliable. The arrival rates can vary from one instrument to another. They can vary from one place to another. They can vary from one time to another. There is no current theory that predicts or explains why, when, how, where, how, or which detector receives a photon.
This problem of photon arrival is exactly the problem of ordinary sense perception. All assumptions of instruments objectifying reality by removing subjects, and all subjects being equally qualified to know everything, have been falsified. The dogma of equality, uniformity, and universality has been falsified empirically. Of course, we did not need science to do that. Any commonsense observation of the world would also tell us that the dogmas of equality, uniformity, and universality are false. But if some people insist on axiomatizing or universalizing such dogmas, then, they can also see their dogmas falsified. Modern science has used 300 years to confirm what every child knows intuitively from birth.
But, as I have noted above, dogmas are evidence-free claims. No amount of evidence can falsify them in the believer’s mind. Dogmas are not blind faith. They are faith against evidence. The believers in the dogmas keep trying to find ways to prove the dogma. The dogma cannot be rejected as long as there is money in the believer’s pocket. He will spend money to search for proof of the dogma until he runs out of money. Thereby, falsehoods are not corrected rationally. They die when the dogmatic run out of money. The false dogma is rejected only as the option of last resort. Until then, money is spent to find the proof, claim that the proof is just around the corner, or motivate people to search for proof of the falsehood.
The problem of measurement is as complicated as the quantum problem—to explain why, when, how, where, how, and which detector receives a photon. The measurement problem is as complicated as the human perception problem—to explain why, when, how, where, how, or which sense or observer receives a photon. The claims of universality, uniformity, and equality are simply false dogmas.
To solve all these problems, we need to understand guna and karma. Everyone cannot digest alcohol. Everyone who can digest alcohol doesn’t want to drink alcohol. Everyone who can digest alcohol and wants to drink alcohol doesn’t have access to alcohol at all places, times, and situations. Everything is constructed from the interaction and combination of ability, proclivity, and opportunity. A capacity to digest alcohol and a proclivity to drink alcohol is called guna. The opportunity to drink alcohol is called karma. When the ability and proclivity to drink alcohol develop, then many other abilities and proclivities die. That is just like a thermometer cannot measure speed and a speedometer cannot measure temperature.
Everyone is not equally capable or inclined to understand everything. That is because understanding is digestion. The samāna prāṇa digests. It operates at the level of the mind just as it operates at the level of the body. The digestive capacity of prāṇa is limited by a person’s guna. Thereby, everyone cannot digest everything. Some people are allergic to some types of food. There is an assimilative prāṇa called vyāna. Sometimes, even if we can understand something, we cannot assimilate it with our existing ideology. Even after understanding it, we excrete it. The power of excretion is also a prāṇa called apāna. If this excretory power is weakened, then undigested or unassimilated ideas linger around in the mind creating an internal conflict within a person. The process of ingesting, digesting, assimilating, and excreting ideas is as complicated as the process of ingesting, digesting, assimilating, and excreting food.
But what happens if someone says that the mind is a blank slate? That everyone is equally capable of knowing everything? That everyone can ingest, digest, assimilate, and excrete everything equally well? Unaware of the working of guna and karma, they will blame everyone other than themselves just like a person who cannot digest spicy food may like to blame the cook for having cooked spicy food. They want spicy food, but they cannot digest spicy food, and hence, they blame the cook who makes spicy food.
There is no fundamental difference between knowledge and food. Knowledge is food for the mind. But everyone cannot digest all types of knowledge, just as they cannot digest all kinds of foods. This is obvious to people who understand how both mind and body are produced from guna and never obvious to anyone who believes in mind-body separation, blank slating the mind, or quantifying the body. They often don’t know that whatever they are quantifying through measurement is suffering from all the problems of sense perception, differences between individual observers, and their prior actions.
This doesn’t mean that the door to knowledge is closed to those who cannot digest it presently. The solution is practice. If we continuously practice, then the ability, proclivity, and opportunity develop, just like a person who cannot digest alcohol can develop that digestive capacity by drinking. He will slowly develop the proclivity to drink. And then he will find the places and times where he can drink. Practice makes a person perfect or imperfect. If we have earlier practiced imperfection then we cannot become perfect overnight. It takes a lot of practice. The process requires enthusiasm, determination, and patience, continuously practicing perfection, abandoning the practice of imperfection, and associating with those who are either perfecting or perfect. The door is open for those who want to walk through it.
But that door is closed the moment we blame the cook rather than our digestive system. This blame assignment has become standard practice for those who have lifelong eaten only one kind of food. They think that since they have never eaten something they could not digest, therefore, they can digest everything. That is the dogma of equality, blank slates, universality, and absence of privileges. It is all false. Everyone is not equal. Rather, almost everyone is conditioned by a different combination of guna. But by practice, we can change our guna. Thereby, everyone is not capable of knowing everything. But by practice, we change our guna, and then we become capable of knowing. There is a path for those who are enthusiastic, patient, and determined. There is no path for those who blame the cook.
The preliminary step for everyone suffering from the issue of mind-body separation, blank slating the mind, and quantifying the body, is to understand the problems of modern science and get rid of their false dogmas. They are the results of the political history of Christianity and have nothing to do with the truth. Those who endured these histories reacted to them by creating a new set of false dogmas. They think that the former was the lie of religion and the latter is the truth of science. They don’t know that both science and religion are lies, although they won’t die as long as the dogmatic have money.