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Author: Nikhil Ravi

Truth and Beauty

Truth and Beauty

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all      
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
— John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

The notion that there might be a relationship between truth and beauty is not a new one – there is however much that is debated about whether and how these two concepts are related to each other. There is certainly an intrinsic longing to accept the existence of a correlation between the two, and even many notable scientists such as Paul Dirac and Albert Einstein have argued for using aesthetic judgments as a test for how close a scientific theory is to the truth (Paul Dirac, for example, once famously asserted that “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment”) – but a purely rational and scientific justification for this claim seems elusive. Is beauty really a valid criterion for truth? Is there even an objective measure of beauty, or is it purely in the eye of the beholder? What, fundamentally, relates beauty and truth? And if there is such a relation, can we use the notion of beauty to guide us, in some way, towards the truth?

One could probably spend many a page exploring this theme, so I will confine myself to a few brief comments – not so much in hopes of definitively answering these questions, but rather just as some initial thoughts to hopefully spark more discussion.  I shall first approach these questions from the angle of scientific truth claims and theories, and then present some perspectives from the spiritual side that will hopefully help bring these seemingly immiscible ideas together.

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Faith, Conscious Knowledge, and the Practice of Good Deeds

Faith, Conscious Knowledge, and the Practice of Good Deeds

By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge,and second, the practice of good deeds.
— ‘Abdu’l Baha

This was one of the quotes which, as a friend put it, “rocked my world” when I first heard it. Too often do we talk about faith as something opposed to knowledge and science, as involving blind trust in something one can never prove, and as a pursuit both illogical and impractical. This quote, on the other hand, presents a very different concept of faith, my understanding of which I will try and elaborate on here.

Faith and conscious knowledge – a scientific process of discovery

The way I have over time come to understand faith is as a very scientific process of discovery. This, I think is what the first part of the quote alludes to when it talks about conscious knowledge. As we go through life, we acquire knowledge of all kinds. Faith relates to that part of the sum total of our knowledge that we are conscious or aware of.

Now how do we go about acquiring this knowledge? I believe that it has to be through a process based on the scientific method of experimentation and hypothesis testing. This applies to both matters that relate to the physical world and the spiritual. Knowledge of the physical world is developed through what we conventionally call science – and as our scientific hypotheses about the physical world are confirmed by our experiences, we develop faith in our understanding of physical reality.

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