Chapter 2: The Attitude of a Disciple
Now science has understood that there will always be ignorance. No matter how much we may know, the unknown will always be all around us. The distance between us and ignorance will always remain the same, it will never change. First, if I don’t know what water is, then ignorance about water is surrounding me. But then, if I discover what water is and that problem is solved, ignorance about hydrogen and oxygen will surround me. When I have known about that, then ignorance about the electron will surround me. And when tomorrow the electron is also known, then ignorance about what is left behind that will surround me. It is an infinite regression.
So in this effort to know, one way is to find out by dividing. But after dividing, something will always be left that is still unknown. Whenever we divide, something will always be left behind.
One more interesting thing is that at first there was ignorance about one thing, water, and then when we analyzed it, it became ignorance about two things, hydrogen and oxygen. The ignorance about one thing appeared to be receding back one step, but it has also grown one step more. Before we were ignorant about only one thing, and now we don’t know about two things. In one sense, the process of dividing seems to be destroying our ignorance, but in another sense it seems to be increasing it.
It is interesting that the more science knows, the more our ignorance grows. In the past scientists used to speak of five elements, so they were ignorant about only five elements. Now science speaks of one hundred and eight elements, so the ignorance is now about one hundred and eight elements. By dividing and analyzing we have turned five into one hundred and eight, and now we are ignorant about one hundred and eight. And when we analyze one hundred and eight they will become one thousand! Scientists have even started to ask if we are reducing our ignorance, or increasing it. Through the process of dividing, ignorance seems to shrink, but at the same time it also seems to grow.
And it is interesting to note that never before has man known as much as he knows today, but also, never before has he felt as ignorant as he feels today. If we were to have asked a scientist a century ago, he would have said very confidently, “I know this.” The scientist of one hundred years ago was confident that in a hundred years all ignorance would disappear from the world. If you ask a scientist today, he has no certainty at all that ignorance will ever disappear. Now, he is not even certain when he says, “I know it.” He does not believe this to be true because one more thing has become clear to him: all certainties will be shattered in a few years’ time. Today, Newton is considered ignorant, and the bricks of Einstein’s discoveries have already started to crumble.
Today, scientists cannot write a big volume on science because by the time that big volume is completed, many of the basic foundations of science will have already changed. What seemed to be knowledge yesterday has become ignorance today. And knowledge goes on being divided into so many different branches.