The Known, the Unknown, the Unknowable

28th December 1882 is the birthday of the famous astronomer and physicist Arthur Eddington. He predicted the processes of nuclear fusion in stars in 1920 speculating that the source of stellar energy was the fusion of hydrogen into helium according to Einstein’s equation E = mc^2. His discovery was extraordinary since at that time fusion, thermonuclear energy, and the fact that stars are largely composed of hydrogen had not yet been discovered.

The Eddington Limit, the natural limit to the Luminosity of stars, is named in his honour. There is a lunar crater and an asteroid named after him too! He is also credited with formulating the Eddington Number, which is a measure of a cyclist’s long-distance riding achievements

Osho has spoken on Eddington in His discourses. Osho says Eddington has written in his autobiography that “When I started my career as a scientist, I used to think that the world consisted of things, but as I grow old, I am becoming more and more aware that the world does not consist of things but of thoughts.” Osho says Only a mind like Eddington or Einstein can have this glimpse. Ordinary scientists can never reach to this stage. Reality is far more mysterious than you can weigh, measure, than you can experiment with. Reality is not only objective but also subjective. Reality is not only content but also consciousness. Science is coming to a great understanding out of its failure to demystify existence…This is good news!

Osho say….

[A sannyasin studying acupuncture, said that he was a little dubious about the value of what he was doing… ]

Just these weeks you spend here will create much. It will give you more confidence and centering. And everybody hesitates in the beginning. It is good… only fools don’t hesitate. You are moving in a very delicate world. When you touch anybody’s body or you work with needles, you are working on God. One has to be very respectful, very hesitant. One has to work not out of knowledge but out of love. Knowledge is never adequate, is not enough, mm?

So feel for the person. And always feel inadequate, because knowledge is limited, and the other person is an entire world, almost infinite.

Man is never going to know man totally — that’s impossible. Once you have known something totally, it is exhausted, already dead — has become an object. And man is not an object. People can see you but they never see you. Just a part, the visual part — a very small part, almost negligible — they see. They touch you but they never touch you. They touch only the periphery, and you are there somewhere deep in the centre where nobody enters except love. Man is a mystery… and is going to remain a mystery forever.

It is not something accidental that man is a mystery. Mystery is his very being.

If it were accidental then someday the mystery would dissolve; we would come to know. But the very thinking that one day man will be known is sacrilegious. That means man disappears; he has become an object like a table or a chair or a house. You have known him. In knowing him, he disappears; then he is no more. He is reduced to an object. Impossible! It is not going to happen — ever. Whatsoever science goes on doing, it is bound to be a failure. And now

even scientists are feeling the inadequacy of knowledge. Leaving man aside, even matter has defeated them. Now they are not as certain as they used to be hundreds of years ago, or even thirty years ago. Now matter is a mystery again. We are back into the poet’s world, and physicists talk as if they are poets or mystics.

Eddington has said that when he started working as a scientist, he used to think that someday or other, matter will be known absolutely. In those days, science used to divide the whole world into two compartments: the known and the unknown. The known — that which we have known; and the unknown —  that which we are going to know … but nothing unknowable. But in the end, when he was dying, Eddington said, ‘Now I feel totally differently. After a whole life’s effort of coming closer and closer to knowing, I have come closer and closer to more and more ignorance. Now matter looks more like thought than like a thing.’ With Eddington’s assertion, physics died. Since then, physicists have never been certain again.

Then Einstein came, and things started disappearing more and more.

[The sannyasin says: Some western scientists have tried to do the same thing with acupuncture as with everything else.]

They will do it with everything. They will do it with everything because they have a certain attitude about life and they want to look at life through that attitude. They have done that to acupuncture… they are doing that even to meditation. They are trying to make it an object, trying to observe it from the outside… not tasting it from the inside. That is the whole scientific dilemma — that science tries to see from the outside, and believes only whatsoever can be known from the outside. She is still afraid of the inside statement; not yet trusting the inside statement. But scientists will have to come to realize that. More and more limitations of their methodology will be revealed. More and more they will come against walls which they cannot penetrate.

Science is doomed to be a failure. When I say that, I don’t mean that science is not going to be useful. It has been useful, it will be useful, but it cannot be ultimate. That dream is shattered. Religion is, and is going to remain, the ultimate, because it accepts a different category — of the unknowable.

Man is not the unknown. He’s all three: known, unknown, and unknowable. And the real essence remains the third — the unknowable. Whatsoever you do, it will elude your grasp… you will not be able to grab it. And the more you try, the more you will find that it has slipped out of the hands. That’s the mystery … and that’s the beauty. That’s the grandeur, the splendour.

So be hesitant; don’t be worried about that. That’s good. It shows that you respect the fact that you are moving on sacred ground. When you touch another’s body you are almost entering the temple of God. The body is the temple of God. So first pray and then move, mm?


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Darshan diary: Get Out of Your Own Way
Chapter title: None
Chapter #2
8 April 1976 pm in Chuang Tzu Auditorium


Osho has spoken on scientists like Aristotle, Chamberlain, Copernicus, Darwin, Descartes, Eddington, Edison, Einstein, Euclid, Galileo, Leibnitz, Kepler, Newton, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Ramanujan, Rutherford and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. What Is, Is, What Ain’t, Ain’t
  2. One Seed Makes the Whole Earth Green
  3. Sufis: People on the Path Vol.1-2
  4. The Sun Rises in the Evening
  5. The Empty Boat
  6. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  7. Beyond Psychology
  8. Zarathustra, the laughing prophet
  9. From Personality to Individuality
  10. From Ignorance to Innocence
  11. Beyond Enlightenment
  12. The Golden Future
  13. Philosophia Perennis, Vol 1, 2
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