We are all used to the digits one through nine. One may well ask: is this any less than superstition? Why nine digits? No scientist can explain why nine digits. Why not seven? What’s wrong with seven? Why not three? There are mathematicians – Liebniz was one of them – who got along with three digits. He said: one, two, three is followed by ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen; then twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three. His numbering system was such; he got along very well with it, and he challenged those who disagreed with him to prove him wrong. He questioned the need for nine digits.
Later on, Einstein said that even three digits are also unnecessary, that one can even get along with two; it will be difficult with only one digit, but one can manage with two. That there should be nine digits in mathematics is a scientific superstition. But the mathematician is not ready to give up either. He says, “How can you work with less than nine digits?” So this is just a belief too; it has no more significance than that.
From a scientific point of view we believe thousands of things to be right, but they are actually superstitions. Scientists are also superstitious, and in this age religious superstitions are fading while scientific superstitions are growing. The difference between the two is simply that if you ask a religious person how he came to know about God he will say it is written in the Gita, and if you ask him how he came to know there are nine digits in arithmetic, he will say it is written in such and such a mathematician’s book.
What is the difference between the two? One kind of answer is found in the Gita, in the Koran; another kind of answer is found in a book of mathematics. What is the difference? This shows we have to understand what is really meant by superstition. Superstition means that which we believe in without having knowledge of it. We accept many things and we reject many things without knowing anything about them – this is superstitious too.
Suppose a man in a village is possessed by a ghost. Educated people will say it is superstition. Let us assume the uneducated people are superstitious; we have already branded them as superstitious because, being uneducated, these simple people are unable to offer any argument in favor of their belief. So all the educated people of the village maintain that the story of this man being possessed by an evil spirit is fake, but they don’t know that at a university like Harvard, in America, there is a department conducting research into ghosts and spirits. The department has even circulated photographs of them. They have no idea that, currently, some highly recognized scientists are deeply involved in research into ghosts and spirits, and have attained so many results that sooner or later they will come to see that it was they, the educated men, who were superstitious, and that those they called superstitious may not have known anything about what they believed in, although what they were saying was right.
If you read Ryon or Oliver Lodge, you will be amazed. Oliver Lodge was a Nobel prize-winning scientist. Throughout his life he was involved in investigating ghosts and spirits. Before his death, he left a document in which he said, “All the truths of science I have discovered are not half as true as ghosts and spirits. But we have no knowledge of them because the superstitious educated do not care to find out about the discoveries happening in the world.”