These are comments during 2014-2018 in ascending order (oldest first, newest last). All comments and discussions have now moved to Shabda Forums. Please use the forums for discussion.
From Reason and Faithon
Fascinating read. What I enjoyed the most is the opposition between manipulating the laws of nature and transcending them. That was very inspirational.
From Reason and Faithon
Thank you aria.
We tend to perceive time and space, body and mind as separate things, many times refusing -for practical reasons – to admit that they are connected on a continuum. Our society is built on mass production, avoiding as much as possible the spirit that manifests in everything, even at a molecular level. If we would be scientifically demonstrated that the connection between body and mind is a matter of quantum principles, as the Vedic texts had long since anticipated, I think we would avoid behaving as egotistic individuals. We really are all parts of the same One Whole, and as long as we confine ourselves to part-part relationships without seeing how we all relate to the whole, we will be bound by the laws of effect and consequence, popularly known as karma and hence we’ll have to settle for repeated cycles of suffering. However, if we find our true position in the direct interaction with the whole as you say in Is the Apple Really Red?, then we might just be able to taste the true freedom from the conditioning laws of this universe.
Wow. How interesting. I really think we would be getting into the realm of theology/Christology. For instance, in the context of their work, the terms ‘measurement’ and ‘observation’, are synonyms to physicists. The action of doing so in relation, say, to the double-slit experiment.
Observation, however, entails an act of the Will. So, not only is God, the Designer’s intentionality significant, the term is also significant in terms of the observing scientist. Outside of the context design in nature, however, when has ‘intentionality’ on man’s part, our Will, ever been addressed in physics. What is its nature? Well, it is a gift partaking of God, the Creator’s own nature and attaches to the spirit together with the two other faculties of the soul: ‘memory’ and ‘understanding’.
The Catholic church does not make such pronouncements lightly, and they can be relied upon. As a matter of fact, these can be discerned from passages in scripture. From Our Lady’s Magnificat, we read the following: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my saviour, whereby we can see that, as one would expect form the ghostly morphology, tends to be of a passive nature, the soul, with it three faculties, of an active nature.
It seems the human person is the lynch-pin of everything, QM suggesting that we are each born into, live and die, in a little world of our own, which is, however, seamlessly coordinated with those of our brothers and sisters at the classical level.
The preponderance of especially devout scientists in the roll call of great scientist and paradigm-changers, moreover, suggests that they are optimally geared to their intellectual pursuit by an elision of a spiritual faith-knowledge continuum with a secular knowledge continuum (turning on a switch for instance, without the absolute crtaity that the light will come onl ), both corresponding to time and space, respectively.
What is interesting concerning the respective meanings of the term, ‘faith’ is as much about commitment as belief, which can be quite abstract, even as regards the spiritual s-k continuum: the devil believes and trembles, as James states in his epistle.
The relation between the problems in science and the question of free will are somewhat more profound than how you have described above.
When you are studying the world, and you don’t know (and cannot know) everything in the universe, you have the choice of focusing your attention on limited parts of the world and modeling them in your theory and explanation. This choice is our free will. We cannot attend to everything in the world simultaneously, so choice must exist if we can potentially know everything but cannot know them simultaneously. This choice is simply the attention we pay to certain parts of the world while neglecting others.
Science has commonly supposed that this attention focusing is only a matter of our experience but it makes no difference upon our theories. This is patently false because if you focus upon limited parts of the world, you will also potentially arrive at limited theories about the world – if the universe is not uniform. Limited focus works if the universe is uniform. So, now, the question is whether the universe is uniform – i.e., are all parts of the universe comprising a single type of material entity?
A well known fact about modern science is that the theory that focuses on sub-atomic particles (quantum theory) contradicts the theory that focuses upon macroscopic objects (thermodynamics), which in turn contradicts the theory that focuses upon the cosmos as a whole (general relativity). As you focus attention on different parts of the universe, you not only get different experiences, but also different theories. We cannot reconcile these theories unless we recognize that the big thing is not of the same type as the small thing, and you cannot just scale a physical theory from small to big.
This leads to the paradox of knowledge: if we only focus upon parts of the world, our knowledge will be incomplete; however, we cannot focus upon everything in the universe at once given that our consciousness can only focus upon limited subsets at any time. The solution to this problem requires the existence of something which our consciousness can totally focus upon and yet that something will give us complete knowledge. In other words, you need a part that can represent the whole.
The failure of material knowledge is related to the existence of choices but only because (1) we cannot know the entire universe, (2) the universe is not uniform, and (3) limited knowledge leads to incomplete theories. Complete knowledge requires parts which represent the whole – sort of like the word “universe” inside the universe. This presents a segue into religion, where deities, scriptures, and spiritualists can provide the complete truth, because they are a representation of the whole truth. But, we first need to see the problem of knowledge before see its solution in religion!
I believe the last thing on the minds of NDEers when they experience the sense of ‘knowing all things’, as some of them did, a breakdown of the whys and wherefors by use of the analytical intelligence, would have been far from their mind. Though I do remember the case of an eccentric-seeming pharmacist (or chemist) who, while others were overcome with awe before God, who tends to appear, in large measure at least, as an ineffable, bright, yet soft, light, wondered what the luminosity reading would be on a meter!!!!
Hello, Ashish Dalela
There is too much ‘nitty-gritty’ physics for me in this article (though that would surely be risible to you folk), but I wonder if you and your other readers might be interested in this article below, and perhaps the blog itself – assuming you are not already familiar with it:
Thanks for your comment and pointing me to the blog. I agree. Before science (or computers) can present knowledge of the world they must have the ability in an object to refer to another object, which cannot be explained in current science (since all objects only describe themselves, not other objects). This is a fundamental issue in science concerning all objects, and cannot be a property of emergent or designed complexity.
I have described in other posts how the “knower” of the world is more abstract than the thing it knows, when this knowledge concerns other objects. For instance, your sense of seeing represents the idea of color, which is more abstract than the individual colors like yellow, red, green, etc. We cannot describe the senses of perception unless we can find a material analogue of color, taste, smell, touch, form, sound, etc. which are necessarily more abstract than the objects they perceive.
Even in physical measurements, we can measure the frequency of a light wave but we must describe frequency (as a property) in an abstract manner – i.e., not by referring to a measuring instrument (material object) – because that material object cannot be defined unless all its properties are already defined (and which will include frequency). If we don’t describe frequency in an abstract manner (and refer it back to a measuring instrument) then we are using frequency to define an object which is supposed to define frequency. This is called circular reasoning.
In early empiricism, it was noted that all physical properties are byproducts of objectifying sensations, not byproducts of abstracting objects. That means your senses must be prior to the objects. Similarly, the mind is prior to senses, because you can imagine or think, even when you cannot sense (all creativity is just ideas, before they become sensations). In that sense, you can reduce the objects to sensations, the sensations to ideas, and so forth, but you cannot invert the process of reduction.
What people call near-death experiences are essentially mind and senses getting detached from the body – quite like you can understand color and beauty even when you cannot point to a particular shade of green or a particular kind of beautiful object. If beauty and color were always derived from objects, then you could never detach these ideas from the objects themselves; they could not have an independent existence. So, near-death experience is evidence that color and beauty can be independent of specific shades or color, or particular forms of beauty.
To understand near-death experience, we must first find a theoretical model in science in which some entities are more abstract than others. I frequently discuss this theoretical model in books and posts.
Thank you for your interesting reply, Ashish Dalesha. It is a theme often taken up on that Uncommon Descent blog on a less dedicated and discursive level..They often use the term ‘qualia’ in that context.
Astonishing how crass scientists can be, isn’t it? Well, the ones I mean are partisans of scientism rather than of science. I’m thinking of the dolts who equate the physical size of a brain with its intellectual capacity!
I believe we tend to diverge in that I believe that per the Trinity of the Christian God, (a family of three persons, yet a single God) , ultimate truth is ultra personal even in its transcendence. Some take its transcendence to mean that it is less than personal.
I was initially drawn to eastern religions, particularly enjoying Aldous Huxley’s essay on comparative religion, The Perennial Philosophy. I decided to return to the Roman Catholicism of my infancy, though it was a few years, I think, before the beauty of the concept of samadhi was replaced in my admiration by Christian eschatology. Now, one of the greatest joys of heaven I feel will – God willing – be meeting old friends and acquaintances and members of my family. For this reason, notions of empirical science must give way to reflections on science simply as knowledge.
One particularly striking aspect of NDEs and mystical experiences, I believe, is the pre-eminence of beauty accompanying the feelings of love and peace. Interesting that Einstein stated that the criterion he resorted to when selecting his hypotheses was aesthetic. Scientism seems to true empirical science, as ‘painting by numbers’ s to a beautiful Constable landscape or the Pieta..
I think we are very similar in terms of a personal God, although the number of forms of God in Indian philosophy are infinite (not just three). All these forms are together the Absolute Truth (quite like the trinity is a single God), and they are separated only in our understanding when we want to focus upon a certain aspect of this Absolute Truth. There are potentially as many forms of God as there are devotees, although these forms are not separated entities.
The difference probably is that we don’t consider anyone specifically to be family and friend or enemy and foe in any ultimate sense. Many people that you consider stranger right now were probably acquaintances in previous lives, and many that you consider friends would be strangers in future lives. All living beings (including animals) are souls that carry their past actions and impressions into future lives, reaping the rewards and punishments of the actions that haven’t yet been rewarded or punished in the past lives. In short, there is reincarnation, because there is responsibility, although there is no eternal heaven or hell. The living being has free will, and s/he can fall into matter, get out of matter, and fall back again (if s/he wants).
I sometimes wonder why people in the West debate the problem of theodicy at great extents but don’t accept reincarnation – which is how the East solves this problem. Just as there are near-death experience studies, there are also past-life memory studies. What reasons underlie this discrepancy? I’m interested to know about it …
I think there are a lot of uncommitted people in the West who do tend to believe in reincarnation, although probably not in order to solve the problem of theodicy.
As regards committed Christians, the question theodicy would far less of a deterrent than it is to atheists and agnostics. Solving the question of theodicy as a satisfying intellectual achievement could never be a priority, still less and overriding priority for the committed Christian’s belief in his God, but despite the over-reliance on legalism and ritual of many older Catholics, there is just the one overriding priority, namely selfless love, willingness to suffer for one’s faith.
There is a vast spiritual war going on all around us all the time – the Christian, however, ‘leading with his chin’, believing that passive strength, the strength to endure, limited only by the scope of our magnanimity, not by the ‘active’ physical strength we are, for the mot part, born with.
You would, I believe find many of he YouTube clips of the Christan apologist, William Lane Craig fascinating, and perhaps as impressive as I do. He states that cruelty and evil generally in this world was inevitable, given God’s desire to give man free will. The freedom to choose good or evil, subject to God’s prevenient grace – so.. a weird paradox. Unfortunately some Protestant fundamentalists ‘go overboard’ and consider they are already saved! So they don’t have to fear their sins will condemn them on Judgment Day.
Another interesting Christian apologist is the Northern Irishman, John Lennox, a Cambridge professor of Maths and Logic, I think. Have you read any of C S Lewis? Or G K Chesterton?
I am inclined to believe we originated and lived in some mode in a preternatural existence in heaven, prior to our incarnation, but it’s not important to my faith. I also wonder if a kind of ‘deja vu’ sense of a place I have sometimes experienced, which some might attribute to a previous life,
might be the experience of someone else I tapped into momentarily in the Holy Spirit.
By the way, I believe the Holy Spirit coordinates the strands of our intelligence, often to optimal effect when we are asleep (when we can’t interfere with its actions as deliberately, being in a more passive and (etymologically) docile state.
Do you know much abut the Shroud of Turin?
From Reason and Faithon
I do not know to what extent your articles seek to accurately represent the philosophy of Gaudiya Vedānta, but from the Gaudiya perspective one cannot transcend the laws of nature through jnana because jnana itself is material in that it is manifestation of sattva guna. Only if jnana is mixed with nirguna bhakti will it lead to transcendence, even if that ideal within transcendence is nirvisesh Brahman.
From Reason and Faithon
I disagree with your comment that “jnana itself is material”. Jnana is not material. The term “jnana” is currently misunderstood either as mental speculation, or the impersonal aspirations of the philosophers. These distortions of real knowledge are not even theoretically correct. Real jnana is what Krishna imparted to Arjuna, Uddhava, or Brahma. This jnana is free of the material modes of nature, and Absolute Truth is itself referred to as “jnanam-advayam” (SB 5.12.11) which means it is free from duality. That same jnana is understood in three ways – Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. There is no mixing of material modes in either case. The quoted verse is also unequivocal in its conclusion that philosophical research culminates in knowledge of Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The stark demarcation between jnana and bhakti is a recent creation by impersonalists. What they called bhakti, is – in their stated opinions – itself a creation of the material modes. This so-called bhakti is a ladder you discard after reaching your goal. So, accepting that distinction is laden with numerous problems which impersonalists are never able to resolve. Many devotees are also living under the legacy of that divide: quite like you they also assert that bhakti is superior, because there is a difference with jnana. Both positions are wrong, because that distinction is itself false.
Nevertheless, we can make a distinction between jnana and vijnana: the former is an abstract and theoretical understanding of truth while the latter is a detailed and direct understanding of the same truth. The example often quoted is seeing the forest vs. seeing the trees. Abstract knowledge is not material or false, although it is not as direct and detailed.
From Reason and Faithon
The point I have raised is that you have said that either by jnana or by bhakti one can transcend the laws of nature. There is no doubt transcendental knowledge in bhakti. Indeed, bhakti is the highest knowledge (raja vidya). However, when you distinguish the two as you have as the different methods of spiritual pursuit you implicitly make the claim that one can attain transcendence without bhakti. This contradicts the siddhanta of Gaudiya Vedānta.
The classical path of jnana is distinct from the path of bhakti and it identifies jnana with sattva guna, as does the Gita. This path is one under the influence of sattva guna that cannot reach transcendence. The path of karma is under the influence or raja guna and as such neither can it result in transcendence. On the other hand, bhakti is nirguna, and thus the path of bhakti leads to transcendence of the gunas. If we mix it with karma it will lead to jnana, and it we mix it with jnana it will lead to a particular experience of transcendence.
From Reason and Faithon
You have also identified jnana with “reason.” Thus you state that either by devotion or by reason one can attain transcendence. Then in your reply to me you equate knowledge/reason with transcendence/nirguna. To say that reason is nirguna is not correct. Typically reason is thought to be inconclusive unto itself—tarko pratisthanat. And reasoning as to the conclusion of sastra leads to bhakti. Bhakti is clearly nirguna being constituted of Krsna’s svarupa-sakti. Reason is not so.
Surely Krsna imparted knowledge to Uddhava, etc. But the knowledge he imparted includes the understand that only by bhakti can one attain him in any respect. Krsna imparted the knowledge of bhakti.
From Reason and Faithon
To further expand on my previous comment, there isn’t a material truth separate from spiritual truth. There is just one thing – truth. Material “knowledge” is not knowledge; i.e., it is not true. Therefore, it is called maya or that which is false. There may be semblances of truth in this maya but such partial truths are also partial falsities. They are maya and not jnana.