Science of the Absolute Main Conclusions
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Created on Monday, 20 October 2008 18:50
Last Updated on Sunday, 05 July 2015 03:06
Published on Monday, 20 October 2008 18:50
Written by Anthony Atherton
AN INTEGRATED SCIENCE OF THE ABSOLUTE
Certitude spells happiness through human understanding. Fact, truth and value are three of the main perspectives through which certitude is attained about the high value giving purpose to life. This high value is none other than the total reality or truth considered in reference to a normalized notion of the Absolute. Theology and science, implicitly or explicitly, refer to this same normalized Absolute. Both physics and metaphysics presuppose this notion, whether as a referent or as a reference, yielding various disciplines which, when arranged in a methodical and epistemological order, enhance the degree of certitude about every branch of knowledge.
What can enhance such a certitude still further is the underlying structural unity as an interdisciplinary unitive factor linking the various perspectives possible of one and the same normative Absolute.
Modern scientists have been thinking of a revision of the epistemology of science in general and are engaged in finding a way out of their present impasse. Some of them are openly turning to the philosophy of the Upanishads, Buddhism and Taoism. The Darsana Mala has been used by us as a basis for the discussion of a Science of the Absolute. Narayana Guru has been able to state the gist of ancient Indian wisdom- tradition in a manner lending itself to be integratively understood in a unified fashion. Our attempt in these pages has been mainly to justify Narayana Guru's version of the integration of absolutist and contemplative points of view. We have attempted a further integration in the light of the modern wisdom of the West which is seen at present to be in need of clearer restatement and reformulation. Some of the broad lines of such a restatement and revaluation have been suggested by us in the foregoing pages, especially in the first half of this work. Throughout the work we have kept in mind the need for interpreting ancient wisdom in the light of modern Western thought. Wisdom in India today, although it has been recognized to be precious for humanity, has at present a tendency to be neglected even by Indians, due to the impact of modern Western ideas. These ideas apparently are strong enough to put into the shade more ancient ideas now considered effete and outmoded. Such a trend, if it continues will mean the loss of a very rich heritage of wisdom.
It is therefore in order to bring ancient wisdom more in line with modern thought that we have attempted a close study of one in terms of the other. They are meant to enrich each other and even if at present there might remain dark corners or vague speculations still calling for further clarifications or elucidation on more correct scientific lines, we can at least claim to have made an honest though humble effort to bring ancient wisdom more in line with modern thought. It is always possible for future research on the same lines to accomplish this more fully.
Our claim throughout has been that it is possible to integrate both physics and metaphysics by supplying what we call a protolinguistic structural reference which will put these two rival disciplines together within the scope of a unified and integrated Science of the Absolute. How far we have succeeded in doing this is better left for the reader to decide. One thing is however certain, and that is that the whole of what we have written is not vitiated by any major item of conflict or contradiction within it. We have covered many topics which at first seem to have nothing to do with each other. By ordering them in a certain sequence and by respecting the structural integrity of each, it will be admitted that we have at least indicated the broad lines of the possibility of relating different contemplative disciplines into a series of total visions. This is meant to be helpful in enhancing both the beauty and dignity of human nature which should naturally be expected to have conferred on it this gain in terms of Self-knowledge.
We, each of us, are ourselves the representative nearest to Absolute Reality. The certitude about such a conviction rests on each one of us. "Man is the measure of all things," and the measuring rods are also to be found within us. When interested in contemplative values, the units of the measuring rod mark pure inner states of the Self. When life is approached non-contemplatively many rival outer standards prevail and this can bring major or minor disasters to individual or collective life. Humanity is the creator of his own happiness and has to make a fresh and bold effort in this direction. Such are some of the suggestions contained in the present work. The task is both easy and difficult at once. It calls for an intelligence which is compatible with the full understanding of human nature and its own sense of dignity and fearless joy in the light of the Absolute.
1. A RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW
Let us now pass in quick review what we have said in the various broad divisions of this book. In the Preliminaries to the first half we have tried to sum up the present position in respect of the question of human understanding which modern science is attempting to answer in fixing the position of man in relation to his environment. These developments are referred to as progress and characterized as scientific. We have confined ourselves to the items of progressive thinking which tend to abolish the mechanistic rigidity of the nature of the physical world and to view it in a form that scientific thought in its many-sided discoveries is now able to view in a new and more fluid light.
Time and space can enter into a mutual reciprocal relationship. A structural approach to the reality thus presented enables us to view them in a revised light with the help of which we are enabled to integrate and unify all branches of physical science and to treat the whole of science as conforming to the same linguistic and logical form or pattern. Our powers of communication about the overall value of physical reality attains thus to a precise and universal status.
When this is understood we find that only one step further in the same direction is needed for the integration of physics and metaphysics. These two disciplines are now included under a common epistemology and methodology. The universal timeless reality that becomes naturally presupposed by us is no other than a revised and normalized notion of the Absolute applicable to both the perceptual and conceptual aspects of ultimate Reality. When a unitive or unified science of the Absolute is once admitted as possible by modern thinkers, this at once reveals a relationship that has always existed between ancient wisdom and science, both of which we have tacitly assumed to have the same norms and structural schemes.
Our task in the second half of the book has been to reveal those items of value more properly belonging to contemplative life with which the wisdom literature of the world deals. The Upanishads, as well as Buddhism and Taoism are commanding the attention of a few of the most progressive thinkers of modern science who seem to feel that much promise and possibility lie in this direction. Guided by the precise restatement of the Upanishadic way of thinking indicated by Narayana Guru, we have been able in the second half of the work to follow up further the same revaluation and restatement of more conceptual aspects of our subject matter. In our preliminary remarks to the second half of this work we have tried to relate scientific thought in its modern revised form to the Upanishadic way of thinking. We have also tried to clarify its implications in the light of Advaita Vedanta.
We have followed the difficulties which such a line of thought takes in the long history of Indian thought and each of the last five chapters is devoted to the degrees of intimacy between the Self and the non-Self treated as dialectical counterparts. The various chapters have been examined as representing an instrumentality (organon), complementarity, reciprocity and a final unity of counterparts. All varieties of spiritual expression are comprised within these precise classifications. A structural unity runs through the whole series of visions. They are linked up in a totality because of their innate beauty and clarity. This is comparable to a garland strung by a common epistemological, methodological and linguistic thread running through all of them. The same truth is proved in two ways, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem. The degree of certitude attained is what justifies us in calling the total body of knowledge a unified and integrated Science of the Absolute. Thus the Absolute answers to a reality, truth or value by its own right. The precise content of this work as a whole and its importance to humanity is beyond question.
In the first chapter the ground is prepared for a view of reality not omitting the factual, rational or value implications. For purposes of getting the discourse started the cosmos is objectively treated as separate from its source in the Absolute. A total or global view of the cosmos is brought together so as to serve in anticipation the purposes of the discourse of the work. The world is both a source of wonder and of terror. it originates like a dream in an attenuated form, yet its full reality is not denied.
In the second chapter a more intimate relation between the rigidly objective and the fluid subjective reality of the world is established. This chapter abolishes the duality or paradox implied by a methodology of its own through the central concept of the primary vital consciousness which is something like a vital substance linking inner and outer life. The methodology consists of a reduction of multiplicity into unity and of taking a verticalized rather than a horizontalized view of reality. The three categories of existence, subsistence and value are to be unitively understood here.
In the third chapter the notion of the mind is substituted for the notion of vital consciousness. The phenomenal world is what is given directly to the mind and consists of polarized sets of presentiments which are analyzed. The ontological basis of reality is arrived at.
In the fourth chapter this ontological reduction is further perfected by the avoidance of possible errors of a philosophical order. The ontology is examined with its full nature as an operating source of all functional activities. Its ambivalence, however, gives to this functioning a positive as well as a negative phase which is still characterized by a negativity and a horizontalizing tendency at one and the same time. The Absolute is revealed only when such asymmetrical features are abolished and full verticalization takes place.
In the fifth chapter the Self and the non-Self counterparts in consciousness are brought together into a one-to-one verticalized correspondence between their physical and metaphysical aspects. We are still in the domain of ontology, and at the end of this chapter all is ready for making reference to the positive side of the Self from its own ontological or negative aspect. It is still assumed here that metaphysics is less real than physics.
In the sixth chapter the accentuation passes definitely from the ontological to the teleological. The Self is an instrument or an organon of action. The action is conceived as belonging to a pure context. The actor and action belong together to a contemplative context. These counterparts of actor and action belong to the total context in which the Absolute is the unmoved mover which is given an exalted positive position by the structural implications of this chapter. Ontology passes here to the recognition of less actual though more significant spiritual values.
In the seventh chapter we deal with pure reason under the notion of the Absolute. Conditioned and unconditioned reasonings form the counterparts of the dialectical revaluation. The mutual conditionings of the two aspects of the Self and the non-Self attain to the unconditioned perfection of the Absolute at the end of the chapter.
In the eighth chapter the relation between the two aspects of the Self is of a complementary order as in religious devotion or contemplation. The mystical joy resulting from such a contemplation is the absolute value implied here.
In the ninth chapter there is a reciprocity between the higher reasoning Self and the lower thinking Self or the mind. When they establish an osmotic interchange of essences between them there results the joy of contemplation which is no other than Yoga or the fusion of the two aspects of the self. This takes place more intimately than in the previous chapter.
In the tenth chapter we have to think in terms of transcending both good and evil values. One who is capable of doing this resembles a Superman with a tragic or serene aspect pronounced in his personality. When both these traits are mutually cancelled out there results a form of perfection which marks the highest attainment a human being can aspire to. Such a man bridges the gap between himself and the Lord of the first chapter. In principle he abolishes all duality between them.
Thus a complete circle of scientific and speculative reasoning has been made within the scope of the ten chapters. This justifies the claim of Narayana Guru in calling this treatise a Darsana Mala or Garland of Visions of the Absolute.
2. A WORD IN SELF- DEFENCE
Before concluding these remarks we feel it necessary to point out that even when presenting the philosophy of Narayana Guru in the light of modern knowledge coming from the West, we have tried to be as loyal to the original as possible. We are conscious that there will still be many staunch or orthodox followers of Narayana Guru who might question the present commentator and think that he has strayed from the strict position of Advaita that Narayana Guru stood for.
In order to banish any such doubts and questions and by way of self-defense we think it permissible to quote one of the important works of Narayana Guru. This is the Advaita Dipika (Lamp of non-Duality) which comprises nineteen verses and which covers many aspects of traditional Vedanta which require to be revalued and restated in a scientific spirit. He was never against the influence of modernism in its best form. We have translated these verses as closely to the original as possible and have only added under each verse a few remarks in order to help the reader to put the revaluations of Narayana Guru in correct relationship with what we have had to say more elaborately in the various parts of this present work.
The Lamp of Non-Duality
A thousand names, a thousand Intelligibles,
Between them comprised a thousand interest items.
Such the world is real enough when not inquired into;
Only until one wakes from the dream is it true;
When awake, the awakened one is all there is!
This verse contains a bold statement which only makes meaning when understood dialectically as establishing a bipolar relationship between the Self of the dreamer and its own non-Self counterpart which is the dreamer's psychic activity. Both these counterparts lie on the vertical axis of reference and are both given a thin or schematic epistemological status.
The visible here is not real. Viewed without the seer
One sees it as non-other; the universe makes thus
A mirage-wise flow of consciousness. What as effect stands
Without its cause is non-other;
what makes the wave is but water alone.
This verse, with its fourfold implications stresses the subtle participation, insertion or articulation between the intelligibles and the visibles; on a basis of interchangeable purity resulting in unity.
From cloth to thread and cotton, and then
To complex prime elements thus traced back;
All is seen like a river in desert sand
To spring from consciousness;
The ultimate limit is consciousness alone.
One can adopt the method of tracing things or events to their source and then scientifically explain them. The source is not in the visible appearance, but in the invisible reality within consciousness. The search for the cause of things thus gives us a verticalized version of appearance, which latter is merely horizontal in import.
Given to a will in full functioning, there is no universe,
Nor even its seed of nescience.
When a lamp is there no darkness is near;
When the flame the wick abandons, the lamp goes out,
and lo, darkness comes!
The ambivalent or alternating functions which the structure of absolute human understanding imposes, is under reference here. The participation of the positive and negative aspects of understanding is located at the point of apperception, where pure horizontal and vertical functions meet in a bipolar participation.
Research reveals no world out there: nescience alone remains
Presenting itself as the world to a mind that can seek no truth
The ghost it is that the light can put out,
For the fear of darkness to a coward it is that a short semblance makes.
The equation of the negative function of darkness as the cause of the positive ghost-representation in a state of the passive understanding of a non-contemplative man, is here clarified in a dialectical language compatible with the four-sided schema implied here and in every verse of this composition. The ghost and darkness are complementary, reciprocal or cancelable counterparts in the total knowledge-situation found here. A paradox is implied between the passivity of a non-contemplative and the attitude of the same man in active contemplation. In this verse this is brought into full contrasting relief.
As being and non-being alternately cognized as real
The unreal and the real are both of primordial nescience.
On inquiry both are nought:
The snake is not in a piece of rope, but the rope alone exists.
Normalized ontology free from the ambivalent alternating presentiments is clarified here. One has to abolish duality of two kinds. A double correction is to be effected for an apodictic central certitude to result.
One alone is above all ever asserting its being.
All else passes and is non-being
The forms of clay have no being
And what remains is but the clay itself.
The material cause and its possible ambivalent tendencies, extending both ways in the vertical axis, touches the neutral monistic absolute substance which is balanced between the plus and minus tendencies. The first half of the verse refers to the plus side and the second half to the minus side of the vertical axis.
Even at the time of ignorance the two factors
Of existing and subsisting are not recognized with value appreciation
As third; for the presentiment out there of a snake form with rope base
An adequate reference verily this makes.
It is evident that there are two sets of factors here, one that may be characterized as a referent and the other as a reference. The reference serves as the logical purpose of certitude. The referent is the horizontal appearance of something that is not real, though implying a basic ontological existence falling within the three categories of existence-subsistence-value.
Even when wisdom prevails and has effaced the whole world as meaningless
It can still persist as given to the senses.
Even after a man has recovered from his wrong orientation
For sometime thereafter he will continue to see the (wrong) directions as before.
This verse very realistically and in a fully scientific spirit points out that there is no use in again and again saying, as many Vedantins do, that the world is Maya and therefore unreal. The visible world does not melt away because of any doctrinal conviction. Nirvana or absorption takes place only at the very core of universal and timeless life when all polarity or duality has been cancelled out by equality, parity or purity of counterparts.
The world has no truth in itself; as cancelled out
By wisdom every thing looms even after as before
In spite of knowing for certain of no water in a mirage
The presentiment continues to be given as ever before.
A subtler example of a mirage is used here to explain an ontological error as in the previous verse where the error was of a more teleological order.
For a wise man the world is existence; and subsistence is of value form
Untruth is not a source of joy; to an ignorant man this is not clear.
For one who sees, happiness is a sun that is real
And for one who cannot see, even the midday sun is a dark and empty thing.
The three levels of existence-subsistence-value imply each other, or one another, in a subtle reciprocal fashion in which horizontal and vertical aspects neutralize each other correcting and complementing any lopsided asymmetry belonging to any one level in a vertical series. What is lost at the bottom point of the scale is compensated for at the top point. Thus there is an interchange of essences whereby each point of the value world is absorbed by the higher and implies the lower. The reciprocal implications are here outlined.
There is one seed alone, which in many forms manifests;
No possibility herein of any specific ambiguity at all
If one ignoring rope-nature should take it for a snake
Would it then have a reality distinct from the rope?
The seed referred to here is the normative Absolute, which then subjected to double correction is capable of no other version of the same with any attributes different from it. When all possible ambiguities are abolished within the scope of the total knowledge-situation, the certitude about the Absolute gains a fully unitive status.
On dividing one by one each part, when all
Is separated out, - Lo! the world is gone!
If one's inquiry is kept on of these separate parts
One finds nothing but one's proper consciousness alone.
This verse refers to an analytic approach to reality which is fully the method of modern science. We travel here from the radical or mechanistic world of discrete entities consisting of parts, to an attenuated world of ultimate particles that are neither mind nor matter but neutrally participate in both.
The thread into the cloth disappears, likewise water into foam.
Thus, alas, by nescience the whole world is lost.
As the object of understanding, even when all things disappear
Into their varied effects, still pure consciousness alone remains.
Here the process is the reverse of what was mentioned in Verse 3. The synthetic a priori and the transcendental analytic refer to two opposite poles or limits. When they are reached the visible world is either merged backward or abolished forward. These limiting points are to be placed neutrally in a schematic vertical axis with a plus and minus involved in it.
Happiness exists; it looms in consciousness; it is one alone.
On treating oneself disjunct from it, nothing can exist
Or loom at all: the water of the mirage and the blue of the sky become unreal,
And a blossom in the sky, and the sky of a mirage gain ultimate meaning again.
The four possibilities of error which presuppose a structural quaternion are to be kept in mind, if this verse, with its four examples, each having a different epistemological function, is to yield any appreciable degree of certitude about what is being stated. The first two examples refer to existential aspects and therefore are horizontal values. The second pair has a vertical value reference. Even where, by exaggeration or distortion one abolishes the proper or normal vision of the Absolute, it still continues to be experienced in terms of the happiness of the Self.
The Self has no egoism: like a yogi, through maya in sport,
It is here engaged in varied ways.
Established in yoga and fully immobile, assuming many hypostatic bodies,
In creative sport the yogi here enjoys.
The contemplative yogi referred to here is capable of estimating or stabilizing his personality at different levels on a pure vertical axis. Along this axis his nascent or active attenuated tendencies can also be made to ascend or descend. This gives him a certain type of freedom which is the basis of spiritual emancipation.
It is only the immature seeker of Self-knowledge
Who takes the converse position as against the man of doubt;
Not one who has attained a stable understanding.
The same presentiment as being snake or rope is a confused question,
fully settled when the rope is seen.
Here the need for a normalized version between two possible opposed positions taken by a philosopher as against his rival philosophers is underlined. By taking an opposite position, philosophical certitude remains merely speculative and does not attain to the apodictic character required by a correct scientific methodology. Philosophical speculation has been vitiated with this kind of non-normalized approach. When philosophy is not based on any rivalry in the certitude it tries to establish, it gains a fully unified and scientific status.
Penetrating ever forward through each presented object,
Mental activity removes at every step the evil of nescience.
Even the knowledge resulting thereafter following the lead of light,
Like the eye, it cannot itself see.
The two movements under reference are: first of all, the negation of visibles so as to merge it into its cause which is the first stage in the process of travelling from the known (visible) to the unknown (invisible); and secondly, after touching in this way the vertical axis where all horizontal activity is abolished, in following the lead of the inner light by ascending or descending dialectics. One finds that he can stabilize himself only where the eye and its sight meet and cancel each other out. This is schematically the central point of origin in terms of the structure of the Absolute. The other aspects of this same structure are finally referred to in the last verse.
Lo! The eye now sees when opened. When closed, the blind man alone
Remains within, as awareness has not yet come out.
Knowledge cannot come out by itself;
It needs the eye to come as the eye the light.
The open eye refers to the horizontal world of values. The blind man, understood in a contemplative context, can have only a negative sense of value. It is the positive power of sight conferred by wisdom that gives appreciation of the highest Good. Open wisdom represents the plus side of the vertical axis which needs to be consciously cultivated. It cannot come by negative passivity.
4. SOME ADDITIONAL EXPLANATIONS
We will also add that we have not put forward any doctrine of our own within the whole range of these comments. By doing so we would have only added to the quantity of speculative literature which is already large and full of words that connote or denote ideas. However precise or valid such ideas might be, words by themselves tend to the strange irony of babelization or the confusion of tongues referred to by Sankara in the Vivekacudamani as a forest. We have favoured another approach to this ironical situation arising from words by suggesting what we call a schematic structural or protolinguistic approach. This has the promise of reducing verbosity and substituting symbols by visible geometrical models that combine all characteristics of thought into a compact and global unit. Such a unit does not have any reality in itself but like the a globe is meant to serve as a reference for the correct guidance of thought. It has also an integrative and unifying function as to all physical and metaphysical knowledge.
Clarity, communicability and integration have been our watchwords throughout this present work which claims to be an integrated Science of the Absolute. If the certitude implied in the Pythagorean theorem can be proved in two ways and is considered scientific, then by the same reason the scientific status claimed for this work is equally legitimate. The common structure running through the whole work is the integrating factor. The aspects of the Absolute brought into such an integrated certitude have been outlined by Narayana Guru and is the blueprint of a foundation on which we have merely tried to erect a more elaborate superstructure.
The resulting truth of the whole work, while referring to the total knowledge-situation represents the Absolute as a non-dual light which has in the Advaita Dipika been compared to a lamp actually present or seen in a picture. The schematic status of the notion of the Absolute, adopted here by us is not therefore a new one nor is it unknown to the non-dual tradition of wisdom. Such a vision can even be considered as potent enough to make one have a new attitude to life.