Science of the Absolute Chapter 2 - Epilogue

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AN INTEGRATED SCIENCE OF THE ABSOLUTE

 

2. METHODOLOGY

  

EPILOGUE

 

The last chapter ended on a note which referred to reality as "the Lord", constituting the source or the first material cause of the universe. It was therefore a theological and more or less conventional preliminary way of relating the universe with its cause as normal to the common man anywhere in the world. As all effects must have a cause, such a form of reasoning towards finding a cause is natural both to philosophy and science. Although the word "Lord" (isvara) as employed in the first chapter is meant only to be an overall initial starting point for further discussion, it is still vague and undefined as a general basic foundation for the universe presented to man with its varied phenomenal aspects. The Lord refers to what Rudolf Otto calls the "numinous". It is both a mystery and a tremendous wonder, and all ideas of the sacred arise from it.

 

The man in the street begins by wondering about the nature of the world presented to his view. To such a common-sense question only a more or less conventional commonsense answer can be given, because all answers to questions must correspond to the nature of the curiosity of the questioner. That is why Narayana Guru brings in the theological terms in the opening chapter, even though such a vision is meant by him to belong to a veritable philosophical and scientific context.

 

Vague though this concept is, it represents the overall source of reality to be clarified stage by stage in later chapters. It also represents the essence of a paradox presented by the universe to man. Appearances and realities intermix or interlace in the substance which is the basis of the universe. Thus equated, the Lord is carried over from the last verse of the previous chapter to the first verse of the present chapter. If the Lord occupies the central position of the first chapter, and the world is the dialectical counterpart here in the second chapter, we have a more subjective and psychological reality called caitanya, replacing the Lord in the very first verse.



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Caitanya is a sort of matter and mind, and is an evident reality in common life as when we say an animal has lost its caitanya. Consciousness has not attained any degree of richness or purity as when we use the expressions cit or samvit which refer to pure consciousness where duality is further resolved into absolute unity. This concept therefore corresponds to the élan vital of Bergson. It is on the basis of such a life-energy that Bergson's creative evolution can be consistently thought of as taking its course. Thus it is that our reference to the philosophy of Bergson in this chapter attains to a high relevancy and compatibility with Narayana Guru's philosophy. Bergson, as we have said, is a philosopher who fights shy of being considered either a metaphysician or a dialectician as such. His field of operation is exactly the region of thought or understanding where matter inserts itself into mind, and commonsense translates itself and gets articulated on the one side with what is perceived and perceptible, and on the other side with what is conceived and conceivable.

 

We have seen how Bergson has very persistently and correctly stuck to this neutral position between physics and metaphysics in his long, drawn-out discussion about the nature of Time and Space. He finally succeeded in abolishing multiplicity of times in terms of one unique Time, which attains as it were, to the doorstep of the Absolute. In this way he gives us, in his speculations, supreme examples of how the gap between physics and metaphysics can be bridged when common human understanding and the intuition natural to all human beings is added on to the total knowledge-situation. In his eyes science is not only physics but includes biology. In his hands mechanistic realities become revised and revalued in terms of a living process.



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As has already been stated, we have shown how, in the various stages of the revaluation of the relativity theory, Bergson adopts a method of eliminating plurality in favour of unity. Space and Time, instead of being two realities which cannot mix properly into unity by the methods adopted by Einstein or Minkowski, have been reduced to perfect reciprocity with mutual transparency between them. This enables us to think of endosmosis and exosmosis as dynamic and organic processes capable of taking place between them before they are absorbed into one unique and universal Time, representing a universal flux which is the culminating concept as nearly representing the Absolute as Bergson is willing to make it. The reader should pay special attention to the negative steps of the argument and compare Bergson's method with Narayana Guru's method found in the Apavada Darsana. The Absolute as a notion is perfectly defined at the end of Chapter II as the three categories of reality which are existence-subsistence-value (sat-cit-ananda).

 

Noting how Narayana Guru initially attains to a definition of the Absolute in the last verse of this chapter the reader should also mark how the key notion of this chapter which is caitanya (vital consciousness) replaces the more conventional term "Lord", but is still viewed as permitting a certain degree of duality as between the gross and subtle. The vestiges of a paradox are still there in the first verse. What should receive our attention is the method by which this paradox is resolved or made to drop stage by stage by mutual transparency between the gross and the subtle elements which together constitute appearance and reality as presented to our vision.



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1. NEW METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

Hitherto in all literature pertaining to the nature of the Absolute, whether viewed theologically, mystically or philosophically, we can see the persistence of a peculiar language of its own. Contemplative literature like perennial philosophy has its own lingua mystica far removed from the language of mater-of-fact physics or commonsense. It consists mostly of language filled with figures of speech where various grades of parables, fables, myths or metaphors, besides other comparisons, play a large part. This succeeds only in establishing vague indirect analogies between the world of visible facts and the world of more abstract reasonings. The vagueness of such a style usual to absolutist literature cannot be abolished although the style can be varied indefinitely. When intuition was once admitted into speculation we parted company with verifiable facts and entered into metaphysics which at best relies on what is called dialectical reasoning. The lack of any publicly evident degree of certitude makes the dialectical approach fall into disrepute and there are moderns who even contemptuously refer to metaphysics as 'nonsense'.

 

The Bergsonian approach is a new departure in this respect. The reader should have noticed already how, side-by-side with algebraic equations he uses a structural geometrical language consisting of logical relations represented by parameters meant to reflect the laws of nature in general, wherein the reality of such ultimate categories as time and space have their legitimate raison d'etre.

 

These logical parameters are representable in visual relational forms within two grades, one that is in the process of being made (i.e. as taking place in reality within consciousness), and the other that is already made, having the status of a fixed conceptualized version of the former. While both of them are representable in geometrical form, one has a more perceptual status than the other. When it has a conceptual status it is more symbolic and belongs to the domain of algebra. The former representation is directly related to the visible or the perceivable and is to be understood in terms of a schéma moteur.



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Such a schema is to be understood within the living consciousness of an actual human being more directly related to the thought than indirectly to thinking processes. One is a duplicate of the other and if we represent the perceptual figure by continuous lines traced on paper the other can be represented by dotted lines in order to indicate its more conceptual status. Thus there are two systems of reference given to us which can be pressed together so as to make one and the same absolute reality. Such are some of the bold assumptions of Bergsonian metaphysics which keeps us close to human experience both seen or lived. By bringing in concepts tallying with percepts it is able to bring a new kind of apodictic certitude to both physics and metaphysics.

 

In order to indicate here that in making the above generalization we are not attributing anything more to Bergson than what he himself implicitly or explicitly adopts; let us turn to a few of the features of his revaluation of relativism. A review of these features will reveal some of the new methodological perspectives which will help to give to our own commentary on the Darsana Mala a more correct scientific status than what contemplative literature of this kind has hitherto enjoyed.

 

2. DEMI-RELATIVITY, COMPLETER CORRELATIONS, FULLER RECIPROCITY, THE TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM AND THEIR UNITY

The main items of Bergson's revaluation of Einstein's relativity can be enumerated as follows:
  1. Demi-relativity,
  2. Lack of proper vertico-horizontal correlation
  3. Lack of full respect for reciprocity between systems of reference
  4. Recognizing the uniqueness of time as a fourth dimension.
  5. The perfect unitive treatment of time and space as a single absolute reality.

 

 

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1. Demi-relativity results when we pay too much importance to the horizontal contraction of a line of light based on the hypothesis implied in the equations of Lorentz. It is a form of distortion as in unilateral vision. This distortion can be remedied when time and space are brought more intimately into mutual relationship as demanded by the very form of the Lorentz equations when completely understood.

 

2. The reciprocal relationship at the basis of time and space is implied in the vertico-horizontal relationship between them, as pre-existing in the laws of nature which the equations of Lorentz are meant to reflect. Demi-relativity has to be subjected to a bilateral correction rather than a unilateral one. Time and space will then have a fully relativist status, wherein one may be said to step into the domain of the other and vice versa.

 

3. On such a basis of perfect reciprocity, when possible distortions of pluralistic times represented by corresponding lines of light have been corrected, the two reciprocal systems; one having the status of being referred to and the other the status of referring, become interchangeable duplicates of each other. They can be juxtaposed so as to reveal one and the same unique and universal time as a sort of fourth dimension.

 

4. When Time has thus been given its own unique status, the other spatial dimensions become secondary in importance and the overall vertical parameter which Time corresponds to in the schematic language of Bergson reveals to us a "powerful means of investigation, a principle of research". The process of becoming can be represented as a vermicular figure belonging to the vertical axis.

 

5. When the two rival systems, the one referred to (and representing time in terms of space) and the other referring to (and representing space in terms of time) are correctly correlated, we have a scheme relating extension and thought. Bergson readily absorbs into his philosophy of pure becoming these correlates with the last vestige of paradox between them. This culminating philosophical notion is next best to the Absolute.

 

This quick survey of the broad outlines of the methodology of Bergson helps us to glean for our own purposes the following broad principles of Absolutist methodology.



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3. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL STATUS OF THIS CHAPTER

In the very first verse of Apavada Darsana we find an ambiguous reference to the world as both subtle and gross. In passing from the rigid and objective world of inert things to the world where life movements and processes of becoming reside in a more flexible psychological sense, we live in a world admitting at one and the same time both these aspects of reality. We should notice here that the same is true in regard to the theory of relativity and also in Bergson's absolutist revaluation of it. Einstein speaks in terms of flexible lines of light expanding or contracting according to the equations of Lorentz. He also speaks of a rigid line to which it has constantly to refer back. These are of two epistemological grades but they have to be treated as belonging to one and the same context for purposes of discussion. Modern physicists refer to a reality sometimes called affinée (refined or subtle) where the theory of relativity belongs, as against its own limiting case of classical Newtonian mechanics and Euclidean geometry.

 

The "field" with Einstein has a structure and epistemological status of its own, not unlike what Narayana Guru also assumes in this chapter. Einstein's methodology presupposes its own type of epistemology. The observer and the observed belong together so that universal relativity can be explained. Further, this common background of the observer and the observed with a universalized status has an independent frame of reference within which the mathematics as well as the observations needed for the relativity theory are independently self-contained. The old-fashioned way of thinking of gravity as acting, as it were, from a distance, is abolished in favour of a point of origin where gravitational and inertial factors meet within the field of the frame of reference. The structure of space is also a much-discussed subject pertaining to relativity theory. Euclidean space-structure is too inadequate for its purposes.



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Space must admit of curvature, and the postulate of Euclidean parallels has been modified in such a manner as to admit parallels in a modified form by Lobachevsky, while Riemann's structure of space does not admit them. Space is a compromise between absolutist and relativist factors, thus bringing in another element of ambiguity. As we have already seen, these peculiarities of Einstein have been taken up by Bergson who has subjected them to a stricter methodological scrutiny. What we have to specially notice is that Einstein sets the model for a new tradition in scientific thought, bringing such thought more into line with what is required for the transition from relativism to absolutism. He has thus, though perhaps unconsciously, rendered a greater service to unified science than to physics. He lived and moved within limits of the observables implied in the Lorentz equations which themselves reflected real laws of nature and the purer mathematical calculables. He may be said to have established a correlation between a lower limiting case as conceivable on a vertical axis and a higher limiting case of the same in the world of conceptual signs on which calculations or pure mathematics must thrive.

 

The way in which Bergson is able to reduce into more clear and finalized terms the multiple rival elements that still vitiate Einstein's theory is amply evident. When subjected to final analysis it is not difficult to see here two systems, one perceptual and the other conceptual. Both are capable of being treated together, so as to schematically reveal the same structural features. Such a possibility opened out by Einstein's new way of scientific thinking is of immense value for us in methodically laying the foundations for a Science of the Absolute. Subjectivism, structuralism and selectionism with a schematic language that goes with it have become natural to scientific thinking. Post-Einsteinians like Eddington have given these features full vogue and even used such language to some extent in their writings.



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Schrodinger has also adopted a similarly new methodological and epistemological approach reminiscent of Vedanta (see pages 67-68 above). Bergson also believes in the possibility of this unified variety of schematic thinking implied in language when he writes:

"If time has positive reality and if the retardation of duration in instantaneity represents a certain hesitation or indeterminism inherent to a certain part of things which keeps suspended on it all the rest, and finally if there is creative evolution, then I understand very well that the part that has already gone past in time should appear as juxtaposed in space and not any more as pure succession; I also conceive that all the part of the universe which is mathematically related to the present and the past - that is to say, the unraveling of the future of the inorganic world - could be representable by the same schema we have once before shown in astronomy and physics. Prevision is in reality a vision." (1)



Precise thinking whether in science or philosophy consists in correlating two structural aspects which have reciprocal, complementary or conjugate relationships between them. One can be distinguishable as pertaining to the horizontal and the other to the vertical. When both reflect the same laws of nature or the same logical parameters, and we add to this an overall dynamism of a double process resembling endosmosis and exosmosis, as taking place between the two structural ambivalent poles of a unit, whether this unit is one referring or referred to, we have in our hands all that is required for giving scientific precision and certitude or correct communicability to our further discussions in respect of a unified Science of the Absolute.

 

In thinking of this process we need not limit ourselves to the analogy of osmotic interchange of essences in the biological world. The same alternating process resembling respiration or even the heart beat can be imagined as taking place in the context of thermodynamics where one speaks of entropy and negentropy. In the world of cybernetics the same alternating process of action and retroaction exists (see pp.97-106 above). Electromagnetic pulsations involving alternating sinus functions reveal the same dynamism basic to physical, biological, logical or even semantic contexts.



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In short, a structurally based methodology and epistemology free from myth or fable is what we stand for in the present work for further development or discussion.

 

 

4. A NEW MATHEMATICAL LANGUAGE

Post-Hilbertian mathematics has an epoch-making significance in the matter of giving precision and certitude of a scientific nature within the pure processes of thought and expression with which all theorization or speculation, whether of physics or philosophy, has to deal. The emergence of a branch of mathematics called the algebra of geometry makes mathematics attain to the status of a self-sufficient branch of knowledge where mathematical realities can be thought of as independent entities having an absolutist status of their own.

 

The quantitative experimental world is left far behind by such a new development in scientific thinking. Conceptual and perceptual elements reveal the same relational pattern and have a reciprocity between them whereby they give certitude to each other making absolute certitude possible. A Science of the Absolute is unthinkable without supposing such a possibility where two sets of elements, one proper and the other improper, mutually lend certitude to each other. We have in the foregoing said enough to justify this generalized statement. Let us now see where we stand in the matter of accepting a structural framework for giving precision to thought and language. It has to be remembered that such a structural framework lays no claim to be a reality in itself. Just as Cartesian correlates or latitudes and longitudes give linguistic precision to thought, so the structuralism we are thinking of has no reality other than that of serving as an instrument for correct thinking and for research based on such thinking.



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Life starts by our being naturally compelled to take for granted by sheer necessity the pluralistic, practical and therefore relativistic world where we have to make the best of our lives. Vedantic literature refers to this aspect or zone presented to us in our everyday life as the vyavaharika (workaday). This is where such a relativistic starting point is supposed. Here begins the possibility of calculations and logical construction by which, through a series of possibilities less real and still full of possible error, we can attempt to reach the ultimate reality beyond the zone. Such a zone is called pratibhasika (having a reflected status in the mind). This truth results from a kind of reflection of a reflection of the truth of the Absolute. In the Absolute there is no room for plurality or alternations. It is called paramarthika (of ultimate value status). Between where calculations begin and end lies the gap through which correct speculation is called upon to guide itself correctly without violating the laws of either thought or nature.

 

When mere metaphysical speculation gains the support of physical realities sanctioned by laws of nature (i.e. when conceptualization is made to correspond to its own perceptual counterpart) both verbal, mathematical or symbolic speculation and relational structures lend mutual certitude to each other. There is a subtle equation between the two aspects which gives support to speculation or to schematic constructions from the complementary aspect of the total situation unitively understood. Schematization and sign language can go hand in hand to reveal the possibility of a unified science of the future. Leibniz dreamt of a universal mathematical language and although his dream has since miscarried and been lost by his disciples and admirers who did not understand him fully (2), we are now in a position to approach the same subject in the fresh light of post-Hilbertian mathematical formalism which is becoming more and more acceptable to modern thinkers.



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Now having examined the work of Bergson in which he tries to fill the same epistemological gap in a way in keeping with the spirit of science, we are here trying to put together our findings so that we can elicit from structuralism the starting point for a new two-sided methodological approach, where the axiomatic and the dialectical features are naturally to be found incorporated.

 

It has to be pointed out here that we have carefully refrained from constructing or arbitrarily assuming any feature of this structuralism on our own, We have always been conscious that this double-sided verification of truth or reality has been tacitly assumed, for example, in the Pythagorean theorem described by us in detail on page 50. The two proofs meet centrally on neutral absolutist ground to give scientific certitude to the truth implied in the theorem. The conceptual and the perceptual sides are made to approach from opposite poles to give a central certitude. This example suffices therefore to justify the schematic, axiomatic and dialectical approach we have tried to justify and adopt.

 

It is in the pure context of a vertical parameter that we have to imagine two partial certitudes coming together to result in a fully normalized certitude. To reveal such a vertical axis of reference with its implications referring to existential or subsistential aspects, placed back to back as two reciprocal relational representations, whether treated as complementary or neutrally related to each other, is the one feature of structuralism that is most important for us to accept in the first place. The Cartesian Correlates which have received universal acceptance are themselves sufficient to justify this vertical axis. The horizontal axis can be more easily supplied as it only refers to space or movement implied in human activities or relations of the workaday value-world.



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Errors are possible not only conceptually but also perceptually. Thus the three dimensions in which we live among percepts have their corresponding conceptual counterparts on the opposite side. The future and the past can also be understood to have a similar reciprocity, complementarity or neutral parity of status. The various quotations taken from Bergson can be seen to fully support and justify these structural features. We shall now pass in review some of the main features of structuralism which get support from Bergson's own unitive revaluation of relativity:

1. Colour to Bergson is not a non-reality that should be omitted from the structural features of absolute Space-Time, as he is able to visualize them together. In this connection the tetrahedron and the colourful universe, spread out as an extensive fabric or stuff given to the vision of animals and men, supplies what constitutes the most concrete aspect of reality given to the senses. The colour-solid proposed by us incorporates this superficial feature of absolute reality. Bergson speaks rather of a tetrahedron which could be draped or clothed with the reality represented by colour in space (see pp. 148-153 above).

2. The vertical parameter can be verified in another striking passage of Bergson (see p.95 above).

3. The most striking reference to the transparent vision of a real being placed on a structural parameter can be found quoted by us (on p.155 above).

4. In respect of the complementary plus and minus aspects of time in its creative evolution, we have more than one interesting reference in Bergson, including the one quoted on p.385 above. There are equally other striking passages where the "helicoidal form", and "we arrive at accidents, etc." are mentioned (see pp. 246 and 248 above)

 

These revaluations of Bergson have a clear structural implication when they are read together and coherently understood.



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This justifies almost every other feature of the colour-solid, which itself is not an arbitrary creation by us, but is found to be in use by modern commercial colour- and paint-dealers and those interested in colour harmony on aesthetic grounds free from commercialism. The fact that even the Upanishads (see p.116) give recognition to such a reality raises its status in our eyes. We have neither added nor taken away from this picture. The possible use that such a structural model can have in regulating the correct use of terms referring to the characteristics and relationships between thought processes is recommendation enough as far as we are concerned.

 

We have to note here that there are three other dimensions in each of the reciprocal cones of the colour solid. These dimensions are given to us in ordinary human experience. The mathematical relations implied by them in the world of natural laws as also the correct processes of thought coinciding with them are both further features easily acceptable. It is when we come to the vertical parameter, passing through the past to the future (i.e. from percepts to concepts), that we attain the thinnest, purest and most important of the structural parameters. We have tried to explain how such a parameter exists between the Logos and the Nous of the Socratic and Eleatic contexts in philosophy (see p.60-64 above). We have also been able to recognize the same parameter in other widely different scientific contexts.

 

5. STRUCTURE MORE COMPACTLY CONCEIVED

We hope we have sufficiently explained how the structuralism we have developed can be justified in the light of the latest notions of physics and metaphysics. This structure must now be made to stand out more distinctly and coherently, independent of the various disciplines or contexts from which we were able to extract its essential characteristics. In speaking of the revaluation of Einsteinian relativity, it is true that we were concerned with time, space, gravitation, electromagnetism and other categories in which a philosophy of science is primarily interested. We can, however, extrapolate the structural elements out of such a limited context and conceive it as applicable to a larger and more abstract philosophical context without divesting it of its value in yielding scientific certitude.



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Instead of Space and Time as overall categories we can deal with cause and effect. Causes are deeper than effects, which are visible and belong to appearance rather than reality. One can delve into deeper and deeper causes in an infinite chain of causes and effects, and when such causes and effects belong to the order of material causes we arrive at a vertical series of such pairs. Vedanta in its method of reasoning gives to the upadanakarana or material cause a great importance. Here is where causes and effects can be treated as interchangeable terms. There are other kinds of causes and effects which we have to examine and put together into a common structural whole. Bergson gives us here the following picture of three kinds of causes:
 
A cause may act by impelling, releasing, or unwinding. The billiard ball that strikes another determines its movement by impelling. The spark that explodes the powder acts by releasing. The gradual relaxing of the spring that makes the phonograph turn unwinds the melody inscribed on the cylinder: if the melody which is played be the effect, and the relaxing of the spring the cause, we must say that the cause acts by unwinding. What distinguished these three cases from each other is the greater or less solidarity between the cause and the effect. In the first, the quantity and quality of the effect vary with the quantity and quality of the cause. In the second, neither quality nor quantity of the effect varies with quality and quantity of the cause: the effect is invariable. In the third, the quantity of the effect depends on the quantity of the cause, but the cause does not influence the quality of the effect: the longer the cylinder turns by the action of the spring, the more of the melody I shall hear, but the nature of the melody, or of the part heard, does not depend on the action of the spring." (3)



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These three kinds of causes can be correctly fitted into a scheme such as we have proposed. The unwinding cause can represent a fully verticalized relationship between the two. The impelling cause interacts and fits into the horizontal plane of mechanistic action and reaction. The releasing cause resembles something like electromagnetics, corresponding to apperception in consciousness where disparity between quantitative cause and qualitative effect is maximum. This transformation of cause and effect can occupy the central point of origin in our schema.

 

Aristotle's classification of causes and effects into four logical forms with contradiction and contrariness between subjects and predicates in the context of his logic has suggested to many thinkers a subtle logical form or underlying figure. So far, however, no one has succeeded in putting together the material, instrumental and first or formal causes into a constituent structural whole. The Vedantin has shown special favour to the material cause and has exalted it above all others, as when a pot is made by the potter who is himself the incidental cause while the clay is the material cause. This verticalized way of reasoning which combines cause and effect in one and the same context is fundamental to Vedantic methodology. The potter with his wheel is an extraneous factor to the total situation, having only a secondary or incidental status. Even in the cosmological context, in the great process of becoming there is a flux which is operative along a vertical axis as a steady state, independent of the alternating expansion or contraction which are incidental. The subtle paradox persisting between being and becoming is somehow to be transcended by Vedanta before the Absolute can be attained. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this in Chapter II, verse 16:

"What is unreal cannot have being, and non-being cannot be real; the conclusion in regard to both these has been known to philosophers." (4)



This verse gives the subtle dialectical formula of the dynamism found at the core of the Absolute. Bergson likewise does not think in terms of causes or effects but gives a central position to this grand process of becoming in absolute reality.



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Whether we choose Being and Becoming, Time and Space, or Cause and Effect as the reciprocal complementary factors capable of absorbing each other, this same structural pattern remains valid. Thus in every chapter to follow, our epistemology and methodology based on schematism (statically conceived as the schematismus of Kant, and dynamically conceived as the schéma moteur of Bergson) can be considered as a valid linguistic or protolinguistic frame of reference. This reference will keep the double-sided aspect in our minds and give clarity to concepts and intuitively experienced percepts so that a certitude coming from both sides is enhanced by a double correction.

 

In the present chapter, Narayana Guru equates effects to corresponding causes in order to arrive at a Cause where the status of reality is finally revised and also given a high significant value which the Absolute represents, not only for fixing its context for this chapter, but for the rest of his work.

 

6. ASCENDING AND DESCENDING MOVEMENT IN REASONING

We must keep the structural relationships between causes and effects and take care to give to the vertical parameter among them an important place above the others. Then we can think of two reciprocal processes of reasoning. One is of descent: equating backwards or negatively all effects at the plus pole into their basic or material causes at the minus pole, and the other is of ascent in the opposite direction. We can see how in successive verses of Chapter II Narayana Guru´s method employs a pure vertical equation of the terms involved. Firstly in the form of a dialectical descent, which at the end of the series is seen to be corrected to a necessary extent by a corresponding dialectical ascent, whereby in the last few verses he balances and neutralizes the tendency to negation from becoming over-accentuated.



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A scrutiny of the commentary reproduced with the text reveals this subtle interplay of opposite dialectical movements. The careful student should not fail to take note of these subtle nuances of reasoning wherein. lies the teaching or clarification of the Absolute of this chapter as a whole.

 

This very way of reasoning is recognized in technical Vedantic terminology as satkaranavada or giving primacy to cause over effect. This differs from other philosophical schools like the Vaiseshika (atomist) to which method Ramanuja is also seen to adhere. It is important to note a further feature of the methodology adopted here, which consists of avoiding an infinite regression in the matter of continuing indefinitely to equate effects to a cause. Doing this results in the error of anavasta or lack of stability of ground, referred to in Western Logic as Infinite Regression.

 

In Verse 4, where the perfect reciprocity between causes and effects seems at first sight to be broken by double negation, its dialectical counterpart of double assertion of the plus side soon mends the situation again and gives an absolutist status to the First Cause which can have no further cause behind it. This is the lower limit of the descending dialectical movement. A bracket thus seems to be inserted upward at a certain point in the vertical axis to avoid infinite regression. Similarly, when we scrutinize the second half of the series of verses we can notice the corresponding compensatory movement of re-normalization from what is merely ontological, through subsistence, which in turn touches a value factor which would mark as it were, an upper limit; although thought still moves within the limits of the three pure categories of the Absolute which are sat, cit and ananda (existence, subsistence and value).



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Thus there is a double bracketing so as to make the notion of the Absolute contain a real existent value within the scope of subsistent consciousness, however pure or thin it might be. It is in the name of a High Value called Ananda that the character of the Absolute is finally fixed. Such a finalized position is fully in keeping with the spirit of the teachings of the Upanishads as we can see from the third valli (chapter) of the Taittiriya Upanishad.
 

 

7. THE TRANSITION FROM THE ABSOLUTE TO THE RELATIVE

In Vedantic terminology we can say that the present chapter is concerned with effecting a transition from a practical workaday point of view in human life, called vyavaharika, to what constitutes the highest of absolutely true values called paramarthika. Both these standpoints belong together in the overall context wherein a mortal person aspiring to spiritual perfection belongs. He has two comparatively firm grounds between which he can make his choice in guiding his life in view of ultimately attaining the supreme perfection of the Absolute. Intermediately between these two comparatively firm positions there is an infinite range of possibilities of error, hallucinations or misplaced values. Such a zone is referred to as the pratibhasika, and such errors find more fecund soil in the world of abstract concepts than in the world of actually experienced percepts. This is why the Sanskrit term referring to this points to pratibha or "reflected light in consciousness" and this zone of error is justly called pratibhasika. Sankara´s methodology in his Advaita Vedanta employs these three terms to great advantage in weaning the student´s mind away from the given empirical world of values to that of ultimately true values. Prof. 0. Lacombe analyses the implications of these three concepts as follows:



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"Once more we come up against this difficulty in Advaita Vedanta in the theory of Being (sat) which is not achieved along proper lines, but flows into the theory of Truth (satya) and into that of Knowledge (jnana) .... It would be wrong to consider this philosophy as an idealism, if this is an idealism that is not conscious of itself, because of the fact that authentic idealisms were developed in India before it had itself seen the light of day and that they had been combated ....

There is need here to distinguish successive approximations of the Real to that which is absolutely Real (paramarthika). In the infinity of the relative there is an infinity of degrees which go on approaching more and more nearly to the Absolute without ever joining it; and each degree that is more profound than another absorbs into itself all the appearance of reality of the other which becomes thus purely illusory from this point of view. Notwithstanding this, however, in its general form at least we can distinguish zones whose metaphysical significance does not get confused. One that is fully charged with sense and practical values, offers to our human action and to our moral action a point of support that is sufficiently firm; that is the vyavaharika : textually, "of a practical order." The other is not merely appearance of reality but appearance of appearance, of a second degree. This is the pratibhasika, which surely has its objective causes, but does not have the consistency other than what is subjective; for example all errors of perception, hallucinations, etc ." (5)



Such paragraphs as the above reveal the intermediate ground where errors are possible between the two firm limits marked by relativist and absolutist interests in life. The classification of all possible errors, whether based on judgments or experiences, is not an easy task. Ludwig Wittgenstein has tried to give examples of various kinds of incompatibilities in his "Philosophical Investigations" (6) and introduced "word games." He remarked that in trying to prove the news of a death of a certain person as seen in the paper it is no use to try to confirm it by producing ten copies of the same newspaper. Although we readily recognize the error it is hard to analyze it.



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A simpler case of error is when a foreigner angrily replies in his own vernacular to somebody who asks him a non-understandable question. Sankara refers to the impossibility of one person drinking the medicine for another although it is quite reasonable for one fellow-traveler to help carry the luggage of another. To treat a reflected image as real is a simple form of illusion of which even animals are capable, but there are subtler forms of illusion, as when a child treats her doll as hungry or sleepy, or when a grown-up is able to see eidetic projections of forests in the sky and treats the visible world with a passive attitude of listless indifference as a passing vision belonging to the same grade of reality. These last two examples are taken from the writings of Narayana Guru. Instances can be multiplied and even classified if the relational and structural parameters between the reciprocal structural aspects of conceptual or perceptual thought are kept in mind. These are future possibilities.

 

At present, precise analysis can hardly be pressed further than to bring all errors arising from the mixing up of conceptual with perpetual values under one blanket term, pratibhasika, as used by Sankara in the above quotation. When concepts do not correctly correspond to percepts superstitions arise and in the other way about we have the cause for hallucinations. Possibilities and probabilities have to meet, as it were, from above or below to yield right knowledge. Single facts may not tally with general ideas descending from the a priori, and conversely generally ideas might not tally with given sets of facts. Both have to confirm each other at every step in life. If somebody says that the pillar supporting the roof falls down when nobody is looking and quickly rises up just before somebody looks, one cannot disprove it except by an appeal to overall possibilities.

 

The Sanskrit term for this latter is ritu (truth by general world order) of which satyam (truth by ontological experience), built upwards instead of descending downwards, is a counterpart. Both have to contribute to the central result and conviction.

 

Now if we introduce our structural method of analysis into the complex situation of various errors in the intermediate pratibhasika zone, we are able to classify them according to the primacy of percepts or concepts. This is exactly what has been attempted in the khyativada of the Vedantins which is a structural way of analyzing the possibility of all errors.



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The four Khyatis belong together to the same context of absolute knowledge when viewed from the relativistic side. Adyasa (wrong supposition) and maya refer to overall categories of error. Upadhi is conditioning of Truth. (7)



We can get a clearer idea of all possible errors through the structuralist approach enabling us to classify errors and to place them in their proper positions or limits. Superstitions, suppositions, error of judgement, hallucinations or illusion and even absurdities, all of which belong to the domain of maya as understood in Advaita Vedanta could be thus analyzed and critically examined. We shall have occasion to come to this at a later stage.
 

 

8. THE ANALYTICAL APPROACH

Let us focus our attention on the methodology of Verse 7 where Narayana Guru departs from the usual Vedantic way of locating reality by a synthetic a priori approach resembling that of Kant. Modern philosophers and scientists who call themselves positivists prefer to characterise their own approach as analytic rather than synthetic. The a priori is repugnant to the general scientific spirit of our age. It is strange, however, to notice even trained thinkers like Einstein confused about the strict use of such terms as a priori synthetic and a posteriori analytic.

He expresses his distrust of the a priori as follows:


"One remark about concepts in general, Before we turn to the problem of space: concepts have reference to sensible experience, but they are never, in a logical sense, deducible from them. For this reason I have never been able to understand the quest of the a priori in the Kantian sense." (8)



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Again we find an advanced scientific epistemologist like Heisenberg also expressing his distrust of the two Cartesian divisions of res cogitans and res extensa which is at the basis of Descartes' analysis of substance into basic aspects of reality. These scientists strangely seem to forget that all axioms on which mathematics has necessarily to be based for its postulates correspond to an a priori given reality. As for Heisenberg, it is equally strange that he rejects the two divisions of Descartes while he continues to use the Cartesian correlates like every other modern scientist.

 

Thus accepting indirectly these correlates, so basic to post-Einsteinian thought, to which context he undoubtedly belongs, Heisenberg still expresses his disapproval of Descartes:

"Descartes in his res cogitans and res extensa is not adequate as the point of departure if one should wish to understand the modern sciences of nature." (9)

 

A close examination of such statements reveals some confusion in the minds of scientists about what is strictly subjective or 'objective.' There is a first degree of objectivity, as when we think of a horizontal reciprocity between two contraries. There is also a deeper subjectivity and objectivity which are more correctly referred to as immanent and transcendental.



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If the former pair pertains to the horizontal axis, the latter corresponds more correctly to the vertical axis. In the vertical axis, what is more objective or ontologically rich is the negative side of the axis (10), while the transcendental aspect of the same expands itself in the poverty of pure conceptualism and nominalism. Reality is at the bottom and not at the top. If objectivity is naturally equated to what is ontologically given, we have to recognize a structural reversion of positive and negative as applicable to the two axes. In the vertical axis, as language and mathematics reveal the negation of negation as possible, double assertion also keeps conceptual realities from evaporating their essences in the direction of mere nominalistic nothingness.

 

A clear understanding of the structure of thought helps us to avoid the confusion of terms between such pairs as a priori and a posteriori and analytic and synthetic. In the sentences quoted from Einstein we discover traces of this same confusion. It is true that all concepts must necessarily refer to corresponding percepts and that given the percepts the mind is not naturally capable of arriving at concepts nor their corresponding names. If there is a one-way link between them, which in principle at least is admitted by Einstein, then there must also be a corresponding returning link. This is the basis of the one-to-one correspondence between ensembles which modern mathematics has brought to light. It is because Einstein gives more importance to percepts that Bergson had to take the trouble of revaluing his relativity theory so as to bring out its deficiencies and partialities.



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In Verse 7, which we are scrutinizing in respect of its methodology, we find Narayana Guru consciously making a concession to the analytic or a posteriori approach natural to the spirit of modern scientists. A careful reading of the commentary will reveal that Narayana Guru's reasoning travels downwards to the core of ontological existence by a process of elimination of parts from the whole. Any scientist in a laboratory can visualize such a process without depending on logic or metaphysics. He can take a piece of chalk and divide it ad infinitum. Nothing hinders him from thinking such division possible. The series of graded realities resulting from the separation of the parts of a piece of cloth which Narayana Guru adopts as an example, give us a series of actual realities reaching from the reality of the cloth to thread, cotton, and finally to atoms and their mental duplicates in consciousness.

 

Even modern nuclear physics accepts such a method. Thus tracing the course of the analytical method in reasoning, it is fully scientific in spirit. By the graded a posteriori approach Narayana Guru is able to trace the vertical axis downwards into the very core of absolute self-consciousness.

 

There is nothing illegitimate, non-rigorous, inadequate or non-composable in such an argument, even to the eyes of an analytical positivist. One can travel downwards into the world of nuclear physics where indeterminism and incertitudes hide, as much as one can travel in the opposite direction through more metaphysical speculations so as to reach the world of astronomical predictions or visions, where the same indeterminism and incertitude prevails. To substantiate what we have said about structuralism being at the core of nuclear physics and its recognized methods, we cite the instance where a mirror reflection of an observed nuclear phenomenon is considered sufficiently real:

"Another basic type of symmetry is that between right and left, or symmetry under a reflection. The principle of invariance involved may be stated in the following way: any process which occurs in nature can also occur as it is seen reflected in a mirror; The mirror image of any object is also a possible object in nature; the motion of any object as seen in a mirror is also a motion which would be permitted by the laws of nature; an experiment made in a laboratory can also be made in the way it appears as seen in a mirror, and any resulting effect will be the mirror image of the actual effect. More precisely, we expect that the laws of nature are invariant under reflection, and experience seems to support this idea." (11)



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9. CONCLUDING REMARKS

Passing quickly in review the contents of the present chapter, let us say a few words about each of the verses by of rounding off our discussion.

Verse 1. In the first verse we have to notice the reference to two grades of realities. They are called sthula (gross) and sukshma (subtle). The gross implies a greater degree of objectivity or at least duality between subject and object. It must also have an ontological content within the scope of vital consciousness (caitanya), which is treated here as the key concept for the whole chapter, having the status of an absolutist norm.


The gross has a horizontal content while the subtle, as its reciprocal counterpart, has a vertical content. There is still a trace of duality retained between them for the practical purpose of starting the discussion. In Verse 2 this duality will be absorbed into unity. In this opening verse the primacy is now on the subjective and the tendency to treat the subject more and more subjectively will be greatly pronounced after the second verse. The paradox is not yet abolished, as there is still an either-or relation between the gross and subtle counterparts. This relation is completely abolished by mutual absorption of one by the other in the last verse.



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Verse 2. In the second verse the effect (karya) corresponds to the gross visible world and the cause (karana) is its more subtle dialectical counterpart. The relation between them tends to be treated in a more verticalized context. The duality of either-or begins to give place to unity where both cause and effect belong together without contradiction. Horizontal relativistic plurality is resolved in terms of a verticalized unity between purer and more refined fundamental causes and effects treated together. This is the very essence of the transition from what is relativistic into what is more absolutist. Causes and effects belong together as in the context of pure mathematics and are treated as interchangeable in a reversible process. The immanent-transcendent character of the verse is evident from the fact that no assertion is made, but the answer is indirectly indicated by two rhetorical questions. We also should notice that a vestige of contradiction still lingers because of the use of the term asat (non-existence). The gradual abolition of this contradiction in the succeeding verses should be noticed.

 

Verse 3. The principle of error or indeterminism (maya) involved here was already used in the previous chapter in a more general sense. There is no question of origin and dissolution with reference to a non-existing thing. Through the vague and neutral ground of indeterminism presented by the principle of maya interposed as an ambiguous element between the absolute and relative factors (the paramarthika and vyavaharika), the transition from the relative standpoint to an absolute one is seen to be most easily effected in this verse. The reference to maya is also fully justified in order to completely transcend all vestige of contradiction seen in the use of the terms asti (is) and nasti (is not). The term brahman (Absolute) also occurs for the first time in this chapter. We have to notice how the non-existence suggested in the previous verse is quickly resolved in the present verse. In higher reasoning the contradiction can be by passed by a purer and more verticalized dialectical treatment.



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Such a treatment, as it were, by cancellation, properly belongs to the methodology of the Science of the Absolute. Later we shall be analyzing the implications of this indeterminate maya-factor only initially introduced here. Maya represents the relativistic counterpart of the Absolute for linguistic communicability and has no reality of its own. It is the name for an overall category of philosophical error.

 

Verse 4. In this verse we arrive at a form of double-sided reasoning fully legitimate to Advaita Vedanta. This method of anvayavyatireka is known in Western logic as the combined method of agreement and difference. There is a double movement first from plurality to unity and then a reverse movement from negative unity to existence treated as a whole. The term avyatiriktatvat is a highly technical form of unitive and negative reasoning favoured by Vedantic thinkers. There are other similar favoured expressions such as ananya (none-other) and pragabhava (anterior non- existence) which with the three other abhavas, anyonyabhava (mutual non-existence), atyantabhava (ultimate non-existence) and prathvamsabhava (final non-existence), which have all to be treated together in a fourfold structural context to enable us to see how reasoning functions globally and structurally. The subtlest type among such two-sided concepts is the one used in the present verse, avyatiriktatvat ("because of the condition of not being different"). This double movement takes place, like action and retroaction in cybernetics, purely in the vertical axis as in an interchangeable reaction or its mathematical equation. The two questions in. the verse indicate the bracketing peculiarity which we have already explained.



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Verse 5. By referring to dull minds (mandadhih), Narayana Guru wishes to underline a subtlety in this verse which should not be missed. The effect is seen to be fully absorbed into the cause. The reality belonging to the effect has necessarily to pass to the side of the cause. In doing so it has to go beyond the zone of ambiguity presented by the incertitude of maya where existence and non-existence reside together. In admitting both, one is still caught in the alternations of an either-or situation. This ambiguity has to be transcended to give to reality full absolute status which could only be one without any rival dual factor. The bhed-abheda-vadin (followers of the principle of difference-non-difference) like Bhartrprapanca have been effectively refuted by Sankara on the basis of this same tendency to ambiguity which is an attribute of "dull minds". The primacy most definitely passes from the relative to the Absolute in this verse.

 

Verse 6. The unitive standpoint is here further affirmed so as to banish all possible ambiguity of position in respect of the finalized status of the Absolute. The lower and higher limits of contradiction and tautology known to modern logistics are expressly referred to. Both these limits, within whose amplitude relativistic doubts can thrive, are abolished in favour of a unitive absolute concept. Even Einstein said:

"But the idea that there were two structures of space independent of each other, the metric-gravitational and the electromagnetic, was intolerable to the theoretical spirit."
How much more should a philosopher assert the importance of avoiding two truths at one and the same time. (12)


Verse 7. We have already treated of the special methodological significance of this verse. We have only to add that even by this analytical approach it is possible to remove maya to a great distance. Relativity can be bypassed both by the synthetic and the analytic approaches. The latter leads to the heart of matter and the former to the overall conceptual or nominalistic Absolute.



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Verse 8. A pure verticalized status for the Absolute is fully accomplished in this verse. There is however a final vestige or duality which is still to be expressly cancelled out. It is required by Advaita Vedanta that both horizontal contradiction and vertical duality should be abolished together. This is called sajatiya-vijatiya-bheda-sunyata (non-difference as between those of the same class and one that is different. Both vertical and horizontal aspects of duality have to be abolished to give to the Absolute its fullest status. The final argument in abolishing inner duality is contained in the second half of the verse which puts the Berkleyan notion of esse est percipi both in its converse and normal forms. When fully developed this double-sidedness is a feature of scientific as well as Vedantic methodology.

 

Verse 9. Before arriving at the last verse where the Absolute is described under the three categories of sat-cit-ananda (existence subsistence-value), in this verse the notion of Value is made to stand out in a certain relief, independent of the two other factors. These two factors have to be first fused together into unity so as to abolish horizontal or vertical implications that might persist between them. When duality has been mutually absorbed they are raised to a unitive status under the caption of a High Value which is ananda as bliss. Such a status for the Absolute is fully recognized in the various Upanishads where bliss is equated with the Absolute. We quote the Taittiriya Upanishad (III, 6):

"Having performed austerity, he understood That Brahman is bliss (ananda)." (13)



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Verse 10. The final verse insists on abolishing in the name of the Absolute all vestiges of plurality that might still cling to the mind of the reader. The three categories of the Absolute are meant to absorb each other. First sat and cit are mutually absorbed and then they are finally included under ananda which knows no difference between subject and object. Prof. 0. Lacombe explains this way of understanding the unique notion of the Absolute, employed in the same notion of osmotic interchange as also used by Bergson in his own philosophy. (Perhaps Lacombe was influenced by the latter.) We read:

" There is without doubt in the empirical universe duality of subject and object, with a very marked primacy, though not unconditional, of the subject: But if the subject emerges from a background which is indivisibly one of being and intellectual light, - sat and cit - behind the object also, although its degradation could be more pronounced, there is still something of being and of intelligible light which do not separate, so that the profound identity of the subject and the object, which are in reality absolute, do not translate themselves in terms of relativity by virtue of an osmosis and as an exchange of substance between these two orders, or "attributes" to speak like Spinoza." (14)



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FOOTNOTES

 

[1] Bergson, op.cit. p 84, our translation.

 

[2] Referring to the plan of Bertrand Russell (a one time admirer of Leibniz) and others, to present a precise mathematical symbolic logic. Tobias Danzig, also a mathematician, writes:

“I confess that I am out of sympathy with the extreme formalism of the Peano-Russell school, that I have never acquired the taste for their methods of symbolic logic, that my repeated efforts to master their involved symbolism have invariably resulted in helpless confusion and despair.

To me the tremendous importance of this symbolism lies not in these sterile attempts to banish intuition from the realm of human thought, but in its unlimited power to aid intuition in creating new forms of thought.”

From T. Danzig, “Number, the Language of Science”, New York, Doubleday, 1956, pp. 99 – 100.

  

[3] Bergson, "Creative Evolution", p. 82.

 

[4] "The Bhagavad Gita", p. 124

 

[5]  O. Lacombe, "L'Absolu selon le Vedanta", Paris, Paul Geuthner, 1937, p. 57, our translation.
 
 
[6] L. Wittgenstein, "Philosophical Investigations", trans. C.E.M. Anscombe, Oxford, Blackwell, 1953, sections 65-77.

 

[7] For clarification of these terms, see our article of the series "Vedanta Revalued and Restated" entitled "Favourite Examples in Vedanta" in "Values", Vol.9, No. 12 (Sept. 1964).

 

[8] Einstein, op. cit. p. 474.
 
 
 

[9] W. Heisenberg, “L’Homme, la Nature, la Science”, Planète, Paris, 1962, No. 5,p. 27, our translation.

 

[10] Spinoza also confirms this in the following statement about negative determination:

“ As to the doctrine that figure is negation and not anything positive, it is plain that the whole of the matter considered indefinitely can have no figure and that figure can only exist in finite and determined bodies. For he who says that he perceives a figure, and that figure can only merely indicates thereby that he conceives a determinate thing and how it is determinate. This determination, therefore, does not appertain to the thing according to its being, but on the contrary to its non-being. As then figure is nothing else than determination, and determination is negation, figure, as has been said, can be nothing but negation”

From B. De Spinoza, “The Works of Spinoza”, trans. R.H.M. Elwes, New York, Dover Publ., 1964, pp. 369-370

 

[11] I. Kaplan, “Nuclear Physics”, Addison-Wesley, World Student Series Ed. (2nd. Ed.) 1964. P.382.

 

[12] Einstein, op. cit. p. 482

 

[13] Hume, op. cit. p. 291

 

[14] Lacombe, op. cit. p. 58. Our translation.