Sitanath Tattvabhushan.

The philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 online

. (page 23 of 23)
Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 23 of 23)
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mt reflection thinl s, sounds, tastes,

touches and smeli- :t-ntal objects, just as

we experience th That this view involves

a aelf-contradictio everyone who has

any >u of the >.' Sensations

or s t only in a sentient or feeling

i:ey cannot exist in o -iiceived as extra-

Tiie philosophical theory nearest to this unphilo-
sophical view is what is called Dualism. In this theory

o be extra-mental n.-alities

ilities not like, but corresponding to, the

sensation 9 that they produce in \, nice, the

.n colour of the table before me is. ind^t-d, on its

'le, a sensation in my mind, but as in the

object, it is an ext The hardness of the

table is, on the mental side, a sensation in tfle, and oji the

objective side, a certain extra-mental quality tlt produces


this rensation. It will be seen, if the reader thinks upon
it, that this theory only partiajly avoids tke self-contra-
diction which vitiates f he popular view. If colours,
sounds, tastes, touches and smells, as in objects, as out of
.the mind, are entirely different from colours, sounds,
tastes, touches and smells as we experience them, is^there
any reason for calling the, former by the same names as the
latter? The ethereal vibration that is supposed to produce
in us the sensation "of colour, is unseen; and if it is
to be called colour, it should be called unseen colour,
which is nothing better than a contradiction. Nor is the
supposed quality in the table that absorbs all other colours
and presents only brown to our eyes, anything that is or
can ever be seen ; and yet it receives the names ' colour ' and
' brown ' in the theory in question. In fact the ' qualities '
of the Dualistic theory are entirely unknown in them-
selves, by its own admission, and are only supposed causes
of sensation. A cause, it seems, can be a cause without
explaining its supposed effects ; for, whereas sensations are
known, what are supposed to he their causes are quite
unknown. Explanation, it seems, consists in referring the
known to the unknown, and in referring what is mental c to
something conceived as extra-mental. That the extra-
mental cannot be conceived, that we never conceive it.
though we often seem to do so, we have seen in the text.
And even if it could be conceived, it could noti in any
sense explain things mental. What is in the mind, in con-
sciousness, can be explained by the mind alone.

As may be seen without much difficulty, philosophical
Dualism could not but lead to Agnosticism; and in the
philosophy of Herbert Spencer it has necessarily led to a
system m which everything known is sought to be


explained by referring it to an Unknown and Unknowable.

Mr. Spencer ^alls his system Transfigured Kealism. and

expounds it at great length in part VII (Yol.*II) of his

'/ ;/')<///. Ho admits fully that the world;

''. existing in the mind and

const - wholly mentnl. So far he re-

al ^iealism in both the popular and

the] His Dualism or Realism consists

in tracing this mentally-constructedvorld to the action of a

Mich, in his system, takes the place of matter in

ordinuy philosophic;" :.. -differing from matter,

iltimately the source or origin of the

id not merely of its passing phenomena.

ions and

rceof what we call our minds, we know nothing,

i its hare existence. In what

i-use of our sensations, and how do

\Vhenc' i 'rive our

ty and how far are we right in conceiving

>f the term ?

In an '|uestions like rli:-^.-. Mr. Spencer's Agnosti-

; d and his Unknowable renounces

i its unknowahleness or becomes a pure

it is in our experience of

that objects offer to us that \vo come into

j and know the
objects their existence it

of mind. Thus, in * my hand against the

table before me, T Income aware that my power, that

: ,t forth, is opposed by an-
: milar in natun-^o m : no. Mr.

Spencer admitsthatour idoa of causality or originaflon is


derived from our own activity, the voluntary putting
forth of energy on our part, and that we necessarily con-
ceive objective reality in tgrms of the subjective. But he
avoids the Theism that necessarily follows from such an
Admission by a curious form of scepticism one, however,
which is the inevitable result of the abstract way of
thinking that characterises the school of thought he
represents. The power in us, he says, is endowed with
consciousness and piti'pose ; but we have no right to
think that the power without us is so endowed. It may
very well be without these qualities; t and Mr. Spencer
elsewhere tries to show that consciousness and purpose
are fmit$ attributes that cannot be ascribed to the
Infinite. But what remains of power when consciousness
and purpose are abstracted from it '? Mr. Spencer evident-
ly thinks that power is something even though unen-
dowed with consciousness and purpose, and that power, as
without us, is essentially similar to power as it is in us,
only devoid of its consciousness and purpose ! One
cannot but wonder wherein the similarity con-
However, the viciousness of this abstract way of thinking
is sufficiently shewn in our fourth and fifth lectures, the
latter specially dealing with our ideas of causality and
power. What now specially invites our attention is the
reasonableness or the reverse of Mr. Spencer's contention
that our experience of resistance constitutes a proof of

Dualism. Let us consider the matter somewhat closely.


It will be seen that the seeming proof of Dualism lies
in a misinterpretation of externality, that the externality
of one object to another in space is wrongly explained by it
as that of something called force orpowerto consciousness.


The table before me is indeed external to my "body,
occupying a jkortion of space different from that which
my body occupies. We hav seen in the text that
the externality of the p*arts of space implies the non-
externality, the unspatiality, of the consciousness of
which they are objects. Two portions of space that are

external to each other are* both included in the

consciousness which knows them. Thus the table and
my body are both included in the consciousness what I
call my consciousness to which they appear. What I
call their qualities Are objects of this consciousness. If
I conceivet hem as permanent powers, not as merely
passing sensations, as we all do, for we believe ttfe world
to be a permanent reality, I still think of them as objects
of consciousness, as permanent idea* in the mind, which
I conceive as both subjective and objective, in my body
and in what I call external objects. Is there really any

mong these qualities which forms an exception,
which cither stands out of the mind or speaks of an

ioss or resistance such a

quality'/ Hows./' As a sensation, it is just like other
sensation tig a mind that experiences it. If it is

a permanent power causing sensations, so are other
qualities too. A permanent power to cause sensations
means nothing more than a permanent capability or
potentiality of the mind to experience sensations to
mat). . as the subject of sensations. If this implies

activity, as i: his activity cannfet belong to

anything else if the existence of anything else were at
all conceivable t elf. As the mind, by

its <> ifests itself as the suhjejt of senca-

!iko colour, SOUIM ud taste, ao does*it, by its


own inherent activity, manifest itself as experiencing what
we call hardness, resistance ox, weight. As little in the
latter as in the former casts do we come into contact with
a reality alien to the mind. ^\'bat distinguishes our ex-
perience of resistance from other sensuous experiences is
that it is accompanied by a volitional effort on our part
an effort which makes us aware of a fund of activity in us
a power which we call our will, mind or consciousness.
We are right in ascribing all actions, all events, to such a
power; but we are wrong in imagining a mind, conscious-
ness or some inconceivable reality othei.' than what we call
our consciousness as the source of all events not accom-
panied by our volitions. Volitions come out of the same
source from which in voluntary phenomena like colours and
sounds arise. All phenomena, voluntary and involunt-
ary alike, require a consciousness, a permanent and active
consciousness, as their ultimate explanation. To say that
volitions arise from within and sensations from without,
the former from a reality which is here, and the latter
from one which is there, is to transfer relations of space
to a region transcending space, a region in which space
relations themselves find their ultimate explanation. It
is the region of one indivisible Consciousness to which
all objects or phenomena are related in indissoluble unity.
In that region the individual can indeed be distinguished
from the Universal, the finite from the Infinite, as I have
shown in the text ; but it is only a distinction and not a
division, a difference in, and not out of, unity. It is very
different, as the reader must have seen, from theSpencer-
ian scheme of one unknown reality, which we call our
miud; coming somehow or other into contact with an
alien reality, equally or more unknown, and receiving


ttimi* ;m:l ide-is from it, somewhat in the* same
manner ae a* piece of \\*K receives impressions ^rom a
upon it. The philosophy of the Unknow-
able will befound, vhen the reader understands it, to be
noth than a figure of speech wrongly used.


->en tliat in the system explained, in the
one \vhi - i-. un<l ; -r many varieties, is called Absolute
- i rn Philosophy, but which we, Indians,
ler name of Brahmavdd or
as if centre* in Brahman, the Absolute
not a jot or tittle is taken away from the
reality of what HI material objects. Their exist-

ence in space, their permanence as substances, and their

i'tj in popular or philosophical

It is only their supposed independence that is

rlio Supreme Spirit, in necessary relation to

re shown to exist. The so-called qualities of

be, in this system, abstract qualities or

powers of an unconscious or unknown and unknowable

nd become powers of a living Mind. To the eye

Treason, faith, or spiritual vision, by whatever name

we c ' stage of knowledge even what is called

; the world of spac ami time, of colours,

sounds, r- < ;id touches, of the objects of every -

,1 us is spiritualised and becomes

the living 'presence of God as nfuch as the world of lofty

ethical ideas, of love and holiness, of the communion of


The world of time and ri IftJ relation of change

to the Ht.Miial Spirit, has, I feel, received very .Inadequate


treatment in the text. It must be evident to the careful
reader ,of these lectures that according to the system set
forth in them, every chatfge is to be interpreted as the
appearance of a Divine idea to tlie individual -soul, or the
disappearance of -one from it. This interpretation of
change presents no difficulty ^o far as changes in tb-e in-
dividual consciousness alre concerned. But it offers a
difficulty which seems all but insuperable when we have to
deal with cosmic changes. If all changes are changes of
consciousness the appearance of the eternal ideas of the
Divine mind to individual souls or their disappearance
from them, Nature must consist either of innumerable
cosmic souls higher than man, but lower than the Supreme
Soul, or of a single cosmic soul co-eternal with, but subor-
dinate to, the Supreme Spirit. It is this conception that
appears in the Vedanta Philosophy as Brahma, Apara-
Brahman or Hiranyagarbha, and in Christian Philosophy
as the Logos or Go-eternal Son of God. As I have discus-
sed the subject at some length in the third lecture of my
" Veddnta and its Relation to Modern Thought, I content
myself with only a brief notice of it here. I cannot say
that I am fully satisfied with the conclusions stated there;
but I need hardly state that it seems to me far more satis-
factory than the explanation offered either by ordinary
Dualism or by Agnosticism. According to th former,
changes in Nature are the action of blind forces on dead
matter ; and according . to the latter, that of the
Unknowable on itself. Both the theories deal with concep-
tions which a true philosophy, looking facts in the face,
shows to be nothing but abstractions having no place in
a concrete world of Reality.



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Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 23 of 23)