Sitanath Tattvabhushan.

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

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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 9 of 23)
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and Society. Blind dependence on authority is giving
way to free and unbiased thought in all concerns of
life. Religion, which was the last human concern to
rest upon authority, is itself tending to become a
science, and has already become so to some choice
minds. But to the great majority of reflective men.
it is not yet a science, and such men seem to swing
between two extremes. One portion seems still to
be trying to feel after a foundation of faith independ-
ent of science, while the other has run to the
opposite dogmatism of supposing the special sciences
as sources oi absolute knowledge and of rejecting as
superstition everything that does not come within
their sphere. People of this class naturally look
upon the truths of religion as no truths at all, and
can be won back over to religion only if they can
be shown that the principles that guide scientific
thought, commonly so-called, are not fundamental


principles leading to true or absolute knowledge,
that they need to be re-criticised and seen in relation
to principles that are really fundamental, and
that when this is done, it is seen that the
sciences, instead of being opposed or indifferent
to religion, instead of being sceptical or agnostic
as regards religious truths, are really so many revela-
tions of God. This will be clear if we examine the
basal conceptions of the various sciences, the
fundamental principles which they take for granted
in their investigations of the phenomena of Nature
and Mind. Such an examination will show that
these conceptions are really metaphysical and are
direct attestations or expressions of the truths of
religion. Now, our proposed survey of the funda-
mental conceptions of science must necessarily be a
very brief and hurried one, as it must be limited by
the limited scope of this lecture. But I think it will
give you sufficient food for reflection and afford ,
hints which, if developed by thought and study,
will convince you that the agnostic or sceptical
aspect of modern science is a false appearance,
the result, not of true scientific insight, but rather
the absence of it on the part of scientific men, due
rather to a circumscribed view of the nature and
requirements of science than to a truly scientific
vision of Mind and Nature.

Now, the sciences so far recognised as such may
be divided into three main groups, the Physical, the
Biological and the Moral. In the first-mentioned


group are such sciences as Physics, Chemistry,
Geology and Astronomy ; the second includes
Botany, Physiology, Zoology and the like ; and the
third comprises Psychology, Logic, Ethics, Sociology,
Politics, etc. The fundamental conceptions employed
in the physical group are those of substance,
casuality and reciprocal action ; those used in the
biological are life and growth ; and those on which
the moral sciences are based are individuality and
social unity. Now I shall show, by a brief exami-
nation of these various conceptions, that they are
really metaphysical and presuppose the fundamental
truths of religion.

Let us begin, then, with the conception of sub-
stance. This idea implies that all changes are
changes of something which remains unchanged and
undiminished, that all changes are changes in form
w or appearance, but that what undergoes or presents
the changes, remains always identical with itself.
For an example we need not go far. The book in my
hand consists of materials which have gone through
many changes. The paper it is made of assumed its
present shape after many transformations, and it may
still go through many more. I might now, if I were
so minded, put it into the fire of the light before me,
and it would', in the course of a few minutes, be
redi; 9, How great would be the change it

would then undergo ! Both its visible and tangible
shape would be changed. But we should still be.
that the substance of which it is composed would


remain quite undiniinished in quantity and identical
with itself. Even if we supposed the matter it
consisted of to be so rarefied as to be invisible and
intangible, we should still believe it to remain un-
diminished in quantity and identical in its essential
qualities. Now, what is that persistent element in
it which under so many changes of form and ap-
pearance we believe to be identical with itself ? It is
plain that it is nothing sensuous, no presentation or
appearance to sense, for we suppose all its sensuous
appearances as changeable. It is true that, under
all its changes of form, we still ascribe to it the
essential quality of occupying space and the power of
offering resistance ; but as we cannot conceive space
except as filled with visible or tangible materials, and
as the power of offering resistance is nothing like the
sensible state or feeling we call resistance, the essen-
tial properties we ascribe to material substance are
not actually sensuous qualities. We conceive it as a
mere capability of presenting sensuous appearances
under certain conditions, and not as actually possess-
ing sensuous qualities. In using the conception of
substance, therefore, science goes beyond sense and
beyond its proper method of observation and generali-
sation. No sensuous experience and no amount
of observation, however vast and searching, can give
us the idea of substance ; and yet no experience and
no observation is possible without it. It is a pure,
non-sensuous conception brought by the mind itself
to experience as one of its essential constituents. It
is in fact a fundamental principle of thought, an


essential form of the mind's own activity, and
necessarily implies the existence of a knowing per-
manent Self. It is really the form in which the Self
presents change to itself. The unchanged or
unchangeable is the necessary correlate of change.
An object cannot be conceived as changed and at the
same time remaining identical with itself without
something in it being thought of as unchanged.
But form as changing and substance as remaining
unchanged again imply an unchangeable Conscious-
ness to which they are presented in mutual correla-
tion. All scientific thought, therefore, involves, as
its necessary implication, the truth of an eternal
Consciousness to which Nature is essentially related.
If men of science doubt or profess ignorance of this
truth, they so far fall short of true scientific insight
and prove themselves incapable of working out the
principles of science up to their ultimate logical


This will be seen even more clearly if we examine
the conception of causality, the most important con-
ception employed in scientific investigations. The
causal law is, that every change is related to some-
thing from which it follows necessarily, that i-.
given which, it must follow. Now, it would be
X much Ucyond my proposed limits to discuss
here the various theories of causation and their
bearing on the problem before us ; but a brief discus-
sion of at least two of them cannot be avoided in
dealing \\ith the special suhject in hand. You will


see that as it is not a thing considered as perma-
nently in space, but a change, something that takes
place in time, that we are called upon to account for,
the cause we seek must be related to the effect in
time ; or in other words it must be antecedent to the
effect and therefore itself a change. As we have
seen in the fourth lecture, every change must be
thought of as necessarily related to another change
both before and after it, and time must be conceived
of as an infinite series of changes without any abso-
lute beginning and absolute end. That every change
must be thought of as the change of some substance
remaining identical with itself under all changes, we
have already seen. That the mere self-identity of a
substance, though the general condition of all
changes, cannot account for any particular change,
is also clear. The self-identity of water is the
general condition of its three states, liquid, solid
and gaseous, but for this very reason, it cannot
account for any one of these states in particular.
Their explanation we must seek in the action of
other substances on water. The cause of a change
must therefore be another change or series of
changes. The theory that a true cause must be a
power, and the meaning that properly belongs to
' power,' we shall discuss as we proceed. The current
scientific view of cause is a change from which the
effect follows necessarily. Now, let us see, by an ex-
ample, what this necessity is ; and let us ask whence we
derive this idea of necessity. If I set this book on fire,
you will see it going through a number of transforma-


tions. These transformations will follow one another
necessarily. When one has taken place, the second
iitust follow, and then the third imtxt come after the
second, and so on. Can you suppose that when I have
set tire to one corner of this leaf, the fire may or may
not travel further, or that the change of colour in it,
its thinning away and the loosening of its parts and
the like may or may not take place ? You know
that these events must follow. But this must, this
necessity, this causal nexus that binds one event
to another indissolubly, is just what we do not per-
ceive by any of our senses. What we perceive is only
one event following another. Particular sequences,
the following of particular events by particular other
events, we may observe several times in our life, and
we may arrive at generalisations from such obser-
vation. I- at generalisations, however wide, do not
amount or account for necessity. A sequence,
how ;it, is not the same as a binding link

between t\\o events. This binding link is supplied
by the Self in us and the Self in Nature. The Self,
he conscious, non-sensuous and timeless witness
of events, binds them together by the necessity that
essentially belongs to its thought. The determina-
tion of event by event is really their determination
by the Consciousness of which events are manifesta-
tions. In spite of their apparent contingency, events,
the one, self-identical Self, un-
i'lc in i are themselves necessary,

and present thi. - iy in their niutal relations,

necessity that v. .or in the causal relation


is really the self-identical unchangeable character of
the Self that manifests itself in events and in their
relations. If the Self be symbolically represented by
S and any two events, causally related, by a and 6,
then the judgment, ' b is determined by a', may be
said to be really the judgment, ' Sb is determined by
<Sa,' or ' S is determined by S.' What, on a super-
ficial view, appears to be the determination of one
purely sensuous event by another of the same nature,
turns out, on a deeper and closer view, to be
the determination of the Self by the Self. What
scientific men call the uniformity of Nature, and
adduce as the reason why the sequences observed
by them as so far constant and varied must
be absolutely constant and invariable, is really
the self-identical and unchangeable nature of the
Self and the necessity by which the fundamental
principles of thought are characterised. Nature,
abstracted from thought, cannot but appear as
contingent, and hence the failure of merely physical
science to explain the necessity found in the laws
discovered by it a necessity which, nevertheless, it
assumes and which really constitutes the value of
these laws. The progress of civilisation the pro-
gress made in agriculture, navigation, hygiene,
medicine and other departments of life has all
proceeded upon our firm faith in the fixity of the
laws of Nature ; and yet, if we interrogate Nature
herself as a reality independent of Mind, she really
cannot tell us why she should not be to-morrow quite
different from what she has been up to this time.


But when we endeavour to understand her by light
from within, when we look upon her as the mani-
festation of Spirit, we find that her fundamental laws,
which are really the fundamental laws of thought,
cannot but be necessary and unchangeable. We
thus see that the most important principle of Physi-
cal Science, the law of universal causation, is really
the revelation of an eternal, unchangeable and self-
determining Spirit in Nature. Science, we see, is
agnostic or ignorant of God only in its lower or
baser mood, when it does not fully know itself,
when it does not fully understand the fundamental
principles upon which it proceeds. When made to
look fully at its own face as reflected in the mirror
of true Philosophy, it unavoidably becomes theistic.
Even Physical Science, not to speak of the higher
sciences, when thus made self-conscious, becomes
indistinguishable from Theology^ or the Science of

Now, we shall find a confirmation of what has
just been said in a particular theory of causation which
has been made much of by some Natural Theologians
of England during the last forty years or so, and
which has been used with much effect in recent
Brahma literature. You will find this theory ex-
pounded with much fullness in Babu Nagendranuth
rhatturji's n/inrm'ij/jtxi.-ii, pt. I , and in jr.y /iW.s of
expounded briefly and in a popular form
in my little tr:u-t named Ckintdkdnik'i. The theory
interprets the scientific conception of/mv as really


ivill, and holds that unconscious or non-conscious
force is an impossibility. I have recently given a
brief statement of the theory, brief and at the same
time as clear as I could make it in a little book
named The Religion of Brahman. I think that state-
ment will serve our purpose as well as any fresh one
that I could give now. I quote from p. 11, Chapter
II, of the book : " We have seen that self-intuition
is involved in perceiving, thinking, feeling and acting.
We shall consider its relation to acting somewhat
more fully and see what we learn from it about God.
It will be seen, when the relation of our actions to
our minds is thought upon, that our minds are not
only their knowers, but also their originators. When
I attend, for instance, to the book before me, and
keep my attention fixed upon it, I find that the action
owes its origin to me. The same thing happens
when I fancy hold before my mind's eye the
image, say, of a tree or a house, change it as I
choose, and at last dismiss it from my thoughts.
A similar power is exercised when, on being
oppressed by a train of troublesome thoughts or a
painful image, I draw away my mind from it and
get rid of the pain. When, from purely internal
actions, we come out to those in which we come into
contact with external objects, we see the same thing,
though with a difference. When I lift up one of my
hands, the movement certainly owes its origin,
at any rate its initiation, to me ; but it is only my
volition or act of willing that comes out directly
from me. For the motion of my hand to follow my


volition, a number of nerves and muscles must be
moved, on which I seem to have no direct command ;
for if they are stiffened by paralysis or some other
cause, as they sometimes are, I see I cannot move
my limbs. As, however, under ordinary circum-
stances, I find my hand following my wishes, I must
think that my volitions are, by some mysterious
means, communicated to the ruotory nerves and
muscles. So, when I act on objects external to my
body, when, for instance, I push aside the book before
me, the change surely owes its origin to me ; but my
power in the case is exercised through the medium
of my hand and the apparatus by which it is moved.
Now, it should be seen that, in all such cases,
something that was not, comes to be. The objects
moved may be old ; the images formed in the mind
be those of existing objects or combinations
of such objects ; but whether Combinations or
mowrnents, or their mere reproduction and dismissal,
to whatever terms the changes are reduced some-
thing new, something original, is found in the
phenomena. Here, then, is a wonderful power
essed by the human mind, it is no less a power
than that of '-r.-afing, of bringing existence out of
tence. This power we call thv /////. It is
the mind itself in an active state. It depends,
evidently, on two other powers those of knowing
and d< siring. The object to be moved must be
known beforehand. A change, either on an external
object or on the mind itself, must, previously to its
being produced, be thought of and desired. Will,


therefore, is necessarily conscious and intending. An
unconscious and unintending will is an absurdity.

;< Now, having in us this power of originating
changes, we cannot but think of such a power behind
the changes that we see taking place around us. We
believe our fellow-beings as possessing the same
power ; we endow the lower animals with it ; and we
people what we call inanimate Nature with in-
numerable powers, and trace all natural changes to
them. We conceive our bodies, with the complex
machinery of organs that keeps them alive, as the
seats of a Power not our own ; and we can imagine
no department of Nature, neither air, water, fire,
the vegetable world, the sun, moon, nor stars as
without some guiding power or other. Now, it is
seen that in primitive men, and even in the children
of civilized nations, the power of originating changes
is invariably associated with knowledge and irten-
tion. To the unthinking savage, every object, at any
rate every striking object, is the seat of a personality.
Even to our advanced Vedic forefathers, Indra,
Vayu, Varuna, Agni the powers that cause the
phenomena of rain, air, water and fire were so
many persons that could be addressed and propitiated
by their worshippers. And even our own children
kick, as conscious offenders, the objects that hurt
them. But we, who have learnt to think methodi-
cally, have, by our power of scientific generalisation,
reduced all powers in Nature to one single Power.
Further, by a process of abstraction, we have denuded


the power of originating changes of its necessary
accompaniments of knowledge and intention, so that
it is no more will to us, but only an abstract quality
lying at the root of all change. In coming to this
way of thinking, we have both gained and lost. We
are right, as the modern discoveries of science and
philosophy tell us, in so far as we trace all activities
in Nature to one single source. We are also right
in seeing that it is inconvenient, if not quite in-
correct, to call every change in Nature a Divine voli-
tion. But we are wrong in thinking, if we actually
do so, that an abstraction in thought is an actual
division or separation in reality, that a power of
origination is possible without thought and intention.
Men speak of force as something other than will and
credit it with all change in Nature, not thinking that
though we find it convenient to speak of force as an
abstract quality, we can form no clear notion of it in
our jninds apart from knowing and intending will.

" The fact is, that if we were left only with our
sensuous perceptions and sensuous images, without
the power of looking within and watching the work-
ings of our minds (if such a state of existence were
possible), we should have no idea of originating power
or force; and for us change would follow change
without any causal link to connect them. Force or
the power cf origination is neither visible, audible,
smelhible, tasteable nor tangible ; nor is it anything
of which a sensuous image can be formed in the
luind. It is a power of the mind, and is known only


by self-intuition ; and self-intuition reveals it as
dependent on knowledge and desire. If, therefore,
its existence in the external world is to be believed, it
must be conceived there as having essentially the
same nature as it possesses in us. We may altogether
dismiss the idea of an originating power in Nature,
thinking it to be an illegitimate projection in Nature
of a purely internal experience the experience of an
originating will, and try to satisfy ourselves with a
view of Nature as a series of changes following one
another without any causal link. This is what con-
sistent Sceptics like Hume and Cornte tried to do,
though we do not think they were successful in
rooting out such a fundamental intuition as the
intuition of power from their minds. But if changes
in Nature are at all to be referred to power, it must
necessarily be conceived as a Supreme Will, a
knowing, intending and acting Mind. How this
thought helps us in feeling the nearness of GocJ. in
realising him as living and acting incessantly in and
out of us, the reader will think for himself ." Now,
as to the principle of reciprocity, everything said
about causality applies so well to it, that I consider
a separate treatment of it as unnecessary.

Coming next, then, to the ^Biological Sciences,
we find that, as in the case of the Physical, these
sciences are agnostic not in so far as they are
scientific, but rather in so far as they stop short of
being real sciences. Inasmuch as the objects of
these sciences are material bodies, they are, indeed,


perfectly justified in applying mechanical principles,
the principles of substance and causality, the laws of
matter ;md motion, to them. And we have seen
that even these principles, rightly understood, lead
n- orach farther than where ordinary Physical
Science stops. But organic matter, as organic, re-
quir its proper explanation, principles very

different from the mechanical. It is the fceleological
principle, the principle of final cause or design,
that alone can explain o^anism. with its functions
of life, generation and growth. As Kant truly
.vton, we can say w r ith certainty,
will ever rise to make intelligible to us, according
to mechanical causes, the germination of one blade
of grass." Life is a mystery and will ever remain
he mere Mechanist, to him who

tally excludes design from the explanation
of the products of Nature. Let us take, for in-
stance, the most prominent characteristic of life,

power of sustaining itself. Inorganic products

grow by accretion, by the external addition of one

part to another, by one force acting upon another.

A vegetable or an animal germ, on the other hand,

If by its own power. External matter

1 added to it, but this addition is due to its

own internal power. In its case, addition is not

re accretion, aft in inorganic objects, but assimila-
tion, tin turning of external matter to its own use

he inherent power of the germ. This assimilation
.vomU'iiiil process, and is inexplicable

uechaniv-al principles. It in vclves select ion, which


directly carries purpose with it. Every germ assimi-
lates just those materials which favour its growth
into the product to which it tends, which is the end
of its process of growth ; and every finished organism
assimilates just what is required for its sustenance,
and nothing else. And then, secondly, while in the
case of inorganic matter, the cause determines the
effect, the parts determine the whole, the present
determines the future, in the case of organic matter,
it is the effect that determines the cause, the whole
that determines the parts, and the future that deter-
mines the present. The seed grows into the tree,
with trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits
members which, in their turn, sustain the life of the
whole tree and contribute to the production of seeds
for the perpetuation of its kind. The animal germ
grows into the finished animal body, with its com-
plex system of organs, each devoted to a particular
function and all contributing to the life and repro-
duction of the whole. In such instances, we *see
that what comes last, the completed organism with
its various functions, is potentially contained in the
seed or the germ and determines its whole process
of life and growth. But this potential or determinant
existence of the effect in the cause can mean nothing
else than this, that the idea or design of the effect
determines or works in the cause.' Either say this,
or your explanation of organic phenomena explains
nothing. Now, Biological Science avoids teleology
or design just in so far as it ignores this fact of the
determination of the present by the future, this


relation of means and ends in organic phenomena.
Its success in doing without the principle of final

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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 9 of 23)