Essays in Life and Eternity
by Swami Krishnananda

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PART III: THE DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS

Chapter 27: Philosophical Proofs for the Existence of God

The foundations of religion are in the concepts of God, the world and the individual, and all its other phases arise from a consideration of the relationship obtaining among these three metaphysical principles. The Vedas, Upanishads, Epics, Puranas and Agamas establish themselves on the avowed acceptance of this threefold reality, whose existence is taken for granted as an article of unquestionable faith or direct intuition and experience. The history of humanity has, however, been showing indications of its drifting more and more through the process of time away from the ability to know things by direct insight or experience, and the observation has been that psychological history is moving towards a greater dependence on sense and reason as the only faculties available by which anything can be known at all. Scriptural authority gives place to logical enquiry and philosophical investigation. While the existence of the individual person is a matter of empirical experience in everyday life, and the perception of a world outside also follows as a necessary corollary of the fact of the individual having an environment around, the available faculties of knowledge segregated from the possibility of insight and immediate experience find themselves at a loss when confronting such a problem as the existence of God.

Philosophers have mostly been rational expounders of the validity of religious values, though we have also among philosophers those who are atheists, agnostics, empiricists, sceptics and materialists. The major trend, however, of philosophical disquisitions has been along the line of a common acceptance of there being such a thing as a reality transcending the world, whose nature requires to be known and established on firm grounds. Plato, in the West, was constrained to land himself in a world of 'Ideas' ruled by the 'Idea of the Good,' above the empirical world of sense-perception, the latter being just a shadow cast by the arrangement of the eternal 'Ideas'. To Aristotle, God is the Unmoved Mover, towards whom everything gravitates as if pulled by a powerful magnet, and all the variety and the material shapes of things tend gradually to unfold an essential form which enlarges itself in an ascending series of the evolution of form, until Pure Form, which is God, is reached as the ultimate discovery of logical philosophy. Kant denied the possibility of knowing God through understanding and reason, holding that the reality in itself cannot be contacted through the rational faculties of man, which are limited in their operation to the phenomena of space, time and the psychological categories of quantity, quality, relation and modality. But he inadvertently seems to be admitting the existence of a super-phenomenal reality, a thing-in-itself, when he denies the possibility of knowing it. Hegel took up the cause of reason and propounded it as a universally pervasive principle, which, by positive, negative and synthesising processes rises gradually to higher and higher forms of the synthesis of knowledge until the Ultimate Synthesis, the Absolute, is reached.

The existence of God has been an intriguing theme that occupied the minds of the philosophers throughout the ages:

It has been held that the concept of God implies at the same time the concept of the infinite, and such a concept cannot arise in the mind of anyone unless the infinite really exists. Thoughts cannot arise from a vacuum. Consciousness cannot have a location; its realm is infinitude. The concept of God as the perfect being should be regarded as proof enough, ontologically, of the existence of a reality which is God.

Further it is seen that in the world everything is a manifestation of some cause behind it, so that we may hold that the world in its entirety, which discloses the nature of an effect on account of its transiency and urge for onward evolution, can be explained only in terms of a cause behind it, which itself cannot be transient or subject to evolutionary process. Evolution is a tendency to outgrow oneself in a higher state of affairs and evolution itself would be meaningless if it is not to end in an achievement which is its purpose. Cosmic evolution is accountable only on the existence of a cosmic God who Himself is not caused by anything prior to Him. God is timeless Eternity.

The precision and method with which the world is seen to be working with its sun and moon and galaxies can only be the work of an Architect who designs and fashions this perfectly ordered way of the working of things, Whose existence should be as certain as the artistic workings of Nature as a whole.

The finitude of every form of individuality implies a consciousness of one's finitude, and the consciousness of finitude spontaneously suggests a consciousness of that which is not finite. What is not finite is infinite, which is exactly the description of God.

There is also a tendency in people to ask for more and more of things, and such an asking would have no significance if it cannot be granted or fulfilled. The 'more' has to culminate in a possibility of its utter attainment in a state of perfection, where the 'more' melts into the 'most', the superlative endlessness, where the sense of more reaches its finale.

Further, our moral sense, which commands us to do good and not bad, expects a corresponding reward for such a behaviour of discipline, but for which there would be no incentive to be good or do good. The dispenser of justice behind good and bad deed has to be someone beyond the world of good and bad, and such a one, obviously, has to be an infinite being.

Since the consciousness of anything defies divisibility, the consciousness of division itself requiring an abolition of the consciousness of division, consciousness ever manages to remain divisionless, that is, infinite. This infinitude is the nature of true existence – God.

There cannot be a consciousness of the object by the subject, unless there is a transcendent conscious principle relating the subject and the object, and yet, by itself, transcending subject-object relation, which would be the veritable Infinite. We call it God.