by Swami Krishnananda
There are two aspects of experience – the real and the unreal; and everything can be divided into two camps – that which really is, and that which is an appearance. That which does not partake of the characteristics of reality is called appearance. One of the philosophers has defined reality as that which persists in the three periods of time, that which existed in the past, that which exists in the present, and that which shall exist in the future also, without any change. But, with our eyes, we have not seen any such thing. There is nothing in the world which will stand this kind of a test of indestructibility, unchangeability, and permanence. All the same, the inherent instinctive feeling of man that there exists such a reality, along with the urge to find a solution to the human predicament, motivates the search for reality, which, quite naturally and understandably, starts with the analysis of the immediately available human experience, which is the world.
There is only the material world seen, and generally this is regarded as the reality. The world is the reality before man - the physical world of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The philosophical and scientific minds analyse this fivefold elemental existence into several bits of components, which may be called chemical compounds. There was a time when it occurred to the minds of thinkers that the whole world of physical matter was constituted of certain basic elements. These elements constituted every bit of matter, whatever be the way in which matter expressed itself. It may be gold; it may be silver; it may be iron; it may be brick; or it may be a living body – that made no difference. All these are material in their nature, and they are basically constituted of certain chemical stuffs. The analysis went ahead through the passage of various centuries, and as the scientists approached closer, the basic substance began to recede from their perception. Every time it looked different; never could it be grasped by their hands. The molecules appeared like atoms, and the atoms looked like electrical charges. But, whatever be the name that they gave to the nature of the discovery that was made through scientific observation, there appeared to be something outside their ken, a stuff, or a substance, or a 'thing-in-itself', whose nature was not easy to describe in language.
The world, or the universe, under this definition of being constituted of basic physical molecules, was defined as mechanistic in its nature. A mechanism is a system of operation where the parts are mathematically connected to other parts, and their mutual operation in collaboration also is mathematically constituted. A huge robot, or any other kind of industrial mechanism, is an example before us. We can precisely say how the machine works by a study of its parts. The whole can be studied by a study of the parts. This led to materialist science, and behaviourist psychology.
Even the modern allopathic science of medicine is based on this mechanistic notion of the structure of the human body. Its protagonists regard the human body as a kind of machine, whose parts could be studied as the parts of a motor car are studied. Each part can be pulled apart, and nothing happens to the other parts. One part can be repaired, fitted into that structure, and the machine is complete. It appeared that they could pull out parts of the body without affecting the whole system, because a mechanistic conception of the universe takes its stand on the principle that the whole is not different from the parts. The whole is only a name that is given to the assemblage of parts. But, is it true? A question is raised by the mind itself. Is man merely an assemblage of parts? Can a human being be created by putting together some legs, noses, eyes, and ears? Is it true that nothing happens to the human being when the limbs are severed and scattered in different directions?
The mechanistic notion of the universe was confirmed scientifically and mathematically many years back by such thinkers as Newton and his follower Laplace, who thought that the whole astronomical universe is capable of interpretation, almost like the working of a clock – and everyone knows how a clock works. It has no life, yet it works. So, the whole universal action is a lifeless action, and bodily action is similar to that. If it appears that human beings have life, it is only an epiphenomenon, an exudation, a projection, a sort of appearance including even the intelligence and the mind; so they believed.
The behaviourist psychology, which is based on materialist science, holds the opinion that the mechanism of the body determines even the thoughts of the mind. This point may be considered from a purely logical angle of vision. There is what is called intelligence, which is an exudation of the body, a secretion of the brain, or a kind of phenomenon that is projected by the collocation of material forces. Well, it may be taken for granted that it is so. But, the fallacy is very easily discovered in this argument. No one will agree that his intelligence is the same as his body. Such instances as appreciation of beauty, or an adoption of an ethical conduct, etc., may be taken as commonplace examples of life. "This is beautiful": no one can say that his leg is making this remark, nor that his nose is admiring the beauty of an object, nor that even the limbs of the body put together are making this assertion. "This is a good gentleman"; "He is a highly moral individual": such statements as these do not seem to apply to the body, or the fingers, or the arms, or the tummy, or the back, or the bones, or the flesh, or the marrow of the individual. The morality of an individual, for instance, cannot be said to be the morality of the flesh, or the muscles, or the sinews. These ideas of values in life get abolished totally when the body or the material aspect alone is emphasised, and, worse than that, a difficulty arises of relating consciousness to matter.
Here is a serious logical problem. The relationship between two things has to be explained; here, the problem is of the relation between matter and consciousness. It is held under mechanised observations that intelligence proceeds from, or is exuded by, matter. This assertion would imply that the effect, which is intelligence, is already present in the cause, which is matter, because there cannot be an effect without a cause. Intelligence that proceeds from matter, consciousness that is the effect of matter, has to be present in matter which is the cause. If it is present, a question may arise, "Which part of matter is occupied by consciousness?" Matter is everywhere. The whole universe is matter, and nothing but that. Can it be said that some point of space or a locality of matter is intelligent, or is the whole of matter intelligent? No one can say that it is located in one place or only in a little area of matter, because matter is an indivisible substance which is spread throughout space. Infinity is the name of matter. Thus, if the effect, which is consciousness or intelligence, is to be embedded in the cause, which is matter, it has to be present everywhere.
This conclusion is amazing and startling. It needs a logical and systematic re-analysis. Matter is the cause of intelligence: that is the thesis. But matter is everywhere. Therefore, the effect, which is intelligence, also, has to be everywhere, wherever matter is. Thus, the first acceptance that one is forced into is the conclusion that consciousness is everywhere, and it cannot be in one place only, because it is granted that it is an effect of matter, and matter is everywhere. This implies matter and consciousness are everywhere simultaneously. How can this be possible? Even if this position is accepted, another difficulty arises, which is not easily solved: viz., the relationship between effect and cause. The material scientists have not considered these difficulties properly. They have jumped suddenly into a hasty conclusion. The difficulties are apparent.
The relationship between cause and effect is a difficult thing to understand. There can be an identity or a difference between two things. A can be the same as B, or A is not the same as B. There cannot be a third relationship between two things. If A is the same as B, it is useless to call it A; unnecessarily another name is given to it. But if A is not B, it has no connection with B. Hence, it bears no relation to it. Therefore, it cannot be an effect of the cause.
Consciousness cannot be an effect of matter if it does not bear any relationship to matter. Thus, the relationship, if it obtains at all, has to be one of identity or difference. If it is identical, materialism falls in one second. The whole matter which is the universe would be aglow with consciousness. But if it is different, it does not follow that consciousness is exuded by matter. It stands as a separate identity.
Materialism is a monistic philosophy. It is not a dualistic doctrine. It does not permit the existence of consciousness outside matter. The monistic attitude of the materialist fails on account of his inability to explain the relationship of consciousness to matter. He is faced with twin choices so as to stick to his monistic stand. He must accept that matter and consciousness are identical. For this, he is not prepared. Then, he must deny totally the existence of consciousness. This, again, he cannot do, because the argument of the materialist is not the argument of matter; it is not matter that is speaking, it is consciousness that is holding an opinion. So, he is forced to accept the presence of consciousness. But, then, its relationship to matter remains unexplained.