idealist philosophers’ “impersonal Absolute” and our individual consciousness
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idealist philosophers’ “impersonal absolute”
Besides the theist versus atheist divide, there is also the divide of the impersonalists contrasted to the people who believe God to be a person, an individual, personal supreme consciousness.
(As we have already addressed some aspects of this topic before, and do not simply wish to repeat what has been previously written and posted on WordPress, we include several links to some related (and important) essays at bottom.)
Some philosophers of the idealist persuasion (or school) – both east and west – assert that God is an “impersonal Absolute”. God has no personality. God is just the ground of Being, the source or origin or cause of Being (or what we see as the physical, material universe). Needless to say, this assertion contradicts the revealed truths of Christianity, and what is found both in the Vedas (the ancient scriptures of India), and the Bhagavad Gita (the Song of the Lord).
and our individual consciousness
This postulate raises a disturbing question for us. If God is such an impersonal Absolute, is individuated human consciousness a bizarre fluke then?
Put another way, how could a god without a personality somehow give rise to individual self-aware consciousnesses (we humans, all 7 billion plus)?
Others may reply (and assert) that our individual human consciousness is merely a by-product of biological evolution, and has nothing whatsoever to do with God at all.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 – 1975, his surname combines Krishna and Radha, Krishna’s consort) wrote a very challenging work, An Idealist View of Life, based on a series of lectures he had given. I struggled through this book a few years ago. (Both Radhakrishnan and Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) are tough to read. Srila Prabhupada (1896 – 1977) is much easier to read as he wrote for a much broader audience. Yet, his more easily grasped works are very profound as to the insights and wisdom they contain.)
Radhakrishnan, in one part of this book, contrasts this dichotomy of the impersonalist postulate, and the believers in a personal God Who has a personality. From memory and paraphrasing, he says that God is actually the impersonal Absolute when/as seen from the temporal (here and now of this world) perspective. In other words, the impersonal Absolute appears to us in this world as God. Whereas the impersonal Absolute is God when seen from the perspective of eternity (i.e. transcending this material universe). In other words, God appears under the aspect of eternity as the impersonal Absolute. (Not sure if I have conveyed this concept clearly. The wording can be very tricky.)
I came away from the book thinking that Radhakrishnan had subscribed to the impersonalist conception of God. Perhaps other readers of his book might come to a different conclusion. And, this has been a major divide in Indian philosophic and religious thought for thousands of years, and persists today. There are many Indians who believe that God has a supremely transcendent personality (Krishna), and there are many who adhere to the impersonalist concept (Brahman, or impersonal Absolute). These latter are called Mayavadis. (At the higher levels of Indian thought, Hinduism is monotheistic; although at the village level and in many religious rituals it appears to be polytheistic).
We do not accept a pantheistic belief. As we noted in an earlier essay, in the Vedic teachings and from the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna (God) has an impersonal aspect, but also has a supremely transcendent personality. Basically, God permeates His creation, yet also with His supremely transcendent personality, He simultaneously stands above (or outside of) His creation. (As well, there is a material universe, and there is a spiritual universe on a different plane of existence.)
Radhakrishnan also wrote a lengthy book, Eastern Religions and Western Thought. In this work, he traces the (very probable) early Indian influence on the western religions. Ancient Persia was the conduit for Indian ideas reaching Mesopotamia and beyond.
Before closing this essay, let us briefly consider 2 other Indian concepts which are foreign to western thinking. Shall we?
Maya and lila. Maya is the idea that the material universe is ultimately an illusion. The material universe is (by definition) material or physical, and temporary (although it’s not thought of as such by most people.) Being both material (physical) and temporary, the universe is thus not ultimately real. The spiritual and eternal are what are ultimately real. Maya, the illusion, effectively veils or obscures the ultimate spiritual reality from us.
Lila is the play of God in His creation. There is plenty of tragedy and suffering in this play. But, the lila is a divine play nonetheless.
This essay is presented in the hopes that it will encourage critical thinking in its readers.
Here are the links to related essays that may be of interest to some readers. These links are also provided for the benefit of recent blog subscribers who may not be aware of them. The monthly archives and subject categories of the blog site are open 24/7.
These 2 essays may also be of interest:
This next essay, I did not realize at the time of its writing, is akin to the existentialists’ “anguish of being”.
And, for our atheist friends, we present these 2 essays. (The human intellect has its limitations. You need to open your heart to God.)
Here are some links to the books by Radhakrishnan.
http://www.holybooks.com/an-idealist-view-of-life-radhakrishnan/ This is the edition I read. It may be downloadable, but may tie up your PC for a long time.
Another edition, the copies are used but inexpensive, can be found here:
For Eastern Religions and Western Thought, click here:
The copy that I read a few years back was an earlier edition, but it appears to be the same unabridged work.
Thanks for reading!