Apr 24

Why Aristotle May Not Be Considered A Materialist

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Knowledge is not a product of hyper-intellectual imagination. Knowledge is that which distinguishes reality from illusion for the benefit of all. — Bhagavat Purana 1.1.2 describes this as the highest truth.[1]

“The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.” For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.” — Francis Bacon, Novum Organon (1620)

The following essay presents in my humble opinion why Aristotle may not be considered a materialist. He described the appearing (apparent) world or phenomenal cosmos teleologically as intrinsically a kingdom of ends, rather than mechanistically as a chaos impelled to form a cosmos by forces under laws externally acting upon its matter or content.

A teacher writes the alphabet on a blackboard to teach it to first graders, but it does not mean that the teacher is at the level of the first graders. Aristotle taught the principles of material phenomena, but one may not thereby conclude that he was a materialist.

Modern science assumes the principle of uniformity of matter throughout the universe in the form of atoms or subatomic particles, as well as universal laws and forces. This is a convenient simplification for a finite, limited intellect, especially convenient for utilizing formal mathematical interpretations of material phenomena, but Carl Sagan sagely reminds us,

“Common sense works fine for the universe we’re used to, for time scales of decades, for a space between a tenth of a millimeter and a few thousand kilometers, and for speeds much less than the speed of light. Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences.” [2]

Einstein also admonished us,

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

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Jul 23

Neurology, Phrenology, Astrology

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A person [a spiritual entity] has subjective experiences, he has a brain that has neurons whose firings can be detected by machine M. The person (experiencer) looks at a pattern P and the Machine M records a pattern Pm of neuron firings. A decoder then correlates the pattern Pm with the pattern P as identical. This is the process called brain reading.

A phrenologist correlates bumps on the head by a similar process. By correlating the characteristics of persons with certain bump patterns they can then determine the characteristics of persons simply by feeling their heads.

Astrology can do the same thing by correlating the pattern of stars and planets at birth with certain characteristics of people born under those celestial patterns. This can all be made very complex as we find in computerized astrology programs.

The Chinese beat a gong whenever the Moon dog comes to eat the Sun god during a solar eclipse. Every time they do it it works. So much for the empirical correlational/modeling/mapping method of ‘science.’ Can such a method ever explain anything or can it only ever be simply metaphor?

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Jul 20

Continuation from previous post on this blog of the conversation between Joe M and Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja

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Jul 18

Beyond the Looking Glass

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(The following is from an online discussion between Joe M and Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja.)

Joe: “. . . you still insist that the source created the energy, and that the energy did not create the source. I think you have it backwards. I don’t see how you can have a source, without the energy to create it. The difference here between us is critical.”

BMP: Because you are conceiving the relation between source and energy as being relatively on the same existential level, like self and other, you are missing the third element, i.e.the transcendental absolute nature of the Source. When the Source is conceived on the absolute platform it can no longer be the result of anything but itself. It is important to understand the difference between the Absolute and relative platforms, and I think Spinoza has made a clear attempt at explaining this difference by his concept of causa sui [cause of itself]. I explained this in my first message to you, but either you seem to have a terrible memory or were not able to understand this the first time. I agree this is an extremely critical point to understand and it will change your whole perspective when you do.

When we understand the Source [I write it with a capital letter to indicate it is an Absolute and not a relative idea] it means the nothing within the relative world-frame can influence it or exert any cause on it at all. Thus the absolute world is called pure, unconditioned, eternal, self-luminous, or as the Bhagavad-gita mentions the transcendental eternal soul cannot be wet by water, burned by fire, killed by a sword, and so on.

While the Absolute cannot be influenced by the relative world, the relative world can be influenced [or more properly, created/manifested] by the Absolute or Transcendental world. We can understand this idea through the example of reflection [this is only an example]. When an object is reflected in a lake, in a mirror, or cast as a shadow, the reflection imitates the original and is caused by the original, but the reflection does not cause the original to act. On the other hand, the activity of the reflection is entirely dependent upon the activity of the original [source of the reflection].

If someone is absorbed in the reflected objects or shadows on the wall and thinks them to be the actual or original world, then this is called Maya. Such a person thinks the reflected objects or shadows have their own spontaneous free will to move as they like, but this is all an illusion. The images in the mirror don’t move, nor are those images formed by the glass and silver of the mirror if they were to be analyzed.

When the reflective material is called matter, then we can understand how the material conception of life is simply an illusion or reflection of the original world of spirit. We will get to further details of that idea in a separate post. For now, I hope this helps to give a clearer understanding of what is involved.

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Jul 03

Johannine Ontotheology and Vedanta

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Johannine Ontotheology and Vedanta
Bhakti Madhava Puri, Ph.D.

excerpt —
In the King James version (KJV) of the Bible the apostle John writes:

John 1.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Commentary: The meaning appears to be that the Word and God are different, yet identical also. Ordinary understanding doesn’t like contradictions so it tries to ignore the contradiction and simply accept the sameness of Word and God without the difference. However, that is not what John is saying here. He distinguishes the Word from God by stating the Word first, and then using the preposition “with” to connect the Word with God. Finally John then identifies the Word with God. What John is actually saying therefore is that Word and God are different and identical at the same time – a contradiction!

Western philosophy since Aristotle avoids contradiction like the plague. But this identity-in-difference is a very important concept in Vedantic philosophy called bedha-abedha in Sanskrit. So it is not to be swept under the rug without taking it seriously. It forms the basis of a very important conception of the Absolute Reality of Chaitanya Vaisnavism and other similar vaisnava traditions, and even in the Roman Catholic tradition it is the basis of what is known as the Holy Trinity – the Oneness and Difference of God in His three distinct individualities/Persons.

‘In the beginning” means that we must not identify the Word with Jesus Christ right away, as many do. Actually the identity of the Word with Christ will come in John 1.14, so we don’t want to skip over the significance that the other verses play in arriving at that identity. So sticking to John 1.1 we can recognize that the Word [in the original Greek it is Logos and that is translated as Word in the KJV] is related to thought or thinking. Words are used to express or utter [meaning outer or objectify] thoughts [which are internal or subjective]. So we can interpret John 1.1. as saying the thoughts of God are with God, certainly, and they are also God, because a person is only what his/her thoughts make them. Thinking reflected upon itself is what is meant by “I.” Descartes; first indubitability was “I think, thus I am.” He identifies thinking with his being as an ego or I. At the same time thinking and being an “I” are different – we naturally distinguish the two. We naturally presume that “I” am the agent who produces thinking. In the case of John 1.1 the Word [thinking] is conjoined with the Supreme “I” or God. Thus God expresses His thinking as the Word, which makes the Word the offspring or Son of God. So the idea of the Son as produced from God the original “I” is contained in John 1,1.

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