Dialectical Spiritualism: Henri Bergson

BY: SUN STAFF - 5.6 2017

 Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

Hayagriva dasa: Bergson maintained that God's reality can be intuited only by mystical experience. The creative effort "is of God if it is not God Himself." This knowledge of God leads to activity, not passivity.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, knowledge of God certainly leads to activity. For instance, in bhakti-yoga we are engaged twenty-four hours daily in Krsna's service. It is not that we just sit down and meditate. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that the best activity is to preach the message of Bhagavad-gita:

ya idam paramam guhyam 
mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati 
bhaktim mayi param krtva 
mam evaisyaty asamsayah

"For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me." (Bg. 18.68) This is also Caitanya Mahaprabhu's order: "Become a guru by spreading Krsna consciousness." To be a guru means to be active.

Hayagriva dasa: The word "mystic" can have many different meanings. When Bergson says that God's reality can be intuited only by mystical experience, what is meant?

Srila Prabhupada: God is mystical for one who does not know God, but for one who knows God and receives orders from Him, God is a perceivable person. The word "mystic" may imply something vague or obscure.

Syamasundara dasa: Bergson believed that the mystic who has contact with God can lead others and teach them to become godly.

Srila Prabhupada: That is very nice. Then by "mystic," he means God's representative. That is the spiritual master who is following in the disciplic succession. The Bhagavad-gita tells us to approach a guru who has realized the truth, God. It is not that the mystic poses himself to be God. No, he surrenders unto Krsna and teaches others to do so. In this way, he teaches us how to become godly. Actually, it is better to say God conscious instead of godly. One who is God conscious is a true mystic.

Syamasundara dasa: According to modem interpretations, a mystic is someone mysterious or magical.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the meaning has degraded to that because so many gurus come over, display miracles, and claim to be God. So these rascals are misleading the unintelligent who want to see miracles, and the unintelligent look on these miracles as mysticism. It is another case of the cheaters and the cheated.

Hayagriva dasa: Originally, the Greek word mystikos referred to one initiated in secret religious rites, and today the word has degenerated to mean something obscure or occult. For Bergson, a mystic is one who can commune with God through contemplation and love, participate in God's love for mankind, and aid the divine purpose. This is the real meaning of "creative evolution."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, everyone is in ignorance due to a long separation from God. In the material world, the living entity has forgotten his relationship with God; therefore he acts only for sense gratification. He awakens to his real life when he is given instructions on how to become God conscious; otherwise, he lives like an animal. Sentiment is one thing, but when religion is understood in the light of good logic and philosophy, we can attain a perfect understanding of God. Without philosophy, religion is simply sentiment. Sentiment in itself does not help very much. A sentimentalist may be interested one day and disinterested another. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, religion means learning how to love God. At the present moment, in our physical condition, we cannot see God, but by hearing about Him, we can develop our dormant love.

Syamasundara dasa: Bergson envisioned two types of religion: static and dynamic. Static religion is comprised of myths devised by human intelligence as a means of defense against life's miseries. Fearful of the future, man attempts to overcome his condition by constructing religious myths.

Srila Prabhupada: Whatever is created by human beings is not accept able. We do not follow such faiths because human beings are always imperfect. We cannot accept anything manufactured by human beings; we must take our information directly from God, as it is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam. "Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (Bhag. 6.3.19) Krsna says, "Surrender unto Me." This is real religion. It is not man-made. Man is constantly creating so many ism's, but these are not perfect. Religion that leads us to surrender to God is real religion. Otherwise it is bogus.

Syamasundara dasa: For Bergson, real religion is dynamic.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is so. It is not static because it is on the spiritual platform. The spirit is the dynamic force in this body. There is no question of the spirit being static.

Syamasundara dasa: Bergson says that prompted by the vital impulse, by dynamic religion, the human will identifies with the divine will in a mystical union.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is the process of Krsna consciousness. We are teaching people to agree with the divine will, which means surrendering to God. Oneness means agreeing with this teaching.

Syamasundara dasa: Real religion is a mystic oneness with God.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, oneness means that I agree with God. God says, "Surrender," and I say, "Yes, I surrender." God tells Arjuna, "Fight," and Arjuna fights. Oneness means that we agree with God on all points.

Hayagriva dasa: Bergson felt that the greatest obstacle to creative evolution is the struggle with materialism. He believed that politics and economic reforms cannot help matters.

Srila Prabhupada: Politics and economic reforms can help provided they are properly guided — that is, provided they aim at helping our understanding of our relationship with God. Vedic civilization was di vided into four varnas and four asramas, and these divisions were meant to help people develop their dormant God consciousness. Unfortunately, today the ksatriyas, the administrators, have forgotten the real objective of human life. Now they are thinking only of caring for the body, living comfortably, and gratifying their senses. But that is not the real purpose of human civilization.