Dialectical Spiritualism: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.4 2017

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

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 - 1814)

Hayagriva dasa: For Fichte, our knowledge of God arises from the enactment of our duty.

Srila Prabhupada: That is all right, but what is our duty? God must assign our duty for us to understand God by enacting our duty. But if we have no conception of God, how can we know what our duty is?

Syamasundara dasa: For Fichte, self-consciousness is the basic principle of human knowledge and our means for searching out the Absolute.

Srila Prabhupada: That self-consciousness should be "I am the eternal servant of Krsna." This can be realized by practice, by education, and by study of the Vedas.

Syamasundara dasa: Fichte believes that the philosopher's search for the truth begins with a demand for fulfillment — that is, "Think thyself!"

Srila Prabhupada: We should think, "What am I?" By profound meditation, we can understand, "I am not this body but something else. I am eternal. I existed in the past, I exist now, and I will continue to exist in the future. Whatever I am doing now in the material world is separate and temporary. But what is my eternal duty?" If we understand our position and learn from a spiritual master that we are the eternal servants of Krsna, we will take to Krsna's service — that is, if we are sensible. In this way, we can attain a higher position.

Hayagriva dasa: Fichte was ambiguous and vague when he wrote of God as a personal being. He seemed to lean toward pantheism or impersonalism.

Srila Prabhupada: If he is an impersonalist, he has no understanding of his master, God, who is giving him his duty.

Hayagriva dasa: He looked on the attribution of personality to God as simply a multiplication of oneself in one's own thoughts.

Srila Prabhupada: If our understanding of God is only impersonal, where is God's leadership? Is there any question of leadership in impersonalism?

Hayagriva dasa: Well, he feels that if you attribute personality to God, you are projecting yourself onto God — that is, you are manufacturing God.

Srila Prabhupada: We cannot manufacture God by giving Him imaginary attributes. Whatever attributes we ascribe to Him must be logical. For instance, we say, "God is great" because we have some conception of greatness, and we understand that greatness must be in God. Or we say that God is supremely wealthy, and that also is quite reasonable. We say that God is supreme, and that also logically follows. The attributes of God given by Parasara Muni — knowledge, fame, wealth, strength, beauty, and renunciation — all combine to give a reasonable definition.

Hayagriva dasa: Like many other impersonalists, Fichte believes that if you attribute personality to God, you necessarily limit Him.

Srila Prabhupada: He is thinking that God's personality is finite like his, and that is his mistake. Krsna's personality is not like that of an ordinary man. As soon as it was necessary to protect the inhabitants of Vrndavana from the torrents of Indra, Krsna immediately lifted Govardhana Hill to serve as an umbrella. When He did this, He appeared as a seven-year-old boy. He did not have to meditate for years in order to become God. Presently, rascals are meditating to try to become God, but what kind of God? God is always God. He is the transcendental personality, and there is no need for Him to meditate.

Hayagriva dasa: Fichte rejects the personality of God because he felt that "the concept of God as a separate substance is impossible and contradictory."

Srila Prabhupada: Since God is everything, there is no question of separation. As stated in Bhagavad-gita:

maya tatarn idam sarvaih 
jagad avyakta-murtina 
mat-sthani sarva bhutani 
na caham tesv avasthitah

"By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them." (Bg. 9.4) If everything is in God, how can He be separate?

Hayagriva dasa: He rejects God as a separate person.

Srila Prabhupada: If God is everything, why is He not a separate person also? There is no question of rejection. If he admits that God is everything, how can he reject God's personality?

Hayagriva dasa: Since Fichte's pantheism would not admit that God is more than the creation, he would reject the transcendental personality.

Srila Prabhupada: Then he is trying to create God after his own conceptions. But if he admits that God is everything, how can he reject God's transcendental personality? If God is everything, He is that which is transcendental, as well as what is not. Those who follow the Vedas do not reject any part of God. They see God in everything. Isavasyam idaih sarvam (Isopanisad 1). A real Vaisnava sees everything related to God. If one thinks, "This is matter, and this is spirit," he is speculating. We have to see God in relation to everything. When we do not, everything becomes material. Materialism means forgetfulness of God.