Dialectical Spiritualism: Samuel Alexander, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 19.6 2017

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

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938)

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander felt that "even the description of God... is full of figurative language." For him, it is impossible to describe God.

Srila Prabhupada: If it is impossible, why is he trying? Why shouldn't we accept the Vedic descriptions? In Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna tells Krsna:

param, brahma param, dhama 
pavitram paramam bhavan 
puriLsam sasvatam divyam 
adi-devam ajam vibhum 

ahus tvam rsayah sarve 
devarsir naradas tatha 
asito devalo vyasah 
svayam caiva bravisi me

"You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me." (Bg. 10. 12-13) If all authorities accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, what further evidence do we need? No further argument is necessary. Things should be simplified.

Syamasundara dasa: The mind is always reorganizing existing things, new comes from old, and from this, Alexander draws his idea of evolution.

Srila Prabhupada: Since there is gold and mountains, I can imagine a gold mountain. I can combine many ideas with my imagination. The mind creates some ideas, and then rejects them to create others, and then rejects them also. The mind is not satisfied with creating something final. The mind by nature is creative. It creates something, then thinks, "Oh, this is not perfect," and then begins again. That is the mind's business: accepting and rejecting.

Syamasundara dasa: For Alexander, the mind has two functions: contemplation and enjoyment. Contemplation involves perceiving the qualities of an object — for instance, an apple's redness.

Srila Prabhupada: Or, if I see a tamarind, I immediately salivate.

Syamasundara dasa: Enjoyment involves a mental awareness of inner, physiological activity.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there are many examples. One may dream of a sex object and have a nocturnal discharge. The mind creates things in this way, and there are actual physical reactions. In a dream, the mind may create a tiger, and the dreamer may cry aloud in fright. But actually there is no tiger.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that even these dream images have an objective reality in our consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, when I dream of a woman or a tiger, they exist in objective reality. The impressions in my mind are created hallucinations, but they may evoke physical reactions.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander describes time as an infinity of single instants, and space as an infinity of points. Together, they constitute primordial reality.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we also consider time and space to be reality. Time is eternal, and therefore we take time to be another feature of God. Space is a later creation. Space is prakrti. Prakrti refers to nature, the elements like earth, water, fire, ether, space. Space or sky is one of the fundamental factors of prakrti. Prakrti, kala, jiva, Bhagavan: nature, time, the individual soul, and God. These are all realities, and they are all eternal. There is only one ultimate creator, Bhagavan, and the jivatma, the individual soul, is the subsequent creator. God creates wood, and from this wood I create a table or a chair. Thus I am the subsequent, not the ultimate creator. Both creators, Bhagavan and jivatma, are eternal. Because the creation has a past, present, and future, time is also eternal.

Syamasundara dasa: Is there such a thing as spiritual space?

Srila Prabhupada: Of course. If not, how could there be a spiritual world? The quality is different, but the ingredients are exactly the same.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander, like Bergson, also believes that nothing remains at rest, that everything is in perpetual transition.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we also accept that. Everything is going forward. That is called jagat.

Syamasundara dasa: Can this be said of the activities in the spiritual world?

Srila Prabhupada: We are speaking of the material world. The spiritual world is different. In the spiritual world, activities are eternal. In the material world, they are not.

Syamasundara dasa: But isn't the motion of everything eternal?

Srila Prabhupada: That motion is the interaction of the three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In course of time, these modes react, and creation takes place. There is certainly motion. Without motion, there cannot be creation. Material nature is composed of earth, water, fire, ether, and space. Whatever you see is composed of one or more of these ingredients. There are also subtler ingredients: mind, intelligence, and ego. These are the eight material elements given in Bhagavad-gita, and they are considered the differentiated energy of Krsna.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander's primary category is more abstract. He says that it is motion.

Srila Prabhupada: But where does the motion come from? Motion means that there must be someone there to push.

Syamasundara dasa: Another major category is identity, or diversity. Everything has a personal identity and individuality differentiating it from every other thing.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is called sajatiyo vijatiya in Sanskrit. There is difference (vijatiya) even between like things. There may be two mango trees, but there is still a difference between them. They may be one as mango trees, but there is still individuality. Similarly, my fingers are one, but each finger is different from the other. Sajatiya refers to the same category, but even within that category there is a difference.

Syamasundara dasa: Existence, or being, is another major category.

Srila Prabhupada: That existence is composed of one or more of the five elements. One ingredient may be more prominent than the other, but there is at least one ingredient.

Syamasundara dasa: Relation and order are other categories. Everything relates to everything else, and there is order in everything.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is certainly order in prakrti. The sun rises and sets at designated times. There is order everywhere.

Syamasundara dasa: The mind also occupies space and works in time.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are occupying space, and since the mind is within us, the mind also occupies space. From practical experience we can understand that the mind can immediately travel thousands of miles with no difficulties.

Syamasundara dasa: But is that distance within me, or does my mind actually travel there?

Srila Prabhupada: It travels. It actually occupies space. Unless it occupies space, how could it travel? It travels so fast that you can't exactly remember how it is going, but as soon as it reaches its destination, you can apprehend it. In any case, it occupies space.

Syamasundara dasa: The mind can leave the body and go somewhere?

Srila Prabhupada: Not leave. It is just like a shoot: it extends. At night, when we are dreaming, the subtle body also extends and comes back again. In fact, we may take the subtle bodies in dreams to be very important at the time.