Dialectical Spiritualism: Samuel Alexander, Part 4

BY: SUN STAFF - 26.6 2017

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

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938)

Syamasundara dasa: During Alexander's day, people were very optimistic about man's future, thinking that everyone would be benefitted by scientific discoveries.

Srila Prabhupada: People think that by nature's way, they will be promoted, that once they have attained the status of man, they cannot be degraded. But if one can go up, he can also go down. The rich can become poor again. Theosophists and others think that everything goes up, progresses. They don't even have the common sense to look around them.

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander distinguished between deity and God Himself. For him, deity is a relative term for the next highest level of existence. For an ant, a dog may be a deity; for a dog, a man may be a deity; for a man, a demigod may be a deity. Deity is always one evolutionary step ahead of us. Alexander defines God as "the being which possesses deity in full." That is, God is always one step ahead of every creature.

Srila Prabhupada: He does not know the exact Vedic science of God, but as a philosopher he is suggesting a very nice method. For an ant, a bird is a deity; for a bird, a cat is a deity, and so on according to one's position. And if you continue searching, you will find someone who has no one to worship. The ant must worship the bird, the bird worship the cat, and so on, but when we arrive at a person who has no one to worship, we have arrived at God. In the lower stages, there are always higher living beings, but when we come to the highest living being, we come to God Himself. This is explained in the Vedic literatures:

Isvarah paramah krsnah 
anadir adir govindah 

"Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes." (Brahma-samhita 5.1) And in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

mattah parataram nanyat 
kincid asti dhananjaya 
mayi sarvam idam protam 
sutre mani-gana iva

"0 conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bg. 7.7) There is no authority superior to Krsna. As long as one has a superior, he is not God, but a servant of God.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that lower organisms strive to emulate higher. Animals strive to become like men, and men strive to become like gods.

Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of striving. It is by nature's way that the lower animals come to the platform of men. The living entity evolves from one life form to another, but this is with the help of nature. This law holds, up to the human platform. Having developed consciousness, the human being has the power of discrimination. Originally, the soul is given independence. Krsna tells Arjuna, "Whatever you like, you do." (Bg. 18.63) God is the Supersoul, and we are the jiva souls subordinate to Him. Therefore we are called tatastha, which means that we are marginal; we can go either way. We may take God's side, or maya's side. That is our choice. When we don't want to serve God, we are sent to maya to serve her. Man's position as a subordinate remains the same, but in maya he thinks, "I am the master." This is just like a child trying to act against his father's wishes. When he is given a chance to do as he likes, the child thinks, "Oh, I am independent now." Actually he is never independent, but he thinks that he is. When death comes, no one is independent. Although man continually serves maya life after life, he still thinks of himself as independent. Only when we surrender to Krsna do we enjoy our real independence.

Syamasundara dasa: But don't lower forms try to emulate higher ones?

Srila Prabhupada: That is natural. Everyone wants a higher position because everyone is trying to be master. That is the whole problem. One can be a master to some extent: a head clerk in an office, a president, or prime minister. There is much ambition in the material world because materialistic men are guided by the idea that "I shall become like Krsna." When their efforts fail in the material world, they strive to merge into Krsna. This is Mayavadi philosophy. Not knowing that they are already Brahman, spirit soul, they consider themselves the Supreme Brahman, God Himself. Therefore they sit and meditate, thinking, "I am moving the sun. I am moving the moon." This is simply imagination. This is the last snare of maya. Maya first of all allures us to become a big merchant, a prime minister, a president. Maya is always saying, "Become this, become that, become, become." Maya is always telling us to work under her direction. Finally, she says, "Now you have failed in all these things. It is better now that you become God, and attain your real status again. " So the living entity begins to think, "I am God," but maya is still kicking him. As soon as this so-called God gets some toothache, he runs to the doctor. He does not stop to think, "What kind of God am I?"

Syamasundara dasa: But what is that urge for promotion?

Srila Prabhupada: It is not the individual's urge. Nature is giving the impetus. For instance, when you were a child, there was no sex urge, but when you attained adolescence, immediately the sex urge became manifest. Similarly, the perfection of consciousness is there, but unless you come to the platform of human life, it will not develop.

Syamasundara dasa: Is there also an urge among lower animals to improve themselves, to be promoted?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but all that is being carried out by nature. That is evolution. Darwin has taken this idea from the Vedas, but he has no idea of the soul. The only business of animals is eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. You may call this the struggle for existence. They are simply trying to live; they have no other ambition. If a man, having attained the human stage, is interested only in these things, he is no better than an animal. Nowadays, these are being taught by modern civilization. They teach you how to live comfortably with a car, a bungalow, a girl friend, and restaurants. All living entities in this material world have the propensity to enjoy. On one platform, the living entity enjoys certain types of pleasure, but he is always wanting more. It is the spirit of material enjoyment that brings about the disease of materialistic life.

Syamasundara dasa: So the urge to advance is perverted by the urge to enjoy?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, perverted. The living entity's position is to serve Krsna, but instead he is serving his senses and thinking that he is enjoying. You can see how everyone is working hard day and night in order to enjoy. Everyone is thinking that he will be happy if he just becomes a millionaire. Animals work hard to get some food, and as soon as they acquire food, they are satisfied. But human beings are not so easily satisfied. They are so passionate that they are constantly working very hard to be happy. People do not understand that in material life, they cannot be happy in any position.

Syamasundara dasa: Can the urge to advance be the desire to become godly?

Srila Prabhupada: Desire means that one has lost his real happiness dancing with God like the gopis. Anandamayo ' bhyasat. The Vedanta-sutra says that by nature, the living entity wants ananda, bliss. Because he seeks ananda in a perverted way, he is confused and frustrated; therefore he thinks, "Not this state but that will give me happiness." However, when he goes to his desired state, he again finds unhappiness.

This is because he is seeking anand a in a perverted way. In Vaikuntha-loka, there is eternal happiness because everyone is surrendered to Krsna. In Vrndavana, all the cowherd boys, gopis, cows, trees, and other living entities are centered about Krsna. They are all concerned with making Krsna happy. Only on that platform will we avoid confusion and frustration.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander says that at this point, we cannot know the qualities of the next stage of evolution.

Srila Prabhupada: He may not know, but we know. One who has Krsna as his master and teacher knows everything. Yasmin vijnate sarvam eva vijnatam bhavanti. If you understand Krsna, you understand everything.

Hayagriva dasa: Again, concerning the conception of deity, which is so central, Alexander writes: "The infinitude of God's deity marks the difference between Him and all other empirical beings Not only is God infinite in extent and duration, but His deity is also infinite in both respects."

Srila Prabhupada: If God is infinite deity, He is not subject to created living beings. It is incorrect to think of God's deity as one of the deities within this material world. A person who thinks in this way is condemned as a mudha. "Because I appear as an ordinary human being," Krsna tells us, " mudhas , asses, consider Me an ordinary human." (Bg. 9. 11)

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander states that God is both body and soul, and that His soul is His deity. "All Unites are included in Him," he writes, "and are fragments of God's body, though their individuality is not lost in it God is... an individual being just as man or any other finite is, only that He is infinite."

Srila Prabhupada: That is right. God is a person, but not like us. People mistake Him to be like an ordinary human being, but this is due to illusion. Krsna is infinite, and Arjuna is finite. It is explained in Bhagavad-gita that Krsna, being infinite, knows everything in the past, present, and future (Bg. 4. 5). That is one of the differences between an ordinary living entity and God. The living entity forgets, but God does not.