H.D. Goswami in this lecture shows how spiritual values are relevant in the modern times in a broad historical context and why we need a spiritual science and higher consciousness.
Societies are based upon metaphysical assumptions. (Example: in a small town traffic lights are being set up. That is a trade-off between freedom and security: In exchange for the encroachment upon my freedom I have more security). This trade-off is one of the most basic values in society. When we decide to live in a society we are making a value-judgment that the value of doing so is greater than living alone and having more freedom. The value of security or freedom is not a physical fact, it cannot be measured. Society is based on a series of values and assumptions.
The Scottish philosopher David Hume – who was quite controversial because in the late 18th century he was somewhat of an atheist which was scandalous back then – made an important contribution to Western philosophy: He pointed out that one cannot derive a metaphysical fact from a physical fact. (Previous example: The fact that there are more accidents can be measured, but to say that there would be more value in reducing accidents is a metaphysical fact). This is important because Hume was reacting to a Christian worldview which pervaded Europe at this time. The idea was that if one just studied nature, nature will tell you about God. As Europe was coming out the Dark Ages it became popular to say that God has given us two books, the Bible and the book of nature. It was the notion of natural philosophy by simply studying nature. In response to this enthusiasm Hume said that nature can only give you physical facts but you cannot derive a metaphysical fact from that.
A famous document in which the author was fully aware of this fact is Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. His claim is that all people are created equal and bestowed by the creator with equal rights. He did not try to argue for equality and freedom on the basis of physical facts. Jefferson based his claims on self-evident truth in order to avoid in infinite regress of proves. A right is a value judgment. So how can it be derived from a physical fact? Therefore he claims it to be self-evident.
Now we have the amazing contradiction in America that we have a secular democracy which doesn’t accept religious claims but which is based on a metaphysical claim. The relevance of spirituality is that without the agreement of people on certain spiritual values we cannot have a moral society, otherwise it degrades into the law of the jungle.
The intelligent design philosophy was put forward as a philosophical position throughout history long before Christianity, but the court does not accept it and will not allow this to be taught at school. If that was true, the declaration also shouldn’t be taught because it teaches us intelligent design of our rights and our political system.
If spiritual values are pushed into a private sphere then materialistic values like consumerism and capitalism will prevail. Capitalism is not just the system of free market which has existent throughout history. Capitalism is an ideology which claims that the highest public value is capital. There is a sacred right to accumulate capital.
We have to establish the objectivity of certain higher values. There is a need to re-spiritualize society. Not everything can be explained in term of dead matter. Quests in regards to the source of our existence and the ultimate goal of our life shouldn’t be privatized and trivialized.
From Questions & Answers:
Regarding Plato: In his “Republic” he said we should tell the public lies if necessary so that they behave properly. Should we tell grown-up people lies? Plato states that there are eternal forms which are intelligible. He has to sides: The geometer and the theist. He understood God as a living, conscious thing not just a form. In the end of his life he proposes a religious state. In his Dialogues he tries to reconcile his geometry with his theism and talks about purifying the soul.
You cannot say, “something is true philosophically because I value it”. Jefferson was claiming an objective truth to be evident. He felt that this is a fact everybody can understand by just looking at it.
Argument: The reason we think certain qualities are good is because evolution selected that, since societies who believe that survived more efficiently than societies who didn’t believe it. E.g. the notion that rape and crime are bad is because society found it beneficial, evolution made you think it.
There are two problems with this argument:
- History doesn’t proof it.
- It completely distorts and twists what almost everybody feels they deeply know to be true, that it is wrong to see how innocent people are being murdered. The conclusion would be a monstrous amoral universe: That it is not really wrong to murder an innocent person. If we can design a society in which murdering children turns about to be good for a special gene-pool is would be good. As we know, periodic forest fires are good. Stopping the natural elimination of weaker elements in a gene-pool makes that community weaker. If I can show that raping and murdering doesn’t interfere with the brute survival of the species there is no problem.
There is also an epistemological argument: How do we know anything exists outside of our mind? How do we know anything? What it will come down to is that we believe that we have certain powers of understanding so that we can say we know something. By the deepest powers we have, we can say that certain acts are evil, and to tell us that these acts are not truly evil that we have been fooled by our own genes which delude us into thinking that is a monstrous idea and contradicts our deepest convictions. This theory trashes all spiritual wisdom of all time.
It is common to say religion is a crutch. However, atheism is a huge crutch. The pay-off is to think that there is no one in the universe better than you. This leads us to gigantic vanity. You get to eliminate any higher authority to judge you.
In the history of the West the tyranny of the church was overturned and replaced by an academic tyranny of methodological atheistic materialism. You had to hide even any intellectual conviction. The secular scientific repression of metaphysic is no less than the previous Christian suppression or repression. What we need here is a synthesis. We have a thesis which is fanatical religion. The born-again materialism is the equal and opposite reaction (Newton) to that. What we need a principled inclusivism.
In the end Srila Acaryadeva briefly speaks about his own convictions and his spiritual path how he was attracted by an ultimately oneness and by the notion of a God and the ontological point that things are one and different at the same time. There are two cognitive actions by which we understand: There is a sense in which God and ourselves is a single reality and there is a sense in which we are all individuals. “I wanted to be in higher consciousness and was thus looking for a practical spiritual method which could bring me to realized understanding.” A theory which rejects all personal life appears to be monstrous. Finally Acaryadeva explains the details of the purificatory process. Our whole life is meant to become yoga and to be absorbed into the spiritual realm.