The new philosophy about God and Soul
There is no doubt that the idea of God is the foundational belief or central concept in the area of religious faith. But we see so much divergence of opinion among different religious groups regarding the meaning of the word ‘God’ and it causes confusion about the associated notions like soul, heaven, hell, spirituality and liberation. In this situation, the key question as to what God is becomes very complex because it raises heated debate between competing religions. The term theology means knowledge about God, encompassing the definition and characteristics of God as accepted by a religious group. The aim of this article is to deliberate upon the existence of God, without entering into the details of the theological divisions.
Human knowledge is broadly divided into two areas, namely content view and process view. It may be clarified that content view deals with the existence of objects and their components whereas process view describes the activities (change) of things. The theory about the existence of God under content view is known as theism – it treats God as an infinite being. Notably, the theologies of Catholic Church and Islamic religion are the clear examples of theism. The opposite theory under process view is the doctrine called pantheism or mysticism, which holds that God is a cosmic process working immanently in the inanimate and living things of universe. We shall start this discussion focusing on catholic theology as the typical form of theism.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) proposed five ways to prove that God exists as an infinite being with the attributes of omnipotence, perfection and creator of world. This point of view was in accordance with the idealism developed by Plato (427-347 B.C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). Consequently, St. Aquinas holds that God is supreme mind, relegating matter to the level of creation. In other words, God created matter and physical world out of nothing. Here St. Aquinas adopts the position of metaphysical realism which says that the abstract concepts pertaining to metaphysical objects imply the real existence of such objects. This theist argument can be criticized in the following three paragraphs.
1. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) has shown the fallacy of metaphysical realism in his famous book The Critique of Pure Reason. An object defined using rational concepts is the abbreviation of the concerned properties and hence such object is a predicate only. It is not possible to assert that a predicate has existence. Here Kant adds that existence is not a property included in the definition of the object. His famous maxim is: existence is not predicate. For example, we can define a golden elephant with wings but it does not have existence in the natural world. Extending this critical argument Kant asserts that the theist God is a phenomenal predicate and it does not imply existence. All predicates are the foundational aspects of our phenomenal knowledge.
2. The theology of St. Aquinas considers that the attributes of God such as omnipotence and perfection exclusively have the quality of goodness. The creator God is infinitely good; this view is the direct reflection of idealist theory of reality. It implies that the universe has teleology or good purpose. This view is opposed by the factual evidences of bad things and events occurring in the world in innumerable instances. If God is good in all respects, can God allow the evils happening in the world? Then what is the first cause of evils? This question is referred to as the problem of evil in the history of philosophy. We can propose through sound evidences that both good and evil aspects increase in equal proportions with the advancement of civilized world. It is a radical thought, which appears logically true, that the ultimate being which created the universe possesses the dual attributes of good and evil.
3. There are many philosophical controversies about the relation between matter and mind, the ultimate constituents of world. The idea that God is in the form of supreme mind and it created matter out of nothing has meaning only in the field of religious faith. It is countered by the doctrine of materialism which holds that the world is ultimately made of matter. This theory of reality is an assumption from the empirical knowledge of physical world consisting of material objects. Accordingly, materialists assume that matter is infinite and self caused having the property of change. It implies that the inanimate things as well as biological organisms with life and mental faculties have been developed through the evolution of matter. As we know, all the developments of science in modern era stand on the materialist doctrine as foundation. Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion (2007) resorts to the scientific theory of evolution in order to oppose the idea of creator God. The exponents of catholic theology has not offered any credible rejoinder to counter Dawkins’ book.
My new book titled Jeevanum Parinamavum (Life and Evolution) contains the principles of System Philosophy for analyzing of the notion of God. The contrasting concepts phenomenon and reality serve as the key for embarking on the deliberation. We can define phenomenon as an object which depends on another object through cause-effect relations. Hence, all things and events of this universe are phenomena; the phenomenal world consists of objects forming a network of relations. On the other hand, reality is defined as the first cause of all phenomena taken as a whole. Since phenomenal world consists of all kinds of opposites, mainly matter-mind and good-evil, we can assert that the origin of all such opposites is the reality. Let us name the ultimate reality as paramporul. It exists as a system that is similar to a factory using the inputs called body and consciousness in order produce worldly things. The essential property of a system is that it has existence. According to this system model of paramporul, the key principle appearing in system philosophy is that the multitude of phenomenal dualities can be shown to depend ultimately on paramporul. The dialectical productive relation between body and consciousness is responsible for the successive levels of phenomenal world such as inanimate world, biological world and mental world. It implies that the dual parts of reality, i.e., body and consciousness, exist in all phenomenal objects.
Human species is the most complex product of paramporul. Every human being is a system of body and consciousness and it consists of two levels, namely, biological body and mind. Extending the principles of system philosophy to the study of human mind we can propose that human mind exists as a system of brain and nervous system (BNS) and consciousness. Mind has two main areas called scientific mind and mystical mind. Each of these areas can be subdivided into unconscious level and conscious level. Obviously, the scientific knowledge is produced by the joint operation of the unconscious and conscious levels of scientific mind. On the other hand, the unconscious and conscious parts of mystical mind together perform the activities of religion and art. Now we can explain why scientific knowledge and religious faith provide separate and opposite interpretation of world: they originate from the scientific and mystic faculties of mind respectively.
The unconscious part of mind is the source of purposes and motivations, which are responsible for the formation of our social systems. We may analyse the resemblances and differences of the multitude of social systems developed by human species. In this way we can classify the entire spectrum of manmade social systems into seven macro systems named as natural life system (NLS), economic life system (ELS), political life system (PLS), family life system (FLS), ethical life system (ETLS), religious life system (RLS) and artistic life system (ALS). The system model of human mind shows that the seven life systems mentioned above are produced by separate faculties of human mind, according to the respective aims of practical life.
System Philosophy gives a radically new vision about the existence of religious life System (RLS), which is the totality of all religions as social systems. The religious faculty of human mind has the special purpose of experiencing spirituality in natural things. Accordingly, it gives spiritual roles to specific things so that they can be called as religious objects. The main examples of religious objects are churches, priests, holy things like cross and religious books as well as prayers and other forms of worship. The interrelated existence of a group of religious objects constitutes a religion as a social system. Various religions exist ontologically because they are systems of the religious objects formed by the mystical faculty of human mind. It may be added that religions as well as constituent objects – being systems themselves – have phenomenal existence. Moreover, the system model of religion demonstrates that each religious object has the opposite aspects of good and bad depending on the circumstances. These dual properties are caused by the opposite purposes of human mind. In order to understand the phenomenal existence of religious objects in a better way, it is useful to deliberate upon the existence of the characters and stage of a drama belonging to the artistic life system (ALS).
Finally, we may take up the question: does God exist? In traditional theologies it is assumed that the objects like God, evil, soul, heaven and hell exist really and separately. This principle of metaphysical realism is a consequence of the rules of thought presented systematically by Aristotle. However, as explained by Immanuel Kant these separate objects are phenomenal predicates only; hence, metaphysical realism is not sustainable. It is a fundamental principle of epistemology (theory of knowledge) that the knowledge about phenomenal objects is formed on the basis of certain theoretical words which are conceived by the creative power of cognitive mind. This principle is valid for religious knowledge as well. The mystical faculty of human mind forms the religious objects. It conceives the theoretical entities called God, evil, soul, heaven, hell and so on for defining and describing the religious objects. Accordingly, God is the foundational belief required for getting knowledge about the phenomenal aspects of religion.
God is the creation of our mystical faculty of mind; this is the solution to the age-long puzzle about the existence of God. The concept of God is epistemological; it is not ontological. God is the key concept in the theory of knowledge about religion. The various definitions of God are in accordance with different worldviews. When an atheist opposes the notion of God, he or she is adopting the materialist worldviews, namely, materialism and physical process view.
So far the practice among religious people has been to treat the religious God as the ultimate reality of universe – they hold traditionally the fallacy that God and paramporul are the same. It is the main cause for the sequence of controversies in the history of philosophy. The notion of intelligent designer, which is popular in recent times, is a form of theology from empirical point of view; it is neither scientific nor philosophic. The antagonism between theism and atheism is a shadow war since both are wrong in their premises. System Philosophy can show the way for synthesizing science and religion, on the basis of the existence of scientific and mystic faculties of mind.
We can admit that the various factions of traditional philosophy have failed to recognize the existence of evil. Associating the attribute of goodness only to purpose and value is the ideology of idealism. Our revelation in this context is about the duality of good and bad in such notions as purpose and value. In fact, good and bad exist as the two sides of a coin. Under process view we can see the incessant war between these opposite forces. In this situation, it must be our goal to increase the share of goodness in the social systems – it is essential for progress. We must expose the designs of evil and reduce its strength. We are enlightened through System Philosophy to know the ethical dimensions of our social activities; thus we can distinguish between the good and bad aspects of religion.
It may be emphasized that soul is purely a religious version of the natural phenomenon of life. Recalling the system philosophy of life, we can say that life exists in every cell of organism. It is a system of macromolecules and genetic code. Soul is the translation of life into the realm of religious knowledge. When someone says that human being has soul in addition to mind, it is an inconsistent mixing of religion and science. Avoiding metaphysical realism as proposed above will not hamper the relevance of religions in our life because we are endowed with the mystical faculty of mind. We must enlarge our philosophical faculty in order to distinguish between the various levels of social systems and knowledge.