Q. 431 Emergence vs. Consciousness

Q: In Advaita one learns to ‘unravel’ objects: table as wood, wood as cells, cells as molecules, molecules as atoms, atoms as subatomic particles, etc. (neti neti!) all the way down. What Advaita says ‘lies at the bottom’ is Brahman, the oneness from which all apparent objects of form manifest.

What seems just as (if not more) intuitively plausible to me is that what lies at the bottom is: a few primal emergent ‘rules’. Perhaps even just one rule: attraction/repulsion. Electrons are attracted to protons and repelled by other electrons giving way to atoms, atoms are attracted to other atoms giving way to molecules, and so on, all the way up to the forms we know and love.

In this view of reality, there is no top-level overarching ‘organizational’ principle: Consciousness. There is instead a vast web of ‘stuff’ that arises from a few simple low-level emergent rules. As with all emergent systems, the application of these rules, once sufficiently complex, creates a system that seems to have an overarching top-level intelligence/intentionality/organizational principle, but in reality doesn’t.

So, friends: Who wins? Emergence or Consciousness? Or is it a non-zero-sum game: Are emergence and Consciousness not mutually exclusive?

A (Dennis): If you have read my articles about science and its views, you will know that I do not regard it very highly when it comes to consciousness and reality!

The ‘unraveling’ is an explanation of the concept of mithyA and provides an intuitively reasonable explanation as to why all ‘things’ are just name and form of brahman. If you try to turn this around you are then tacitly assuming that the empirical reality has some absolute reality, which it doesn’t (unless you are just accepting that ‘everything is brahman’). Or you are just attempting to use science to ‘explain’ Ishvara. Because Advaita would call your ‘fundamental laws’ or ‘primary emergent rules’ Ishvara. Ishvara is both intelligent and material cause for the (apparent) creation. In reality, of course, there has never been any creation. Both the ocean (universe) and the wave (individual) are always only water.

Q.398 – Use of metaphors

Q: There are two concepts, super-imposition and manifestation, in Advaita to  describe the ‘relationship’ between Brahaman and the empirical world. Super-imposition means that the world is super-imposed on Brahaman. Manifestation means that the world is a manifestation of Brahaman. My doubt is as to how a manifestation can be super-imposition also? My gut feeling is that there is a subtle link between the two concepts which I am unable to ‘see’ because of the proverbial ‘ignorance’. 

A (Dennis): They are each a metaphor to give the mind some insight into the nature of reality. The reality is non-dual so that all metaphors and all ‘explanations’ are ultimately untrue. The world and the jIva are mithyA. Brahman has no relationships. Use the metaphors and explanations of the scriptures and teachers to help guide the mind to realization of the truth but don’t ever take them as more than what they are. And do not worry if one ‘explanation’ disagrees with (or even contradicts) another. They all have to be dropped in the end!

Vedanta the Solution – Part 36


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 36 describes the manifestation of the jIva into parts and the nature of the five koSha-s as ‘functional parts’.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Creation means manifestation

The words, ’cause’ and ‘effect’ are only from a point of view. You say that this is the effect and that is the cause. In fact, the effect itself is the cause, being non-separate from the cause. Then again, which is cause and which is effect? When the pot is broken, it becomes clay. That means clay came from pot! This concept of cause and effect is purely a point of view. Our understanding that the cause came first and the effect came later is only a point of view. From the standpoint of Brahman, there is nothing that comes later, because Brahman itself is the effect. If at all the concept of ’cause’ and ‘effect’ is talked about, it is from the standpoint of the unmanifest and manifest conditions.

The unmanifest becomes manifest – that is called creation. Creation itself is not a proper word for us, because the word ‘creation’ is relevant only when something did not exist before, and later came into being. But it is not like that. That which is in an unmanifest, undifferentiated form, comes to be differentiated. One is in a subtle form, the other in a gross form. In a differentiated form it is called creation. In an undifferentiated form it is called dissolution. This creation is cyclic. The creation becomes unmanifest because it was manifest before. Unless it was manifest before, it cannot become unmanifest. We cannot talk about any sequence here.

 Mundakopanishad (Two Volumes), Swami Dayananda, Arsha Vidya Center Research.
ISBN: 8190363638.
Review Link