Haldane Philosophy

Here is a short poem, contributed by Ananda Wood (a direct disciple of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon) and inspired by the book Philosophy of a Biologist by J.S. Haldane.

Here is what he says to introduce the poem:

I recently came across a book by J.S. Haldane, called Philosophy of a Biologist. I found it interesting because of its approach through reflective enquiry. In particular, I was interested by Haldane’s account of Western Philosophy from Descartes and Spinoza onward.

In particular, Haldane discusses philosophical questions progressively: in relation to Physical Science (Ch. I), Biology (Ch. II), Psychology (Ch. III), Religion (Ch. IV). And he concludes with a short chapter called Retrospect, where he approaches God as the inmost spirit of a universal personality. This is done in much the same way as the purusha-prakriti duality is used by Shri Shankara to investigate beyond all “knower-known” or “subject-object” duality.

This led me to write a piece of verse called Scientific enquiry: which tries somehow to summarize Haldane’s line of investigation.

Scientific enquiry?

Physics of mechanical objects
Without the light of consciousness
no bodied object in the world
could show produced by any kind
of sensual activity.

No sight could show produced by eyes,
no sound by ears, no smell by nose,
no taste by tongue, no sense of touch
conveyed by nerves in skin and flesh.

It’s through this sense-activity,
associated with our eyes,
that sights of objects shown outside –
in space of world – appear in mind.

Biology of living organisms
But how, then, do our senses work?
How do our eyes – perceiving sight
of objects making up a world –
display these objects in our minds?

Our fleshy eyes are body-parts:
belonging to a structured world
made up of co-existing things
outside our mental processes.

The sense-activity of sight
does not act from these fleshy eyes.
It does not act from body-parts.
It acts, instead, from consciousness.

Psychology of meditating mind
The knowing of that consciousness
is never any changing act
which comes and goes in course of time,
displaying objects in the world.

All changing acts which come and go
(displaying sense-perceptions, thoughts
and feelings shown thus passingly)
are witnessed by its changeless light.

Each act performed – by any
changing faculty of any body,
sense or mind – is witnessed thus
by knowing light that shines within.

Religious devotion
Returning there, to knowing light,
all personality dissolves
in consciousness that shines as self:
illuminated from within.

That shining is each person’s true
identity. In that, what knows
is found to be identical
with all that’s ever rightly known.

From that one self, which always shines
as its own light, all changing show
of world is lit. Reflecting there,
it is the same as all that’s known.

Philosophy (love of truth)
Investigating inwardly –
beyond all body, sense and mind –
finds knowing truth impersonal
beneath all show of seeming world.

That truth is self which knows within.
For love of that same self alone,
all happenings take place in world,
each act gets done by anyone.

Returning there, plain truth is found
untouched by any falsity.
From there, all action is inspired
to do just that which needs be done.

Haldane’s book in PDF format may be downloaded here.