SPIRITUALISM – A COPERNICAN REVOLUTION:
I am happy to extend my greetings to all of my readers on this festive occasion called ‘SANKRANTI’. In Indian tradition, Sun is represented as personification of the Divine Energy that sustains the life of all that lives on planet Earth. Apart from being the source of primary Energy, Sun is viewed as the Source of Knowledge and Indians seek Lord Surya, the Sun God’s blessings to illuminate their inner, mental world to banish darkness called ignorance. This would lead me to reflect about the theory of knowledge and the revolutionary change caused by Immanuel Kant in understanding our philosophic problems and procedures. In the context of our celebration of the Indian festival of ‘SANKRANTI’, I would like to pay a special tribute to Nicholas Copernicus(1457-1543) who laid the foundation for modern astronomy with his heliocentric theory of planetary motion which replaced the geocentric cosmological theory established by Ptolemy(Claudius Ptolemaeus) of 2nd century A.D. Ptolemy’s theory placed Earth motionless at the center of the universe with all celestial bodies revolving around it. Copernican system places the Sun motionless at the center of the solar system with all the planets, including Earth, revolving around it.
THE THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE – A COPERNICAN REVOLUTION:
Copernicus caused a revolution when he discerned reflections of the Earth’s own motion in the apparent motions of the planets, and stars. To the same extent, German philosopher Immanuel Kant(1724-1804) had inaugurated a new era in the development of philosophical thought. He did comprehensive, and systematic work in Theory of Knowledge, Ethics, and Aesthetics.
Kant had altered the nature of philosophic inquiry. He had recognized the limits of the philosophical traditions of both Empiricism that stresses Experience, and Rationalism that stresses Reason. He had analyzed the tradition of Rene Descartes(Rationalism) and had clarified the tradition of Francis Bacon(Empiricism). Kant attempted to incorporate both Experience and Reason, without falling into the Skepticism of the empirical school and without embracing the unverifiable metaphysical structure of the rationalist school. He had criticized Leibniz rationalism in his book, “Critique of Pure Reason”(1781). In Kant’s view, objective reality is known only insofar as it conforms to the essential structure of the knowing mind. Only objects of experience or phenomena may be known. Things lying beyond experience or noumena are unknowable. Kant stated that the human mind provides the forms and the categories that can be used to describe experience. He held the view that the problems like the existence of God, freedom, and immortality are insoluble by scientific thought. Kant had proudly asserted that he had accomplished a Copernican Revolution in philosophy. He claimed that the subject doing the knowing constitutes, to a considerable extent, the object of knowing; i.e., that knowledge is in part constituted by the mind itself which imposes its influence upon the data of experience. Hence, knowledge is the product of the knowing subject and not a simple description of an external reality. Kant had accounted for the application of the mind’s principles to objects by showing that the objects conform to the mind; in knowing, it is not mind that confirms to things but things confirm to the mind. I have to examine this issue for its relevance to the fundamental concern about human existence.
SPIRITUALISM – A COPERNICAN REVOLUTION:
Man’s earthly existence is conditioned by constant change under the influence of Space and Time. To make Life happen, the existence has to be synchronized with the external events on which man has no control. While Earth is spinning at an amazing speed, man perceives Earth as a motionless object, and experiences the apparent motions of planets and stars. The speed of Earth’s motion is not compatible with human existence. The reality of Sun shining brightly in the sky all the time is not also helpful for human existence. Man needs alternating periods of light and darkness called day, and night. Human existence demands alternating periods of wakefulness and sleep. To experience the physical reality called existence, man needs the influence of a powerful illusion that changes the perception of reality of this world, and universe that is constantly changing, and moving. Man exists for he cannot alter the nature of this sensory experience that generates the Celestial Journey of Sun across the heavenly dome. In Indian tradition, it is stated that the Creative Energy called “MAYA” clouds man’s sense of perception of the world experience and man has no ability to overcome the Power/Force/Energy that causes ‘ILLUSION’. The phenomena called ‘ILLUSION’ is not generated by the mind. This world experience caused by ‘ILLUSION’ has a survival value as it intends to protect man from the harsher reality of Truth. To a discerning mind it appears that man needs the guiding and regulative mechanism called Soul and Spirit to perform his living functions in a moving, and changing world. Soul establishes man’s dependence upon an external source of energy and hence Soul is always associated with the living body. The unity of man’s body and Soul could be named as the ‘God-Connection’ as this ‘Connection’ is not formulated by man’s mental, or physical work. This ‘God-Connection’ helps the Spirit to express its desire for Freedom which includes a desire to seek Freedom from the world experience called ‘Death’. If Soul and Spirit are present in the living body that exists in the earthly, material realm, it points towards the operation of the Divine Providence in this terrestrial realm. If God by the nature of His existence is present in the immanent realm, the problems of metaphysics such as Freedom, Immortality, and God’s existence do not belong to unknowable, transcendental realm. I may have to suggest that Kant could be wrong in his view about the relationship between human mind, and the world of experience. Man is fortunate for things of world experience do not always confirm to the knowing mind.
Rudra N. Rebbapragada/R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.,
Organization: The Spirits of Special Frontier Force.