God's Manipulation of Matter

Forums Sāńkhya Philosophy God's Manipulation of Matter

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    According to Sāńkhya, how does God move matter or intervene in its course?
    There is a verse in Brahma Samhita (5.35) which states, “He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe.” Since I first heard this nearly 3.5 decades ago, I had been naively picturing a tiny 4-armed Vishnu form (Supersoul) present in every atom, juggling the subatomic particles. But now I understand that the Supersoul is within each atom conceptually, just as the concept of ‘mammal’ is within the concept of ‘dog,’ which is within the concept of ‘German Shepard,’ which is inside a specific instance of a German Shepard.
    This leaves me confused, however, on how God is conscious of every atom—not indirectly conscious like an emperor knowing of all parts of his empire but directly conscious like our feeling all the pains & pleasures of our bodies.
    Also, how, if at all, does God (or demigods) manipulate matter if He’s only conceptually but not personally present within it? We manipulate matter macroscopically by directly interacting with it, such as in constructing a building.
    Years ago, I read this article (http://www.backtogodhead.in/the-clockwork-universe-in-chaos-by-sadaputa-dasa-2/) wherein the author says the following:
    “Deterministic chaos renders the laws of classical physics flexible instead of rigid and deterministic. So without producing measurable deviations from these laws, an unlimited intelligence with direct control over matter on a submicroscopic level could guide the course of events freely.
    “We can speak of this submicroscopic level as the ‘unmanifest,’ since it involves phenomena we cannot directly perceive or measure. In the classical models we are considering here, the unmanifest is the domain of immeasurably small changes in the position and velocity of particles. In other physical models (including quantum mechanical systems) one can also speak of an unmanifest level involving extremely small changes in the state of a system.
    “Our proposed change in the laws of physics is simply this: on the manifest, or measurable, level, leave the laws as they are, but at the unmanifest, or unmeasurable, level, allow for intelligently directed changes.”
    How does God (or perhaps how does He not) “intelligently direct changes” on a submicroscopic level so that He can “guide the course of events freely” (divine intervention)?


    This is a very old determinism vs. free will debate. I have devoted an entire book entitled Moral Materialism to this question. Therein I described a simple example by which we can understand this problem. Consider a drama whose script has been written; the roles of all the characters have been defined, as have their dialogues and actions. However, the actors have not yet been selected. The drama is in one sense purely deterministic because the events of the drama are fixed by the script. And yet, the drama is purely free will because which actor participates in which role is not predecided. To make this analogy work, we have to distinguish between roles and actors.

    In classical physics, this distinction is not made. There are just actors and no roles. The laws determine the actors, and hence there is no free will. However, classical physics works deterministically only in a specific case called elastic dynamics in which particles retain their identity. That means particles don’t merge and split. This is how billiard balls collide; the balls don’t merge and split, and the resulting dynamics is elastic. If these balls were made of soft clay, and their collisions resulted in two balls joining into a single lump, or they split into three or more balls, then all bets are off. Remember that in classical physics, each particle is governed by the same law–represented by an equation. If the number of particles changes, so does the number of equations to be solved. So, indeterminism arises because we don’t know how many equations we need to solve. I call this the ‘matter distribution’ problem, where you can divide some number of balls into an unknown number of balls, and the result is indeterministic. The point is that classical physics — even within deterministic laws — fails in its determinism.

    Now, this leads us to a three-fold distinction. There are particles, which are like actors in a drama. If the number of roles expands, then the number of actors increases. But actors are different from roles — each actor can play a different role. Then each particle can have a different mass due to the exchange of matter during an interaction, and this matter is different from the particle since the same particle can have a different mass. Therefore, we need three categories — (1) a particle, (2) a material property like mass, and (3) a role in which the particle+mass acts.

    The soul is the particle. The body and mind are the material properties. And the role is our relations to other bodies and minds. If I don’t play a role, then someone else will. So, what will happen in the universe is fixed by the script. But who will do what is not fixed in advance?

    So, the problem of free will vs. determinism has a solution if we separate the particle from the material property from the role. This is the solution I describe in Moral Materialism.

    Now, returning back to your actual questions. The idea of deterministic chaos assumes that classical mechanics is true, and there is still indeterminism due to the “exponential amplification” of small changes. In short, a small cause can have a very large effect, which is called the “butterfly effect”. And so the argument goes that God could make very small changes, unperceived by our senses, and thereby alter the course of the universe. OK. But how did God interact with matter to make those small changes? If He could make a small change, then He could make a large change as well. The fundamental problem is that God indeed interacted with matter. How did He do that? The subsequent problem that we don’t know that He interacted with is subsidiary.

    Deterministic chaos may seem to rescue us from the free will vs. determinism debate, but it lands us in hot water with respect to another problem — namely, the interaction between matter and consciousness. If God is making small changes to matter, then He must have a material body, albeit quite small. His existence inside the atoms now alludes to this very small body, without actually explaining how He is inside the atom and yet outside of it. How He is situated as One and yet appears divided. Finally, God does end up possessing a material body anyway.

    So, this solution to the free will vs. determinism debate is flawed, because it doesn’t address the matter and consciousness interaction problem. This is another old issue — the mind-body divide.

    My answer to this second problem is that there is no fundamental difference between mind and body. The body is also ideas, and the mind is also ideas. They are interacting as ideas. But one is more abstract (the mind) and the other is more contingent (the body). This abstract and contingent are understood as higher and lower in the hierarchy of the material organization.

    In Sāńkhya philosophy, the abstract is called manas or mind, the contingent is called vak or sound representation of the mind, and they are connected by prana or the life force. We become conscious of our body due to prana. Our consciousness does not spread to the entire body as consciousness.

    Rather, prana spreads all over the body through the nervous system and makes our consciousness aware of the body. Therefore, the connection between the abstract and the contingent is prana. There is a very complex method by which this connection is made, but it is something like this — the branches of three different trees entwine and then they expand. If the branches are separate, then it doesn’t expand. This entwining is caused by prana.

    In a primordial form, this prana is called the ‘sexual energy’ of God. He injects the soul into matter through this sexual energy — i.e. the soul combines with prana and enters matter.

    Now we come to the question of what is unmanifest matter. It is three trees lying in a separated state — i.e. not entwined. When they entwine — which Sāńkhya calls the ‘mixing of the modes’ — then nature starts expanding, and then it becomes ‘manifest’. The article you quoted defines unmanifest as what we cannot see by the senses because it is too small. And manifest is what we can see because it has become very big. This big and small is relative to us (as humans). For a bacterium, small things are quite big. So, calling the small change as ‘unmanifest’ and large change as ‘unmanifest’ misses a huge point — these things are relative to the type of body. If your body is very small, then the small is very large, and vice versa. I don’t consider this as the right definition. The correct definition is that in the unmanifest state you cannot observe anything — regardless of what size you try to observe. The branches of the tree must entwine to create an experience. If they are not entwined, then there is no experience, and hence it is unmanifest.

    Now we can turn to your final and main question, which is how God perceives the world. The answer is exactly the same way as we do. It is through the spreading of prana. Just like the soul is situated in the heart, but it is aware of every part of the body — hands, legs, chest, head, etc. — similarly, God is also situated in one place but He is aware of everything due to prana. It is not indirect knowledge; it is as direct as you being aware of the itch in your foot.

    But does God intervene in the evolution of the universe? Certainly not. He doesn’t tamper with the script of the drama. This script is time, and it is fixed. He will just guide you to jump from one role to another in the unchanged drama, thereby pushing someone else into the role that you have abandoned. Thus, God ‘saves’ the devotees by giving them guidance — change your role, don’t try to change the world. That way, your experience is changed, but the show goes on unchanged. You stop acting in one role and start acting in another role. So, God is not intervening in the evolution of the universe. He is intervening in the lives of devotees.

    In the SB it is described that God ‘breathes out’ the universes and the souls. This breathing out is also called His ‘sexual energy’. We can understand it as prana in a primordial form, which combines with the soul, and carries it into matter. So, the soul is the ‘seed’ and it is carried into matter through prana which is called ‘breathing out’. When God ‘breathes in’ everything comes back into His body. So, ‘breathing out’ is like apana or excretion of God. This is variously described as sweating from the pores of His body, His glance on matter, etc.

    So, the prana is originally God’s sexual energy or His sexual prowess. And He pushes the soul along with this sexual energy into matter. Thereafter, the soul becomes conscious of the material world. So, how does God control the world? It is through His prana or breath. But even this control is not to change the destiny of the universe. It is only to change the destiny of the soul.

    Ultimately, the question boils down to: How is God aware of the universe? And the answer is that it is a type of sexual union. His sexual energy is prana and through that, He ‘enters’ the material energy. What is this ‘sexual energy’ is probably a more complex topic. In SB, it is described that prana is manifest from the mode of passion, or rajo-guna. So, this is what we mean by ‘sexual energy’ originally. It is an energy of God by which He impregnates the material energy. The term raja in Sanskrit also means ‘semen’, and by this, He becomes aware of matter.


    The above comment failed to reach me via email, so I’m just now seeing it after 12 days! Thank you for this excellent explanation. I will save it & study it more closely. I do have a follow up question, but I’ll have to wait a couple of days to have time to articulate it properly.


    Are miracles possible ? If so, what types of miracles are possible ? And what is the criteria for enacting these miracles?


    Please create new topics unless you are continuing the discussion of the existing thread. We don’t consider anything to be a miracle. Humans have many types of senses, including the five gross senses, the mind, the intellect, the ego, and the moral sense. Just as you can manipulate matter by the five senses, similarly, it can be modified by subtle senses. To do these things, one needs to have sense development. In the yogic system, several advanced abilities are described. For example, Anima which is the ability to become very small, Mahima which is the ability to make your body very large, Laghima, or the ability to become very light, and Garima, or to become very heavy. The siddhi called Prapti is the ability to obtain anything anywhere.

    There is also a science of mantras, which can operate on matter because matter is also symbolic or a representation of meaning. Just like you program a computer to behave differently, by chanting mantra you can program matter to behave differently. These are advanced material sciences and don’t have anything to do with spirituality. But they indicate the existence of sensual advancement and material powers by which so-called ‘miracles’ can be performed.

    In the Mahabharata, it is described that Vyas Deva impregnated women simply by glancing at them, and without any sex. This is an example of mental action by which a soul can be injected into the body of a woman. Similarly, Kunti had a child with Surya without losing her virginity.

    As far as miracles of healing are concerned, there are many ways, including the manipulation of prana-vayu, herbs, and a good lifestyle, besides mental and emotional strength. Many diseases can be cured simply by control of breath, and many by a strong mind. Also, when karma ceases, diseases will automatically disappear without you doing anything. And on the onset of karma diseases will be created without any exposure to adverse material situations.

    In short, there is no miracle in the sense of ‘magic’. Everything has an explanation.


    Thank you for the response.It clearly explained the idea that miracles are advanced methods of sense development.


    According to the Vedas, God as ahamkara creates processes, procedures and trajectories out of knowledge.How does God know the successive steps to take to create a procedure or enact a trajectory ,that will take him to a desired goal or enable him to make a particular object?


    You are probably referring to the description from Six Causes where I have described a progression from thought to feeling to willing to knowing and acting. The Ahamkara is described as the ‘knowing’ stage of the progression, which comes after we have a thought, we have decided that we like it, we have judged that it is true, right, and good, and now we want to determine how to achieve that idea. The process involves determining the shortest path to a destination. But the destination has been decided in the previous stages. Even in our case, we don’t take successive steps and then realize we reached a goal. We acquire a goal, then find the optimal path to achieve it, and walk that path. The creation of Ahamkara should be understood as that agency that creates a trajectory from the current position to a predetermined future position.

    As regards how God creates His goals? That is a more involved topic. He is impelled by His energy toward choosing one from many possibilities. God does not randomly create a goal; He is presented with possibilities, and He makes a choice. So, God’s energy has a role in impelling God in making His choices, and therefore the energy or Sakti is the co-creator of the world.


    Thank you for the response.

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