November 9, 2021 at 12:47 pm #13620Ciprian BeguParticipant
There are scholars who point out that there is a connection between the mechanistic theory of the universe in physics and the individual rights theory in social science — an idea on which the entire western civilisation is based. Could you shed some light on this?November 9, 2021 at 3:08 pm #13622
Yes, there is a connection. Mechanistic theories of nature begin with the idea that the world comprises independent particles, and modern socio-economic thinking is based on the idea that everyone is an independent individual. Both are based on the mutual independence of things. In Vedic philosophy, in contrast, there is individuality, but individuals are not independent of each other. Rather, God is the only independent individual. Everyone and everything else is dependent on God.
There are many levels of relative independence such that the more spiritually advanced souls are more independent and the less spiritually advanced souls are less independent. But even the most spiritually advanced soul is not completely independent; only God is completely independent. Hence, there is a hierarchy of independence in which the most independent God controls the slightly less independent souls, who then control the lesser independent souls, and so forth. Dependence leads to a social hierarchy while independence flattens the hierarchy. Dependence recognizes the superiority of some souls over others, while independence makes all souls equal. Dependence binds everything into a hierarchical structure, while independence makes everything free-floating. These differences about the soul have many serious consequences for every other subject.
The independence of particles and people leads to the idea that the whole must be reduced to parts, which is called reductionism. In modern science, this entails that the body is nothing but atoms. In society, this means that the society is nothing other than the sum of the people comprising it. Thereby, “body” and “society” are just words for aggregates and they cannot be a fundamental reality.
These independent particles and people are then “bound” together by some laws. The laws binding the particles are called natural laws, while the laws binding people are called social laws. The social laws are negotiated as contracts by people, and the relationship between man and God is also negotiated by a contract in Christianity. The relationship between God and the world however doesn’t exist. This is called Deism, in which God created the world, and then left it to operate on its own. God, however, allowed man to control the world that He had created through the abovesaid contract between man and God, as long as man was honoring the terms of contract. Thereby, a society of contracts between men was created based on their contract with God, and this contract gave man supremacy over the world.
In Vedic philosophy instead, people are not bound to other people by contracts, and the particles are not working according to mathematical natural laws. Rather, God is directly in control of the material world and man. Similarly, God has no contract with man. Instead, man has to surrender to God and work for Him. If man disobeys God, then God can punish man because God fully controls material nature. Thereby, everything is under God’s control. By rejecting a contractual relationship between man and God, by rejecting the severance of control of nature by God, and by rejecting the idea of contracts between men, all tenets of modern thinking are summarily rejected. Now, everything and everyone is dependent on God.
In Vedic philosophy, we think of society, the planet earth, and the universe as an organism with an inverted tree structure, in which the root of the tree is the whole while trunks, branches, and leaves produced from the root are its parts. The parts depend on the whole and are controlled by it. This means that the whole exists even when the parts do not exist; this is anti-reductionist. Similarly, when the parts exist, they are not independent; they depend on the whole. Thus, both reductionism and independence of parts are rejected using the same whole-part principle.
Christianity recognizes the individuality of the soul, as does Vedic philosophy. However, in Christianity, this individuality is conceived as a separate existence from God, leading to the idea that these are independent individuals. These independent individuals are then bound together by a contractual relationship. In Catholicism, the “contract” with God is collectively made for all people in the world by the Church, which means that there is some sense of collectivism in Catholicism because the contract is collective. Likewise, in Judaism, the “contract” is between God and the people of Israel. Again, there is some sense of collectivism because the contract is collective. A radical form of independent individuality, however, started with Protestant Reformation in which each individual had a private relationship to God and a personal “contract” (or covenant) with God. When the relationship to God became private, then all notions of collectivism were also rejected.
The Protestant Reformation rejected the Catholic Church’s contract, allowing each individual person to draw their personal contract with God, and thereby it promulgated the importance of the individual contract over the institutional contract. Likewise, it rejected the idea that the contract was only with a certain group of people in Israel, and universalized the contractual relationship.
The notion of a private relationship with God led to the doctrine of the equality of all men. For example, priests in the Church or kings on the throne were no longer superior to the common man. Thus, the Divine Rights of Kings were rejected, and political power was vested in each individual through a vote such that the rulers in a government were as much under a rule of law enacted by people’s votes as the people they rule. Likewise, it resulted in the separation of the state and the church, because each individual had a private relationship to God, therefore, no institutional religious authority (e.g., the Pope) had any power over any individual; those decisions would be governed exclusively by the government elected by the people.
Thus, we can draw a contrast between the radical individualism of the Protestant Reformation and the softer individualism of Catholicism and Judaism. This radical individualism in religion then led to modern science in which the world was said to comprise independent particles. The impotence of institutions in deciding an individual’s destiny became the impotence of a collection causally affecting parts in modern science. In short, there is no causally efficacious material “whole”; there are only causally efficacious material parts. Causality acts between parts to produce an emergent effect on the whole. But the whole has no causal effect on the parts.
Modern capitalism is also based on radical individualism, and it opposes the interests of the collective society, which it calls “socialism”. This leads to liberalism, where the government’s excessive powers to control people are opposed as being contrary to the independence of individuals and the opposition to the government’s institutional power has its roots in radical individualism. The conflict between capitalism and socialism is based on the claim that society has no existence apart from the individuals that comprise it. And collective interest is thus summarily rejected.
Max Weber, the creator of modern sociology writes in the introduction of his book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” that Protestant countries have been more economically successful than Catholic countries, and this “Protestant Ethic” of individualism and competition, meant for personal growth and progress, is the superior foundation for sociological and economic thinking which Catholics could not adopt, and hence they were left behind in material progress.
Protestant Reformation began in Germany, in the writing of Martin Luther, and was adopted by a group of people from the area called Saxony. These ideas then spread to England among people who were ethnically related to Saxony. Collectively, they came to be known as Anglo-Saxons, and Protestants also became almost synonymous with Anglo-Saxons. A modern acronym of “WASP” stands for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants” and it converges all these historical facts.
Once Protestant Reformation spread among the English people, they extended its ideas into the theories of democracy, capitalistic economic theories, individualistic societal culture, and modern scientific principles of nature. These extensions of Reformation then went back to Germany, and then spread all over the world.
One of the central ideas of this new way of thinking about nature was that God has permitted a man to control nature as part of the “contract” that the Protestant man has negotiated with God. Similarly, because each individual is independent of others, therefore, they cannot but think of their self-interest alone. As a result, competition between individuals is not unnatural. God is selfish and man is selfish. However, God is all-powerful, whereas man is not. God wants to be worshipped (as does man) and He delegates His power to man in return for worship and allegiance. The contract with God, the competition between humans, and God’s grant to control nature owing to a private covenant with God are all rooted in selfish individualism.
Those who do not follow the Protestant covenant, are now believed to not have any rights to use of nature, and those who have a covenant with God can take away their property. This is the basis upon which Protestants consider it their moral right to exploit non-Protestants. Killing natives in India, Australia, or North America, are all justified as these people do not have a contract with God to use nature, so they are not entitled to the use of land. They literally have no right to live. The man who has entered into a covenant with God, however, is entitled to enjoy nature’s resources.
Along these lines, Francis Bacon, an early British philosopher, coined the idea that nature must be tortured like a witch in an inquisition until she revealed all her secrets to us. In Britain, witches were tortured at that time, and Bacon advocated the idea that nature was also a witch, while the man was an inquisitioner. Like men could put witches in prison and torture them, similarly, man has been given the right by God to subject nature to inquisitions, until she reveals all her secrets to us.
Upon this violent idea of science, rests the philosophical basis of carrying out experiments on animals, exploiting natural resources, and using weapons of destruction upon others. All these things are not considered morally wrong because, in Protestantism, all these are parts of the “contract” with God; once we draw up a personal covenant with God, He gives us the freedom to use natural resources, and deprive non-Protestants of their property, resources, life, and so on.
In recent decades, Protestants have extended these ideas into a “Prosperity Gospel” according to which financial well-being is the will of God for Protestants, and by making donations to religious causes (such as aggressively converting people to Christianity), their wealth will increase. In short, religious evangelism is a path to material prosperity and you preach Protestantism to become rich and powerful. It might seem perverse, but it hasn’t arisen in a vacuum. It is the progression of the same thinking that started at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.
Based upon these ideas, the United States considers the projection of its power a God-given entitlement. This is called American Exceptionalism, and it is rooted in the belief of a special status for the United States as a country especially favored by God with power and wealth, due to its accepting the Protestant covenant. In short, because the US is the most powerful country, it must mean that it is favored by God, and that entails that the Protestant ideal must be the highest. Thereby, following the commands of the US is following the commands of God. And those who don’t follow the US policies can be killed because they are disobeying God’s favorite children. Under this American Exceptionalism, there is literally no distinction between God’s will for the world and US international politics. If the US wages a war on some country, for instance, then God is waging a war on that country. US Republicans talk about these things openly and US Democrats accept such things covertly.
The US has used this exceptionalism to destroy the food independence of many countries forcing them to produce coffee and oil in exchange for grains grown in the US. The US needs coffee and oil, and it cannot produce them as they require a tropical climate. So, it forces nations to replace their grain crops with crops that the US needs. War and sanctions are threatened to overthrow rulers who resist. Thereby, the US creates client states dependent on the US for food, and considers itself entitled to use the land of other countries in the way it deems fit for its progress. Thereby, the land of other countries is not actually their land. It is the land for the US, to be used to produce what the US wants, at the price that the US dictates. You might think that these policies are immoral, but they are rooted in the idea that the US has a God-given right to exploit any country on the planet.
We can see how ideas derived from the Protestant Reformation have become increasingly self-serving, and the Protestant religion has transformed into the very thing that it started out rejecting. For example, after rejecting the Divine Rights of Kings, a particular country is given a divine status. Then, after advocating the separation of religion and state, US state policy is like a religious command.
The phrase “service to God” is thereby modified to “service to God and country”. The implication is that the US is God’s country–especially favored by Him–so there is literally no difference between the service to God and service to the country. This politically expedient formula mixes patriotism and religious ferver, and overturns the classical Protestant principle of the separation between religion and state.
I find all this very interesting because if science, society, and economics could be created based on one idea about the self, then every single idea can be altered by changing the idea of the self. We just need to describe the self differently, and all such differences will follow. This is also an indicator that every theory of nature, society, country, laws, and the cosmos is ultimately based on the ideas about the nature of the self. If we change the notion of the self, then we can change everything else. Modern thinking has deep connections to a Protestant idea of the self. And there can be an alternative way of thinking about the self that can also produce an alternative worldview. Of course, it has taken many centuries for the simple ideas of Protestant Reformation to be transformed into the modern ideas upon which science, society, and economy are based. So, if we try to create an alternative, it might take decades if not centuries. But such a project is technically feasible.
We should do such a thing because the ideas of radical individualism are false. Even though we are individuals, we are not independent. We depend on God for everything, and we have no power to negotiate a “contract” with God. We must surrender to God, and serve Him unquestioningly. Instead of advocating a surrender, the Protestant Reformation advocates the capacity in the soul to negotiate a contract with God and pushes the limits of this “contract” to exploit smaller entities, assuming that they are lifeless, inanimate, impersonal, or just plain inferior.
All this is considered false in Vedic philosophy, because when you exploit someone, then you will be exploited in the same way. Even if we want to think in terms of a contract, the principle of the contract is tit-for-tat. So, we have a choice: Either we can love God unquestioningly and without demanding a contract, or we get a contract of tit-for-tat. Protestant Reformation violates both these principles. It wants a contract rather than love of God, but the terms of that contract will be decided by the individual. This arrogant idea of individual power, which is permitted to negotiate self-serving contracts with God, is the false doctrine that leads to hundreds of other false ideas, that constitute the foundation of modern thinking.
Any sensible person can see how all these self-serving ideas are cruel, immoral, and atheistic, and completely contrary to any sensible idea of religion. But if we look at them deeply, then we can see how all they were successively produced from Reformation. There is hence a deep connection between modern science, sociology, economics, and politics. All these things are based on a selfish idea of the soul in Protestant religion. Vedic philosophy rejects this. The soul has to be loving and selfless, and selfishness is the cause of the soul’s fall into the material world. Thereby, we can say that there is a certain kind of religion that redefines the egoistic and self-serving tendencies in the soul themselves as spiritual nature and creates a materialistic science, economics, sociology, and politics based on it.
The irony is that when self-serving ideas of religion are created, then incessant suffering follows because the real contract is tit-for-tat. Thus, a problem of evil is created in which God is punishing even those with a covenant with God, so either God is cruel or God must not exist, leading to atheism. The irony is also that when religion becomes self-serving, then societal structures break down, because everyone is fighting for themselves and against everyone else. Finally, the irony is that the ideas of radical individualism lead to reductionism in which only material particles are real and there is no soul or God. Now, the self-serving religion says that God designed the world suitable for our enjoyment. Theologically, you can say that we enter into a contract with God because the world is well-designed. Just like you would not buy a badly designed product, similarly, you enter into a contract with God because God designed the world suitable to our needs. The problem still remains. For instance, if God designed the world for our use, then He could have designed it even better so that we would not have to suffer. If we are suffering then God has given us a bad product, so He has effectively cheated us in the contract.
The result of false ideas is that as time passes, science stops progressing as it cannot uncover God’s design, society breaks down due to incessant competition, people’s suffering becomes endemic as the real law is tit-for-tat, and religion keeps updating itself with ever-new theories to cope with the contradictions its creates.
This creates academic departments and institutions to study the interface between science, society, and religion. For instance, the Discovery Institute studies science-religion issues and the Hoover Institution studies religion-society interfaces. They cannot solve any real problem since they cannot give up their pride, that imagines the self to be independent and capable of negotiating self-serving contracts, worshiping God because He gives us riches and power. Thereby, all discussions about religion become useless because the starting premise is false.
The starting point of religion has to be humility. But there is a type of religion that rests on arrogance. People like Jordan Peterson, for example, teach others to become more “disagreeable” to gain power. They can see that Western civilization is slowly declining, so they tell people: Become more arrogant, regain your confidence, compete hard with others, and because women cannot be these things easily therefore it is natural if they are left behind in the race. Thereby, they rehash the same age-old mantra, consistent with Protestant thinking, and become new-age priests talking about religious revival. The Vedic religion instead teaches humility, tolerance, submission to God, being the servant of the servant of the servant, renouncing worldly power and prestige, and sacrificing instead of accumulating.
There is hence a battle of ideologies about the self. That battle has incarnations in science, sociology, economics, and politics. But it is really about who we should be. There is a common thread that ties together everything in arrogant thinking, and a similar thread that ties together everything in humble thinking. If we understand that thread, then we can tie numerous seemingly different ideas together.
The question is: How can a humble ideology fight an arrogant one? Fighting is contrary to humility, and humility has made the ideology of humility weak. Therefore, there has to be a new kind of pride, the pride of being servants of the servants of the servants of God, upon which this contradiction between pride and humility is resolved. Servitude is normally a matter of shame. But serving a great person is a matter of pride. God is so great that being His unquestioning servant is also the matter of greatest pride. The nature of this unquestioning service is that it serves all other unquestioning servants of God. Based upon that pride, or a servant-leadership, we can also fight, but it is not as straightforward. It is not about conquest and proving our superiority to other people. We cannot teach the philosophy of humility if we are ourselves arrogant and self-serving. However, if we become the humble servants of the Lord then we can also teach unconditional love.
This requires philosophy and debate, but even as it is carried out forcefully and deliberately, it is radically different from the arrogant methods employed for worldly conquest. Most people cannot see the difference; they think that if someone is arguing, then they must be arrogant. However, this arrogance is superficial; it is used to fight the ideology of arrogance, because arrogance doesn’t respect humility.
To defeat that arrogance, one has to become arrogant superficially. If we cannot distinguish between the superficial arrogance and deep humility, and confuse one for the other, then we cannot be successful. Either we will remain humble and not fight against arrogance, or we will ourselves become arrogant in trying to teach humility. Both projects are destined to fail, and this is evident in the modern institutions trying to present Vedic philosophy. Either they take a humble position in not questioning the arrogance of other religions and modern science. Or they become arrogant and destroy the people practicing humbly. Therefore, personal spiritual perfection is essential before we can be successful in such activities.November 22, 2021 at 8:25 am #13638
In the description above, I noted that I interpret history through the lens of the idea of the self. If we change our idea of the self, then we change everything else. This is not my lens, but something that I gather from the study of Sāñkhya philosophy. In Sāñkhya, the intellect, mind, senses, sensations, and sense objects spring from the ego. This ego is a complicated topic, but we can call it our self-image, the portrait of ourselves that we paint for ourselves, and identify with it. Everyone carries a picture of themselves. If that picture is attractive, then we feel proud of ourselves, regardless of what others think of us. And if that picture is not attractive, then we feel depressed, regardless of the real situation. We can call this the inside-out view of the world in which something changes in us, and then it produces an external change. The external changes are therefore the corollaries of internal changes.
Other people may interpret history through a different lens. For instance, they might cite the occurrence of particular events in this world, how they formed a trend, which became a movement and shaped history. We can call this the outside-in view, in contrast to the inside-out view above. We will see the flaws of this outlook shortly.
In this way, there are two ways of looking at the world, one that describes all change as essentially a change in our self-image which causes everything else, and the other that describes changes in terms of cities and towns, clothes and houses, riches and poverty, the rise and fall of empires, the victories and losses in wars, etc.
The latter description is fragmented and it leads to many possible interpretations of history—each interpretation connects a different set of events claiming that because they occurred successively in time, therefore, they must have been caused by the previous event. This is a flawed view because temporal succession doesn’t imply causality (there are potentially other previous events that could also have been the causes). Therefore, all historical interpretations—i.e., what caused what—become tenuous, and no historian ever agrees with another. The former description, on the other hand, gives us a completely different way of understanding history in which we don’t look at the external world at all. We are not interested in the rise and fall of empires, the emergence of cities and towns, the eating habits and people’s dress sense, riches and poverty, etc. We are only interested in how the soul’s self-image or the personal ego is evolving through the journey of the material world.
The beauty of the Sāñkhya way of thinking is that we can also define an ego of the society, which constitutes its self-image. This is because the society is also an organism, and it has subtle and grosser parts. The grosser parts are the people and cities in society and the subtle parts are the society’s moral values and its self-image, and it is studied mostly by Social Psychologists, and sometimes even Anthropologists. Thereby, history becomes the evolution of the value system and self-image. Thus, there can be confident, proud, and aggressive societies that value competition and material progress, and there can be societies that are humble, reclusive, and mutually caring that value cooperation and moral upliftment.
This background is essential to grasp why I tie modern science, sociology, economics, and politics to religion. The reason is that religion gives us our deepest ideas about ourselves, and when a deep idea (pertaining to the nature of the self) changes, then that change propagates outwardly. First, it comes into the intellect, which changes our belief systems—e.g., about the nature of the material body, society, economy, political system, etc. Then, these beliefs lead to a ‘culture’ in which different things are considered meaningful. For example, if the belief regarding the self is that there is no life beyond death, then the belief about the world would be that the world is a place for ‘survival of the fittest’. Then, the meaningful thing to do in the world is to hoard as many resources as possible because that will increase the chances of our survival. If instead, the belief about the self is that life exists beyond death, then the belief about the external world is that the world is a place to do those moral things that will lead to a better next life. Then, a life lived for charities–rather than hoarding of resources–becomes a meaningful life. Once these meanings are created, then they can be translated into sensations (which is called the dreaming state), and finally into sense objects (the waking state).
The theories about economics, sociology, politics, and modern science are grosser subjects as they deal with a grosser reality relative to the ideas about soul, God, and their relationship in religion which always deals with a subtle reality.
The outside-in thinker believes that worldly changes shape our self-image, and that is not entirely false, although the process is very slow. For example, if someone doesn’t have the inner inclination toward spiritual life, then it takes a very long time for them to change that inner attitude. Meanwhile, they easily associate with people who are similar to their inner nature. The inner nature resists the external changes, and adapts to them very slowly by only accepting incremental changes. If drastic change is forced on a person or a society, then there is a revolt to overthrow it.
The inner state is like the root and the outer state is the like the leaf. One has to change many leaves to change one twig, many twigs to change one branch, many branches to change one trunk, and many trunks to change the root. However, if the root changes, then the trunks, branches, twigs, and leaves change automatically.
Hence, the inside-out changes are always dominant and rapid, and the outside-in changes are slow and subordinate. In understanding trends in history, we have to focus on cataclysmic events and those events can occur only as the result of a bigger inner change (barring natural disasters like big earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.). That change generally appears in the ego. Once the cataclysmic event has occurred, a slow phase of evolution follows that extends it.
We can visualize this process as a saw-toothed wheel. The wheel is circularity or history repeating itself. And the saw-toothed structure is the slow change followed by a rapid cataclysmic event. Then there are also wheels inside wheels.
Sometimes, the inner nature has already accumulated over time but the external opportunities are not available to exhibit that inner change. In this case, the inner change is called unmanifest. When the external condition is ripe, then it becomes manifest. The unmanifest reality is something that only exists at one level, and has not developed into the sucessive levels. It is like moving forward on the tapered end of the saw-tooth, such that inner changes are accumulating slowly, but the sharp end of the saw-tooth that will manifest into grosser reality will come later. If an inner change is accumulating in a lot of people, then a small external event (manifest due to the inner change reaching a tipping point in one person) can trigger a massive change in all of society. If instead, the inner change had not accumulated internally, then the external change would be resisted and rejected. And, even if the inner change has accumulated but not reached a tipping point and the external trigger has not appeared, then the inner change will remain hidden. So, the process of manifestation can seem to be discontinuous due to the subtle-gross difference.
This is like a match that lights a can of gasoline. If the inner change has not occurred, then, there is no gasoline and lighting the match will not achieve anything. Therefore, large scale societal change occurs if the inner change has occurred prior such that the inner state is the dominant determinant of whether a catalcylmic event will occur. Without the inner change, a match is lighted without gasoline.
In summary, time is never linear. It is cyclical, hierarchical, and discontinous. The circularity is repetition. The hierarchy is a smaller trend inside a bigger trend. And discontinuity is saw-toothed. To understand each of these three, we have to grasp the difference between subtle and gross. If we don’t understand this difference between subtle and gross then time becomes linear and we cannot understand history because we cannot explain discontinuity, circularity, and hierarchy.
In outside-in thinking, economics, sociology, politics, modern science, and religion are disconnected subjects. They are just like the leaves of a tree, and we cannot appreciate how they are connected to a root. If, however, we turn on our Sāñkhya philosophy lens, then subtle reality creates gross reality. And because religion pertains to the subtle identity (the notion of the self), it causes grosser changes.
For me, the sense objects, sensations, thoughts, and judgments are not primary source materials to understand what is actually happening in history. My primary source material is understanding people’s egos or the self-image, and how that self-image evolves with time. It entails that history cannot itself be determined by peasants being frustrated with lords, the victory or defeat in wars, the movement of populations from one part of the world to another, or the riches of a person, because even as they are real and perceivable external events, they may not cause a great inner change. And if a small external event causes a big inner change, then the bigness of the inner change drives the subsequent external manifestation.
We can phrase this in the philosophical language of necessity and sufficiency. Inner change is necessary to cause an external change, but it may not be sufficient (external factors may be required as enabling conditions). Whereas, the external change is not sufficient to cause an inner change (inner preparation is necessary before that change is accepted). Since inner change is necessary and external change is not sufficient, therefore, instead of focusing on the external reality, we focus exclusively on the internal reality. The most relevant change is in the inner reality. This type of view is presented in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. It is the foundation on which we understand the transmigration of the soul from one planet to another, and the same foundation of transmigration can be applied to history as well.
The difference between individual and social transmigration is that in the case of individual evolution the soul moves from one body to another and in the case of the social transmigration different souls move into the same body and then transform the body. Thereby, the society is the body and the leader of the society is the soul who has the power to shape its ego and moral sense. Despite these differences between individual and social evolution, there are many similarities between the two with regard to the philosophy of transmigration, namely, that we should focus on the subtle reality to describe it as a transmigration. That philosophy of subtle and gross, if applied to the study of society, constitutes a spiritual redefinition of history.
It is no longer a mundane subject, because its lessons can help us appreciate the process of the soul’s transmigration. Just as a soul moves from one body to another based on its inner changes, similarly, when a new type of leader arrives in a society, it changes the social body by redefining the moral system and ego of the society. So, the social body is also transformed by the presence of a different soul, and that process has similarities to the soul’s movement from one body to another.
The transmigration of the soul is also history. But it is different from the way we study history today as the evolution caused by gross states into new gross states. Spiritualization of all material subjects is essential if we want to spiritualize our lives. Otherwise, we will always have numerous contradictions in our spiritual life.
That is the foundation of my thesis that a religious change must cause all changes that followed in terms of science, economics, politics, and sociology. It is an ideological foundation, not derived from worldly analysis. However, the foundation need not contradict worldly facts. Therefore, I sketch an arc that connects the changes in the ego to the changes in the world, showing how a different idea of the self alters the views about the nature of matter, society, politics, and economics.
Nevertheless, even if we don’t accept this kind of lens to understand history, the conclusions I presented about the connection between religion, science, society, economics, and politics have also been made previously by other people, although not always by historians. Such connections are widely accepted today.
Emile Durkheim for instance analyzed the differences in suicide rates between Catholics and Protestants and concluded that Protestants had higher suicide rates relative to Catholics, due to the prevalence of higher individualism among Protestants. He went on to speak about the role of religion in creating social cohesion and traced the fragmentation among Protestants to the ideas of individualism that arose as a consequence of the Reformation. Max Weber similarly analyzed the economic differences between Catholics and Protestants and attributed higher economic success to the cult of individualism and competition among Protestants. The rejection of the divine rights of kings, and how that led to the rise of democracy, is a well-known consequence of the Protestant Reformation. Then, there are many books that detail the connections between modern science and the Protestant Reformation. The book “For the Glory of God”, by Rodney Stark notes: “the Christian conception of God resulted–almost inevitably and for the same reasons–in the Protestant Reformation, the rise of modern science, the European witch-hunts …”. Another author Peter Hodgson wrote a book entitled “The Christian Origins of Modern Science” whose title is self-explanatory. Then, as you have pointed out to me a few times, Stephen Meyer’s book “The Return of the God Hypothesis” details the Christian origins of science in the first chapter itself.
The point is that I am not the only one to make a connection between the Protestant Reformation and the advent of different sociology, economics, politics, and scientific theories. This connection has been made by many prominent sociologists, economists, and political theorists. The connections between science and religion are relatively obscure only because scientists don’t want to be seen as having anything to do with religion. Their antipathy makes such a conclusion unpopular.
By collecting the connections that others have separately made between religion and science, sociology, economics, politics, I am bringing together that which is already out there. It is very hard for outside-in historians to tie these things together but it is relatively easier to make that connection if we have the inside-out view.
Furthermore, the differences between radical individualism and the Vedic conception of the soul as a part and parcel of God are also germane to this issue. I have previously used this difference to talk about the difference between classical physics which depends on the idea of independent particles, and quantum physics which speaks of entangled particles because they are parts of an ensemble. Modern physics struggles with the problems of quantum measurements because the ideology of the Reformation in modern science has conditioned people to always think in terms of independent parts. The solution to this problem requires a whole-part thinking in which the parts are not independent as they depend on the whole.
If the soul is understood as a part of God, then the world is seen collectively as a family. This is called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. If instead, the philosophy of radical individualism takes over, then hundreds of millions of people are murdered due to colonization. So, the differences between the ideas of the soul have a real effect on the world, and different ideas about the soul are therefore not merely a matter of our personal choice and viewpoint. They are objectively differentiable.
If a person bred on the philosophy of radical individualism takes to religion, he remains indifferent to the suffering of other people because he doesn’t see himself and others as different parts of the same body. He does not see himself as the finger on the hand that cures the sick finger on the leg. Rather, he thinks that he is independent of other people. This indifference is a spiritual malaise by which the simplest essence of the soul being a part and parcel of God is repudiated in practice.
Prabhupāda used to say: The reason for your fall into the material world is your independence. Reformation redefined radical independence itself as the true conception of the soul. So, for me, the problems of Reformation are plain as chalk and cheese, and that’s how I’m convinced about what I said above.
Factually, everything other than pure devotion to God is called a “cheating religion” in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. But some people are more attached to some cheating religions than others. So, they might appreciate the criticism of impersonalism and voidism because they are not attached to it and then shrink from the criticism of Christianity as they are attached to it. Those attachments are not the measure by which we can judge the truth. For that truth, we must understand the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam philosophy. I’m speaking on the strength of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam that anything that is not pure devotion is a cheating religion and exposing that cheating.
Christianity is the redefinition of pagan religion into monotheism. These pagan religions prevailed in Europe (and in Egypt, Babylonia, Mesopotamia, and Persia) prior to the Roman adoption of Christianity and were worshipping demigods. In that worship, there was a covenant or contract with a demigod: I will do this for you, and you will do this for me. Lord Krishna explains this in the Bhagavad-Gita that humans worship the demigods and demigods provide humanity with rain, food, land, a good wife, pleasurable sex life, good children, and many other things for their worldly well-being. This is a business transaction and is not considered spiritual. By such worship, one can at best go to the heavenly planets of the demigods.
The Romans co-opted this pagan philosophy with one minor change: Instead of worshipping dozens of demigods, we shall worship only one “God”. Romans did this because their empire risked getting fragmented due to many prevalent pagan systems, and the unity of their empire was their sole interest. So, they took the philosophy of pagan worshippers, and married it to the idea of a single god, and created Christianity. They hoped–and that has been proven correct–that by replacing many demigods with one God, they will attain political unity. However, their “God” was a pure concoction because there is no “God” who enters into a contract or covenant with a human; only demigods enter into such contracts.
Even as Romans substituted pagan demigods with one God, they retained the philosophical essence of paganism in terms of contracts or covenants, material progress, and prosperity, as the thing that you get in return for worshipping God. Then they started plagiarizing ideas from Egypt, Babylonia, Mesopotamia, and Persia to create a “theology” that would appeal to everyone within the Roman empire because it was co-opting what they had already accepted. Knowing what is to be achieved, material from other sources was copied and modified as needed.
The original teachings of Jesus were almost completely lost through repeated modifications instigated by Roman emperors. And this is easily seen if we read the Nag Hammadi scriptures. For instance, in Nag Hammadi, the absolute truth has masculine and feminine aspects, and this was totally distasteful to most people in the Roman empire, so it was left out of Christianity. The political control of scriptures was easily accepted by most people because Jews were doing the same thing before, and Muslims did the same thing afterward. Essentially, religion became the thing that people will accept easily, giving the power to the emperor to unite his empire by designating himself as the divine upholder of some “transcendent” ideology, rather than the thing that was difficult to accept because it was true.
These things spread like wildfire because everyone can relate to them easily. Everyone wants a permanent solution that is also convenient and rewarding in the present life, and what you like can therefore be relabeled as divinity.
By the redefinition of pagan philosophy as monotheism, a false impression about Christianity as monotheism has been created in the modern world. We can easily distinguish between monotheism, voidism, and impersonalism, but it is much harder to see how Christianity is pagan philosophy wrapped in the shroud of monotheism. And successive changes in Christianity keep the shroud while changing it from within. Reformation is such a change, and it has become the basis of the grossest type of immorality, selfishness, and materialism, in the name of monotheism, by instigating an ideology of radical individualism contrary to true religion.
Unless we distinguish true monotheism from the false monotheism of Christianity, we will keep pushing people toward impersonalism, voidism, or even worse, atheism. However, the reality is that people don’t like the distinction between true and false monotheism. They are attached to adjectives like ‘monotheism’, rather than the underlying details and don’t want to expose the cheating in the cheating religion.November 26, 2021 at 7:53 am #13641
Some people say that a covenant is not exactly a contract. This is true in some ways, but covenants have a long and complicated history in which their meanings have changed over time by evolving doctrines. I will try to summarize this evolution here.
By definition, a contract is an agreement between two parties such that the contract is voided if either side renegs on their side of the bargain. There is often a penalty attached to breaking a contract. A covenant, on the other hand, is a promise in which two parties agree to something but even if one party betrays the promise the other party can continue to honor it. There is no penalty to breaking a promise.
For example, we can think of marriage as a covenant, rather than a contract. In this picture, a man and a woman promise to care for each other in sickness and health, until death does them apart. However, suppose that one partner decides to cheat in a marriage, and breaks the promise made during the marriage solemnization. If the marriage is treated as a contract, then cheating in marriage would lead to divorce. However, if it is treated as a covenant, then the partner who hasn’t broken the vows of loyalty, could continue to remain loyal to the one who is adulterous.
Covenants are better than contracts in some ways. For example, if couples don’t get divorced due to the adultery of one partner, then their children are protected from growing up lonely. However, this type of commitment can also lead to new problems where the adulterous partner takes advantage of the loyalty of their partner, and increase their adulterous activities because they don’t see any personal damage resulting from their actions. Those damages appear only if the relationship is viewed as a contract. Due to greater fear of adverse consequences in a contract, a contractual relationship can therefore deter contract violations. Thus, covenants are better in some ways, and contracts are better than covenants in other ways. If the participating people are mostly moral, then covenants are better than contracts. And if those people are mostly immoral, then contracts are better than covenants.
Now, let’s apply this understanding of a covenant in a social sense to that between soul and God. We can say that during the formation of a religious covenant, a soul and God make a promise to each other, and it is not exactly a contract in the sense that while making that covenant nobody has written down the clauses and penalties separation as they are not thinking about separation at that time.
However, the reality is that, in this case, God will never break the promise, while the soul is always the more likely party to do so. What happens in such situations?
Let’s take the example of sin and morality. Let’s suppose that following God’s commandments is moral, and disobeying them is sin. The pact with God is that if the soul always follows the commandments, then it will be liberated from the material world into eternal life in heaven. Unless there is a known scenario in which a soul followed the commandments, and still did not reach heaven, we can say that God is always following through on His promises. The more common scenario is that the soul disobeys the commandments, commits sins, and thereby breaks the promises made to God. What do we expect God to do in such practical situations?
Those who say that we have a covenant with God can now argue: It was never a contract, and always a promise, implying that if the soul breaks the promise, God should not break His promise to us. In short, we can go on committing sins, disobeying the commandments, and God should still follow through on His promise of giving us eternal life in heaven. Is that what we expect religion to say?
The prevalence of sin transforms the discussion about contract and covenant into something akin to social covenants. In simple words, if a person is principally moral, and transgressions are rare, then God can uphold His side of the bargain, forgiving the sins of the person tying to improve. However, if a person is repeatedly sinful, then he or she is like the cheating spouse who would be encouraged to sin if their partner upholds their promise, and God not breaking the promise of eternal life in heaven would make the stipulation of His commandments useless. The correct position, in this case, is that God must break the covenant, and treat it as a contract.
Now, the covenant is a tolerant and magnanimous contract in which occasional transgressions are forgiven, but repeated transgressions break the contract because treating it as an eternal promise would only encourage sinful activities of the transgressing partner. Therefore, we cannot say that a covenant is not a contract, and we cannot say that it is a pure contract in which a single transgression breaks the relationship between soul and God. However, it is not an eternal promise in which God is required to uphold His promise in spite of every kind of sin.
With these caveats, we can focus on how God’s magnanimity in the covenant has been treated historically in Christianity. In Catholicism, there was some price attached to each sin. For instance, you had to confess your sin to a priest, which was embarrassing because the priest would reprimand you for your indulgences and ask you to not repeat them. Of course, the confession in Catholicism absolved the sinner of their sin, wiping their slate clean. So, the price of the sin was the embarrassment during the confession and the humiliation of listening to a reprimand. This price was so low, that it incentivized people to sin again. In reality, people can be shameless. They can go on sinning and confessing to the priest without remorse.
Therefore, the Church attached a monetary price for their indulgences, hoping that if people had to part with some money in return for sin, then they would stop sinning. Practical experience again showed that people kept sinning and paying for it. Moreover, the Church became the portal for attaching monetary prices for all kinds of sins, so it became a system of bribery in which your sins are forgiven by paying some money to God’s representatives. But what was the alternative?
The Protestant Reformation arose in response to this problem, and it worsened the problem by (a) rejecting the Church’s authority to levy prices against indulgences, (b) rejecting the confessions of sinners to priests by designating every Christian as a priest. When the embarrassment of confession and the monetary prices were removed, then all consequences of sinning were removed, and sinning became endemic. Since every Christian is now a priest, therefore, each person can confess to themselves and be absolved of their sin. Likewise, since every Christian is a priest, therefore, they can spend money on themselves to be absolved of their sins.
Martin Luther formalized this problematic idea of sin and redemption into the thesis called Sola Fide which means by faith alone. Ascendence to heaven is no longer a result of our actions–i.e., moral or sinful acts. Confession doesn’t absolve a person from sin, neither do prices for indulgences. Likewise, obedience to commandments does not lead a person to heaven. You only have to believe in God, and that faith in God does not need to translate into actions or behavioral changes.
In this new definition of a covenant between soul and God, both make promises to each other, however, God shall always upholds His side of the promise whereas the soul owing to weaknesses may never follow through on any of its promises.
Of course, the soul may try his best, but there is no guarantee that such promises will be upheld. The soul may also make minimal commitments to God, to begin with. Thereby, each soul has a private covenant with God, and even if that covenant is broken by the soul, it is still upheld by God, because God is all-powerful and He will not break His promise, whereas the soul is weak and may not be able to conquer its proclivities for sin. Thus, God holds His promise and the soul can break it’s.
With this radical change in the meaning of a covenant, we can say that it is now truly a promise. However, it is no longer a promise that we have made to God. It is rather a promise that God has made to us. More precisely, the promise is not a duty on the part of the soul; it is the promise to deliver salvation on the part of God.
Now, you might say, as many people do: I believe in God, but it is the God from my religion. For example, Hindus can believe in their God, and Muslims in theirs. These people from other religions can also say that we have a pact with our God and He will deliver us from this world. Such permission would make all religions equal because they all believe in God as the source of their salvation, and dissolve Christianity’s exclusivism. Naturally, Christianity did not permit that.
This is where the next doctrinal principle called Sola Scriptura comes in, which states that the Bible is the only infallible authority. So, if you believe in the God described in Bhagavad-Gita, then that is not actually a belief in God, because Bible is the only infallible authority. This resurrects the exclusivism of Christianity, in combination with radical individualism. Individuality is permitted only if you accept the Bible as the only infallible authority; all other religions are rejected.
Your choice to practice your chosen form of religion is not accepted by Protestants. Of course, because the freedom to practice a religion is legalized as laws, Protestants cannot legally stop other religions. Such laws came into existence originally because Protestants did not want to be persecuted by Catholics. So, “secularism” was defined as the permission to practice Protestantism instead of Catholicism. However, Protestants consider the broadening of the definition of secularism to other religions problematic as that was never the intention of secularism.
Theologically, Protestants don’t consider other religions as leading a person to salvation. If you follow any other religion, you are basically heading toward eternal hell. Therefore, all Christians (and Protestants specifically) try to convert non-Christians to Christianity. They call this conversion “being saved from hell” or “being saved” for brevity. This follows from Sola Scriptura or the idea that the Bible is the only scripture, and every other scripture and religion is thereby false.
Thereby Protestants can never be “respectful” to other religions. Rejection of other religions is their religious doctrine. Accepting any other religion would amount to rejecting their own. This position regarding their religion justifies all crimes against humanity, where a war waged to convert some people to Christianity is justified because all of them were going to hell anyway. If some of these hell-bound souls could be sent to heaven, then the price of killing the rest is a fair bargain.
If instead, you accept Jesus as your savior, then the rest will follow naturally because salvation based on such acceptance of Jesus is God’s promise to mankind.
There are actually five solae, but Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are the primary. The other three are called Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Sola Deo gloria.
Sola Gratia is the negative component of Sola Fide. Sola Fide says that the soul attains salvation by faith in God alone and Sola Gratia says that our actions have nothing to do with salvation. Therefore, the soul is liberated purely by the grace of God, and not as a result of his actions. In short, you can be a sinner, but that is not a hindrance to the attainment of heaven, because God has made you a promise, and He will always fulfill His commitments even if you are not doing so.
Solus Christus clarifies Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide by saying that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between man and God. This means that the Catholic priests are not mediators. Likewise, no other Apostles (such as Peter or Paul) can be mediators with God. In Catholicism, there has been a system of appointing Saints, and those Saints could become mediators for many people. Solus Christus rejects that.
Finally, Soli Deo gloria rejects any other personality mentioned even in the Bible as being capable of leading to salvation. For example, you cannot pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, or to Joseph, the father of Jesus. All worship, praise, and glory must be offered to Jesus because He as the only son of God, is identical to God (more theology is needed to explain why that is the case). Since God has no other son, therefore, nobody else is qualified to accept the praise and worship as Jesus Christ.
These later three principles are either affirmation of Sola Fide or Sola Scriptura or they add new ideas that exclude all other forms of Christianity as true Christianity. Some of them are designed primarily to exclude Catholics from Christianity.
All these doctrines alter the meaning of a covenant. To begin with, a covenant was a contract in the sense that the soul had to follow God’s commandments, and failure to do so would result in eternal hell. Then, the contractual position was softened in Catholicism where a covenant became a magnanimous contract. Now, you try to follow the commandments, and if you fail to do so, then you confess and pay some price to the Church as the cost of your indulgences. To reduce your embarrassment and costs, you try to minimize your sins, hopefully becoming sinless gradually. Finally, in Protestantism, a covenant is purely a promise–not by us to God, or between us and God, but only by God to us. The covenant now states that God has promised to take us to heaven if we accept Jesus and the Bible. We don’t have to do anything else, and even if we did those things, it would not increase our chances for heaven, nor would it reduce them, because we are all sinners and purification is impossible. Yet, God is so magnanimous that He will free us regardless of our sins.
Therefore, if we look at Christianity over the ages, we can make a case for different meanings of a covenant: (a) it is a contract which is terminated if we break the commandments, (b) it is a magnanimous contract in which sins are redeemed by repentance, and (c) it is a magnanimous promise in which God’s munificence liberates us from the world despite our sins. The net result of the redefinitions of ‘covenants’ is that sinful activity is given greater acceptance in religion.
Religion now begins to obliterate the distinction between sin and morality, and slowly destroys a person’s conscience. Are you feeling bad about being immoral, being a bad person, or being sinful? Don’t. Because we are all inherently sinful, and yet, we have eternal life in heaven if we accept Jesus as our savior. We are saved by the grace of God, and not because we perform any good or bad deeds.
Thus, all the conversation about good and bad moves into the political sphere. Stealing is bad because it is punishable by law, and those laws are created through a social contract in order to create a peaceful society. However, stealing will not prevent your entry into heaven, and it will not take you to hell. Therefore, if you can escape the stipulations of the law, then that is between you and the government, and God is not involved. Similarly, a man who has murdered hundreds of people can still attain salvation if he accepts Jesus as his savior while suffering incarceration in jail. Even if he is sentenced to death, he is not necessarily going to hell, provided he has accepted Jesus as his savior, because Sola Gratia will rescue him.
So you might ask: Well then killing of babies in their mother’s wombs must also not be problematic. This is where Protestants differ. They will say: The baby in the mother has not had a chance to covenant with God, and he has not yet accepted Jesus as his savior. Since its life is terminated prematurely, therefore, the baby cannot attain salvation. Thereby, Protestants are vehemently opposed to abortions. It is out of the possibility that the babies could accept Jesus as their savior.
The people who protest abortions are also often supporting gun ownership rights, which are clearly killing many people. In this case, their reasoning is: We are entitled to our lives, our protection, our well-being, and our enjoyment. If some people are killed in the process, it doesn’t matter, because that is not our primary concern. We have a covenant with God, and according to that arrangement, we are fully entitled to enjoy our lives to the fullest. Everyone else is not of our concern.
Then, the Protestants reject biological evolution, because they want people to accept the covenant with God. If you think that you are a byproduct of chemicals, then you will not accept the covenant with God. However, the same people would not mind experimenting on animals, because animals either have no soul or at least they cannot have a covenant with God, as they cannot read the Bible and accept Jesus as their savior, so their inability to make a covenant legitimizes their slaughter.
This kind of ideology can be confusing, because it protests abortion and evolution, while it supports guns and animal slaughter. Selective killing of humans based on whether they accept the covenants is also legitimate. If all life is sacred, then animal slaughter should also be banned. If all human life is sacred, then guns should be banned, not merely abortions. But reasoning based on such ideas as the sacredness of life doesn’t work because Protestants operate with a different set of assumptions and doctrines, centered on their idea of a “covenant” with God.
Returning to the main issue at hand: Is a covenant a contract or a promise? And the answer is that the contractual interpretation is the best moral interpretation of a covenant. In this interpretation, if you break the covenant, then you go to hell. If, however, you take a magnanimous interpretation, then you also dilute the contract and encourage sin. Finally, if you take a covenant as a promise by God, then you legitimize all sinful activities because you will be saved regardless of your actions.
Therefore, if a person wants to claim that a covenant is a promise, then they are acknowledging that religion permits and encourages sin. However, while having a philosophical discussion, it is better to stick to the most moral interpretation of a covenant as a contract. If we can note the numerous problems arising from the most moral interpretation of a covenant, then we don’t have to get into the problems of the non-ideal, permissive, and immoral interpretations of a covenant.
Since that best interpretation of covenant is problematic, therefore, we don’t have to get into other interpretations that have worse moral implications. Hence, any generalization of covenants as contracts is not to create an oversimplification. It is rather to avoid criticizing the most moral Christians who might be trying to follow the Bible and God’s commandments to the best of their ability.
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