What is the soul?

I ended my last post by asking you whether you were entertaining the possibility of astrology as a valid idea. Were you?

Ummm… Regardless, I am going to write further, on more ideas of similar nature. For instance, this question:

What is the soul?

Here is an indication of the cluttered drawer that currently is my mind, concerning this question. No, I haven’t tried to put it in any order. (Why not? Possibly, it’s because I don’t care for you. I am irresponsible. I am bad.)

I will not attempt to define this term (“soul”), i.e., define it in terms of some other terms. I have over the years attempted doing so, and at last have conquered this highly alluring temptation. I conquered it by taking the soul to the most fundamental level in philosophy: at the level of axioms. [An axiom is a concept or a principle that has to be taken for granted before any thinking or discussion can ensue. A philosophical axiom is a (a) self-evident (b) fundamental (c) primary (i.e. unanalyzable concept).]

The soul is the “I” in the statement: “There is something that I am aware of”:

  • There (in space-time)
  • is (being in existence)
  • There is (Existence)
  • something (Identity)
  • that (an abstract level; contrast: “of which I am aware”)
  • that … of (Primacy of Existence)
  • I (To Ayn Rand: Consciousness qua faculty; also man the integrated being. To me: Also in addition: the Soul.)
  • am (To Objectivists: the Focus as the beginning point of knowledge and epistemology. To me: in fact also in addition the axiom of life)
  • aware (To Ayn Rand and to me: Consciousness qua a state of Awareness)
  • that—of (To me: An unnecessary appendage inserted into the English language by the British and the Americans so that people like me would continue to have difficulty with their language all their life, and so, couldn’t possibly compete with them, in any sphere of life.)

But why the hell should someone go on just being aware, in the first place? So, let’s try something more lively (and tasty).

There was a (Marathi) “peru” I wanted to eat. I saw it. I reached for it. I ate it. It tasted good. I am satiated. (The British and Americans: You try a peach or an apple.)

In this sequence of statements, wherever the term “I” came in, the Soul came in, too. (Dear Objectivist, you mean to say you had never noticed it before? (LOL!))

OTOH, it wasn’t just the soul that came in. The soul cannot see anything, it cannot grab anything, it cannot taste anything. The doer actually was the integrated being that is the individual living man that is me.

The Indian term for this metaphysical integration (in the sense I take the term) is: “yoga” (which is not pronounced as “yogaa” (and Indians are more guilty for the continued perpetration of this crime than are the Americans)).

I often differ from Indian tradition(s).

The soul has no feelings. (Dear Indians, this is the place where I most saliently differ from you.) Feelings arise only in the context of consciousness, which arises only in the context of life. The soul has no desires.

The soul is not “just a bundle of” desires. (That’s just an empiricist position—not because of the involvement of desires or feelings, but simply because: a primary being is being described via a “bundle” of its attributes. Disintegration. That’s what this position indicates.)

The soul is not even a stand-alone and integrated existing instance of desires. It is an integration, but not of anything to do with consciousness, e.g. desires.

The soul is an integration of the pre-desires (and don’t raise the issue of their origin (turtles!)) and the pre-dispositions (which, I know, are acquired by the Soul itself, during a life-time).

The soul requires life to become a metaphysically active causal agent. A soul without life is in a state of a passive kind of an existence. Not exactly passive, because there also is a dormant potential for a striving for perfection built into its state, but it is only a dormant potential. It’s in a frozen state, so to speak. It needs the warmth of the life to make its potential participate in actions—whether in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm.

To Ayn Rand, it seems, life was not an un-analyzable and self-evident primary. To me, in a certain sense, it is. (However, my thinking on this count isn’t yet clear enough.)

To the ancient Indian tradition, man—the individual living man—is an integration of soul, life and body. I accept this position (I mean, using the terms only in the respective senses in which I take them).

The soul is the soul-wise identity of a man. Repetition? Just because it’s an axiom.

The soul does have identity (and the usage is to be taken in the Objectivist sense—in the sense that each soul is an identity.)

The soul does cause life-times, but I am not sure whether it causes the principle of life itself. Is life an axiom? I don’t know. (Dear Objectivists, yes, I do entertain this question. I really am not an Objectivist.)

The soul is not the unconscious. It is the pre-conscious.

The unconscious refers to the conscious for its definition. The soul does not require consciousness to exist. It requires consciousness only in order to achieve its goals better.  In fact, to achieve its goals, it does not even metaphysically require consciousness. At the most fundamental metaphysical level, it only needs life.

By rejecting the unconscious from the soul, I think I have emptied a lot of Western garbage about it (and also the Eastern one). Allow me to continue. I also empty the sub-conscious from the soul. The sub-conscious is just a part of consciousness—with time-varying content.

The goal of a living being is not “just” to live; it is: to satiate the soul.

Life is not an end in itself (and here I again differ from Ayn Rand); the satiation of a soul is the end of life. The satiation of different desires arising due to the integrated pre-dispositions and pre-desires that the soul carries.

What is the ultimate goal for a soul? I differ once again from the Indian tradition.

  • It is not a merging with the God, or even becoming a God.
  • It also is not a mastery over Existence: How can an aspect/attribute of something ever possibly be master of that same thing of which it is just an attribute? (Try: the blueness of the ink trying to become a master of the ink.)
  • It is not even mastery over just the physical universe: How can one attribute ever be a master of another attribute? (Try: the blueness of the ink trying to be a master of its fluidity.)

The ultimate goal for a soul, I therefore think, can only be: to be the most satiated. Which means, if taken in a mathematically limiting sense, to be so satiated as not to have any possibilities of any potential for any further satiations left. (BTW, a limiting process does require a preferred direction, and thus does imply a goal.)

So the Ultimate Goal for the Soul now becomes: the metaphysically most complete state of satiation, without any element of any unsatiation in any respect ever left.

How would you describe the state of reaching of that goal? I don’t know. But I guess the answer may be: When it is one with the soul-plenum. I mean to say: If you accept the idea that there is a plenum for souls (just the way there is a plenum for physical bodies), and if it is some kind of internal tensions (or state with pre-desires) propel the soul to grow, the only state in which the tension would cease to exist is when the soul becomes one with the entire plenum. The soul doesn’t die, really speaking—it has no life. But it does have states other than the basic existential state that is only to exist. Again, on this point, I have to think further. But it is clear to me that there are only individual souls, and no super-soul, and that the soul is outside of space and time and the physical world, and that there are rebirths. Teleology is deceptive: It appears simple, but is damn difficult to deal with—correctly.

I don’t know if that is what (at least some of the) ancient Indians have meant by terms such as the (“mahaa mahaa”) “moksha” and the (“mahaa mahaa”) “nirwaaNa”. Even if they did, there have been any number of retards—Indian, Middle-Eastern, Middle-Western, Western, Eastern, Far-Eastern, Whatever-Directionan/Place-an—to interpret terms like these in any number of irrational ways. The most salient error involves ascribing to life (and its attributes) what rests with (or is attribute of) soul. And, make an ethics and politics out of it. For example: annihilate pleasure—that’s “moksha”. Can’t do that? Suppress pleasure—that’s “moksha”. The direction from this point on can only be downhill. And these retards do go all the way down. Also throw humanity down that way.

BTW, did you know what the term “moksha” means? The easiest way to approach its true meaning is via astrology (!), even though it is not the best. But as soon as one says astrology, who really cares for anything else? Not at least initially, anyway. So, we go with the astrological approach first.

In astrology, the nature of the houses repeats, three times, this particular sequence of the four (in the order given): “dharma”, “artha”, “kaama”, “moksha”. Following my own ideas, and in brief: “dharma” (here) means: the nature, the identity, the cause, of a certain pre-desire (and note, I said, a pre-desire; not a desire—and that’s where I differ from the Indian tradition); “artha” means the act of looking around in this physical world so as to identify the physical object whose nature matches the nature of that particular pre-desire, and thus translating the pre-desire into the conscious terms as a desire; “kaama” means taking action to satisfy that desire, and to actually enjoy it; “moksha” means mentally translating the experience (mostly emotional) of the mental and bodily satiation into the soul-like (or pre-desire-some) terms, i.e. taking the experience into the soul, so to speak, thereby helping retire that pre-desire of the soul. The cycle repeats three times, with somewhat differing modulations and at different levels: the matters of the childhood and the early youth, (first four houses); those of the youth and the early mature adult (the next four); and those of a fully mature adult (the last four). So, you know what “moksha” means: it is the change of the state of the soul in different ways: “sukha” (accessible also to a child), “aShtama” (properly speaking, ”kundalini”, accessible to a man only after coming to an age), and “vyaya” (accessible only after mature adult-hood). Those are the levels in normal course and for the general case—i.e., after allowing for exceptions (like Dnyaaneshwara).

But of course, the best way to know the meaning of “moksha” would be via etymology. Here, I don’t know, but guess, that the roots could be: “mu:” + ”ksha”. “mu” means bond, and “much_” means letting go, to let fall, to let go away. (Remember “pramuchchate”?) So I guess, “mu” means that bond which is about to break or at least a bond that can be broken. “ksha” means to waste away, to pine away, and also, loss. (“kshama:” is a verb that means: to endure; “ma” means: happiness, emotional calmness, stability. “kshama:” means: to maintain mental balance or calm despite loss or damage. “kshamaa” means the quality of character that comes by following such action.) So, “moksha” (and, as usual, not “mokshaa”) should mean (though don’t take my word for it (I am careless etc.)): loss of a bond that could be broken or was about to break.

In particular, “moksha” emphatically is not the same as “mukti”; it is the latter that means freedom. “moksha” properly translates only to the breaking of a bondage.

But bondage of what? bonded to what? “moksha” by itself has no root whatsoever indicating an answer to these questions. The intelligent Indian retards have put forth “desires” as the answer. (Yes, a retard can be intelligent, esp. if he is an Indian.)

In contrast, in my thinking, the term must attach to the pre-desires.

The Ultimate Goal of a Soul, then, is to attain the Most Satiated State by retiring all the pre-desires.

I don’t know if what was described in the last sentence is metaphysically possible. I have no speculation to offer on this count either. (Yes, I am irresponsible. Also, careless.)

To me, the soul is always the individual soul. There is no metaphysical conscious being whose splinters the individual souls are. If at all you wish to entertain the idea of splinters, make sure to know that IMO the soul is not conscious, and so, what you are talking about can only be the splinters of the apersonal plenum. Why not consider them as the distinct, isolated conditions in that plenum?

Consciousness is nothing but a sophisticated means that the principle of life has caused to come into being, and a conscious being uses. How did it happen? I don’t know. Any speculation? The only way it could have happened would be under the direction of the more evolved souls—directing their own bodies, I mean. And then, passed on to the rest of us, as a faculty, via persistent modifications to the genes. (Such modifications is a very slow process but one with discretely identifiable steps. And, it is the individual soul-directed process, in my scheme.)

What does that imply? A soul can modify the physical world (including the genes), in its own “image”. Evolution refers to this fact. Nothing is random. Randomness cannot metaphysically exist (just the way a void cannot metaphysically exist). At the same time, I also reject the idea of a Supreme Commander Sitting Up There and Directing the evolution down below.

An imperfect soul must have something like a state of tension or stress built into itself; but this does not mean it even feels that. All that it means is that it, by a causal metaphysical law, this soul must take birth before it can release it. And, during those life-times, its rate of improvement should be “proportional” to how evolved he is on his (Soul-ic) perfection scale. I agree with Ayn Rand that perfection is a moral term and that perfection is achievable. I only suggest (though still have to think this thing through) that there also is a certain metaphysical sense to the term “perfection” and that the moral principle traces its root not just to life but also to the axiom of the soul.

The soul does mould life, but the moulding is not to be taken in the active, or verb-like sense. If you know calculus, the soul moulds life only via setting up the initial conditions for the system evolution (or the living being’s actions). Thus, it is the state of the soul at birth that moulds the nature of the actions of/in an individual’s life. The actions proper belong only to life, not to soul; the soul, however does have a state.

Since you don’t know my unpublished mathematical poutings, apart from the initial and boundary conditions, there also is a possibility of the continuing conditions. The soul also gets affected by life, qua its state. If not, its teleological evolution across life-times would have been impossible.

Other notes:

When I say “the” soul, I sometimes mean not a specific instance of a particular soul, but the principle of soul. I try to use “a” soul to mean the former. If I make confusing usage, the inconsistency is due to the roughness of the draft writing, as well as to my poor English. But, in any case, I never mean something Platonic (or  pre-Platonic, or post-Platonic) such as, say, the “global” soul, the “mahaa” soul that encompasses all the souls within itself.

The context should make clear the places where I borrow from others (esp. from the Indian tradition), and where I put forth my own philosophizations. If in doubt at some place, and also troubled about it: ask me!

All the philosophical debts are acknowledged, whether explicitly or not. (This is just a blog post; not a monograph.) The trouble isn’t there. The trouble is on the other hand: a philosopher may interpret some of my points in the light of some philosophical tradition that I am not even aware of, and so accuse me—not of plagiarism, but of some position that actually is not mine. Possible. They—the philosophers—are always like that. Well, not always, but mostly, anyway.

I am unreliable. I may modify my views any time. For instance, I have no clarity on whether life should be an axiom, and what exactly the relation between life and soul (in my sense of the term) is. I will continue thinking about such things off and on, the way I have for such a long time—since high-school. However, though I am unreliable and irresponsible, I will let this post stay here. I will not delete it.

OK, enough of this write-up. As usual, I may come back and edit this post a bit—but only for grammar/typos, not for altering ideas.



A Real Quick Update (11 Oct. 2008)…

OK. I know I have not been blogging for a while… A lot of stuff is lying unorganized in my mind and I need to get it together…. In the meanwhile, here we go in a real quick manner—just the bullets (NASA style)

  • About water resources in India. I am going to point out to a document prepared by a government agency, but cannot somehow find it right now on my local disk. Once I do, I will put my thoughts together. But still, briefly, as far as water management goes, groundwater level in India has been going down rapidly, and is a matter of grave concern already. I think a multi-pronged approach is necessary. While the points raised by Arundhati Roy in an article years back in Times of India were right (she spoke about settlement of soil and subsequent reduction in the capacity of the big dams, for what *technical engineering reasons* increasing heights is not always the solution, how more grainstock gets eaten by rats in FCI godowns than goes to poor people with the result that the government is actually is subsiding rats rather than people, etc.), I still believe there is a necessity to have large dam projects. Actually, it should be a mix of a few large, many medium, and numerous small or micro-level dams. There is no alternative to large dams for flood control, and the concentrated efforts undertaken by several NGOs towards educating the public on “groundwater harvesting” is, actually, a ridiculous idea—it is far too inefficient. Smart way would involve what general Indians (outside the government baboos) are poor at: meticulous records keeping. As my new suggestion, you need to ask all the bore-well drillers to submit records of what kind of rock exists at what location, and then, someone (ideally, a business house like Reliance) should use geographical software at a micro level to identify the best places to build both percolation tanks (numerous at micro scale, low-tech versions of them). With a bore-well at an avarage distance of a few kilometers (and in some locations, crowded further together), you will get a much better 3D map of soil layers and water table in different locations than the best maps government has on them today. It’s the typical dull bureaucratic mindset which has (i) advocated drilling more bore-wells, but essentially anywhere people wanted to, and (ii) not asked for records keeping for the millions of bore-wells already drilled. On the other hand, the NGOs seem to think that there is only one way to counter that kind of dullness, which is, to undertake colorful day dreaming and wishing that wherever in whatever urban areas people do groundwater harvesting, it’s going to be the right place to do so. More on all these topics, later. (But since I have been promising for a long time, I had to give at least an indication of what I had in mind.)
  • About the nuclear deal. I am glad that it has, finally, gone through. “Hushhh…” (That is like the “pheww” in the American, and not like the “shoooo”.) The Americans predictably gave talking points to communists and BJP alike, when they did insert, at the last minute, provisions to the effect that they won’t supply uranium for bombs-making in future (i.e., if India tests). The reason I supported the deal is not that I wish to see a weak India. The reason I supported it is because with this deal, a definite formal way has been put in place with which the two countries could talk on the issues. The BJP+’s idea has been to continue doing what they are best at: aggressive posturing. For instance, read Arun Shourie’s full-page articles in the recent times in Indian Express. (There are many in BJP who are not worth taking intellectual notice of; Shourie is rather in a minority in that party.) But sometime, you have to take a realistic stock of the situation in India and ask yourself, honestly, with all the poor population that India has, how further aggressive and strong can the nation at all get? BJP never did permit this thought to come up anytime during their entire six years’ rule. Their whole idea was simply to evade the issue. If the Americans engaged in pressure tactics, sacrificial men like Ajit Jadhav (me) were handy. (I have read Shourie talk about the kind of follow-up he faced in Indira Gandhi’s rule. My question to him is: Will he face up to me—i.e., face up the description of the kind of follow-up that I have suffered when his party was in the rule? (And it’s not just me—my family suffered too, alongwith me.) And what “guaruntees” can he have to offer that the performance won’t be repeated should his party come in power in the next general elections? On what basis? As to the communists, it was not at all surprising that they would oppose any form of cooperation with the Americans. But what this episode showed us was the essential identity of the basic wordview—defined by collectivism, altruism, mysticism and intrinsicism—which is shared by both the left (communists) and the right (BJP). Congress may only be a “muddle in the middle.” Sure. But compared to these two camps, Congress does, indeed, come out far too better—despite actually being a “muddle”. (Very apt description, that was, though I don’t know where and when I read it first. But I loved the expression… In terms of aptness, it competes with, but still is not as delightful as the “teflon” analogy for “nothing [bad] sticks onto [some politician].”) More on this all—I mean, politics and not communication—later. (I need to explain why I say they share the basic worldview, and how. So far, I have only stated that they do—without any explanation.) Pending work…
  • Incidentally, politics really does not interest me all that much. I have been busy with computational engineering and quantum mechanics. But before I come to it, I also want to note, before I forget to mention, that I think it is high time that Sharad Pawar became prime minister. To my mind, he is eminently well suited for the job. Stronger: He would make an extremely competent PM. But the thing that I wish to really discuss is not the question of why he should become a PM. The more interesting question is: Why has he not already become one? Sharad Pawar’s qualifications for the job are so obvious that the second question is far more interesting than the first one. I plan to discuss it one of these days here. And, no, to my mind, this is neither an affront to Dr. Manmohan Singh, nor a lessening of the admiration that I do have for that gentleman. … It also does not mean I give up my right to criticize Mr. Sharad Pawar’s decision or even some of his policies. … The politics in India has sunk to such low levels that one has to issue such clarifications.  But, anyway, I will certainly write on this topic—the second question—one of these days… Hope to find time, though!
  • And, now, about quantum mechanics.  I do have an announcement about a proposed Study Group for self-studies of QM, already posted at my Web site; see http://www.JadhavResearch.info/training.htm

I will expand these points one by one (in no particular order) as time goes on… But I really don’t find time for blogging as much as I would like to…

PS: The results of the test of astrology, conducted by the “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti,” are out. I had participated in it as an “amateur”—though, as I said here in my blogs earlier, I do not believe in astrology. I do have something to add concerning the nature of the test—it was not a very well designed test, if you ask me. But then, on the other hand, I also have a few further things to add as to why astrology just cannot be a science… More on these things too, later.

ANS and the Test for Astrology

This post has a context. See: http://faljyotishachikitsa.blogspot.com/2008/05/press-conference-astrological-test.html, and the subsequent public meetings and things in the Pune press about the test.

I just wanted to note it down here that I contacted by email Dr. Jayant Narlikar (on May 18th) as well as Mr. Prakash Ghatpande (on May 20). I expressed my curiosity as well as my willingness to take part in this test. However, I have not received any reply from either of them.

This is surprising. May be, there was some part in my writing that really threw them off.

The thing is: I am an “expert” reader of “patrika”s (by Indian, I mean North Indian, I mean moden Maharashtrian, system). But, I don’t believe in astrology.

May be, it was this combination which was so rare that it threw them off… So much so that they just decided to leave me alone! LOL!!

And yet, the fact of the matter is: both the above sentences are quite true—I *really* have gone through astrology books and studied them, and yet, I don’t believe in it. I taught it myself purely out of curiosity and fun, that’s all…

Anyways, here’re excerpts from my email to Dr. Narlikar: (The excerpt is in italics, and appears here after some minor copy-editing.)

I have read books and taught myself astrology. (I wouldn’t be dumb enough to enroll in the government’s program though.) [Extra note for this blog: The BJP+ government began this program to fund astrology via India’s University Grants Commission. The Congress+ government has still not cancelled it. For further insights into this phenomenon, read Ayn Rand’s “Establishing of an Establishment.”] I have downloaded astrology software and often play with them. I can easily reproduce much of the “prediction” of what any traditional Vedic astrologer would tell you, given a “patrika.” I have surprised a lot of people with the “quality” of my “readings”. (When it comes to astrology, “quality” cannot be defined in any way other than as agreement with what other astrologers say—the agreement with observation is a non-issue, in principle.) So, I certainly am an “expert” reader of “patrika”s.

But, I don’t believe in patrika. Several reasons:

1. By way of general philosophy, I accept the premises of free-will and primacy of existence over consciousness (i.e., more generally and actually, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism).

2. The “theoretical” structure of astrology is such that its abstractions are completely floating—without any identifiable base in or with observations. Further, even as a purely symbolic sort of structure (reliant only on deductions, not inductions), these abstractions still are replete with “petitio principii” (circularity). For instance, here is one circle: It is the planet that is important. No, it is not. It is the lord of the house. No it is not. It is the other planet(s) with which the lord of the house has aspect(s). No, they are not. It is the lord of the house of *those* planets…. (The second circle has already begun in case you didn’t notice it… One can now have an infinite number of circles.)

3. There exist “shlok”s (i.e. Sanskrit verses) for interpreting [the planetary] configurations in a good or bad way (or in any given way and its opposite way). If so, how is it that astrologers come to interpret them uniformly—i.e. how come there is reasonable degree of agreement among astrologers? *That*, in turn, really speaking, is purely arbitrary. It (really) changes “desh-kaal-sthal paratve”. Thus, the relative uniformity in interpretation is obtained only by following the same school of thought or doctrine. Thus, when I say that I am an expert, I mean to say that my interpretations agree fairly well with those of Vedic astrologers generally found in Maharashtra (more generally North India, more generally, India) of our current times—that’s all!!

At the same time, I also wonder if the methodology proposed by ANS would be most suited for testing of astrology, in the sense, whether it might not be subtly biased in favor of ANS…. I mean to say, if I had a bunch of verses that came to my notice for the first time in the history of the world, and if I wanted to find out if they work out or not, if they are true or not, I would go about in a somewhat different way for testing them… But, all that’s for another day…

The excerpt clearly tells you where I stand w.r.t. this pseudo-science (and why). So, I won’t bother writing about it again.

Yet, there remains a philosophic matter which is still of some interest. It is: Whether astrology should at all be subjected to a test or not. In other words: Why can’t it be simply acknowledged that this idea of astrology itself is so blatantly ridiculous, so obviously contradictory, that it must be dismissed right out of hand for being arbitrary? (Here, the term “arbitrary” is to be taken in the specifically Objectivist sense.)

It is this above issue which is really somewhat interesting to me. If there is interest in knowing more about it, I will address it at some other time. Enough to state here that I don’t think there are enough grounds to dismiss astrology as arbitrary. (Compared to several thinkers, I tend to be much more lenient (though not lax). Here, I also wish to observe that it is far easier for thinkers in the West to oppose astrology simply because Christianity opposes it—not because they have objectively thought the merits of the issue that well…)