David Reigle “God’s Arrival in India” and T. Subba Row on Pragna in Hindu Esotericism

David Reigle, “God’s Arrival in India” bolsters Theosophical Position: Where is God in the Oldest Philosophical Schools of India—T. Subba Row on Pragna in Hindu Esotericism

David Reigle is an independent scholar on Tibetan Buddhism and Theosophy, who explores its ideological content. In God’s Arrival in India, David Reigle argues that the original philosophical schools of Hinduism lacked the notion of God. It is stated, that the Vedic seers and their texts, describe a metaphysical realism, in which the idea of the One and the Many did not contradict, in neither form nor substance. The position in Theosophy is acknowledged by the oldest philosophical system in India, Sāṃkhya, and others. It is outlined in a compilation prepared by David Reigle on The First Fundamental Proposition: The One Reality:

  1. There is one reality, and this is described also as the one element;
  2. The one reality is considered under two aspects —
    • Matter and spirit are two aspects of the one element;
  3. The one reality is described as matter (later changed to substance because of its limited meaning in the English to the physical reality), but it is in essence indestructible and eternal;
  4. The one reality is described as space;
  5. The one reality is described as a limitless void (emptiness), but also a conditioned fullness (plenum, not empty space);
  6. The one reality is described as primordial darkness;
  7. The one reality is described as motion, the great breath, unconditioned consciousness (or spirit), the one life, inherent nature (i.e., tao, svabhava), or force, etc.

If we studied the history of religious philosophy, several schools held these positions.

THEOSOPHY:

  • “We believe in MATTER alone”
  • “we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists”
  • Rejects the “theistic theory”
  • Rejects “automatism” (or early epiphenomenalism).

This is very crucial to understand in this system. When the pioneering Orientalists studied the Vedic texts, seeing the sacrificial gods, they took the Vedic tradition as being polytheistic, and we have the word of other scholars given by David Reigle:

“Leading Vedic scholar R. N. Dandekar in his article, “God in Hindu Thought,” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vols. 48 & 49, 1968, p. 440, writes: “In spite of all such indications, it must be clearly stated that monotheism in the sense of a single ethical god who, while being intimately involved in the world-process, is yet transcendental in character had not developed in the Vedic period.”

Similarly, David Reigle writes in his footnote no. 31:

“…leading Western Vedic scholar Jan Gonda in his study, “The Concept of a Personal God in Ancient Indian Religious Thought,” Selected Studies, vol. 4: History of Ancient Indian Religion, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975, pp. 1-26, was unable to find this kind of God in the Vedas.”

On page 10 of The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., Blavatsky argues, that the highest philosophical conception of Deity in almost every ancient religion is SPACE. To those then, who repeatedly try to forcibly reconcile the Biblical (Jewish and Christian synthesis) concept of God with this, is further put into question by K.H:

“If we ask the theist is your God vacuum, space or matter, they will reply no. And yet they hold that their God penetrates matter though he is not himself matter. When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc. — hence is material, is matter itself. How can intelligence proceed or emanate from non-intelligence — you kept asking last year. How could a highly intelligent humanity, man the crown of reason, be evolved out of blind unintelligent law or force! But once we reason on that line, I may ask in my turn, how could congenital idiots, non-reasoning animals, and the rest of “creation” have been created by or evoluted from, absolute Wisdom, if the latter is a thinking intelligent being, the author and ruler of the Universe? How? says Dr. Clarke in his examination of the proof of the existence of the Divinity. “God who hath made the eye, shall he not see? God who hath made the ear shall he not hear?” But according to this mode of reasoning they would have to admit that in creating an idiot God is an idiot; that he who made so many irrational beings, so many physical and moral monsters, must be an irrational being. . . .” (K.H., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 10, Received at Simla, 1881-? ’82.”)

What we quickly find from this, and the information provided by David Reigle about the earliest philosophical schools in India is that there were, and are spiritual philosophies that have and can exist without the God-theory. The positions of T. Subba Row on Pragna, the Samkhya and Nepalese Svabhavikas on the nature of reality are all related, and presents a different position. T. Subba Row attempts to solve in his Collected Writings the issue between Personal God vs. Impersonal God.

Pragna, T. Subba Row states, being the capacity of perception, “exists in seven different aspects corresponding to the seven conditions of matter.” There are strictly six states of matter, but the so-called seventh state is but the aspect of cosmic matter in its original undifferentiated condition. Correspondingly, “there are six states of differentiated Pragna, the seventh state being a condition of perfect unconsciousness.” It is the seventh-principle, or the seventh Pragna. T. Subba Row is also explaining the Samkhya and Svabhavika position that is in TheosophyA condition, identical with the metaphysical aspect of FATHER (i.e., Spirit, Purusha):

“This entity is neither matter nor spirit; it is neither Ego nor non-Ego; and it is neither object nor subject. In the language of Hindu philosophers it is the original and eternal combination of Purusha and Prakriti. As the Adwaitees hold that an external object is merely the product of our mental states, Prakriti is nothing more than illusion, and Purush is the only reality; it is the one existence which remains eternal in this universe of Ideas. This entity then is the Parabrahmam of the Adwaitees. Even if there were to be a personal God with anything like a material Upadhi (physical basis of whatever form), from the standpoint of an Adwaitee there will be as much reason to doubt his noumenal existence as there would be in the case of any other object. In their opinion, a conscious God cannot be the origin of the universe, as his Ego would be the effect of a previous cause, if the word conscious conveys but its ordinary meaning. They cannot admit that the grand total of all states of consciousness in the universe is their deity, as these states are constantly changing and as cosmic idealism ceases during Pralaya. There is only one permanent condition in the universe which is the state of perfect unconsciousness, bare Chidakasam (field of consciousness) in fact.

When my readers once realise the fact that this grand universe is in reality but a huge aggregation of various states of consciousness, they will not be surprised to find that the ultimate state of unconsciousness is considered as Parabrahmam by the Adwaitees.

The idea of a God, Deity, Iswar, or an impersonal God (if consciousness is one of his attributes) involves the idea of Ego or non-Ego in some shape or other, and as every conceivable Ego or non-Ego is evolved from this primitive element (I use this word for want of a better one) the existence of an extra-cosmic god possessing such attributes prior to this condition is absolutely inconceivable.” (T. Subba Row, Personal and Impersonal God, pp. 202-203)


Is the Universe Ruled by a Moral Governor?

This existence of an extra-cosmic god has been a very fluctuating conception of the ultimate reality in Western Philosophy and Metaphysics. However, there have existed older schools of thought, that did not teach a belief in a Personal God as Christianity.

Provided we connote by the word God, not the crude anthropomorphism which is still the backbone of our current theology, but the symbolic conception of that which is Life and Motion of the Universe, to know which in physical order is to know time past, present, and to come, in the existence of successions of phenomena; to know which, in the moral, is to know what has been, is, and will be, within human consciousness. (SeeScience and the Emotions.A Discourse delivered at South Place Chapel, Finsbury, London, Dec. 27th, 1885.) (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., fn. pg. 3.)

Notice the incompatible difference from the Sinaitic deity, to a conception that is at the foundations of Physics:

The esoteric doctrine teaches, like Buddhism and Brahminism, and even the Kabala, that the one infinite and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in regular and harmonious successions is either passive or active. In the poetical phraseology of Manu these conditions are called the “Days” and the “Nights” of Brahma. The latter is either “awake” or “asleep.” The Svabhavikas, or philosophers of the oldest school of Buddhism (which still exists in Nepaul), speculate only upon the active condition of this “Essence,” which they call Svabhavat, and deem it foolish to theorise upon the abstract and “unknowable” power in its passive condition. Hence they are called atheists by both Christian theologians and modern scientists, for neither of the two are able to understand the profound logic of their philosophy. The former will allow of no other God than the personified secondary powers which have worked out the visible universe, and which became with them the anthropomorphic God of the Christians — the male Jehovah, roaring amid thunder and lightning. In its turn, rationalistic science greets the Buddhists and the Svabhavikas as the “positivists” of the archaic ages. If we take a one-sided view of the philosophy of the latter, our materialists may be right in their own way. The Buddhists maintained that there is no Creator, but an infinitude of creative powers, which collectively form the one eternal substance, the essence of which is inscrutable — hence not a subject for speculation for any true philosopher. Socrates invariably refused to argue upon the mystery of universal being, yet no one would ever have thought of charging him with atheism, except those who were bent upon his destruction.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., pg. 3-4.)

This philosophy about the ultimate nature of MATTER, FORCE, MOTION, ELECTRICITY is irreconcilable with the belief of a jealous and ruling super-entity that dictates and chooses prophets, because from this standpoint, that describes a minor (tribal) god.

Bill Nye is asked a question, if there is a God, should we obey it.

“…the best Adepts have searched the Universe during milleniums and found nowhere the slightest trace of such a Machiavellian schemer — but throughout, the same immutable, inexorable law.”

K.H., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 22

“And we maintain that wherever there is life and being, and in however much spiritualized a form, there is no room for moral government, much less for a moral Governor…” (K.H., The Mahatma Letter, no. 22)

The excerpt of the letter no. 22 is about the dual nature of the infinite mind, according to Theosophy. How can a philosophical school reject the idea of a moral ruler of the universe, but maintain the idea of a “divine mind?” It teaches, that the universe is not governed by a moral Supreme Judge, or entity, particularly of the monotheist-type. In Pre-Socratic (Anaxagoras) thought, and Neoplatonism, this notion of the infinite mind is known as the Divine Nous.

“Whatever that be which thinks, which understands, which wills, which acts, it is something celestial and divine, and upon that account must necessarily be eternal.”

CICERO

Deepak Chopra, in a bad debate once with Sam Harris and Michael Shermer asked, why we don’t debate complexities of the arguments. Sam Harris rightly says along the lines, that we can, but those are not ideas that the millions of people watching, and at the debate believe. How limited does this make these public debates then, if we can only debate notions of orthodoxy?

“I wanted to plant a flag there, so that you all can see it. The god that our neighbours believe in is essentially, an invisible person. It’s a creator deity, that created the universe, to have a relationship with one species of primate.” 

SAM HARRIS

And now to your extraordinary hypothesis that Evil with its attendant train of sin and suffering is not the result of matter, but may be perchance the wise scheme of the moral Governor of the Universe. Conceivable as the idea may seem to you trained in the pernicious fallacy of the Christian, — “the ways of the Lord are inscrutable” — it is utterly inconceivable for me. Must I repeat again that the best Adepts have searched the Universe during milleniums and found nowhere the slightest trace of such a Machiavellian schemer — but throughout, the same immutable, inexorable law. You must excuse me therefore if I positively decline to lose my time over such childish speculations. It is not “the ways of the Lord” but rather those of some extremely intelligent men in everything but some particular hobby, that are to me incomprehensible.” (K.H., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 22., 1882)

Concerning Theoretical and Practical Occultism:

“Spiritual science is foremost with the Adepts; physical science being of secondary importance. The main strength of occultism has been devoted to the science of metaphysical energy and to the development of faculties in man, not instruments outside him, which will yield him actual experimental knowledge of the subtle powers in nature. It aims to gain actual and exact knowledge of spiritual things which, under all other systems, remain the subject of speculation or blind religious faith.” (Alvin Boyd Kuhn, The Mahatmas and Their Letters)

Theosophy teaches a cosmology, which suggests that matter/energy is the sole substance of existence(see What Is Matter and What Is Force?).

This is on the subject of MATTER, from Notes headed “God” (“The Mahatma Letter” no. 10) in the early 1880’s, a reply to A.O. Hume and A.P. Sinnett on the exposition of ‘the occult philosophy.’ It provides its clearest position on “God.” Is this materialism, or a different philosophy? They deny God and “believe in matter alone”:

“We do not bow our heads in the dust before the mystery of mind — for we have solved it ages ago. Rejecting with contempt the theistic theory we reject as much the automaton theory, teaching that states of consciousness are produced by the marshalling of the molecules of the brain; and we feel as little respect for that other hypothesis — the production of molecular motion by consciousness. Then what do we believe in?” (ibid.)

“(…) we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist.”

Here is the following:

“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H (…) If people are willing to accept and to regard as God our ONE LIFE immutable and unconscious in its eternity they may do so and thus keep to one more gigantic misnomer (…) When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc.—hence is material, is matter itself (…) Matter we know to be eternal, i.e., having had no beginning (…) As to God—since no one has ever or at any time seen him or it—unless he or it is the very essence and nature of this boundless eternal matter, its energy and motion, we cannot regard him as either eternal or infinite or yet self existing…”

In Isis Unveiled, Vol. 1 (page 428), Helena Blavatsky had explained, that everything in nature was but the materialization of spirit, and both spirit and matter were co-eval in the state of pre-cosmic and preconditioned latency. With the first ideation, she wrote, that emanated from the latent deity, ‘the first motion was communicated through the whole universe, and the electric thrill was felt throughout boundless space. Spirit beget force, and the latent deity manifested as a creative energy.’

Spirit and matter, are taught as being, but two modes of the one substance. However, Blavatsky states:

“Nor do we believe that “Spirit breathed out Matter;” but that, on the contrary, it is Matter which manifests Spirit.” (H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 4, pg. 298)

It would seem contradictory, but she is referring to Mūlaprakṛti or Svābhāvat, or the indestructible root-substance of Matter. It continues:

“(…) the Arhat esoteric doctrine teaches that (1) “‘Matter and Life are equally eternal and indestructible,’ for—they are one and identical; the purely subjective—hence (for physical science) unprovable and unverifiable—matter becoming the ONE life or what is generally termed ‘Spirit.’” (H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 4., pg. 452)

“(…) the Eastern Occultists hold that there is but one element in the universe—infinite, uncreated and indestructible—MATTER; which element manifests itself in seven states. . . . Spirit is the highest state of that matter, they say, since that which is neither matter nor any of its attributes is—NOTHING.” (H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 4, pg. 602)

“Instead of spirit, or God, creating matter, or of matter creating spirit, i.e. of one thing somehow giving rise to something fundamentally different, KH is saying that spirit and matter are in essence one, but exist in innumerable degrees of density.” (David Pratt, The Mahatmas, Spirit and God)

This teaches that Matter is eternal. Unless it is the energy and motion of matter itself, ‘we cannot admit that proposed principle to even be eternal, infinite, or self-existing.’

“(1) We deny the absurd proposition that there can be, even in a boundless and eternal universe — two infinite, eternal and omnipresent existences.

(2) Matter we know to be eternal, i.e., having had no beginning (a) because matter is Nature herself (b) because that which cannot annihilate itself and is indestructible exists necessarily — and therefore it could not begin to be, nor can it cease to be (c) because the accumulated experience of countless ages, and that of exact science show to us matter (or nature) acting by her own peculiar energy, of which not an atom is ever in an absolute state of rest, and therefore it must have always existed, i.e., its materials ever changing form, combinations and properties, but its principles or elements being absolutely indestructible.

(3) As to God — since no one has ever or at any time seen him or itunless he or it is the very essence and nature of this boundless eternal matter, its energy and motion, we cannot regard him as either eternal or infinite or yet self existing. We refuse to admit a being or an existence of which we know absolutely nothing; because (a) there is no room for him in the presence of that matter whose undeniable properties and qualities we know thoroughly well (b) because if he or it is but a part of that matter it is ridiculous to maintain that he is the mover and ruler of that of which he is but a dependent part (…)”

“…he who reads our Buddhist scriptures written for the superstitious masses will fail to find in them a demon so vindictive, unjust, so cruel and so stupid as the celestial tyrant upon whom the Christians prodigally lavish their servile worship and on whom their theologians heap those perfections that are contradicted on every page of their Bible.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, chron. ed. pg., 271)

Matter itself, is not only indestructible, but eternal in its infinitesimal degrees of attenuation, including powers inherent to matter, in this philosophy. Theosophists disagreed with the physicalist position that is the current default in science, regarding the origin of consciousness.

[1] Matter inherently contained the power of intelligence;

[2] The palpable and visible state of matter, they taught, was perishable; but man could through consciousness and moral perfections enter into the enduring state of rest, dissociated from that transitory state of activity.

These doctrines are not the sudden inventions of the theosophists. What appears to us to be a materialist position, is not hard to find in the Vedic schools and subsequently among the so-called “Pagans” (non-Christians) or the scientific among them, because the same thought is in the Hellenic, Pre-Socratic, and Pre-Hellenic Schools.

In the Sāṃkhya Philosophy (V.R. Gandhi, B.A., M.R.A.S., Barrister at Law, The Sankhya Philosophy of Hinduism), Kapila teaches the doctrine of evolution, and that no entity or thing has arisen out of nothing, as is taught and still ever perpetually argued by philosophers and theists. Matter (prakriti) Kapila teaches was existent before (pre-cosmic) the evolution of cosmos; and was never in a state of non-being, hence eternal. It is always in a constant state of change (a Proteus), i.e., ceaseless, eternal and co-existent with spirit (purusha). See David Reigle on “God’s Arrival in India.”

“It is Substance to OUR spiritual sight. It cannot be called so by men in their WAKING STATE; therefore they have named it in their ignorance ‘God-Spirit.’” 

HELENA P. BLAVATSKY

References —

[1] Pratt, David. (Web, 2014). Laura Holloway, Theosophy, and the Mahatmas. Retrieved from http://www.davidpratt.info/holloway.htm
[2] What is Matter and What is Force? (Excerpts collated by David Reigle). PDF Retrieved from http://www.easterntradition.org/foundations%206.pdf
[3] Blavatsky, Helena. The Secret Doctrine abridged and annotated by Michael Gomes, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, New York, 2009.
[4] Sender, Pablo. Psychic Phenomena and the Early Theosophical Society. Quest Magazine (Summer 2012): pg. 95-97. Web version https://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine?id=2750

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