Dialectical Spiritualism: John Stuart Mill, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 13.7 2017

Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Hayagriva dasa: Mill certainly did not see God as the cause of evil. In fact, he considered God at war against it. Man's role is to help God end this war. He writes: "If Providence is omnipotent, Providence intends whatever happens, and the fact of its happening proves that Providence intended it. If so, everything which a human being can do is predestined by Providence and is a fulfillment of its designs. But if, as is the more religious theory, Providence intends not all which happens, but only what is good, then indeed man has it in his power, by his voluntary actions, to aid the intentions of Providence "

Srila Prabhupada: Providence desires only the good. The living entity is in this material world due to the improper utilization of his will. Even though he wants to enjoy this material world, God is so kind that He gives him facilities and directions. When a child wants to play in a certain way, he is guided by some nurse or servant hired by the parents. Our position is something like that. We have given up the company of God to come to this material world to enjoy ourselves. So God has allowed us to come here, saying, "All right, enjoy this experience, and when you understand that this material enjoyment is ultimately frustrating, you can come back." Thus the Supreme Lord is guiding the enjoyment of all living beings, especially human beings, so that they may again return home, back to Godhead. Nature is the agent acting under the instructions of God. If the living entity is overly addicted to misuse his freedom, he is punished. This punishment is a consequence of the living entity's desire. God does not want a human being to become a pig, but when one develops such a mentality by eating anything and everything, God gives the facility by providing the body of a hog. God is situated in everyone's heart, and is noting the desires of the living entity from within. According to one's desires, God orders material nature to provide a particular body.

Hayagriva dasa: Mill further writes: "Limited as, on this showing, the divine power must be by inscrutable but insurmountable obstacles, who knows what man could have been created without desires which never are to be, and even which never ought to be, fulfilled?" Thus Mill concludes that the existence of evil, or pain and death, excludes the existence of an omnipotent God. He sees man in a position to "aid the intentions of Providence" by surmounting his evil instincts. God is not infinite in His power, because if He were, there would be no evil.

Srila Prabhupada: Evil is undoubtedly created by God, but this was necessary due to the human being's misuse of his free will. God gives man good directions, but when man is disobedient, evil is naturally there to punish him. Evil is not desired by God, yet it is created because it is necessary. Although a government constructs prisons, it prefers to construct universities so that people can attain an education and become highly enlightened. Because some people misuse their independence, prisons are necessary. We suffer due to our evil activities. Thus God, being supreme, punishes us. When we are under the protection of God, nothing is evil; everything is good. God does not create evil, but man's evil activities provoke God to create an evil situation.

Hayagriva dasa: In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is at war with Satan. In Vedic literatures, there are also wars between the demigods and the demons, as well as Krsna and the demons, but these wars do not seem to be taken as serious confrontations between God and His enemies. Isn't Krsna's mood always playful?

Srila Prabhupada: Since Krsna is all powerful, when He is fighting with demons, He is actually playing. This fighting does not affect His energy. It is like a father fighting with his small child. One slap is sufficient. Krsna gives the demons a chance to play by fighting Him, but one strong slap is sufficient. There is no question of fighting with God. He is omnipotent. However, when a living entity is disobedient and harasses the devotees, God kills him. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam (Bg. 4.8). When Krsna descends on this earth, He chastises the demons and protects His devotees. Whenever there is a fight between the demons and the demigods, God takes the side of the demigods.

Hayagriva dasa: Mill saw it more like an actual struggle between God and Satan, or evil.

Srila Prabhupada: There is struggle because the demons are always transgressing God's rules. A demon is one who rejects God's rules, and a demigod is one who accepts them. That is the main difference, as stated in the sastras.

Hayagriva dasa: But Mill pictures God Himself as struggling hard in the fight to conquer the demons.

Srila Prabhupada: God has no reason to struggle. According to the Vedas, He is so powerful that He has nothing to do. Just as a king may have many servants, ministers, and soldiers to carry out his desires, Krsna has many energies that act according to His order. Krsna Himself has nothing to do. He is playing His flute and enjoying Himself. That is ananda. Although He is enjoying Himself, the universe is going on in accordance with His orders, through the agencies of His multi-energies. There is no question of God struggling. He doesn't even have to fight. His various agents can easily enough kill all the evil elements in the world.

Syamasundara dasa: Mill believed that God is good, but that He is involved in a world not of His own making.

Srila Prabhupada: Is God to be judged by Mr. Mill? God is good, but not as good as Mr. Mill thinks He ought to be? Is this his opinion of God? Is God good in all conditions? Or is God only good when Mr. Mill considers Him good? What is God's position?

Syamasundara dasa: Mill says that the presence of evil indicates that if God were everything, He would not be completely good.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore God has to depend on the opinion of Mr. Mill. Is it that Mr. Mill does not approve of all God's activities?

Syamasundara dasa: He maintains that God is good, but that He is limited in His power. If His power were absolute, everything would be good.

Srila Prabhupada: How nonsensical! Everything is good! That is our philosophy. When God kills a demon, immediately flowers are showered from the sky. Whatever God does is good. Krsna danced with other men's wives in the dead of night, and this activity is worshipped as rasa-lila. However, if an ordinary man does this, he is immediately condemned as a debauchee. In all circumstances, God is good and worshipable. It is not that we subject God to our judgment, saying, "Oh yes, You are good, but not so good." Fools think, "I am better than God. I can create my own God." God creates us; we cannot create God. Unfortunately, Mill did not know what is evil and what is good. He should have known that whatever is created by God is good, even if it appears to be evil to us. We may think that such and such is evil, but actually it is good. If we do not know how it is good, that is our fault. God cannot be placed under our judgment. In all circumstances, God is good.

Hayagriva dasa: Mill was particularly interested in the role of authority. In Utility of Religion, he writes, "Consider the enormous influence of authority on the human mind Authority is the evidence on which the mass of mankind believe everything which they are said to know except facts of which their own senses have taken cognizance. It is the evidence on which even the wisest receive all those truths of science, or facts in history or in life, of which they have not personally examined the proofs.

Srila Prabhupada: You can neither defy nor deny real authority. We are presenting our Krsna consciousness movement on this principle. We should carry out the orders of the authority, and Krsna, or God, is the Supreme Authority. Whatever He says must be accepted without interpretation. In this way, everyone can be happy. Those who are sane do not hesitate to accept God's authority, and they become happy abiding by His orders. Those who exactly follow the instructions of the Supreme Authority are also authorities. The spiritual master is the authoritative servant, and God is the authoritative master. If we follow the instructions of the authoritative servant, we in turn become authoritative servants of the spiritual master.