Dialectical Spiritualism: Auguste Comte, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 2.8 2017

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

Auguste Comte (1798 - 1857)

Syamasundara dasa: Comte believed that social reforms are implemented more by love than anything else. His motto was: "Love for the principle, order for the basis, progress for the end."

Srila Prabhupada: Unfortunately, he does not know what the end is. He is simply theorizing. The end is Visnu. Srimad-Bhagavatam states:

na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnufn 
durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah. 
andha yathandhair upaniyamanas 
te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah

"Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries." (Bhag. 7.5.31) Unless we know the end, all our theorizing will not help. All their humanitarian work will never be successful because they have missed the main point: Krsna.

Hayagriva dasa: Comte would agree with Protagoras's saying, "Man is the measure of all things." He writes: "The universe is to be studied not for its own sake, but for the sake of man, or rather of humanity. To study in any other spirit would not only be immoral, but also highly irrational. "

Srila Prabhupada: Our view i s that man should b e anxious to understand the Absolute Truth. Human intelligence is meant for searching out the ultimate source of everything. It is useless to try to improve man's material situation. Every living being is destined to undergo a certain amount of happiness and distress. By virtue of our past activities, we get a particular type of body destined to suffer or enjoy. That cannot be changed. You may call this either fatalism or destiny, but it is a fact that every man is destined in this way, and his destiny cannot be changed. However, his intelligence can change his position in reference to God. Presently, man is forgetful of God and his relationship with God. Human life is meant for changing this position. Man's economic position is already fixed by destiny and cannot be changed. This is also confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam. When we engage in devotional service, we can change our destiny. Otherwise, destiny is fixed.

Hayagriva dasa: Comte distinguishes between atheism and Positivism in this way: "Atheism, even from the intellectual point of view, is a very imperfect form of emancipation; for its tendency is to prolong the metaphysical stage indefinitely by continuing to seek for new solutions to theological problems instead of setting aside all inaccessible researches on the grounds of their utter inutility The true Positivist spirit consists in studying the How instead of the Why." Since religious questions can never be answered, they had best be forgotten.

Srila Prabhupada: How can man forget? If man does not believe in God, God comes as death. How can man counteract death? From Bhagavad-gita we understand that God appears as death for the atheists, and in this way God convinces the atheists, "Here I am." No one can avoid this. No one can become independent by atheistic speculation.

Hayagriva dasa: Comte equated intellectual and moral improvement with material progress. He writes: "A nation that has made no efforts to improve itself materially will take but little interest in moral or mental improvement."

Srila Prabhupada: The standard of material improvement is not actually fixed. One person may be satisfied with certain material conditions, while another may be dissatisfied with the same conditions. The question is, "What should the standard of material life be?" As far as Vedic civilization is concerned, the material necessities are eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These are present in both the animal and human kingdoms. Standards, however, vary, according to different cultures.

Syamasundara dasa: Comte felt that we should deal only with information that can be verified by experiment, or demonstration.

Srila Prabhupada: Then, how are these planets floating in the air? What is the scientific explanation for that? Who made this cosmic arrangement? If they don't know, then what is the value of their scientific knowledge? Because they cannot answer these questions, they say that they are not worth knowing.

Syamasundara dasa: Comte would feel that such knowledge is not very useful.

Srila Prabhupada: But knowledge means finding out the source of knowledge, the source of everything. You are seeing only a portion of someone's actions and reactions, but you do not know who that someone is. If you don't know, you cannot pose as a man of knowledge.

Syamasundara dasa: Comte is interested in knowledge dealing with sense phenomena, knowledge that can be directly, scientifically utilized.

Srila Prabhupada: Well, naturally you can perceive a tree growing, but a man interested in knowledge wants to know the origin of that tree. One who does not or cannot know says, "It doesn't matter," but if you are serious about knowledge, it matters. Knowledge of the tree's origin is certainly practical. We understand that a tree comes from a seed, but where does the seed come from? How is it that so much potency is given to the seed? Who gives that seed such potency?

Syamasundara dasa: Is that knowledge useful?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Of course, it may not be useful for a fool. For a fool, such scientific knowledge is of no use, but for a real scientist, knowledge of the origin of things is most essential. Only a fool would say that such knowledge is useless. A scientific man wants to find the cause of things, whether knowledge of that cause is immediately useful or not. Higher knowledge has no value for an ordinary man. In this Kali-yuga, the ordinary man is a fool. He thinks, "Why are people wasting their time searching for God?" For a fool, the search for God is unimportant, but for a scientist, it is most important.