Dialectical Spiritualism: Henri Bergson, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 12.6 2017

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

Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

Syamasundara dasa: Bergson says that understanding through intuition is superior to understanding through the intelligence.

Srila Prabhupada: That is correct.

Syamasundara dasa: He sees the creative process as advancing up to the level of immortality.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are receiving different types of bodies, and when we are perfectly situated in Krsna consciousness, we no longer receive material bodies.

Syamasundara dasa: Then although the life force itself is eternal, the forms advance up to the form of immortality?

Srila Prabhupada: The forms are changing, but the living force is not changing. The forms are changing, but the person within the forms is permanent. When he identifies with the body, he thinks that he is changing.

Syamasundara dasa: Is the progress toward human immortality a creative process? By creative, Bergson implies that we are creating our immortality.

Srila Prabhupada: No, you are always immortal. You are immortal by constitution, but you are changing bodies. The process is creative in the sense that you create your own body or your next body as you desire. If you create within yourself the mentality of a dog, you will get the body of a dog in the next life. Similarly, if you create the mentality of a servant of God, you return to Krsna.

Hayagriva dasa: In Creative Evolution, Bergson writes: "We may conclude, then, that individuality is never perfect, and that it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to tell what is an individual, and what is not, but that life nevertheless manifests a search for individuality, as if it strove to constitute systems naturally isolated, naturally closed."

Srila Prabhupada: Why is there a search for individuality? We are all naturally individuals.

na tv evaham jatu nasam 
na tvam neme janadhipah 
na caiva na bhavisyamah 
same vayam atah param

"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Bg. 2. 12) We are individuals in the past, present, and future. Our individuality is always there, but in quantity we are not as great as Krsna. Compared to Him, our intelligence is very meager. When we utilize our individuality properly and follow Krsna's instructions, we perfect our lives. Mayavadi philosophers want to annihilate this individuality, but this is not possible. We are perpetually individuals, and God is also an individual. It is incorrect to think that by killing individuality, we become one with God. Our individuality is retained. Even though for a time we may think, "I will merge into the existence of God," we will fall down again due to individuality. In any case, there is no need for a search for individuality because we are always individuals.

Hayagriva dasa: According to Bergson, we can see the creation as either coming from God, or moving toward Him. Depending on our viewpoint, "we perceive God as efficient cause or as final cause."

Srila Prabhupada: God is always there. He was there before the creation, and when the creation is finished, He will be there. God is not part of the creation. Being the creator, He exists before, during, and after His creation. This is standard Vedic knowledge.

aham evasam evagre 
nanyad yat sad-asat par am 
pascad aham yad etac ca 
yovasisyeta so'smy aham

"It is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation, what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead." (Bhag. 2.9.33)

Hayagriva dasa: Bergson is saying that God is the beginning, middle, and end, depending on our point of view.

Srila Prabhupada: It is not dependent on our viewpoint. God is always there, but because we are imperfect, we are thinking in this limited way. This cosmic manifestation is a temporary creation to give the individual soul a chance to develop his consciousness. If he does not do so, and there is universal annihilation, he must remain in an unconscious position. When there is creation, he again comes to consciousness. This is the cycle that is going on. But God is always there.

Hayagriva dasa: Bergson further writes: "If life realizes a plan, it ought to manifest a greater harmony the further it advances, just as a house shows better and better the idea of the architect as stone is set upon stone. If, on the contrary, the unity of life is to be found solely in the impetus that pushes it along the road of time, the harmony is not in front but behind. The unity is given at the start as an impulsion, not placed at the end as an attraction."

Srila Prabhupada: This is what is called nature's course. First of all, something is created, it develops, stays for a while, leaves some by-products, grows old, dwindles, and finally vanishes. These are the changes that all material things are subject to, but the spirit soul is not material and therefore has nothing to do with bodily changes. The soul has his perpetual duty and activity, which is devotional service. If we are trained in our perpetual duty, we can put an end to bodily changes, remain in our eternal, spiritual body, and return home, back to Godhead.

Hayagriva dasa: So creative evolution must necessarily be the evolution of the soul?

Srila Prabhupada: No, since the soul is ever existing, there is no question of evolution. As long as the soul is entangled in material existence and bodily conceptions, he thinks that a superior body evolves from an inferior one. However, if his consciousness is changed, there is no changing bodies. He remains in his eternal body.

Syamasundara dasa: Bergson thinks that it is the vital force that is guiding everyone and creating its own evolution.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the vital force will determine this. But the individual must be educated to know how to make progress. It is ultimately up to the spirit soul whether to surrender to Krsna or not. The living entity has the right to accept or reject. If he takes the right path, he progresses, but if he rejects this path, he will regress. This depends on him.

Hayagriva dasa: There seems to be a basic contradiction between Bergson and the Vedas, as far as the evolution of the universe is concerned.

Srila Prabhupada: Anything material, be it the universe or whatever, undergoes the basic changes I mentioned. Since its birth, this universe has been increasing in volume, and that is material change. This has nothing to do with the spiritual. Just as we have a soul within this body, the universe also has a soul within, and that is the Garbhodakasayi Visnu. Visnu is not changing, but the universe is.