Dialectic Spiritualism – Viii Evolutionary Naturalism – Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

Hayagriva dasa: Huxley felt that the main difference between man and the animals is the ability to speak. In his essay “Man and the Lower Animals,” he writes: “Man alone possesses the marvelous endowment of intelligible rational speech, whereby … he has slowly accumulated and organized the experience which is almost lost with the cessation of every individual life and other animals …. ”

Srila Prabhupada: That is another misconception. Everyone speaks his own language. Animals have theirs, and human beings theirs. Hayagriva dasa: He specifically mentions “intelligible, rational speech.”

Srila Prabhupada: Animals have rational speech.

Hayagriva dasa: They may be able to articulate certain basic facts to one another, but they have no culture or history. They have not been able to accumulate and organize the experience of their species.

Srila Prabhupada: According to the Vedic tradition, the Sanskrit lan­guage is the mother of all languages and is spoken in the higher planetary systems, but this is not to say that one is an animal if he doesn’t speak Sanskrit. Everyone has his own language-Englishmen, Indians, animals, birds, whatever. It is education that is really important, not lan­guage. A human being with developed consciousness can receive a spiritual education, whereas animals cannot. That is the main difference. It is not basically a question of language, because knowledge can be imparted in any language, just as we are imparting Vedic knowledge in English and other languages. It is not language that distinguishes man from the lower species, but knowledge. Animals cannot receive knowl­edge of God, but a human being, regardless of his language, can under­stand God if knowledge is properly imparted to him.

Hayagriva dasa: Although Huxley defended Darwin’s theory of evolu­tion, he differed in his belief in the survival of those who are “ethically the best.” In Evolution and Ethics, he writes: “Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest. .. but of those who are ethically the best.”

Srila Prabhupada: The cosmic process cannot be checked. It continues functioning in different modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In the mode of goodness, there is advancement, but ultimately the individual has to transcend the mode of goodness to come to the platform of the ali-good, the platform of pure goodness. In the material world, whatever process we accept for advancement is conditioned by goodness, passion, and ignorance. It is very difficult in the material world to keep a process pure; therefore the soul must come to the platform of goodness and then transcend it. The platform of pure goodness is called bhakti, and on that platform our transactions are only with God. It is only when we come to that platform that we can survive. Otherwise, no one survives, because everyone has to continue transmigrating from one body to another. T athii dehiintara-priiptir (Bg. 2. 13). However, when we come to the platform of pure goodness, we can understand God and transcend repeated birth and death.

janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so’rjuna

One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and ac­tivities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, 0 Arjuna. ” (Bg. 4. 9) Apart from this, there is no meaning to survival. Survival means that the soul remains pure in its original position and does not transmigrate. Survival is only in the spiritual world, where there is no change. Syamasundara dasa: Huxley believed that it is within our own hands to guide our ethical evolution.

Srila Prabhupada: It is certainly within our hands. First of all, you hear that it is wrong to steal and that those who steal go to jail. Then it is up to you to steal or not.

Syamasundara dasa: Huxley believed that we have to qualify ourselves ethically to be worthy to survive. It is not just a question of the physically fittest.

Srila Prabhupada: Nobody is fit to survive. This idea of survival is sim­ply nonsense. However, we can elevate our consciousness and that of all human society by this Krsna consciousness process. This is a question of education. When we become Krsna conscious, we become worthy to survive. We no longer have to undergo the process of transmigration.

Syamasundara dasa: Huxley maintains that the most morally worthy ought to survive.

Srila Prabhupada: The most morally worthy is he who is Krsna con­scious. There is no question of ought; rather, he will survive. But as far as morality is concerned, what is Huxley’s morality? We say that cow killing is immoral, but others say that it is moral because by eating beef, the body is developed. Which morality is more worthy for us to select? There are many questions like this, and one person says that this is moral, whereas another says it is immoral. Of course, the meat eaters claim that morality depends on what the majority wants-that is, the majority of meat eaters. Such people will naturally agree that cow killing is very nice, but does this make cow killing moral?

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Syamasundara dasa: Huxley believes that because nature is amoral, man must not imitate but must combat nature.

Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of combatting nature. You can­not conquer nature. Of course, everyone is perpetually trying to fight nature, but in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

daivf hy esa gunamayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it. ” (Bg. 7. 14) It is impossible to defeat material nature. You are trying to live, but material nature deals death to everyone. This combat is going on, but nature is always stronger. No one has ever been successful in battling nature.

Syamasundara dasa: Is it true that nature is amoral?

Srila Prabhupada: Nature is most moral because she is abiding by the order of Krsna. How can nature be mistaken? In Brahma-samhita (5.44) it is said: sr:????ti-sthiti-pralaya-siidhana-saktir-eka chaxeva yasya bhuva­niini vibharti durgii. Durga, material nature, is so powerful that she can create, maintain, and annihilate.

Syamasundara dasa: Huxley based his morality on sympathy, and he claimed that nature has no sympathy.

Srila Prabhupada: Nature has all sympathy because she is working under the orders of Krsna. Nature is very much like the police. When a person breaks the law, he thinks that the police are most unsympathetic, but if a person abides by the law, the police are friends and protectors. In any case, this is the proposal.

Syamasundara dasa: It would appear that if one man’s house bums down and another man’s doesn’t, there is no sympathy involved-just arbitrariness and chance.

Srila Prabhupada: It is not arbitrary. It is not by chance. It is clearly stated that material nature is working under the orders of Krsna. Since Krsna is not immoral, one carrying out His orders cannot be immoral. The apparent punishment dealt by nature is also sympathy. Mother Durga is always seen with a trident in her hand, and she is always punish­ing, but this is indirectly moral. She is punishing living entities so that they will become Krsna conscious. She puts them in all kinds of miser­able conditions in order to bring them to awareness of Krsna, to the consciousness whereby they can understand that if they surrender unto Krsna, they will be free. It is not possible to conquer nature by material contrivances. We can conquer nature only by rendering devotional serv­ice to the Lord. The material attempt to conquer or control nature is man’s disease, his attempt to imitate Krsna. Such imitation is never perfection.

Syamasundara dasa: Still, Huxley felt that man could improve his envi­ronment. Agriculturally, for instance.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but although the governments are promising people more and more, the people are becoming more miserable. They give man food to eat, facilities to sleep, to have sex life, and assurance from danger. These are the primary necessities, and even an animal can be satisfied with these. But man cannot. Because he has developed consciousness, man wants something more. Therefore in human society there is music, art, philosophy, and religion. But if man utilizes his developed consciousness simply to eat, sleep, defend, and mate, he will never be satisfied. Man’s higher consciousness should be utilized to develop Krsna consciousness. The material struggle for survival is not natural. Struggle is unnatural. Our natural condition is enjoyment.

Syamasundara dasa: But, by use of intelligence, can’t man come to understand the world, and in this way make his own world?

Srila Prabhupada: It is stated in Bhagavad-gita:

antavat tu phalam tesam
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam
devan deva-yajo yanti
mad-bhakta yanti mam api

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Bg. 7.23) It is up to you. If you want to remain here, you can. Krsna has given us intelligence and all facilities. It is now up to us to make our choice, whether to go to heaven, hell, or to Krsna.

Hayagriva dasa: Huxley looked on civilization as something of an at­tempt to give order to nature. Civilization might be defined then as a complex ethical understanding between men enabling as many men as possible to survive.

Srila Prabhupada: That is not possible. You cannot dictate to nature; rather, nature will dictate death to you. According to the laws of material nature, there is no question of survival. When you can actually dictate to material nature, then you can survive. This is possible only through Brahman realization, as explained in Bhagavad-gita:

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mam ca yo’vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gury,an samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” (Bg. 14.26)

Hayagriva dasa: Huxley saw the Indian philosopher as buckling under a stronger cosmos. He writes: “By the Ganges, ethical man admits that the cosmos is too strong for him-”

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Hayagriva dasa: “-and destroying every bond which ties him to it by ascetic discipline, he seeks salvation in absolute renunciation. ”

Srila Prabhupada: That is correct.

Hayagriva dasa: However, Huxley saw this attempt as “flight from the battlefield. ” Exhorting Englishmen to cosmic battle, he writes, “We are grown men, and must play the man ‘strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”‘

Srila Prabhupada: And at last to die. He may not yield, hut nature will kick him and say, “You must die.” In any case, Mr. Huxley is no longer surviving. Whether we he Englishmen, Frenchmen, Americans, or what­ever, we cannot survive hut have to succumb to the dictations of material nature. According to Bhagavad-gita:

prakrteh kriyamanyani
guryaih karmaryi sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to he the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Bg. 3.27) It is false ego that says, “I shall survive. I am an Englishman.” According to the law of nature, death is unavoidable for everyone; therefore the intelligent man first of all considers how he can transcend death. It is explained in Bhagavad­gita that if we understand Krsna, we can survive.

Hayagriva dasa: It is not that Huxley believed in any kind of material immortality. In Evolution and Ethics, he writes of transmigration and karma: “Every sentient being is reaping as it has sown; if not in this life, then in one or other of the infinite series of antecedent existences of which it is the latest term. ” Also, of Indian philosophy: “The substance of the cosmos was Brahman, that of individual man Atman; and the latter was separated from the former only, if I may so speak, by its phenomenal envelope, by the casing of sensations, thoughts, and desires, pleasures and pains, which make up the illusive phantasmagoria of life. ”

Srila Prabhupada: Brahman is not separated from iitmii; rather, they are eternally co-existing. That is explained in the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, wherein Sr’i Kr????J)a discusses the body, k????etra, which is the field of action, and the iitmii, the individual soul, who is the owner of the field and who works in it. It is also pointed out that there is another owner:

upadrastanumanta ca
bharta bhokta mahdvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto
dehe’smin purusah parah

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Bg. 13. 23) The atma, the indi­vidual soul, knows only his own body, but the Supersoul knows every­thing about everybody. I may know the pains and pleasures of my body, but I am ignorant of the pains and pleasures of another. The Supersoul, Paramatma, knows everything about all bodies in the universe. There is no question of separation; rather, the two are eternally co-existing.

Hayagriva dasa: Huxley’s understanding is similar to that of the Sankarites: the atma is imprisoned within the body, and when he attains en­lightenment, “the bubble of illusion will burst, and the freed individual Atman will lose itself in the universal Brahman.”

Srila Prabhupada: This does not mean that the atma becomes Paramatma. A drop of water may merge into the sea, but it does not become the sea. The sea remains the same, whether a drop of water merges with it or not. When a green bird enters a green tree, you may not be able to see the bird anymore, but it is foolish to think that the bird has become one with the tree. The individual atma retains his indi­viduality, although our defective vision may not be able to perceive it. The Sankarites mistakenly think that the individual soul merges with the Supreme and becomes the Supreme, but this is not the case. In all cases, he retains his individuality.

Hayagriva dasa: Huxley writes: “There was no external power which could effect the sequence of cause and effect which gives rise to karma; none but the will of the subject of the karma which could put an end to it.” Srila Prabhupada: As long as the individual soul acts according to bod­ily designations, he is not free. When he gives up these designations and agrees to become Krsna-dasa, the servant of Krsna, he saves himself. Hayagriva dasa: But is there any question of liberation independent of Krsna?

Srila Prabhupada: No. It is explained in Bhagavad-gita (Bg.3. 9) that we should work only for Krsna. Otherwise, we become entangled. Free­dom means acting on behalf of the Supreme. By acting in this way, we are not bound by karma. When a soldier follows his orders and kills on the battlefield, he receives medals, but as soon as he kills one man on his own behalf, he is considered a murderer and is subject to be hanged. This is karma-bandhanah, bondage to karma. The act may be the same, but in one instance the soldier is acting under the orders of the state, and in the other he is acting for his own sense gratification. Similarly, when you act for Krsna, you act in freedom, and when you act for yourself, you are bound by karma. That is the main teaching throughout Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna was thinking of leaving the battlefield due to personal considerations, but when he understood that it was his duty to fight on Krsna’s behalf, he agreed.

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Hayagriva dasa: In Evolution and Ethics, Huxley tries to relate karma to evolution: “In the theory of evolution, the tendency of a germ to develop according to a certain specific type … is its karma …. The snowdrop is a snowdrop and not an oak, and just that kind of snowdrop, because it is the outcome of the karma of an endless series of past existences. ”

Srila Prabhupada: That is correct. This process is called karma-ban­dhanal],. One takes on one body after another until he reaches the human form. He is then capable of deciding whether he should continue or put an end to this process of karma-bandhanal], by surrendering to Krsna. If he surrenders to Krsna, the process stops, and if he does not, the process continues according to the laws of nature.

Hayagrlva dasa: As soon as Huxley became a Darwinist, he rejected a supernatural God and the Bible, proclaiming that “argument from de­sign” had “received its death blow. ” Unlike Spinoza, he did not accept a pantheistic God, but believed in “the Divine government of the uni­verse,” and felt that the cosmic process is rational and not accidental. Still, he rejected a personal God concerned with morality.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a mistake. Nature in itself is not rational; it is simply dead matter. A piece of wood is not rational, but the carpenter who shapes it is. The cosmic process may be rational, but this is only because there is a rational being behind it. That rational being is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nature cannot be rational out of its own accord any more than a piece of wood can become a table without a carpenter.

Syarnasundara dasa: Huxley felt that man must remain an agnostic be­cause he cannot know God, even though God may exist.

Srila Prabhupada: Why can man not know Him?

Syarnasundara dasa: Because He does not appear in phenomenal form.

Srila Prabhupada: But what if He appears? You say that you cannot see Him in a phenomenal form, but God can appear and teach you. Then you can know Him. We don’t try to attain knowledge of God by speculat­ing, nor do we try to get knowledge of God from fools, rascals and philosophers. We take knowledge directly from God Himself. God ap­pears and gives us the instructions of Bhagavad-gita, and we take our knowledge from this.

Syamasundara dasa: In any case, Huxley agreed that we can never realize God by the empiric method.

Srila Prabhupada: That is nice. We agree that God cannot be known by our present senses. However, we do not agree that God cannot be known at all. The present senses can be purified by Knn;a consciousness, and with purified senses, we can come to know God.

Syamasundara dasa: Huxley also introduced the conception called epiphenomenalism, the belief that the mind and consciousness are prod­ucts of the physical process.

Srila Prabhupada: We also accept the fact that the mind is physical and that consciousness is also physical and yet subtle.

Syamasundara dasa: For Huxley, when the body dies, the mind and consciousness also die.

Srila Prabhupada: But he has no information of the soul. Wherever there is the soul, there is mind, consciousness, and everything else. The mind, consciousness, and intelligence are all present, but now they are materially contaminated. What we have to do is to purify them. It is not that we are to try to make our mind, consciousness and intelligence nil. That is not possible.

Syamasundara dasa: But when the body dies, does the individual con- sciousness also die with it?

Srila Prabhupada: No. How can you die? Your consciousness simply carries you to another body.

Syarnasundara dasa: Because He does not appear in phenomenal form. Srila Prabhupada: But what if He appears? You say that you cannot see Him in a phenomenal form, but God can appear and teach you. Then you can know Him. We don’t try to attain knowledge of God by speculat­ing, nor do we try to get knowledge of God from fools, rascals, and