Do forms exist?

Forums Materialism and Reductionism Do forms exist?

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    • #6569

      In this article [[]], you describe an inverted reduction of things in the world to forms instead of matter. You say –

      “There is only form—and that form exists in this world”


      “For instance, numbers are ideas and not properties of collections; if a number is a property of a collection, then objects must exist before we can understand the number; but if the number is an idea, then it can exist even when the objects and their collections do not exist. To speak about numbers, we must be able to conceive existents that are not material objects.”

      So do all kinds of abstract mathematical objects conceivable by the mind exist as real entities in the world? Are these entities spatial and temporal i.e, do they have specific locations in space and time?

    • #6572

      “So do all kinds of abstract mathematical objects conceivable by the mind exist as real entities in the world?”

      Your mind is also in the world. So if something exists in the mind it exists in the world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “world” is only what you see externally. The mind is also material and its ideas are material. And this mind interacts with the body. So we have to understand the body in a new way compatible with the existence of ideas.

      Modern Western science has assumed that the mind is outside the world and derived the understanding of the body without taking the mind into account. This is the famous mind-body divide of Descartes. It says that we can study the body without understanding the mind. It is a false idea, and therefore everything that follows based upon it, is also false.

      There are pure ideas and then there are symbols of ideas. A mathematical theorem is a pure idea, but when you think of that theorem there is an instance of that idea in your mind. This instance is created when our consciousness comes in contact with the pure idea. The consciousness is individual and the idea is universal. When the individual consciousness contacts the universal idea then a particular instance of that idea is created, and we call this instance a “symbol”.

      Similarly, “human” is a universal idea, and when our consciousness comes in contact with this universal idea, then the individual human body is created. Therefore, everything that you see originally exists as a pure idea. But when it comes in contact with consciousness it becomes an individual thing, which is also the symbol of the pure idea. Since it becomes a symbol, ordinary things like tables, chairs, houses, apples, are all symbols of some pure idea.

      During Greek times philosophers like Aristotle claimed that the world is comprised of two things–form and substance. The form is the idea, but the thing it enters into is the substance. So, they were talking about statues and deities. They said that the substance is the stone, and the god in the statue incarnates. Therefore, by breaking the statue you don’t destroy the idea; you only destroy the substance. For a few thousand years after that people were just trying to figure out how this form and substance come together, and while form is intelligible, the substance is not. So they could never solve this problem. Later modern science thew out substance and replaced it with forms–mathematical forms–but then gave a materialist interpretation to these forms. For example, particle and wave are forms, mass and charge are forms. But we like to think that there is some material substance that constitutes particle and wave, mass and charge. This is a false idea and the advanced scientists and philosophers know this quite well. It is only the less advanced and sophisticated people who think that there is some “matter”.

      The Vedic idea is different. There is form and there is consciousness. The form is universal and by contacting the consciousness this universal form becomes an individual. Therefore, everywhere you see individual things, they are created from a universal form by the contact of consciousness. When the universe is destroyed, these forms are not destroyed.

      These forms are called prakriti. Therefore, prakriti is eternal. It is never created or destroyed. But our experience of this prakriti is created and destroyed and what we are observing is the produciton of individual experience from universal forms. We think it is some kind of substance, but it is not. It is objective and prior to our experience, and yet the instantiation of this objective reality is our experience.

    • #6577

      I remember asking my high school physics teacher something to the effect of ‘what are atomic particles made of? What are electrons and protons and neutrons made of? And if they are all made of some same base matter, how can different quantities of these same particles combine to create different materials?

    • #6579

      They are all energy. But this energy takes many forms. Just like in modern science we say that there are many forms of energy such as kinetic energy, thermal energy, electromagnetic energy, gravitational energy, etc. Like that there are infinite forms of energy. At a high-level we can say that they are all “material energy” but then we can also describe the forms of these energies.

      The original energy is called Sakti and all the energy is enfolded in the body of Parvati. During creation, this energy is unfolded just like a tree is enfolded inside a seed. The difference is that the seed needs water, sunlight, and air from the outside, and Sakti doesn’t need anything external. David Bohm used this idea of enfolded and unfolded in conversation with J Krishnamurthy (although he says that he had this idea even before this conversation).

      So we can also say that prior to the manifest universe, the energy is unmanifest. It doesn’t mean it did not exist. It just means that it was enfolded. In one sense, this is also big bang, where all the energy is enfolded in the body of Parvati who is the complete form of Sakti, and everything comes out of this body, so it is like a big bang. But the difference is that big bang is impersonal and the enfolded-unfolded process of creation is personal.

      The problem in modern science is that when energy is highly concentrated then all laws of modern science seem to break down because we are unable to visualize how an infinite amount of energy can be concentrated in a small place. Cosmologists call this the ‘black hole’ which is an infinite amount of energy from which energy can never escape so they cannot see this black hole.

      The real reason is different. These black holes are very powerful living entities who have tremendous enfolded energy, so it is true that there is an infinite concentration of energy in a very small place. But it is not true that these are not emanating energy. Just like rivers flow into the ocean, similarly, energy from the rest of the world is absorbed by these living entities and then distributed. The problem is that they are not distributing this energy to us so we cannot see them. Nevertheless, there are theories such as Hawking Radiation which insist that black holes emit radiation. This whole problem of how energy is absorbed and radiated is not very well understood, which is why scientists keep trying to bombard particles at very high energy hoping that they will emulate the conditions of big bang and we will learn more about our origins.

      In short, all these particles are energy and they are concentrated into a source of energy from where they are emitted. The mystery is how they are enfolded and unfolded.

      In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is described that during the creation, from pradhana where we cannot distinguish the three modes comes prakriti where the three modes are distinguished. From there comes mahattattva, then ahamkara, then many other elements leading upto Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. During annihilation, Earth merges into Water, Water merges into Fire, Fire merges into Air, Air merges into Ether, which merges into the senses, which merge into the mind, and so on, until the entire universe merges back into the body of Maha-Visnu.

      Everything is enfolded inside Maha-Visnu and then unfolded. So, it is like a big-bang except that the origin is not a vacuum or some impersonal concentration of energy. The origin is a person inside whose body the energy is enfolded and it is unfolded by their will. It is enfolded in a way that the small thing is absorbed into the big thing, but this big thing is not physically bigger, otherwise there would be no big bang. The big thing is a bigger idea, and the smaller thing is a smaller idea which is a part of the bigger idea. Since the smaller idea is always part of the bigger idea, therefore it exists even when the universe is not manifest. It is only when the small is separated from the big that we say that the universe has manifest.

      I’m trying to explain the nature of the unfolding and enfolding like a tree that grows from a seed and then is absorbed back into the seed, and the nature of this tree. The root is the Absolute Truth and the emanations from this root are Relative Truths. If we can simply understand how it unfolds and enfolds then we can speak about the seed of the entire manifest phenomena.

      • #6749

        I would like clarification on the roles of Durga-devi & Maha-Visnu in the enfolding & unfolding of material energy. At one point you said Durga is the one in whom the infinite material energy is enfolded & from whom it unfolds, but at a later point you said it was MV.

        Is Durga an eternal entity, always associated w/ MV? Is she the personification of material energy, or an embodiment of it, or are these terms synonymous? We see pictures of Durga being “impregnated” by MV’s glance, that glance said to be Sambhu (Siva). So it seems as though she’s the embodiment of material energy & MV impregnates her w/ the souls & the element of time. So in what way is material energy enfolded in MV, unless we say Durga is originally enfolded in him?

      • #6750

        You can create new topics in the forums if you want. That way the discussion remains more topic focused instead of mixing many topics inside the same topic. When you create new topics, they become openly searchable and indexed by search engines. It’s somewhat better SEO!

        Durga and Shiva are masters of the material energy. Durga is the origin of the space and Shiva is the origin of time. These ‘origins’ are like the roots of trees, which emanate from Them.

        Maha-Vishnu, Karanodaksayi Vishnu, and Narayana are often used interchangeably. He together with Maha-Lakshmi is the master of the soul. He injects the soul into matter.

        In the Bhagavad-Gita Prabhupada describes that there are five topics to consider. These are God, soul, time, matter, and karma. The ‘God’ here is Narayana, who is the master of the soul; the soul is the part of Narayana. Time is Shiva and prakriti or matter is Parvati. So, this covers four out of the five topics — God, soul, matter, and time. The fifth topic is karma, which is why the soul is bound to matter, or the reason that Maha-Vishnu injects the soul into matter.

        An important question here is whether the soul enters the body of Maha-Vishnu along with karma at the end of the universe, or does s/he rest in the body of Shiva? I’m not sure about this issue, but it is possible that Narayana injects ‘new’ souls into matter, who don’t have previous karma while the souls already bound by karma from previous creations rest in the body of Shiva. It may also be that the souls go from Narayana’s control to Shiva’s control in both cases, and then Shiva injects the soul into matter, which is described as Narayana injecting the soul.

      • #6751

        Thank you.

    • #6585

      Thank you for taking the time to post these very detailed responses. You helped me clarify my question.

      There are pure ideas and then there are symbols of ideas. A mathematical theorem is a pure idea, but when you think of that theorem there is an instance of that idea in your mind. This instance is created when our consciousness comes in contact with the pure idea.

      So I get the understanding that pure ideas are out there and when my consciousness comes in contact with them, symbols are formed in my mind. Is this accurate? Is it analogous to thinking(naively) so – there is a bottle in my room, when my senses come in contact with it, I see it. (Please point me toward any books/articles of yours if you have already discussed this point there so you won’t have to repeat yourself)

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Sai Saurab.
    • #6588

      Is it analogous to thinking(naively) so – there is a bottle in my room, when my senses come in contact with it, I see it.

      You are thinking in terms of material objects rather than ideas. The bottle is an instance of the idea of bottle. There can be two identical bottles which exactly represent the same idea but they are in two different places. This place difference is a different role being played by the same idea. When you causally modify the bottle, the idea bottle is not modified, rather the role is changed. And this new role comes into contact with a different idea (e.g. a broken bottle). The role is the relation between different things, and is sometimes called sambandha. It is created from consciousness because by consciousness we establish relation to different things.

    • #6592


      You could start with:

      Chapter 1: A Definition of God, from Ashish’s book Uncommon Wisdom: Fault Lines in the Foundations of Atheism

      Sāńkhya and Modern Atomism

      Lessons of Ayurveda for Vedic Cosmology

      Hope it helps





    • #6609

      @ashish Please allow me to pick your brain a little bit more on this topic.

      Have you used pure ideas and forms interchangeably?

      Are all of the following pure ideas? – bottle, red bottle, red bottle with a scratch (If yes, are there infinitely many pure ideas?)

      A bottle could appear as a generic “object” to a dog, as a “bottle” to person X and as “brother’s gift” to person Y. So aren’t forms subjective?

    • #6610

      Have you used pure ideas and forms interchangeably?

      Yes, I have used them interchangeably.

      Are all of the following pure ideas? – bottle, red bottle, red bottle with a scratch (If yes, are there infinitely many pure ideas?)

      There is one universal reality. It has an abstract concept called ‘bottle’, a more refined concept called ‘red bottle’ and an even more refined concept called ‘red bottle with a scratch’. That’s why these concepts are hierarchical. However, ‘red bottle’ is not an independent idea. It is the idea of ‘bottle’ and then its modification by redness to create a ‘red bottle’. This constructs a tree which is literally infinite. We see parts of that tree at a time.

      A bottle could appear as a generic “object” to a dog, as a “bottle” to person X and as “brother’s gift” to person Y. So aren’t forms subjective?

      The ‘bottle’ is one idea on the cognition tree, and ‘brother’s gift’ is another concept on the relation tree. The cognition tree and the relation tree combine to create our experience. Just like a block of wood can be called ‘chair’ by someone even though it is not cognitively a chair, it is still relationally a chair. The word ‘chair’ therefore can be cognitively or relationally so. This is why some linguists and philosophers have argued that forms are not objective; they are simply a relation to us. They don’t explain why something that we don’t view as an apple (because we don’t eat it) is still objectively an apple. So, we have to distinguish between what is objectively a chair and what we just treat as a chair through a relation even though it is not objectively so.

      Even that relational form is objective, just not an object. We should not mix objective with object. Relationships are also objective, but they are not objects. Likewise, if a dog doesn’t view a chair as a chair (because it doesn’t sit on the chair) that is due to the relation. It doesn’t refute the fact that there is objectively a chair. So, this raises the question: What is the objective chair? It is merely a possibility or ability. It can be used as a chair (and perhaps other things). When we use it as a chair, we have the right relationship through which we exploit the possibility of being a chair. So, there is no contradiction in these things, once we distinguish objects from relationships.

    • #6728

      You have mentioned above prakriti, pradhana & mahat-tattva. I would like a little elaboration on the distinction between these three phases of material energy, please.

      • #6736

        This is a rather complicated topic, which is another way of saying that I don’t understand it fully. However, to the limited extent that I understand it, this is my understanding.

        The fundamental idea underlying modern science is that nature is governed by logic, and the hallmark of logic is consistency. I believe that the fundamental idea in the Vedic theory of nature is that nature is inherently contradictory or self-contradictory and the soul tries to reconcile this contradiction at every step. Contradiction creates an imbalance in us and in nature, and this imbalance forces us into an action to attain consistency. Thus, a perpetual motion machine is created in which no matter what you do, you can never fully reconcile the contradiction. We keep trying to create a balance out of the contradiction, which is why we think it is consistent.

        There is, however, a state of consistency in which everything is balanced or the contradiction doesn’t exist. This state results in a static world or inaction and lack of change. This state in the soul is called Brahman and in case of matter is called Pradhana. It is called the state in which the three modes of ‘balanced’ and hence cannot be distinguished. Basically, there is no contradiction. From this static balanced state emerges the self-contradictory state called Prakriti in which the three modes are distinguished and there is an inner contradiction between the modes. When these modes are separated, then the soul tries to reconcile this contradiction. So, under the presence of the soul the subsequent stages of matter are manifest, as an attempt to create consistency out of contradiction — i.e. an attempt to regain balance.

        Now, a little digression is needed to understand the nature of contradiction. The conflict is between what I am, what I can do, and what I want. Just like if you are situated in a job, and you identify with that job, and say that you are an employee. But you cannot be situated in that job permanently because there is restlessness in you due to two reasons. First, there is unrealized potential inside you by which you can do things and know things, which are not included in the present state. Second, in every situation you want to be something other than what you are.

        These things are reconciled by constructing a trajectory in which the initial state is your current state, the desire to be something else is the future state, and the potential to know and do is used to join the present state to the future state. So, from the consistent state emerges the contradictory state, and from the contradictory state we create a trajectory or path which results in action. So, the state of ‘being’ called Brahman or Pradhana is transformed into ‘becoming’, and this primordial state of becoming is called mahattattva. It represents the dharma or ideal activity. For example, if you are sitting in one place, and you desire a gulab jamun then an imbalance is created, and you reconcile this imbalance by an activity or trajectory.

        Each contradiction is a problem and each trajectory is a solution to that problem. But before we can create solutions, we have to create problems, and these problems drive solutions. So, prakriti is the total set of problems, and mahattattva is the ideal solutions to these problems. This ideal path is sometimes called chitta and sometimes ‘contaminated consciousness’. The pure consciousness is self-awareness, not infected with a problem. The contamination is that the soul is now preoccupied with a problem which is basically an inner contradiction.

        In Freudian psychology, the contradictory state is called the Id, or the desire. Then the ideal resolution of this problem is called the Super-Ego, which represents the moral do’s and don’ts. If we follow this ideal path then the next ingredient called the Ego or ahamkara is never created. Effectively, under this situation we can say that we are doing the morally right actions and there is no individuality because we have not deviated from this correct path. The Ego doesn’t exist in this case because I have subordinated my individuality to the moral rightness. However, if we don’t follow this perfect path and create our own path, then immediately Ego is created. So the Ego represents a path, or a solution to the contradiction, but it is my personal solution. It is not the ideal solution, and that deviation from the ideal constitutes my ‘personality’. Hence ahamkara is also called the ‘false’ ego in which we consider deviation from the ideal path as the symptom of having a personality. Conformity to rules is viewed as lacking an individuality and the soul has now acquired a rascal attitude due to this rebellion against the ideal.

        Now from this rascality develop the future elements such as the mind, intellect, senses, etc. And everything has three parts — the present state, the future state or the goal, and the activity that joins the present to the future — and everything is imbued with the rascal attitude.

        There are many important novelties in this description of nature. First, contradiction rather than consistency is the fundamental driver of change. Second, there is always goal-oriented-ness in nature because change originates from a contradiction which is a problem. The goal is to solve this problem, so nature is not automatically drifting by some deterministic laws but being pushed by the soul because it cannot bear the existence of the problem which troubles him. Third, there are many possible solutions to the problem, and we have to choose one of them, which means that nature cannot proceed without a choice because we have to solve a contradiction and the solution needs a choice. Fourth, nature automatically provides the ideal methods of solving problems which constitute morality, which means that nature is not just descriptive but also prescriptive about the solution to the problem. However, the soul wants to invent new methods of solving the same problem. This is called ‘creativity’ or ‘individuality’ and this creative individual who must deviate from the ideal path constitutes the false ego. Once he deviates from the ideal path, he creates consequences or karma. However, ahamkara is the deviated path but it is like a plan of action, which has to be converted into an actual activity. The rest of the creation from ahamkara is about how planning is converted into actual activity.

      • #6739

        I would say more, but I think just saying “AMAZING!” would sum up my response to that reply! 🙏

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Do forms exist?

by Sai Saurab Time to read: 1 min