‘Descartes’ doctrine of self – consciousness and three apperceptions

Dr. N.V. Kulkarni

Prof R. D. Ranade while commenting on Purandardasa’s song,

काष्णिलि केळुव कांबुवनरिव

आद्याणिसुव आस्वादिसुव 

refers to “Descartes’ very special doctrine of self – consciousness” and adds “the nature of logical, psychological and epistemological apperception has been discussed.  It is Purandardasa who has … given an insight into the spiritual nature of apperception.”

We have discussed in the following paragraphs:

  1. Decartes’ doctrine of self-consciousness
  2. Kant’s idea of logical or epistemological apperception
  3. James’ psychological apperception
  4. Spiritual apperception and its unity as expounded by Prof. Ranade.

a) Descartes’ doctrine of self-consciousness

In his books Descartes begins by explaining the method of ‘Cartesian doubt’, as   it has come to be called.  In order to have a firm basis for his philosophy, he resolves to make himself doubt everything that he can manage to doubt.

He begins with skepticism in regard to the senses.  Can I doubt, he says, that I am sitting here by the fire in a dressing-gown?  Yes, for sometimes I have dreamt that I was here when in fact I was naked in bed.  (Pyjamas, and even nightshirts, had not yet been invented).  Moreover, madmen sometimes have hallucinations, so it is possible that I may be in like case.

Dreams, however, like painters, present use with copies of real things, at least as regards their elements.  (You may dream of a winged horse, but only because you have seen horses and wings.)  Therefore corporeal nature in general, involving such matters as extension, magnitude, and number, is less easy to question than beliefs about particular things.  Arithmetic and geometry, which are not concerned with particular things, are therefore more certain than physics and astronomy; they are true even of dream objects, which do not differ from real ones as regards number and extension.  Even in regard to arithmetic and geometry, however, doubt is possible.

‘Thinking’ is used by Descartes in a very wide sense.  A thing that thinks, he says, is one that doubts, understands, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, imagines, and feels – for feeling, as it occurs in dreams, is a form of thinking.  Since thought is the essence of mind, the mind must always think, even during deep sleep.  (It is amazing that Russel enumerates here ‘thinking’ in the three states of consciousness – authors remarks)

There remains, however, something that I cannot doubt: I may have no body: this might be an illusion.  But thought is different.  ‘While I wanted to think everything false, it must necessarily be that I who thought was something; and remarking that this truth, I think, therefore I am, was so solid and so certain that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of upsetting it, I judged that I could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy that I sought.’

The above argument, ‘I think therefore I am’ (cogito ergo sum), is known as Descartes’ cogito, and the process by which it is reached is called ‘Cartesian Doubt’.

This passage is the kernel of Descartes’ theory of knowledge, and contains what is most important in his philosophy.

St. Augustine advanced an argument closely similar to the cogito.  He did not, however, give prominence to it, and the problem which it is intended to solve occupied only a small part of his thoughts.  Descartes’ originality, therefore, should be admitted, though it consists less in inventing the argument than in perceiving its importance.

Having now secured a firm foundation, Descartes sets to work to rebuild the edifice of knowledge.  The I that has been proved to exist has been inferred from the fact that I think, therefore I exist while I think, and only then.  If I ceased to think, there would be no evidence of my existence.  I am a thing that thinks, a substance of which the whole nature or essence consists in thinking, and which needs no place or material thing for its existence.  The soul, therefore, is wholly distinct from the body and easier to know than the body; it would be what it is even if there were no body.

Descartes next asks himself: why is the cogito so evident?  He concludes that it is only because it is clear and distinct.  He therefore adopts as a general rule the principle:  All things that we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are true.  He admits, however, that there is sometimes difficulty in knowing which these things are.

The principle, “I think, therefore I am,” is not to be considered a deduction from the major premise, “Whatever thinks exists.”  It is rather true that this general proposition is derived from the particular and earlier one.  I must first realize in my own experience that, as thinking, I exist, before I can reach the general conclusion that thought and existence are inseparable.  This fundamental truth is thus not a syllogism, but a not further deducible, self-evident, immediate cognition, a pure intuition-sum cogitans.  Now, if my existence is revealed by my activity of thought, if my thought is my being, and the converse, if in me thought and existence are identical, then I am a being whose essence consists in thinking.  I am a spirit, an ego, a rational soul.

‘It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves’; and from the same fontal Reality must be derived those ideals which are the master-light of all our seeing, the element, in particular, of our moral and religious life.  The presence of the Ideal is the reality of God within us.  This is, in essentials, the famous argument for the existence of God which meets us at the beginning of modern philosophy – the argument from the fact of man’s possession of the idea of a Perfect Being, which forms the centre, indeed the abiding substance, of Descartes’ philosophy.  This idea, Descartes reminds us, is not just an idea which we happen to find as an individual item in the mind, like our ideas of particular objects.  It is innate, he says, in his old-fashioned misleading terminology.  He means that it is organic to the very structure of intelligence, knit up indissolubly with that consciousness of self which he treated as his foundation-certainty – so that our experience as self-conscious beings cannot be described without implying it.  ‘I must not imagine’, he says in the Third Meditation, ‘that the conception of the infinite is got merely by negation of the finite ……  On the contrary I plainly see that there is more reality in the infinite substance than in the finite substance, so much so that it may even   be said that my consciousness of the infinite is in some sense prior to my consciousness of the finite – or, in other words, that my consciousness of God is prior to my consciousness of myself.  For how could I doubt or desire, how could I be conscious, that is to say, that anything is wanting to me, and that I am not altogether perfect, if I had not within me the idea of a being more perfect than myself by comparison with whom I recognize the defects of my nature?’  The finite self, in short, with which Descartes appeared to start as an absolute and independent certainty, is not really an independent being at all.  It can neither exist nor be known in isolation: it knows itself only as ‘I’, a member of a larger life.  The idea of God, Descartes says elsewhere, originates along with the idea of self and is innate in the same sense as the latter.

b) Kant’s idea of apperception

Kant says (A-34) ‘There are, however, three original (Capacities or faculties of the soul) which contain the conditions of the possibility of all experience, and cannot themselves be derived from any other faculty of the mind namely sense, imagination and apperception.’

Elsewhere (B-68) Kant writes “Consciousness of itself (apperception) is the simple representation of the I, …”  By apperception Kant means what he means by awareness:  the faculty or capacity for judging in accord with a rule, for applying concepts – the faculty that produces sets of awareness.

Kant calls sense, imagination and apperception as subjective sources of cognition on which the possibility of an experience in general and cognition of its object rests (A115).  Sense represents the appearances empirically in perception, the imagination in association (and reproduction) and apperception in the empirical consciousness result in recognition.

(A120) Perception is the sum total of that which is first given to us in appearance combined with consciousness.  Different perceptions by themselves are encountered, dispersed and separate in the mind.  The combination of these cannot happen in the sense itself.  Imagination, an active faculty causes their synthesis.

(A117) All representations have a necessary relation to a possible empirical consciousness.  One would not be conscious of them if this is not the case, so to say that they did not exist at all.  The consciousness of myself (Kant calls it transcendental consciousness) has a necessary relation to all empirical consciousness as original apperception.

(Numbers in bracket refer to those in critique of pure reason)

 c) Psychological apperception

In Germany, since Herbart’s time Psychology has always had a great deal to say about a process called Apperception.  The incoming ideas or sensations are said to be ‘apperceived’ by ‘masses’ of ideas already in the mind.  It is plain that the process we have been describing as perception is, at this rate, an apperceptive process.  So are all recognition, classing, and naming; and passing beyond these simplest suggestions, all farther thoughts about our percepts are apperceptive processes as well.  I have myself not used the word apperception because it has carried very different meanings in the history of philosophy, and ‘psychic reaction’, ‘interpretation’, ‘conception’, ‘assimilation’, ‘elaboration’ or simply ‘thought’, are perfect synonyms for its Herbartian meaning, widely taken.  It is, moreover, hardly worth while to pretend to analyze the so-called apperceptive performances beyond the first or perceptive stage, because their variations and degrees are literally innumerable.  ‘Apperception’ is a name for the sum-total of the effects of what we have studied as association; and it is obvious that the things which a given experience will suggest to a man depends on what Mr. Lewes calls his entire psychostatical conditions, his nature and stock of ideas, or, in other words, his character, habits, memory, education, previous experience, and momentary mood.  We gain no insight into what really occurs either in the mind or in the brain by calling all these things the ‘apperceiving mass,’ though of course this may upon occasion be convenient.  On the whole I am inclined to think Mr. Lewes’ term of ‘assimilation’ the most fruitful one yet used.

Professor H. Steinthal has analyzed apperceptive processes with a sort of detail which is simply burdensome. 

His introduction of the matter may, however, be quoted.  He begins with an anecdote from a comic paper.

“In the compartment of a railway-carriage six persons unknown to each other sit in lively conversation.  It becomes a matter of regret that one of the company must alight at the next station.  One of the others says that he of all things prefers such a meeting with entirely unknown persons, and that on such occasions he is accustomed neither to ask who or what his companions may be nor to tell who or what he is.  Another thereupon says that he will undertake to decide this question, if they each and all will answer an entirely disconnected question.  They began.  He drew five leaves from his note-book, wrote a question on each, and gave to each of his companions with the request that he write the answer below.  When the leaves were returned to him, he turned, after reading them, without hesitation to the others, and said to the first.  ‘You are a man of science’; to the second, ‘You are a soldier’; to the third, ‘You are a philologer’; to the fourth, ‘You are a journalist’; to the fifth, ‘You are a farmer.’  All admitted that he was right, whereupon he got out and left the five behind.  Each wished to know what question the others had received; and behold, he had given the same question to each.  It ran thus:

“’What being destroys what it has itself brought forth?”

“To this the naturalist had answered, ’vital force’; the soldier, ‘war’; the philologist, ‘Kronos’; the publicist, ‘revolution’; the farmer, ‘a boar’.  This anecdote, methinks, if not true, is at least splendidly well invented.  Its narrator makes the journalist go on to say : ‘Therein consists the joke.  Each one answers the first thing that occurs to him, and that is whatever is most nearly related to his pursuit in life.  Every question is a hole-drilling experiment, and the answer is an opening through which one sees into our interiors.’ … so do we all.  We are all able to recognize the clergyman, the soldier, the scholar, the business man, not only by the cut of their garments and the attitude of their body, but by what they say and how they express it.  We guess the place in life of men by the interest which they show and the way in which they show it, by the objects of which they speak, by the point of view from which they regard things, judge them, conceive them, in short by their mode of apperceiving …”

“Every man has one group of ideas which relate to his own person and interests, and another which is connected with society.  Each has his group of ideas about plants, religion, law, art, etc., and more especially about the rose, epic poetry, sermons, free trade, and the like.  Thus the mental content of every individual, even of the uneducated and of children, consists of masses or circles of knowledge of which each lies within some larger circle, alongside of others similarly included, and of which each includes smaller circles within itself …

The perception of a thing like a horse … is a process between the present horse’s picture before our eyes, on the one hand, and those fused or interwoven pictures and ideas of all the horses we have ever seen, on the other; … a process between two factors or moments, of which one existed before the process and was an old possession of the mind (the group of ideas, or concept, namely), whilst the other is but just presented to the mind, and is the immediately supervening factor (the sense-impression).  The former apperceives the latter; the latter is apperceived by the former.  Out of their combination an apperception-product arises: the knowledge of the perceived being as a horse.  The earlier factor is relative to the later one active and a priori; the supervening factor is given, a posteriori, passive …  We may then define Apperception as the movement of two masses of consciousness (Vorstel-lungsmassen) against each other so as to produce a cognition.”

“The a priori factor we called active, the a posteriori factor passive, but this is only relatively true …  Although the a priori moment commonly shows itself to be the more powerful, apperception-processes can perfectly well occur in which the new observation transforms or enriches the apperceiving group of ideas.  A child who hitherto has seen none but four-cornered tables apperceives a round one as a table; but by this the apperceiving mass (‘table’) is enriched.  To his previous knowledge of tables comes this new feature that they need not be four-cornered, but may be round.  In the history of science it has happened often enough that some discovery, at the same time that it was apperceived, i.e. brought into connection with the system of our knowledge, transformed the whole system.  In principle, however, we must maintain that, although either factor is both active and passive, the a priori factor is almost always the more active of the two.”

d) Spiritual Apperception and it’s unity as expounded by Prof. Ranade

  1. Introduction:

जो देखे सो कहै नहि, कहै सो देखे नाहि |

सुनै सो समझावै नही, रसना दृग श्रुति काहिं ||    

The above doha of Kabir included as the fifth doha and titled as “Inter-incommunicativeness of sense” in Parmartha Sopan Chap IV forms the basis of Shri Gurudev’s exposition on somewhat difficult problem of the inter-incommunicativeness of the sense organs from the point of view of ordinary psychology and their inter-communicativeness in mystical experience through the Unity of Apperception in the realm of “The Psychology of Spiritual Experience.”

  1. Definitions:
  1. Dictionary Meaning

Oxford (concise) defines unity as being one and apperceive as ‘be conscious of perceiving’ and perceive means apprehend (especially) through the sight.

  1. Dictionary of Philosophy Meaning (Oxford)

Apperception term introduced first by Leibnitz for the mind’s reflective apprehensions of the inner states.

Kant distinguishes empirical apperception which is consciousness of the ordinary changing Self.

(Kant in his Opus Postumum states, “The mode of proving the existence of an outer sense, object must strike one as unique of its kind.”….. There is only one experience ….. (experiences are perceptions) – empirical representation of an object with consciousness)

[Vth fascicle sheet XIII page 4 Note 1 & XIIth fascicle (half) sheet X page 1 Note.]

For Kant, there is also Transcendental apperception.  This is the unchangeable consciousness that unifies experience as that of one subject, and is thereby the ultimate foundation of the very possibility of experience and thought.

  1. Oxford Companion to Mind :

Defines Transcendental apperception of Kant as a cognitive act, which makes the unity of experience possible.

Wundt Wilhelm initiated the first systematic research programme in experimental psychology.  His experimental conclusions were –

  1. Process of apperception occupied measurable periods of time indicating involvement of physiological processes of definite physical duration. Wundt speculated that these processes were localized in an ‘apperception centre’ in the forebrain.
  2. The psychological side treated the phenomenon of attention as the primary subjective observable expression of the apperceptive process.

Though the term apperception has not been resurrected, contemporary cognitive science has revived an interest in many of the problems that the theory of apperception had been concerned with.

  1. Kant and the Mind

Andrew Brook in his above book states – “By the Unity of consciousness or apperception, Kant meant one of the mental requisites of being aware of a number of things together, as parts of a single complex representation (one single experience) (page 3) and “….. T A (transcendental apperception) must have a transcendental, that is a priory source.” (p 145).

       We shall proceed to examine unity of apperception from the following angles.

  1. Unity of Apperception in empirical experience (object world)
  2. Normal
  3. Abnormal
  4. Transcendental unity of Apperception in a mystical
  5. Normal
  6. Supernormal
  7. (a) (i) Normal Unity of Apperception in empirical experience:

Kabir’s Doha quoted at the beginning depicts this state of affairs of the sense organs.  Let us see Shri Gurudev’s commentary on the same:

“The last point in the psychology of mystical experience we want to discuss is the inter-communicativeness of sense functions through the unity of apperception.  From the point of view of ordinary psychology, each is unique, independent, ‘sui generis’, and non-communicative with other senses …..”

The Doha from Kabir expresses, only in terms of ordinary psychology, the non-communicativeness of senses with each other.

….. The present writer was conversant, for a number of years, with a story which used to be narrated by saint of Nimbargi about Kabir, the origin of which in the Dohas he was not able to trace till 1946.  All of a sudden, when he was hearing a Doha from Kabir जो देखे सो कहै नहि, while he was proceeding in a motor car, a new light dawned upon him and he saw in the Doha the foundation of the story he had heard, Kabir, so the story ran, was once a witness in a murder case, where he had seen the husband committing the murder of his unchaste wife.  The husband pleaded to Kabir that as he was not entirely unjustified in his act, he may  be pleased to help him in the matter.  How was Kabir going to do that without telling an untruth?  Kabir was called in the witness box to give evidence in regard to his having seen the murder.  Kabir thought that the murderer might be saved, in view of the unchastity of his wife, without his telling an untruth.”

The reply given by Kabir to the  Judge’s query is the Doha quoted which states, “He who sees is not able to speak, he who speaks is not able to see, he who hears is not able to make others understand.  Vision, audition and speech are all independent in their own spheres,” meaning, tongue is not able to see, eyes are not able to speak, the ears are not able to make others understand.  It need not be mentioned that the case was dismissed considering reply of Kabir as an utterance of a mad man.

Aristotle tells us about this “Each sense discriminates the specific differences of the objects proper to it.  The sight discriminates between white and black, taste between sweet and bitter, and so on ….. Objects can be differentiated only where there is single faculty to discriminate between them.  In the case of white and sweet as they are recognized as distinct, there must be a single faculty to affirm the distinction and hence a single faculty which thinks and perceives them both, i.e. separate organs cannot discriminate different things.”

              [From the book – The man who tested shapes. –  R. E. Cytowic p.86]

3 (a) (ii) Abnormal Unity of Apperception in empirical experience

On this subject Gurudev remarks, “….. Incidentally, we may refer to Bergson’s observations in this connection.  Bergson made capital out of a particular experience which he saw in the first Great War.  Some soldiers developed aphasia because their speech centre on the left-side of the brain, namely, Broca’s area, was pierced by a bullet shot.  But later on, after a year or two, there was a sort of restitution of the function of speech on the other side of the brain, so that the right side began to work.  We know that the centre of speech in the brain for the right-handed man is on the left and the centre of speech in the brain for the left-handed man is on the right side.  Process of restitution or transfer or exchange which might be made use of for the explanation of this phenomenon themselves rest upon the “Unity of Apperception” whose physiological expressions they are.”

Then there are cases of unilateral visual neglect which is caused by brain damage in the parietal lobe.  Patients with this deficit typically have great difficulty in noticing or attending to stimuli in one half of the visual field.  Free movement of head and eyes does not overcome the deficit and is not taken as basic ‘sensory loss’ in the relevant field.  Such person can take correct decisions regarding choice of action in absence of stimuli from this region.  Thus the neglected stimulus exerts an influence upon cognitive functioning, albeit at some pre-attentional, pre-conscious level.  For a detailed discussion of this case and similar phenomenon whose explanation can only be attributed to the “Unity of Apperception”, we refer the reader to the book.  ‘Ten Problems of Consciousness, by Michael Tye, MIT press publication.

We saw cases of Unity of Apperception in case of damaged brain.  We shall now turn to Synesthesia, one of the most obscure medical conditions, affecting only ten in a million people.  Syn of Greek origin means ‘together’ & aistesis means ‘sensations’.  Synesthesia means ‘feeling together’.  Individual with synesthesia experiences a sensation in two sensory modalities simultaneously.  The most common experience seems to be seeing colors when hearing sounds.  When synesthetics “see sounds”, they do, in fact use areas of the cortex dedicated to higher visual functions.  This cross-modality lasts during the life time of the individual, so that a given sound or word always leads to perception of the same colors.

          [There are two excellent books on this subject & interested readers may refer the same.

  1. The man who tasted shapes. – K. E. Cytowic, MD, MIT press.
  2. Gifts of Unknown Things – Lyall Watson.]

3 (b) (i) Unity of Apperception in Mystical Sphere:

Shri Gurudev has considered the mystical experience from following aspects –                             

              (i) Simultaneous occurrence.

              (ii) Transfer of function of sense organs.

              (iii) A metaphysical possibility.

              (iv) Universality of Unity of Apperception.

(i) Simultaneous occurrence

              Gurudev considers three Padas.  One by Dharamdas

                             “झरिं लागै महलिया गगन घहराय ||टे||

                                     खन गरजै खन बिजुरी चमकै |…..                

                             The second by Kabir,

                             “चुवत अमीरस, भरत ताल जहँ,

                             सब्द उठै असमानी हो ||टे||

                             And third by Kabir,

                             “रस गगन गुफा में अजर झरै ||टे||

                             बिन बाजा झनकार उठे जहँ, …..”

Shri Gurudev’s commentary on these Padas is –

“Dharamdas begins by saying that before the spiritual bath of the saint takes place, there is first the rumbling of the cloud in the ventricle.  Afterwards, there are glitters of lightning.  It is interesting to remember that this conception of the rumbling of cloud first and the glittering of the lightning next occurs only in the case of spiritual mystic, who hears the sound of the clouds first and sees the flash of lightning next.  Scientifically, however, the glitter of the lightning precedes the rumbling of the cloud.  In the region of spirit, however, it may be noted that we cannot determine which of them is earlier and which later – either sound or light may precede the other experience or the two might even synchronize.”

Turning to Kabir’s first Pada, Shri Gurudev writes – “Kabir tells us in the present song that when the lake (ventricle) becomes full on account of the oozing of the mellifluous juice, then a sky-reaching sound breaks forth as a sub-marine volcano in eruption might send its waters into sky.  We should note the connection between these two points – the oozing of the mellifluous juice from the cells into the lateral ventricle and the rise of the sky-reaching sound therefrom …..

In the next Pada, the position is reversed, wherein we are told possibly and more plausibly that as a consequence of hearing the Anahat sound, the cells of the brain begin to discharge mellifluous juice in the lateral ventricle which becomes like a lake.  So, here, we see that the sound becomes the cause of which the mellifluous juice becomes the consequence.  How are these two statements in the preceding verse and in the present are to be reconciled?  Those who have read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason know that there is something like Reciprocal Causation: Anahat Shabda having its influence on the oozing of mellifluous juice and oozing of Amirasa having its influence on the rise of the Anahat Shabda – these are two sides of what Kant would call Reciprocal Causation.  We are absolutely at our wits end in discussing which is the earlier and which is the later.  Another way of explaining the two phenomena would be from the point of view of their co-existence, but whether reciprocal causation or co-existence may be true, there must necessarily be between them a unity of apperception – call it the brain, call it the mind, call it the self or spirit if you please, the two phenomena cannot be explained without an ultimate unity.”

(ii) Transfer of function of sense organs –

This aspect has been discussed based on the following:

  1. Kabir’s pada :

‘प्रिती लगी तुव नाम की, पल बिसरै नाई |

….. नैना तरसे दरस को …..’  

Also Kabir’s statement elsewhere quotes as under “नयन को लगी प्यास अब तो साहब देखना”  

  1. Kabir’s Doha :

“पिञ्जर प्रेम प्रकासिया, अंतर भया उजास |

सुख करि सूनी महल में, बानी फूटी बास ||”

  1. Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj’s words,

“सुगंध वार्ता कानी पडो”

  1. Kannada Saint Purandardasa’s Pada,

“कण्णि केळुवलि कीवियलि काम्बुव

नासिकदि कांबुव केळुव ….. लोक विलक्षण

अप्राकृत – विग्रह – पुरंदर विठ्ठल”  

We shall see Gurudev’s comments at seriatim:

  1. “In the song under discussion, Kabir tells us how mind is panting for God like a fish out of water, how his very eyes are feeling ‘thirsty’ (नैना तरसे दरस को), imitating in that manner another song which speaks of ‘नयन को लगी प्यास, अब तो साहब देखना’ and suggesting the possibility or the reality of transfer of functions between the throat and the eye.
  2. and 3. “….. How shall we, then explain the inter-communicativeness of sense functions in super-sensuous experience?”

From the point of view of ordinary psychology, it would be a truism to say that he who is able to see is unable to speak, he who is able to say is unable to see.  Each organ is independent in its sphere.  Each is unique and each is opaque to the other.  From the point of view of super sensuous experience, however, all these functions are related to the unity of apperception.  It is not the eye that sees, says an Upanishad, but the self, it is not the ear that hears, but the self.  There is an inter-communicativeness in super sensuous functions, which is denied in the sensuous sphere.  This exchange takes place on account of the unity of apperception, which lies at the back of all super sensuous functions, or, if we prefer to use a physiological expression, the “apperception masse”, which may be regarded as responsible for vicarious functions in the super sensuous sphere.  It was for this reason that we said above how the eyes of Kabir felt thirsty, and how his speech emitted fragrance.”

  1. “….. The Saint of Umadi used to say that we should hear such news as would give us a sense of fragrance …..”
  2. “….. Purandardasa, a great Kannada saint has also given a classical vachana, in which he speaks of the inter-change of physiological functions through the unity of apperception” …..“My great God is absolutely लोक विलक्षण and अप्राकृत विग्रह says Purandardas, “His body is not like the body of mortals, and all his functions are inhuman. He hears by the eyes and sees by nose and by the nose he is able both to see and hear.  Divine ways are so much unlike human ways.”” 

We thus see how the unity of apperception might be responsible for vicarious super sensuous functions in mystical experience.

3(iii) A metaphysical possibility :

“काहे न रसना रामहि गावहि“, a song from Tulsidas, Gurudev’s exposition states, “In the case of myself and in the case of people like myself, says Tulsidas, “the tongue has only brought shame to the temple of our mouth.”  “That mouth in which God should have taken his seat, my tongue has defiled and has brought shame upon it.”  In that, it has an accomplice namely the ears.  It is engaged in परापवाद, परनिंदा and कामकथा and has a peculiar taste of fruitless discussion (वादविवाद स्वाद). The ears are helping it by a contemplation of sound and erotic matters, which serve as the moonlight for the blossoming of “dispute”.  So what is the way out?  Tulsidar says, “Engage thyself in the utterance of God’s Name, so that thou might take away the sins of the ears.”

How is this going to be done – the tongue uttering the Name of God and the ears being deprived of their evil propensities and made pure?  The rhetoricians’ trick of explaining such a phenomenon with the help of either विभावना which is कारणाभावे कार्योत्पत्तिः or असंगति which is भिन्न देशकालेऽपि  would not help us here.  As Kant would say, it is the unity of apperception alone which would bring the tongue and ears together.  Whatever the tongue does would be reported to the central telephone exchange, namely, the Self which Kant calls the ‘unity of apperception’ and through that also the ears would be exonerated from their sins.  So it is the self or the unity of apperception that is here the schematiser between the Rasana and Shravanas …..(Here) the tongue could not be expected to wash off the sins of the ears merely by the laws of restitution, exchange or transfer (a possible physiological explanation of the phenomenon).  The unity of apperception would alone serve the purpose of the telephone exchange for inter-communication, as well as the clearance house for the washing of the sins.  The self must intervene before the tongue could wash off the sins of the ears.”

3(iv) Universality of Unity of Apperception


              “ज्यों गूँगे के सैन को गूँगा ही पहिचान |

              त्यों ज्ञानी के सैन को, ज्ञानी होय सो जान ||”

Elaborating “The psychology of Spiritual Experience” Shri Gurudev brings out the unity – a mystical characteristic, which lies behind similar experiences of mystics.

He says, “It has been said that an aspirant who is able to hear the Anahat sound is able also to detect the signs of it in another.  The Anahat sound must express itself in physiological terms, and this characteristic enables the man, who hears the Anahat sound to detect the audition in another mystical seeker.  From this point of view, we may be enabled also to interpret the unity of God from the one finger which Ramakrishna Paramhansa pointed towards the heavens, implying that the One only exists, namely, ‘God’.  This unity of spiritual experience cannot be accounted for, except by supposing that ‘homo-ousion’, the same spiritual entity, underlies the experience of all similar aspirants.”

3 (b) (ii) Mystical Sphere Super-normal Unity of Apperception

Hitherto, unity of apperception in the mystical sphere with regard in inter-communicativeness of sense functions has been depicted from Shri Gurudev’s exposition of songs by various saints.  Shri Gurudev has not considered an experience as valid unless he had the same experience.

Now we shall see super-normal unity of apperception, of Gurudev, demonstrated on some occasions wherein an inter-communicativeness in physio-logical functions of sense organs is exhibited. For Gurudev the sense organs or sense functions were no barrier for either empirical knowledge or super sensuous experience for he had united with the Unity of Apperception, the Self, the Brahman.

The occasions are –

  • He used to inspect visually the vegetables brought to his house at Nimbal and used to order to remove portions of the vegetables, which were bitter or unpalatable. The man who used to bring the vegetables, who could no more control his inquisitiveness, after watching on several occasions, ventured to ask the reason.  Shri Gurudev remarked, “Taste the removed portion”.  Finding it very bitter the man was satisfied.  (Shri Gurudev could taste the uncut vegetables from his eyes.)
  • Once in a train journey upto Solapur, sodawater was produced as required by Shri Gurudev. Seeing the bottle he remarked it was lemonade.  The vendor did not agree and ultimately breaking open the bottle to his amazement found it to be lemonade.
  • In the book, ‘Gurudev R. D. Ranade – His Allahabad Days and Other Essays’, in the article of Shri V. P. Kanitkar, it is reported that on one occasion Shri Gurudev expressed the Pedhas in his hands to contain more sugar and on a second occasion looking at a dish of ‘Shira’, (vermicelli sweet) to contain less sugar.

4) Final Theory of Everything:

La Place once remarked that all forces in nature could be resolved to one single entity.

The search is on for the Grand Unification of the fundamental forces.  Science is progressing.  It has been admitted that ‘conscious experience’ be considered a fundamental feature irreducible to anything more basic. (The year was 1995).

The Upanishadic seers concluded after experiencing that Self-consciousness is the ultimate category of existence.  Shri Gurudev succinctly puts this …” ….. we have seen how the Upanishadic seers arrived at the conception of a unitary Atman who fills the whole world of nature, as of mind, from whom the world comes into being, in whom the world lives and into whom the world is finally absorbed.  ….. it is this conception which enables us to bridge over the disputes between various contending theological schools; and finally, it is this conception which gives a proper place to the various constructions of reality in the ultimate explanation of things …..(the Upanishadas) are not content with merely constructing an intellectual explanation of Reality, but suggest means for the practical attainment of it …..”  The year was 1926.

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