The topic of emotion is of deep interest to many people, but its relation to reason and cognition, when emotion controls reason, and why emotion can be controlled by reason, are not well understood. Similarly, when situations change our emotions, should we attribute the emotion to the situation, or to the person, because another person could have reacted in a different way in the same situation? These questions lie at the heart of any study on emotions, and this book presents a model comprising of three parts—relation, cognition, and emotion—based on the Vedic theory of the soul comprising sat, chit, and ananda to discuss the problem of emotion. The crux of the theory is that while relation, cognition, and emotion are three separate features of the soul, they must always combine in order to create an experience. Hence, no experience is without emotion. Similarly, when they combine, either of the three can be dominant or subordinate. Thus, sometimes emotion rules over cognition and relation, at other times cognition rules over relation and emotion.
This model is extremely simple and yet extremely powerful, and most of the book is dedicated to illustrating its power because the simplicity is quite apparent. That means, applying the model to diverse problems from the nature of atomic reality to the structure of the human body. The scope of this book is vast as it covers topics from philosophical materialism to personality theories, to the interaction of body and mind, to symbolic expression, social organization, human relationships, and religion. Each of these is a singular and disparate area of inquiry at present. But all of these are different aspects of human experience. In that sense, what transcends individual experiences—the soul—can be used to unify the understanding of many experiences. Once the soul has been understood, everything else can be demystified.
Chapter One – Emotion and Materialism
This chapter discusses the problem of atomic theory in which reason only tells how the world exists as a possibility, but to create a reality we must make a choice. How this choice is made has been an area of great debate in physics, but it need not be so if we acknowledged that reason only tells us what is possible, but emotion makes a choice indicating which among the possibilities must be chosen. The chapter goes on to discuss how the concept of choice creates the problem of the future changing the present, and how that problem can be solved in science by postulating a new category of matter—purpose—apart from possibility. The purpose exists in the present but it refers to the future. Some mathematical ideas on how this new type of matter can be modeled in science are presented. But, fundamentally, because we induct the idea of referring to the future, we must also treat the purpose as a concept that summarizes the future state. This leads to some new and interesting ideas about semantic space and time, which exist like a tree rather than a box.
Chapter Two – Theories on Emotion
This chapter discusses several modern-day theories of emotion, and their shortcomings. A key problem is incompleteness: a theory describes some observations well but contradicts the theories that describe other observations. You can have either inconsistency (if you use many theories) or incompleteness (if you use one theory). Modern theories on emotion reflect this pattern, like the rest of science; they explain some facts on emotion well (e.g. that an external situation can create emotions, therefore external situations are causes of emotion) but the theory contradicts other obvious facts (e.g. when emotions are created without an external trigger). Typical problems of modern theories discussed in the chapter include (1) not seeing how cognition, emotion, and relation are all essential to creating emotions, (2) not seeing that either of these three can dominate and hence be the ‘cause’ of the others, (3) not recognizing the hierarchy in each of the three, and (4) not seeing how the connection between the three changes situationally.
Chapter Three – Emotion and Personality
This chapter develops a theory of personality based on the understanding of the soul. It discusses the relation and differences from current approaches to personality—e.g. the “Big Five” and “Multiple Intelligence” theories. We note how the three facets of the soul constitute the ability to perform three kinds of judgments—of truth, right, and good—and the world is known incompletely by one type of judgment (e.g. of truth). The personality types are different emphases on whether truth, good, or right are more important, but also that no type is in itself well-suited for all situations. Thus, some situations require more emphasis on truth, others more on rightness, while yet others more on goodness, which makes them better suited to different kinds of situations. There is an ‘ideal’ personality type for each situation, but no ‘ideal’ type for all situations universally. In that sense, personality development entails bringing the elements of the other personality types into your personality as the situation demands, after reading the situation correctly.
Chapter Four – Emotion and Biology
This chapter focuses on the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of emotion, and describes how the human body can be described in three ways—parts, functions, and purposes. The world we observe by our senses appears to be parts. However, each part has a function in relation to the other parts, and the function changes as the relation changes, even if all the parts remain unaltered. The parts can be observed but the relations cannot; however, the functioning of the body depends on these relations, which don’t reduce to the parts. Similarly, the same function can be employed to achieve a different purpose, and the purpose doesn’t reduce to the function. These forms of irreducibility constitute the failure of scientific reductionism because every observation has to be described as a combination of parts, functions, and purposes. This changes many assumptions in modern biology, such as evolution which reduces functions to parts, and purpose to function. The chapter discusses how the separation of parts, functions, and purposes creates a new way of thinking about health—namely, that we have to balance their importance and disease is due to imbalance.
Chapter Five – The Emotional Basis of Society
This chapter discusses the Vedic theory of emotions, which classifies emotions along two dimensions—(1) six basic types, and (2) three underlying modes. The six basic types are desire, anger, greed, pride, envy, and confusion. The three basic modes are fear, hope, and detachment. Their combination produces 18 emotional flavors where deep-seated fear, hope, or detachment become the causes of the six superficial manifestations. Thus, anger or greed itself is not bad; rather depending on whether this anger or greed is created out of fear, hope, or detachment makes it good or bad. The chapter goes on to discuss social models based on the ideologies of fear, hope, and detachment; while hope and fear lead to competitive social models, detachment results in cooperation. The chapter notes why society can be happy only if based on detachment, compassion, and cooperation, and how the competitive models lead to cyclic rise and fall. We can now see the connection between psychology and sociology: to create a peaceful society based on compassion and cooperation, we have to change the individual’s emotional state.
Chapter Six – Emotions and Relationships
This chapter discusses different social relations associated with emotions, and illustrates how these relations fall into a hierarchy—from a greater mental ‘distance’ to greater mental ‘proximity’. It relies on a new notion of space in which proximity and distance are defined based on likes and dislikes, not physical closeness. The chapter discusses that relationships are not accidental features of nature; they are in fact fundamental and begin in relation to the self—or self-awareness. The chapter discusses Vedic philosophy on how self-awareness leads to the self dividing into a knower and known, which then further expands into other relationships as we become aware of the ‘other’. Vedic texts describe how self-awareness and other-awareness create the male-female distinction as the known object and the power by which it knows itself and others. This forms the basis of ‘male’ and ‘female’ archetypes which are separate and yet two aspects of the same experience. The chapter discusses different ‘male’ and ‘female’ archetypes and how they are reflected at different stages of man-woman relations, and how these relations can be understood as reflections of divine nature.
Chapter Seven – The Symbols of Emotion
This chapter explores the expression of emotion across diverse symbolic domains from literature, music, art, economy, and politics, to even science and mathematics. That matter is a symbol of the mind is evident when it comes to expression in literature, music, and art because they not only express the ideas in the mind but also the accompanying emotions. A symbolic expression is not just about our mental states, but also which states are true, right, and good. In short, a symbolic expression is not meant to imitate life; it is rather meant to depict the ideal life. The preference of ideals over ideas changes everything from mathematics to science to art and social life because we not only realize that symbolism is incomplete unless cognitive, relational, and emotive content is deciphered, but also that it is inconsistent if the expression isn’t true, right, and good. The requirement for consistency and completeness demands that we understand the ideals of the three facets of the soul.
Chapter Eight – Emotion and Religion
This chapter discusses the role of emotion in religion, highlighting the traditional conflict between personalist and impersonalist viewpoints. The impersonalist view has dominated Western philosophy in which the ultimate reality is ideas and not emotions—which leads to logical thinking and modern science. The personalist view has dominated most modern religions where the ultimate reality is a person—which leads to the emotive basis of religiosity, often in contradiction to logical and scientific thinking. Both ideologies are incomplete on their own because emotion and cognition must combine to create any experience. Just as modern science deals in the question of existence, religion has traditionally dealt with the questions of truth, right, and good. Their conflict emerges only because all the truths are not pleasing, and all that is pleasing is not right. When we take into account the notion of a soul, we don’t omit all that is false, wrong, and bad. Rather, we seek that subset that is compatible with the nature of the soul—i.e. true, right, and good—while explaining how things that are not true, right, and good, are also temporary, ignorant, and painful. Religion, therefore, is not a separate endeavor from science; it is science defined in a broader sense of truth, right, and good.