It is commonly believed that the nature of God cannot be discussed rationally. Thus, scientifically minded people reject the discussion of God on the grounds that the topic begins by invoking faith, rather than reason or observation. Likewise, religiously minded people resist a rational discussion of God, because in them lies a fear that rationality is fundamentally contradictory to devotion to God.
This book challenges these assumptions, and defines God as perfection, and discusses the 12 attributes that constitute perfection. These 12 attributes are not unique to God. Even if you are building a house or a car, you can employ these considerations to determine if that house or car is perfect.
However, we do need a subject matter in the context of which we can discuss the nature of perfection. In this book, that context, in which we discuss the nature of perfection, is knowledge.
What is perfection in knowledge? The book describes that knowledge is perfect if it is consistent, complete, simple, parsimonious, necessary, sufficient, empirical, rational, operational, instrumental, stable, and novel. The crux of the book is the discussion of these 12 principles, as they arise in the context of knowledge, using established ideas in epistemology—both scientific and otherwise.
These 12 qualities are not chosen arbitrarily. They can be divided into six pairs of antinomies, such that as we pursue one side of the antinomy, we compromise the other. For example, as we try for more completeness in our knowledge, we get more contradictions, but as we try to reduce the contradictions, our knowledge becomes incomplete. As we aim for conceptual parsimony, we get fewer concepts each of which is more complex, but as we try to reduce the complexity of our concepts, we find ourselves losing conceptual parsimony. If a theory is more intuitively self-justified, it doesn’t predict and explain the observations but that which predicts and explains the observations lacks intuitive self-justification. Rational theories do not explain the observations, but those that explain the observations are irrational. The theories that work are irrelevant to the problems of life, but those that are relevant to the problems of life do not work. The quest for novelty destroys the stability in knowledge, but that which gives stability destroys the novelty.
This general problem of antinomies is called duality in Vedic philosophy, and perfection is non-duality. In short, something is perfect only if it satisfies the 12 qualities simultaneously. The non-dual description of perfection defines “God” in Vedic philosophy, and it resolves the 12 antinomies into 6 qualities, which are called knowledge, beauty, renunciation, power, wealth, and heroism.
Knowledge is that which is consistent and complete. Beauty is that which is simple and parsimonious. Renunciation is the ability of the truth to stand independent of the proof, and yet, the truth is necessary and sufficient to create all proofs, and the proofs are necessary and sufficient to validate the truth. Power is the capacity to know the proofs and the truth through reason and observation. Wealth is the ability to operationalize knowledge into useful things, that become the instruments of solving our day-to-day problems. And the quest for knowledge is driven by the thrill of discovery, without disproving what we already believed to be true in the past.
The material reality is called duality in Vedic philosophy because we must compromise one or more qualities of perfection. The spiritual reality is called non-duality because it doesn’t compromise any of the 12 qualities. The principles of perfection can be applied to everything in the material world to find their imperfections. For example, it is impossible to build a house that is novel and yet practical, simple as well as complete, small as well as sufficient, etc. We must always trade-off one quality of perfection with another, to make something more perfect in one way but less perfect in another. As we solve one problem of imperfection, we get another.
God, however, is that thing, individual, or personality, in which there is no compromise, trade-off, or duality. He is perfection itself. All the qualities of perfection are simultaneously satisfied in God, and from this complete perfection, emerge the “parts” or “aspects” of God that are imperfect. As things become more perfect, we see some godliness in them. But since they are not perfect, therefore, they are not God. Still, even imperfect things tell us about something more perfect, which is how we improve things over time, by building something imperfect the first time, something more perfect the next time, something even more perfect in the next iteration, and so on. That vision of perfection in the imperfection which allows us to make something more perfect over time is called Paramātma. He is present as the ability to see perfection within imperfection and make something more perfect, but absent as perfection itself. Complete perfection is transcendent and is called Bhagavan. Thereby, we can talk about (a) the transcendent perfection of whom the imperfect things are parts, (b) the immanent perfection in the imperfect that allows us to make things more perfect, and (c) the imperfect.
The search for God is the search for perfection. It exists partially in everything, it exists more completely in things that are more perfect, and it exists completely only in one person—God. Those who can see the immanent form of perfection in things can make those things more perfect. Those who cannot see the immanent form of perfection, cannot improve things.
The ability to talk about the principles of perfection rationally and empirically makes this study scientific. And yet, because we cannot reconcile all these principles simultaneously in this world, therefore, perfection is transcendent. The transcendent doesn’t have to be accepted on faith if we accept that something that reconciles all these principles would be devoid of the antinomies of imperfection. This is then the basis on which we can scientifically study God’s nature; it is the study of perfection—What makes something perfect? What is missing in imperfection? Why are there trade-offs in creating perfection? How are we able to see perfection in imperfection? And what is that which is completely devoid of all the trade-offs of perfection?