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, the 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 a 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. As we aim for parsimony, we get more complexity. As our knowledge becomes sufficiently capable of explaining all that exists, we find that it predicts a number of things that don’t exist. As we collect more data by empirical observation, we find it impossible to analyze the data rationally to arrive at any conclusion. As we get rational knowledge, it seems irrelevant to the problems of life, but that which solves the problems of life seems irrational. We seek the thrill of discovery only to sacrifice the stability of our knowledge, but stability lacks 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 sometimes termed as 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 the proofs, and the proofs are necessary and sufficient to validate the truth. Power is the capacity to know the proofs and the truth through the mind and senses, i.e., 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 destabilizing or 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 these 12 qualities. For example, if you were trying to build a house in this world, it is impossible to build something that is novel and yet practical, simple as well as complete, parsimonious as well as sufficient, and so on. In the material world, we must always make a trade-off in some form of perfection. As we try to solve one problem of imperfection, we get another problem.
God, however, is that thing, individual, or personality, in which there is no compromise, no trade-off, no duality. He is perfection itself. Thus, all the qualities of perfection are simultaneously satisfied in God, and from this complete perfection, emerge the “parts” or “aspects” of God that are incompletely perfect. As things become more perfect, we see some godliness in them. But since they are not completely perfect, therefore, they are not God. Accordingly, God is reflected in this world in everything partially as the presence of some aspect of perfection, and that partial reflection is called Paramātma, by which godliness is immanent in everything as the presence of some quality of perfection, although insignificant. However, complete perfection is transcendent and is called Bhagavan.
Thus, 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.
Thus, we can find God rationally by the analysis of this world, and that makes the principles of perfection scientific. But we cannot reconcile all these principles in this world, which makes perfection transcendent. The transcendent doesn’t have to be accepted on faith if we can accept the idea that there must be something that is perfectly devoid of the antinomies that create 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? And what is that thing which is completely devoid of all the trade-offs of perfection?