The modern material conception of life is based on the abstract idea that the Absolute or Ultimate Reality is Substance, while Vedanta concludes that the Absolute is sentient, or Subject. We advocate the scientific study of Reality within the Vedantic Bhagavat conception. Thus everything turns on grasping that the certainty we have that the Absolute is Substance, must be superceeded with the certainty that the Absolute is Subject, sentient, self-conscious Spirit or Divine Personality.
Substance is being that is not caused by anything outside itself or other than itself. It derives its being from its own self, or by itself. This is the conception of substance derived from Spinoza’s philosophy. On the other hand, Subject is being that is reflected into itself, or is being that is for-itself. These two moments of being (being-by-itself and being-for-itself) characterize the Absolute in its totality.
Conceiving the Absolute only as Substance fails to account for the essential character of sentience that is fundamental to all life. It is the Hegelian philosophy of the Absolute that most explicitly develops the idea of the Absolute Reality as being-by-itself-and-for-itself. He develops the tripartate categories of Being, Essence and Concept through dialectical reason to arrive at the Logical Idea of the Absolute in his Science of Logic, thus providing the philosophical foundation for this conception.
The natural biosphere arises only with the appearance of life. Thus Life is the fundamental basis of Nature, not matter. Matter is ubiquitous in the universe, but only where Life appears is the verdant biomass of Nature found. This living mass can not be scientifically produced from meer matter in the laboratories, whether it be the simplest bacterium or the most complex multicellular plant or animal. Sentient Life plays the basic fundamental formative and constitutive role in the process.
The new field of Cognitive Biology scientifically affirms the role of cognition in even the smallest bacteria. This has revolutionized our understanding of biology that has been dominated for over one and a half centuries by reductionist materialistic thinking since the time of Darwin.
The next phase in science is to understand the relation between consciousness and the manifest bodies of living organisms, and how the subjective evolution of consciousness, and not the objective evolution of bodies, accounts for the various forms of life or species that are found in Nature. The goal of that development is to be ascertained in the fulfillment of one’s existence in harmonious and loving relation to the Absolute. This conforms with the religious traditions of human history, bringing science and religion into their true harmony.
“A few years ago it occurred to me that these seemingly very disparate problems might be brought together. That would be with the hypothesis that mind, rather than being a very late development in the evolution of living things, restricted to organisms with the most complex nervous systems—all of which I had believed to be true—that mind instead has been there always, and that this universe is life-breeding because the pervasive presence of mind had guided it to be so.” (George Wald, The Cosmology of Life and Mind)
“The stuff of the world is mind-stuff… The mind-stuff is not spread in space and time… Recognizing that the physical world is entirely abstract and without ‘actuality’ apart from its linkage to consciousness, we restore consciousness to the fundamental position.” (Arthur Eddington (1928), Nature of the Physical World, Cambridge University Press, pp. 276-277)
“Mind has erected the objective outside world of the natural philosopher out of its own stuff. Mind could not cope with this gigantic task otherwise than by the simplifying device of excluding itself…withdrawing from its conceptual.” (Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, Cambridge, 1958)
“To us…the only acceptable point of view appears to be the one that recognizes both sides of reality—the quantitative and the qualitative, the physical and the psychical—as compatible with each other, and can embrace them simultaneously… It would be most satisfactory of all if physics and psyche (i.e., matter and mind) could be seen as complementary aspects of the same reality.” Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, C. G. Jung and W. Pauli [each writing separately], Bollingen, 1955, pps 208-210)