Don’t reduce all thinking to logical thinking

by October 20, 2014

“No, no, you are not thinking; you’re just being logical.” This was Noble Laureate physicist Neil Bohr’s startling admonition to a student. Bohr was a pioneer of quantum physics, a field of science whose insights have stretched the limits of logic well beyond breaking point. To defend his field, he often had to challenge the widely held presumption that only logical things are intellectually acceptable. In this quote, he exhorts his student to open his thinking to channels that transcend logic.

It’s immensely significant that a field of science, which is celebrated for being logical, needs to go beyond logic for progressing. No doubt, logical thinking is a desirable and essential feature of human thinking. But what is unessential and undesirable is to reduce all thinking to logical thinking – and by extension to reject as nonsense whatever doesn’t make logical sense.

Bohr challenged the widely held presumption that only logical things are intellectually acceptable.

Just as uni-dimensional devotion to logical thinking can shackle our understanding of complex subjects such as quantum physics, so too can it shackle our understanding of the most complex subject – the Absolute Truth.

One question that perplexes logicians is the nature of God’s relationship with the world – is he immanent, existing in nature, or transcendent, existing beyond it? The Bhagavad-gita (09.04) points to his immanence, stating that he pervades and sustains the world. Yet the next verse (09.05) states that he doesn’t sustain the world, thereby underscoring his transcendence.

How do we understand these apparently contradictory assertions?

By freeing our thinking from the straitjacket of logic, as Bohr exhorts, and studying the Gita open-mindedly.

How a being can be both immanent and transcendent is difficult for us to understand logically. But such difficulty is to be expected because God being supreme is superior to logic – he is not illogical, but trans-logical. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we need to accept anything in the name of trans-logicality. It just means that we don’t let adherence to logic stonewall our quest for understanding.

Gita wisdom explains that God being unlimited can exist at multiple levels simultaneously. It reveals a magnificent conception of God who exists in multiple manifestations, including an immanent manifestation, Paramatma, and a transcendent one, Bhagavan. And the Gita (09.02) also declares that its revelation can be experientially verified by the practice of bhakti-yoga.

By the purification resulting from bhakti, our trans-logical spiritual perception awakens. Gradually, we realize experientially that God though being far away in his abode is right next to us in our own heart, closer than our closest loved one can ever be. We will rejoice in his inconceivable glory, seeing it not as a failure of human logic, but as a triumph of divine love.


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  • Adam Boyle
    April 24, 2015 at 7:11 am

    I think this is more an exercise of semantics. I don’t think you have to abandon logic in order to understand these kinds of claims. These concepts could be written in a more complicated way but the religious texts of the world keep it simple so people can easily follow along with their heart. You can still imagine these concepts and not abandon logic, you just have to keep in mind what the text means (the semantics).

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