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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -2



Any inductive approach to the formulation of the principles of an universal religion would tend more and more to extreme generality. Considered in this sense we have, in the Vedanta as presented by Swami Vivekananda, the dominant characteristics i.e. the Impersonal which is beyond all personalisms, either of Gods or men;  but this includes all these because this principle or Absolute is generalised from these several formulations. Taken as a principle, there is hardly any doubt that the Absolute must be impersonal. This is the philosophical truth. But once the same is approached from the point of religion the Absolute becomes the Ultimate person; the One Purusa or Puru-sottama. Thus the Ultimate pramana is not reasoning or the books as such, but the experience to which all seers and prophets bear witness as being beyond reasoning, mentation, sensation, etc. This experience is not capable of being produced by any individual effort whatsoever, however eminent one may be; it is something that descends from the Ultimate and delivers its message and vision and itself finally. It is this that makes all inductive presentations of the Ultimates of Religion only general but not quite universal; all generalisation being processes of comparison and selection according to classification that one arbitrarily chooses.

The other process by which one can come to a formulation of the principles of an Universal Religion can be the study of the history of evolution of Religions. It must be remembered that given the same situations, the existing religions would take the same shape or form in regard to philosophy, myth and ritual.

The development of the idea of God can proceed from the primitive to the advanced conceptions through several stages. Starting with the evolution of the idea in the West, Swami Vivekananda says

“The Babylonians and the jews were divided into many tribes, each tribe having a god of its own, and these little tribal gods had often a generic name. The gods among the Babylonians were all called Baal, and among them Baal Marodach was the chief. In course of time one of these many tribes would conquer and assimilate the other racially allied tribes and the natural result would be that the god of the conquering tribe would be placed at the head of all the gods of the other tribes. Thus the boasted Monotheism of the Semites was created. Among the Jews the gods went by the name of Moloch. Of these there was one Moloch belonged to the tribe called Isreal, and he was called the Moloch-Yahve or Moloch-Yava.”    (Vol.III.p.l85)

“In time this tribe of Isreal slowly conquered some of the other tribes of the same race, destroyed their Moloch and declared its own Moloch to be the supreme Moloch of all molochs. And I am sure most of you know the amount of bloodshed, of tyranny, and of brutal savagery that this religion entailed. Later on the Baby­lonians tried to destroy this supremacy of Moloch Yahva but could not succeed in doing so.”  (Vol.III.p.186)

Swami Vivekananda thus shows how monotheism has been established as a handmaid or corollary of imperialistic political designs and not because of any essential nisus in the spiritual quest for the one God - Ekam Sat. This of course has been the traditional mode for quite a long time in almost all religions tarred by the Semitic hopes of world dominion. Despite the statement of the prophet that His Kingdom was not of this world, the semitics have not been able to sublimate their materialistic empire of the Kingdom on Earth.

Swami Vivekananda also essays the evolution of the religions (Vol.1,p.323 & 324) from nature worship, which has as many gods as the many phenomena of nature. This is followed by the conception of the necessity for integra­tion of the several departments of nature, and that made them divine the exis­tence of the One Overlord God who was raised to the status of the Sovereign or the greatest among them. Then it was seen that all other gods were sub­ordinates, and were subservient to, and became supported by, the Highest - a concept that led to only one being called God; the rest were not God but demi-gods or angels and so on. This led to the application of the names of all gods to the One God - and all functions being transferred to Him alone.When one calls God by any name, even by the names that one applied previously to the nature gods, they were explained as referring directly, if not indirectly to that One God. For this, of course, philological and etymological deriva­tions were invented or devised.

In Monotheism also there have been three statuses. The One God may be conceived as an Extra-Cosmic Deity, who created the world and governed it, staying outside it as the Overlord. Secondly He was considered as immanent in Mature and supporting its evolution and history, both on the whole and in each one of its members. Third, as the Divine in oneself as one’s self and establishing His Kingdom eminently in the heart of man, the seeker, the mystic. Perhaps all these three statusses of God are capable of being considered as co-existent statusses or, permanent statusses, though potentially. These three may be thought of as stages of growth according to the capacity of the individual seeker, but it is just possible also to hold them as three eternal statusses of the One Impersonal but ‘living’ Godhead. Swami Vivekananda seems to be quite aware of the lurking view that the impersonal does not include livingness,
and emphasizes that fullest freedom that is spirit is available to it.

The whole problem of creation is the problem of how the Impersonal one could bring into being the personal, and also how the infinite diversity could be there at all. He says

“I will tell you my discovery. All of religions are contained in the Vedanta, that is in the three stages of the Vedanta Philosophy, the dvaita, the visishtadvaita and advaita, one comes after the other. These are the three stages of spiritual growth in man, each one is necessary. This is the essential of religion.

The Vedanta applied to the various ethnic customs and creeds of India is Hinduism. The first stage, i.e. Dvaita-applied to the ethnic groups of Europe is Christianity; as applied to semitic groups it is Mohemmedanism.

The Advaita as applied in its yoga perception form is Buddhism.    Now by religion is meant the Vedanta. The applications must vary according to different needs, surroundings and other circumstances of different nations.” (Vol.V. p.82)

On another occasion he has stated, “My religion is one of which Christianity is an off-shoot and Buddhism a rebel child,” (Vol.VI.p.105)*

* It can be seen that there is no mention of Visistadvaita, It is clear that though Vivekananda had devoted his study of visistadvaita to bhakti and his work on bhakti yoga is a neat presentation yet his specific omission of Visistadvaita in this context is significant. His own conception of Advaita that it at once includes diversity and excludes it also reveals that his major concern was only to make all accept the view that There is one Religion, the Vedanta, the Universal, all-inclusive   Oneness or One. When asked why he preached Advaita he said “To rouse up the hearts of men to show them the glory of the souls. I do so not as a sectarian -but upon universal and widely acceptable grounds. (Vol. III .p.191)

His own philosphical statements reveal his originality towards synthesis:

“Monism and dualism are essentially the same. The difference consists in the expression. As the dualists hold the father and son to be two, monists hold them to be really one. Dualism is in Nature, in manifestation; monism is pure spirituality in the essence. Religion is the realisation of spirit as spirit, not spirit as matter.” (Vol.VI.p.98)

While it is contended by theologians that philosophical thinking leads to the Impersonal Universal principle, religion aims at presenting the Ultimate as personal universal Deity.

Swami Vivekananda writes

“Man can become Brahman but not God. If anybody becomes God show me his creation. Visvamitra’s creation is his own imagination. It should have obeyed his law.” (Vol.IV.p.112)

This is clearly to reveal that philosophical or even mystical ontology is not easily capable of religious ontology. It is difficult to try to prove the mystical ontology by means of our sensuous experiences, for, as Swami Vivekananda states, religion belongs to the supersensuous, and the logic of sense and sense-dependent rationality or inference cannot lead to it.

Swami Vivekananda considers the constituents of other religions, especially Christianity.

Their problems concern the relationship between the creator and creature; the existence of Heaven and God in it; the reality of sin, and the belief in a personal God, who is omniscient and incarnating once for the redeeming of the souls.

The Vedanta he wishes to present is one which negates all these beliefs.

“There is indeed no creation and no creatures. Existence always has been. The idea of God in heaven is crass materialism. What is to be believed is the God in every one. God is in every one, has become every one and everything.” (Vol.VIII.p.125)

“He also holds that there is only one sin, and that is to believe that one is a sinner. Certainly the impersonal God gives infinitely more happiness than the personal God can.” * (ibid.127) One need not go out of oneself to know the truth. (ibid. p.128)

If then we see things differently, and as created, and as matter, it is also to be noted that all this is mere appearance. Of course all are appearances of divine presence, not of nothing. All that is a formulation of thought; ‘whatever you dream and think of, you create.’ All these are creations of dream and of thought.

* Vol.V.p.l46 :    “The one great lesson I was taught is that life is misery, nothing but misery” - echoeing the words of Buddha and of Samkhya. The great incentive to renunciation of the world. The world-negating philosophies arise from this. So too, or consequent on this, the earnestness to remove the load of human misery - love of hunanity, the feeling of brother­hood of all men, and the divinity in all perceived under such conditions.

This difference between appearance and reality is sought to be explained in terms of Maya or illusoriness or laziness. “Men create personal Gods of whom they are afraid. They have made themselves helpless and dependent on others. We are so lazy.” (ibid.131)

“Our consciousness is linked up with or bound to the body, and has itself become a bondage.” (Vol.VII.p.58)

To liberate consciousness from its tie-up with the body is to attain the state of liberation from matter or materialism.

It is clear that Swami Vivekananda definitely considers Maya as an instrument of illusion that makes for diversity, variety, and materialism and so on. He does not embark on the exposition as to how and why this is produced from the Impersonal. Some are overwhelmed by the illusoriness of nature, wherein everything is changing and everything is misery, and renuncia­tion seems to be the only right way to attain mukti or even happiness.

The worship, or realisation of the Impersonal, which obviously is used to refer to the transcendent which is beyond human categories of thought, and is apprehended only through direct revelation or illumination, is seen to be more happiness-producing than the worship of personal gods and gurus, since they are conditioned, and hence productive of sorrows of different kinds, Man passes from one relation to another and exploring all relations with others of his own sex or otherwise, arrives at the conclusion that one should go beyond all these relations - understood not in the logical sense but in the human social sense. Attachment to any one or even to all leads to misery. “Only the Unconditioned, the Transcendent, seems to secure that equality, that balance, that equanimity - samatva -. which makes for profound association. God, then, is the,One with whom any relationship whatsoever can never produce misery or the occilation that takes place in the dvandva,, ie the pairing of opposites whose result is sorrow and joy, honour and dishonour, heat and cold, victory and defeat, life and death, etc.

Indeed it is only when one gets the shock in ordinary relationships that one turns his back on all relations - even deserting or abandoning all social intercourse, and becomes an avadhuta.     Revulsion from family, from throne and power and wealth, can happen, and the stories of saints will reveal this phenomenon of renunciation which becomes the stepping stone for some to the attachment to God or the transcendent, whose attractiveness is enhanced by such renunciation.     No wonder all through history renunciation has been honoured and worshipped - and not the householder, the renunciation is said to be equivalent to an illumination or knowledge which consciously or unconsciously has prompted the renunciations.   Jnana-vairagya leads to a devotion to the Highest, the para, transcendent, the Brahman, It is also averred that only those who have risen to this level of renunciation through discipline and knowledge of the Ultimate are capable of having the insight into Brahman as Transcendent to the processes of the world. Such a person alone is qualified to enter into the Divine Experience. Mercy, Purity, Love, all these begin to flow out of him, and one recognizes the divine nature as permeating him. The impersonal divine begins to materialise itself in the human person; indeed the human being becomes a person, as it were when the Transcendent, impersonal, unconditioned Person enters  into him, and is manifested in him.

“We are” says Swami Vivekananda, ”born believers in a personal religion” (Vol.IV.p.l2l).

It is because the Transcendent is, according to Swami Vivekananda, what it is, that it is capable of assuming all personalities or Ishta-devatas-varupas, The Nature of Religion is essentially based on the central concept of God. All religions are generally theistic. Indeed it appears that they cannot do without a God. No doubt the nature of God would vary with the aspect that one holds to be the Object of worship - omnipotence, oinnipervasiveness, omnireality, omniscience and so on.

Buddhism, for example, may be said to do without a God, but we find that Buddha became the God to whom all buddhists surrender, and either without him or along with him, Dharma became the Godhead. As it was pointed out a whole pantheon of gods and bodhi-sattvas entered into the picture of buddhist religious worship.

Jainism did not accept an Isvara, but its tirthankaras quietly entered in, and occupied the place of God in jaina worship. The liberated jainas became Isvaras possessed of all siddhis, and beyond all bondage to karma-matter.

The Tao does duty for the Confucian God.

Religious fervour, which animates all religious attitudes, will always set up an object of worship according to its need, whether it is for cosmic order and liberation or individual liberation, cosmic welfare or individual welfare.

Similarly, the religious ecstacy that one feels when one contemplates the Omnipervasive or omnipresent Being, or intuites His presence in each and every individual and atom, is profoundly religious and mystical. The Upanisads indeed speak of this super-personal purusa who is universally present, and as such is every bit of it wholly present everywhere. Ordinary persons are individual human beings - their masks so to speak are human, characterised by finite attributes and are limited.     It is inconceivable that such individuals could be everywhere and in everything. So much so, persons have been ruled out as capable of being omnipresent. Even to an introspective vision, the fora of the Divine is not like any gross form, or person as such. However the superhuman Divine is not according to religious seeking just an impersonal principle relieved of all limitations of persons, masks of nan or creature. He is not just a law, either. Philosophical impersonalism is natural to thought or philosophical knowledge, but religious impersonaliam is contrary to the genius of religious quest and aspiration. Rational philosophy always thinks that the impersonal is higher than the sensory personal, but it is clear that the religious personal is higher, and more truly universal, than the rational impersonal. Hence it is called super-personal. It is at once concrete experience for the human individual aspirant, and enters into intimate unitive relationships with him, whilst yet maintaining in its universality the same unitive relationship with all other selves and in fact with the whole of reality, animate and inanimate.

It is this peculiar genius of religion that places it higher than mere philosophy of the abstract reason, and philosophical theology meets with specious difficulties even when it seeks to reconcile the impersonal universal with the universal personal.

The term impersonal has another significance. The notion that whatever is personal (pauruseya) is imperfect has become almost axiomatic in the consciousness of philosophers. Therefore any source of knowledge that is in any sense dependent on any person, however exalted and that means any god even - is bound to imperfection or vitiated by imperfections of all sorts. And it seems also a fairly common opinion that gods also are misleaders, illusionists and so on, and even prophets are said to be sent from above to mislead mankind, with the ulterior motive of weeding out or teaching the mass of mankind the discrimination between the false and the true. Buddha is thought to be one such avatar by some orthodox Hindu thinkers. In any case the prophets of heretical sects are classified as mis-leaders rather than as leaders. They are, of course, caruvakas - sweet-tongued men, sophists, hedonists and so on.

Therefore it was claimed that the Vedas are a-pauruseya, not owing their teaching to any person, human or divine. They are eternal truths, and it is God who abides by them. This impersonality being the characteristic of the truths of the Veda, it becomes clear that Brahman, the Ultimate Reality taught by it, must also be Impersonal if it is to be free from all imperfec­tions in respect of vakta, of content, and communication.

Thus there is much to be said in favour of philosophical truth and even reality with which it is identical in the ultimate sense as impersonal. However it is an impersonal which permits the personal in a special way without imperfection and impurity. It may however be equally argued that Personality may be such that it may dissolve all impurity and present the Ultimate truth impersonally, impartially and immutably too. This is the dilemma of theism - the veracity of God. Is God imperfect and thus incapable of granting true and ultimate knowledge of all things and reality, in the philosophical sense as well as the religious sense? If he is incapable it is dear he cannot be God. A finite God, which is a hypothesis of some thinkers who wish to explain the nature of the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust, on the basis of God’s finite ness - if not in knowledge at least in power - has provided quite a plausible solution to the actuality of the ineffectiveness of virtue, against vice, the impotency of good against the bad. The very concept of a hero-God is clearly an acceptance of this ‘finiteness’, though optimistically one could go on saying ‘satyameva jayate’ - Truth alone triumphs (ultimately). The temporal nature of this hope is such that it becomes almost a mockery. However we are presented with this ahura mazda - ahriman conflict the Rama-Ravana yuddha, Krishna-Narakasura yuddha, and so on, taking us to the Indra-Vrtra yuddha.     Hindu thought has always held that the Vibhava or Avatar-descent form of God is for the protection of the good, the destruction of the wicked and the restoration of the kingdom of righteousness or Justice on earth.

Swami Vivekananda, in his analysis of the constituents of religion, has pointed out that religion comprises a philosophy, a myth and a ritual. These three elements are integral to one another. We may add that philosophy itself is a rationalising, or rather communicating verbal aspect, of a revealing experience. Further, if religion is to be a natural growth in man, or if it were to be something blossoming out of a revelational datum, be this of the form of wonder or awe or the intuitive flash or lightning as the Seer of the Kena Upanisad puts it, then this philosophic form would not conform to the patterns of dialectical or non-dialectical logic of the intellect. This is the most important crux of the problem of religious philosphy. Mystic intuitions or lightnings tear up our logical categories, and transform the entire movement of the ordinary popular mind. Sometimes it happens that the popular mind preserves this genius of the supralogical in its usage, whilst the intellect has kneaded the truth of the supralogical out of shape.

Religious philosophy is not just our ordinary philosophy which tries to explain scientifically or materialistically, the gamut of human experiences. Its avenues or paths of knowing are much more vast and more penetrating than that of sensate philoephers who depend on one or two like sensations and inference for understanding.     The struggle between philosophers and mystics is only too well-known. It is a struggle of the pramanas. Problems of conflict between intellectual demands or criteria and intuitive demands or criteria have bogged down much of our philosophical investigation. Purists have always striven to put up exacting criteria, and the parting of ways has occured again and again between philosophy and religion.

The second conflict that has also arrested the march of religion, or the growth of religious consciousness, has been between the priest and the philosopher. In a sense it was profoundly true that priests were claimed to have direct experience of God or were God-possessed. Their worship of God was intimate and covered their entire routine of being. God-inspired, they were better fitted by their spiritual vocation to guide others to that divine state. The rite or ritual was originally a technique discovered by the priest to put a person in rapport with the Divine Godhead, his creator and saviour.     The priest knew the technique of yoga and was the Guru or Teacher of the path. He was credited with this mysterious power of linking an individual with the Infinite. He became a man of mystery. Mystery cults grew up in order to provide schools of training for this spiritual task, and these were also called schools of regeneration. This is a universal phenomenon, and the more interesting fact is that they became sacred persons also. The aloofness enjoyed by some of these bred many superstitions which were not always creditable or credible.

The interpretation of the spiritual act of yoga was rather difficult. Mystic insights in many parts of the world suffered this eclipse of meaning, and we have a host of literature that remains undeciphered because of this incommunicability of meaning about the technique. To provide a philosophy for these becomes a necessity. Men, trained in the higher way of intuitive realisation, could hardly undertake the task of interpreting the same to the lower mind. Their media of expression or communication was through symbols, myths, or gestures, and the use of unusual words which more easily led to comprehension of meaning though not amenable to analysis of experience. Primitive religions, or rather religions which had lost the capacity even to formulate a philosophical vocabulary of communication have remained   at this level of rite and symbol and gesture, and have retained those techniques of establishing communication or link with the supreme power transcendental to all the powers that man has known. This lag has in fact provided a second reason for the split into priests (the custodians of mystical insights and techniques) and the philosphers, who curiously and genuinely seek to unravel the mysterious ways of supralogical communication, Rarely have the primitive religions provided the combination of priest-philosopher which in Indian language we could call divya-jnani and tattva- jnani or Alvar-Acarya.

It is a peculiar amalgam, this integration between the revelational knowledge or experience and philosophical understanding. It is seen that however primitive the revelation is to the discerning philosophical mind, it reveals layers of meaning and levels of insight. It is this peculiar quality of the intuitive or revelational experience that makes it different from the abstract unidimenaional nature of intellectual understanding, even when it is granted a synthetic-datum. Poetry has been the medium adopted by some of the revelational seers, and it was recognized that this poetic or prophetic capacity or ability was quite unlike any that we know.   Plato did not have much regard for the poets of his day who only wrote about the natural and the human reflected beauty, and who had hardly any access to genuine Reality. The Kavi or Alvar is one who has delved into the abyss of the Infinite, and speaks, or praises, or adores the Infinite Transcendent, tended to repeat a technique or rite that failed to bring about the experience. The Reasons are indeed many. Religion realises that it is not our technique that brings about the experience but God’s Grace or gift. Technique of Yoga and God’s Grace are the most important elements for direct, Revelational, Kavi-experience. This supramental descent about which Sri Aurobindo speaks, and which he exemplifies in his higher poetic works, makes the transition to wisdom and prophetic power possible. The priest, unfortunately in most religions, remains ‘chanting his beads’, performing rites and rituals formally, though with faith in their efficacy, and remains a good custodian, rather than a living embodiment. Exceptions like Sri Ramakrishna would always rule out the inefficacy of the ‘priesthood’ of God, though the word “priest-craft” might suffer obloqy.

Pythagoras, Heraclitus and others were masters of the mysteries as well as of philosophical knowledge. In India the rishis were both masters of mysteries and philosophical knowledge. A divorce between the two spells the divorce between the transcendental and the world. The restoration of the unity between the spiritual-mystic-revelational experiences and the philosophical could be brought about only when we realise that there is a universal mystical transition which can be brought about, and interpreted in a universal manner by the supra-philosophical understanding. Our understanding may be unequal to this task.

Indian philosophic schools invariably were said to have been propounded by seers or rishis (who saw the mantras directly, non-sensorially and non-mentally) as well. Undoubtedly there has been criticism between these rishis among them­selves, and such mutual super-sensorial criticism has been valuable aid to thedevelopment of Darsana - of which the Vedanta has been acclaimed as the darsana par-excellence, as being both a philosophy (tattva-Jnana) and a religion (yoga or union with the Ultimate,  sayujya)  that is also release from all ignorance.

Man’s concern in religion is with the Divine, not with himself or with Nature. The concern with the Divine needs the rite and the ritual, the sadhana of getting into touch with the Divine, to melt into it, or as has been clearly enunciated, one must go near it (samipya), take the same form as the Guru suitable for entering into communion with that divine nature (sarupya), begin to live and move and have one’s being in the world of the Divine Master, (salokya) and finally attain the covetable experience of union itself (sayujya). These four are apparently stages of the progress towards spiritual, as well as material, expert ness. Yoga is this quarternary process, and this is the practical Vedanta or Religion. On this must be erected man’s understanding of the true, the beautiful and the good - the philosophies, so to speak, of expression and existence in the world of transitoriness.     Theory should naturally develop out of experience and disciplined attainment, though it would be unwise to think that there could be no integrating activity at every stage. We can have theories arising out of samipya, theories arising out of sarupya, as well as philosophies of salokya, and of course there would not be anything but a reflection of the Sayujya that is beyond commanicability to the lower levels of thought.

Perhaps this would explain Swami Vivekananda’s enthusiastic statement about his ‘discovery’ - that Dvaita, Visistadvaita and Advaita are but stages on the path to the Ultimate, each one of them necessary for comprehending that which is above or below, to such a one, Truth which is One only will comprehend and include all, and have no quarrel with any one view of reality, dualistically, or attributively or organistically or unitarily or for that matter any other point of view of thought or experience.     The All-inclusiveness of the Advaita, according to Swami Vivekananda, is its merit, its claim for universal tolerance and assimilation of meaning about the technique.

NOTE:   It can be seen that Swami Vivekananda at one stage explains that all religions have the four ingredients - a scripture or book, a myth or myths, rite or rituals, and a philosophy or intellectual presentation. At another place, expounding Hinduism or rather Vedanta (Advaita) he contents   that Hinduism or Vedanta has none of these. He denies creation and creator. He speaks about the Absolute which always Is, and never was not. There is the Nature always, or It never has been for All is Brahman and Brahman only. Nature, the souls, and God are all appearance. This exposition goes contrary to the first. The first conception makes Vedanta and its Brahman all-inclusive. The second conception makes Vedanta exclude all creation and multiplicity or duality and so on. Further, at one point, he criticises all those who hold a twofold conception, a paramarthika and a vyavaharika views of Reality, and holds that there should be only One view of Reality and not two.

If we accept the discovery of Swami Vivekananda as the latter view, and it would appear that this kind of bringing the three Vedantas into one of gradual ascent is realisation, there would yet be difficulty in holding all of them to be all-inclusive.

We can see that Swami Vivekananda had to exemplify the spiritual realisation or Experience of his Master, the Paramahamsa, which was one of all-inclusive Brahman, and yet he was intellectually aware of the logical attempt at an all-exclusive Identity or Oneness. We find that his greatness lay in somehow assuming that the all-inclusive Reality is also the all-exclusive one and the great Mahavakya “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma” is in fact but another manner of expressing “Ekam eva advitiyam” or “Ekarm Sat”. This would be correct if it was assumed that these two are the two statusses of Brahman; Brahman in His Manifestation and Brahman in His Immanence or Non-manifestation, or as Sri Ramanuja held that the first is the Sthula cidacid visista Brahman and the second is the suksma cidacid visista Brahman, and also that Brahman and Isvara are one and the same.

The transfomation of Advaita from the Sankara view of Ekam Sat to the Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma dons by Vivekananda is a radical transformation which found its fuller exposition in the Philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and Dr. Radhakrishnan. The latter two recall strongly Sri Ramanuja’s mediation efforts to secure the truth of both the kinds of texts of identity and difference, of non-creation and creation.