Haulianlal Guite is a young IAS officer from Manipur. He graduated in philosophy from St. Stephen's College, completed masters in sociology after entering civil service, and cleared UGC-NET with JRF in philosophy and the entrance doctoral exam in political science from MNIT, Jaipur. Now belonging to Rajasthan, Mr. Guite worked as the SDM of Jaipur (S) and Mount Abu, and as Ajmer Municipal Commissioner, wherein he won the "Best City Initiatives" award. Mr. Guite continues doing philosophy as a hobby, however, calling it an "enduring passion". And this book, "Confessions Of A Dying Mind", is his first-fruit.
This interview was conducted via email.
Kulpreet Yadav: Why do you call "Confessions Of A Dying Mind" the first philosophical novel on God? Please elaborate for our readers.
Haulianlal Guite: Hundreds of philosophical books have already been written on the God question. The most valuable of these are dry and dense academic treatises the common man cannot understand. None of them are written as novels. Because this is a philosophical book arguing the case for God, but is the first novel to do so, I call it thus. And I wrote it as a novel so that the educated lay reader can comprehend with relative ease.
KY: What are your thoughts about atheism?
HG: Despite many protestations, atheism is a belief statement, one which first appears in India amongst the Carvakas. Like any other, atheism is an attempt to know the ultimate nature of things, and a belief worthy of refutation.
KY: Is it true that atheists are usually more creative and scientific, and the reason stems from their inherent ability to question everything including God?
HG: Not necessarily. Up until the mid-20th century, most philosophers and scientists are believers. I think the current figure is more or less even, but in India, most scientists continue to be believers. Also, questioning is something philosophers do regardless of whether one is an atheist or not. This includes questioning even God. I don't think atheists hold a monopoly on doubt, and this book is a testament to it!
KY: For centuries, science and religion have been pulling people in different directions Do you think the relationship is on an even keel now?
HG: Most scientists before Darwin, including Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton, saw themselves as exploring God's nature. This changed with Darwinism. But even this Darwinian conflict is artificially induced. Because religion deals with ultimate truths, and science only with empirical, instrumental use. What I mean by this will become clear in the book itself. So one does not have to choose between religion and science any more than one has to choose between cricket and football. You can do both if you so wish!
KY: At a time when right-wing parties are fast becoming the choice of the masses all over the world, how relevant is this book, and what is your purpose with it?
HG: My book's relevance stems not so much from politics as it does from our innate yearning to know divinity or the absence thereof. This yearning predates any party and will outlive them all.
My sole objective is to show that atheism has nothing to do with science or evidence. That ultimately, it is a faith-system no different than religion. Whatever other uses the book may be put to, they are irrelevant to my endeavours. This is a philosophical book, not a religious one. That is, it is a rational investigation without appeal to any scripture or religious authority.
KY: Can you tell the readers the gist of your book?
HG: There is an atheistic journalist by the name Albert Dyers. One day he has a roadside accident. The accident induces a near-death experience. He then meets a person called Walker, who claims to be an angel. Now is Dyers' experience real or illusory; is the angel just a hallucination induced by his dying mind? The question on further investigation soon evolves into the most important of modern queries: whether modern science has done away with God?
The remainder of the book explores this through various conversations, otherworldly adventures, and thought-experiments. And through appeals to the results of modern science.
KY: Dyers is not exactly a famous surname in India due to obvious reason. Did you have any specific reason to name your protagonist a Dyers?
"Dyers" is a play on the name of the real-life British philosopher "Alfred Ayer" (1910-1989), a leading atheist in his time. This is because Alfred Ayer actually had a near-death experience, and when he was resuscitated, the first thing he said was that he saw the divine being and that he had to revise all his books. So, Alfred Ayer is the inspiration behind my character Albert Dyers (even of his sensuality).
Yes, it has no relationship with General Dyer!
KY: Why will any non-philosophical reader want to read your book?
HG: If the God question is something that interests you, and you wish to know deeper the relationship of God and science, this is the book for you. Whether you are passionately religious or passionately irreligious, I'm certain this book will open new doors. And it is written as a novel along the lines of Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World so that readers without philosophy background can understand it.
KY: What is unique about your book?
HG: First, it is the only philosophical novel arguing for God. So far. Even the plotline is integral to the philosophy. Second, I may be the first, and certainly one of the first, Indian civil servants to write on philosophy. The only other Indian civil servant I know of who writes on philosophy was John Stuart Mill, and that was in 1858. Now, this is clearly because bureaucrats are interested in fields other than philosophy, which of course is working to my advantage!
KY: Anything else you want to add for our readers?
HG: This is a philosophical investigation into the relationship between God and science. Not a religious one. It does not defend any particular religion either. It simply seeks to dispel the myth that religion is based on faith while atheism rests on science and evidence. Because as the subtitle of my book says, it turns out atheism itself rests on blind faith. It's for you the reader to assess the veracity of my argument!
KY: Who is your publisher? When will the book be released?
HG: Bloomsbury House is the publisher of the book. This is particularly satisfactory since they are international publishers who published the Harry Potter series, among others.
The book will be released on 19th May this month, in New Delhi, by Shri. Kiren Rijiju, the Honourable Minister of State for Home Affairs.
Confessions of a Dying Mind is available for pre-order here.