Friday, May 26, 2006

Elementary, my dear Watson

A Scottish doctor, having served as a surgeon on a ship, decided to turn writer, since his medical practice was floundering. The first story he wrote was The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley that was published in 1879. Several years later in 1886, he wrote a detective story inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Monsieur Dupin, which he named “A Study in Scarlet”. The story was published in 1887 in Beeton Christmas Annual. It introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr Watson.

In his stories Sherlock Holmes described himself as a "private consulting detective" – (the only one in the world), which meant that he was brought into cases that would prove too difficult for official investigators. We are told that he is often able to solve a problem without leaving home (although this aspect is somewhat lost in the stories themselves, which focus on the more interesting cases that often do require him to do actual legwork). He specialized in solving unusual cases using his extraordinary powers of observation and "deduction".

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle credited the inception of Holmes to his teacher at the medical school of Edinburgh University, the gifted surgeon and forensic detective Joseph Bell, forensic science being a new type of science at the time. However, some years later Bell wrote to Conan Doyle: "you are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it".

In fact, the similarities between Sir Arthur and Sherlock are too many to be ascribed to coincidence. In one of the stories, Holmes tells Watson "My ancestors were country squires... my grandmother... was the sister of Vernet, the French artist." Vernet happened to be an ancestor of Sir Arthur.

Sir Arthur was knighted in 1902. Holmes had been offered knighthood due to certain services rendered to the crown in the same year. He however rejected the knighthood. Sir Arthur too was tempted to reject the knighthood, but his mother persuaded him that doing so would be an insult to the queen.

It is a popular myth that Sherlock Holmes gave rise to the entire genre of murder mystery fiction; in reality, the detective genre was alive before Holmes, if not one which followed a logical progression to the solution. However, Holmes popularized the genre to such an extent that now, Holmes has become a byword for mystery solver. Many fictional detectives have imitated Holmes' logical methods and followed in his footsteps, in many different ways. Some of the more popular fictional detectives to continue Holmes' legacy include Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot & Miss Marple, Father Brown and Perry Mason. In one of the stories in the Three Investigators’ series (The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot), there is a reference to Sherlock Holmes, and his legendary residence address (221 Baker Street), which is incorrectly mentioned as 222B Baker Street.

In many of the stories, Holmes is assisted by his only friend, the practical Dr. John H. Watson, with whom he shared rooms for some time, before Watson's marriage. Watson is not only Holmes's friend but also his chronicler (his "Boswell"). Most of Holmes' stories are told as reports, by Watson, of Holmes' solutions to actual crimes; in some later stories, Holmes criticizes Watson for his writings, usually because of Watson's decision to tell them as exciting stories rather than as objective and detailed reports. He gives Watson a piece of his mind in The Sign of Four, which occurred just after Watson had publised an account of Holmes' previous case -- A Study in Scarlet.
He shook his head sadly. "I glanced over it," said he. "Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, orought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid." "But the romance was there," I remonstrated. "I could not tamper with the facts." "Some facts should be suppressed, or at least a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes by which I succeeded in unraveling it."

Holmes also has a brother, Mycroft Holmes, who appears in three stories—"The Greek Interpreter", "The Final Problem", and "The Bruce-Partington Plans"—and is mentioned in a number of others, including "The Empty House".

In the very first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, something of Holmes's background is given. On March 4, 1881, he is presented as an independent student of chemistry with a variety of very curious side-interests, almost all of which turn out to be single-mindedly bent toward making Holmes superior at solving crimes. In another early Holmes story, "The Gloria Scott", more background on what caused Holmes to become a detective is provided: a college friend's father complimented him very highly on his deductive skills.

In A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Watson makes an evaluation of Holmes’ skills:

"Sherlock Holmes–his limits"
1. Knowledge of Literature. -- Nil. 2. Philosophy. -- Nil. 3. Astronomy. -- Nil. 4. Politics. -- Feeble. 5. Botany. -- Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening. 6. Geology. -- Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them. 7. Chemistry. -- Profound. 8. Anatomy. -- Accurate, but unsystematic. 9. Sensational Literature. -- Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. 10. Plays the violin well. 11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. 12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

Later stories make clear, however, that the above list is misleading. Two examples: Despite Holmes' supposed ignorance of politics, in "A Scandal in Bohemia" he immediately recognizes the true identity of the supposed Count von Kramm. Regarding non-sensational literature, Holmes' speech is replete with references to the Bible, Shakespeare, and even Goethe.

Holmes is also a competent cryptanalyst; he relates to Watson that he is "fairly familiar with all forms of secret writing, and am myself the author of a trifling monograph upon the subject in which I analyse one hundred and sixty separate ciphers." One such code is deciphered in "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" which uses a series of stick figures.

Elsewhere Holmes himself mentions that he has "some knowledge" of baritsu, "the Japanese system of wrestling", by means of which he escaped the death-grip of his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty.

From time to time Holmes mentions about his having written a monograph on some topic concerned with crime solving.

"Oh, didn't you know?" he cried, laughing. "Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one 'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccoes.' In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe-tobacco, with colored plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials,and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If you can say definitely, for example, that some murder has been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of search. To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato."

In A Study in Scarlet, Doyle presents a comparison between his debuting character and two earlier established and better known at the time fictional detectives: Edgar Allan Poe's Auguste Dupin and Emile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq. The brief discussion between Watson and Holmes about the two characters begins with a comment by Watson:
"You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories."

Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. "No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin," he observed. "Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine."

"Have you read Gaboriau's works?" I asked. "Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?"

Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. "Lecoq was a miserable bungler," he said, in an angry voice; "he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a textbook for detectives to teach them what to avoid."

Sherlock seems convinced that he is superior to both of them, while Watson expresses his admiration of the two characters. It has been suggested that this was a way for Doyle to pay some respect to characters by writers who had influenced him, while insisting that his character is superior to them.

Holmes' arch-enemy, and popularly-supposed nemesis was Professor James Moriarty ("the Napoleon of Crime") who fell, struggling with Holmes, over the Reichenbach Falls. He however, figures in only two of the stories, despite his later reputation. Conan Doyle intended "The Final Problem", the story in which Holmes and Moriarty fell over the cliff, to be the last that he wrote about Holmes; however the mass of mails he received demanding that he bring Holmes back convinced him to continue. "The Adventure of the Empty House" had Conan Doyle explaining that only Moriarty fell over the cliff, but Holmes had allowed the world to believe that he too had perished while he dodged the retribution of Moriarty's underlings. It is interesting to note that, Moriarty never appears directly in the stories; Watson never encounters Moriarty, and all encounters between Holmes and his nemesis are described by Holmes.

Moriarty has been spoofed by T.S.Eliot in his hilarious poem
Macavity The Mystery Cat, as indeed Holmes himself has been spoofed many a time. But that is topic for a subsequent post.

"Holmes' in the company of women"

Irene Adler was always referred to by Holmes and his fans as "The Woman". She appeared only in "A Scandal in Bohemia", but she is often thought to be the only woman who broke through Holmes' reserve. In one story, "Charles Augustus Milverton", Holmes is engaged to be married, but only with the motivation of gaining information for his case.

He clearly demonstrates particular interest in several of the more charming female clients that come his way (such as Violet Hunter of "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", who Watson thought might become more than a client to Holmes). However, the context implies that Holmes found their youth, beauty, and energy (and the cases they bring to him) invigorating, as opposed to an actual romantic interest, as Holmes inevitably "manifested no further interest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems."

Watson, on the other hand, has a perhaps justifiable reputation as a ladies' man: he spoke favorably of some women and actually married one, Mary Morstan of The Sign of Four.

However, Holmes is not at all a stuffy strait-laced Victorian gentleman; in fact, he describes himself and his habits as "Bohemian". He alternates between days or weeks of listless lassitude and similar periods of intense engagement with a challenging case or with his hobby, experimental chemistry, "extreme exactness and astuteness... [or a] poetic and contemplative mood", "outbursts of passionate energy... followed by reactions of lethargy". Modern readers of the Holmes stories are apt to be surprised that he is an occasional user of cocaine (in today’s age he would have been put into jail!), though Watson describes this as Holmes's "only vice". Watson might not have considered as a vice Holmes's habit of smoking (usually a pipe) heavily, nor his tendency to bend the truth and break the law (i.e. lie to the police, conceal evidence, burgle, housebreak, but not, say, murder or rape) when it suited his purposes; in Victorian England these were probably not considered vices as long as they were done by a gentleman for noble purposes.

"Holmesian deductions"

"From a drop of water"—Holmes wrote in an essay described in A Study in Scarlet—"a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other." Holmes stories would often begin with a bravura display of Holmes' talent for "deduction". It is of some interest to logicians and those interested in logic to try to analyze just what Holmes is doing when he performs his deduction. Holmesian (the British adjective; Americans say "Sherlockian") deduction appears to consist primarily of drawing inferences based on either straightforward practical principles—which are the result of careful inductive study, such as Holmes's study of different kind of cigar ashes—or inference to the best explanation. Holmes often follows the principle of elimination -- "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth?".

In 2002, Holmes was inducted as an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry—the only fictional character so honored—in appreciation of his contributions to forensic investigation.

The instances in which Holmes uses deduction tend to be those where he has amassed a large body of evidence, produced a number of possible explanations of that evidence, and then proceeds to find one explanation that is clearly the best at explaining the evidence. For example, in The Sign of Four, a man is found dead in his room, with a ghastly smile on his face, and with no immediately visible cause of death. From a whole body of background information as well as evidence gathered at and around the scene of the crime, Holmes is able to infer that the murderer is—not the various people that Scotland Yard has in custody (each of them being an alternative explanation)—but rather another person entirely.

In the latter example, in fact, Holmes's solution of the crime depends both on a series of applications of general principles and argument to the best explanation.

Holmes's success at his brand of deduction, therefore, is due to his mastery of both a huge body of particular knowledge of things like footprints, cigar ashes, and poisons, which he uses to make relatively simple deductive inferences, and the fine art of ordering and weighing different competing explanations of a body of evidence. Holmes is also particularly good at gathering evidence by observation, as well locating and tracking the movements of criminals through the streets of London and environs (in order to produce more evidence)—skills that have little to do with deduction per se, but everything to do with providing the premises for particular Holmesian deductions.

In the stories by Conan Doyle, Holmes often remarked that his logical conclusions were "elementary", in that he considered them to be simple and obvious. However, the complete phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson" does not appear in any of the 60 Holmes stories written by Doyle.

It should be noted too, that our modern stereotype of police procedure—someone who looks for physical clues, rather than someone who examines opportunity and motive—comes from Holmes.

Readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories have often been surprised to discover that their author, Conan Doyle, was a fervent believer in paranormal phenomena, and that the logical, skeptical character of Holmes was in opposition to his own in many ways.

The word "Sherlock" has entered the language to mean a detective or nosy person; it is also commonly used in American slang to mean a knowledgeable person, as in the sarcastic phrase "No shit, Sherlock", uttered when someone says something obvious.

"So many regard him as a machine rather than a man." Watson describes Holmes a "dessicated calculating machine", "as deficient in human sympathy as he was pre-eminent in intelligence", and states that "all emotions... were abhorrent to his cold, precise, yet admirably balanced mind."

His bipolar nature, skill as a musician and composer, and occasional fondness for showmanship however, count against this. While "his cold and proud nature was always averse... [to] public applause" and "turned away with disdain from popular notoriety" but "for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause... from a friend."

Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories about Sherlock Holmes, now known as The Canon. All were narrated by Dr. Watson, with the exception of two narrated by Holmes himself and two more written in the third person. The stories appeared in magazine serialization, notably in The Strand, over a period of forty years. This was a common form of publication in those days; Charles Dickens wrote in a similar fashion. The stories cover a period from around 1878 up to 1903, with a final case in 1914.

In addition to the canonical Sherlock Holmes stories, Conan Doyle's "The Lost Special" (1908) features an unnamed 'amateur reasoner' clearly intended to be identified as Holmes by his readers. His explanation for a baffling disappearance, argued in Holmes' characteristic style, turns out to be quite wrong - evidently Conan Doyle was not above poking fun at his own hero. Another example of Conan Doyle's humor is "How Watson Learned the Trick" (1924), a parody of the frequent Watson-Holmes breakfast table scenes.

"The Hiatus"
Holmes fans refer to the period from 1891 to 1894—the time between Holmes's disappearance and presumed death in The Final Problem and his reappearance in The Adventure of the Empty House—as "the Great Hiatus". It is notable, though, that one later story (The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge) is described as taking place in 1892.
For Conan Doyle, writing the stories, the period was ten years long. Conan Doyle, wanting to devote more time to his historical novels, killed off Holmes in The Final Problem, which appeared in print in 1893. After resisting public pressure for eight years, Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, which appeared in 1901, setting it before Holmes's "death". The public, while pleased with the story, were not satisfied with a posthumous Holmes, and so Conan Doyle resuscitated Holmes two years later. Many have speculated on Conan Doyle's motives for bringing Holmes back to life, but the actual motives are not known, other than the obvious: publishers offered to pay generously. For whatever reason, Conan Doyle continued to write Holmes stories for a quarter-century more.

Some writers have come up with alternate explanations for the hiatus. In Meyer's novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, the hiatus was explained as a secret sabbatical that Holmes indulged in for those years, while he requested Watson to write a fictitious account claiming he had died. In that 3 year hiatus Holmes met up with Sigmund Freud, whence he was cured of his addiction to cocaine. Another Tibetan writer called Jamyang Norbu wrote an account of the two years that Holmes had apparently spent in Tibet.
He ostensibly came upon the account written by Huree Chunder Mookerjee's (Kipling's Bengali spy and scholar) in which he describes his travels to Tibet with Holmes.

In his memoirs, Conan Doyle quotes a reader, who judged the later stories inferior to the earlier ones, to the effect that when Holmes went over the Reichenbach Falls, he may not have been killed, but he was never quite the same man after.

Same man or not, Holmes’ popularity continues unabated. Even Doyle, who considered his Holmes writings to be trivial and even killed him off to devote time to his “more serious writings”, is now known entirely as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. And that is the ultimate tribute to “the world’s only private consulting detective”.

I think, therefore I am - Cogito ergo sum

One question that has perplexed man since the beginning of civilization is the nature of life. What is life? What happens when we die? Is there such a thing as soul and does it survive the death of the body? All these questions and our desperation in seeking their answers have led to the sham of organized religion.

We still cannot say for certainty whether there is life after death or not, for there is no clinching scientific evidence in support or against it as yet. However, it does seem that we humans, or rather all living beings, have something more than just our physical existence. Something, that could be called consciousness in scientific parlance or soul in religious terms. But let us first define what is physical existence.

We consider matter as existing and what does not have material existence as non-existing. At least this is the materialistic definition of existence. Nevertheless this is not a comprehensive definition. There are realities that do exist yet they do not have a material existence. As a matter of fact can we assert with certainty whether matter itself has any real existence? Isn’t matter, energy in motion?

The smallest building block of matter is the atom. It is made of electrons that are whirling about the nucleus (composed of electrons and protons) that is spinning in the center of the atom. If we drew the atom to scale and made protons and neutrons a centimeter in diameter, then the electrons and quarks would be less than the diameter of a hair and the entire atom's diameter would be greater than the length of thirty football fields! Most (almost 99.999999999999%) of an atom's volume is just empty space (if space can be called empty).

So as we can see what appears to be solid matter is mostly empty space. If we squish the atoms of the Earth to fill up all the empty spaces, this planet of ours will become smaller than a pea. In fact something similar happens when black holes are formed. Black holes are thought to form from stars or other massive objects if and when they collapse from their own gravity to form an object whose density is infinite: in other words, a singularity. During most of a star's lifetime, nuclear fusion in the core generates electromagnetic radiation, including photons - the particles of light. This radiation exerts an outward pressure that exactly balances the inward pull of gravity caused by the star's mass. As the nuclear fuel is exhausted, the outward forces of radiation diminish, allowing the gravitational force to compress the star inward. The contraction of the core causes its temperature to rise and allows remaining nuclear material to be used as fuel. The star is saved from further collapse -- but only for a while. Eventually, all possible nuclear fuel is used up and the core collapses. How far it collapses, into what kind of object, and at what rate, is determined by the star's final mass and the remaining outward pressure that the burnt-up nuclear residue can muster. If the star is sufficiently massive or compressible, it may collapse to a black hole. If it is less massive, its fate is different: it may become a white dwarf or a neutron star. The theoretical upper limit of the mass of a white dwarf is determined by the Chandrasekhar Limit (approximately 1.4 solar masses) that was first discovered by the Indian physicist S Chandrasekhar.

Electrons are leptons; they are believed to be fundamentals, i.e. the smallest indivisible particle of matter. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons. They are made of quarks. Quarks are also believed to be fundamentals. All we know is that quarks and leptons are smaller than 10-19 meters in radius. As far as we can tell, they have no internal structure or even any size. It is possible that future evidence will, once again, show this understanding to be an illusion and demonstrate that there is substructure within the particles that we now view as fundamental.We still do not know what the basic nature of matter is. What we know is that matter and energy are intimately related. According to the law of mass-energy equivalence, developed by Albert Einstein as part of his theory of relativity, a quantity of matter of mass m possesses an intrinsic rest mass energy E given by E= mc2, where c is the speed of light. This equivalence is dramatically demonstrated in the phenomena of nuclear fission and fusion in which a small amount of matter is converted to a substantially large amount of energy. The converse reaction, the conversion of energy to matter, has been observed frequently in the creation of many new elementary particles; however it hasn’t yet been attempted successfully under laboratory conditions.

So, if one cracks the atom or the particles composing it he will find that in reality it does not have any tangible existence. All existence, even the material world is nothing but a perception. This world that we see and experience is only a chimera. It has no existence beyond our perceptions. This is the scientific definition of matter. By this definition can we say that matter has any existence?

So, as we see “existence” is a relative term. If we were so tiny that we could live inside an atom, this material world would not be tangible to us. Actually we cannot even say “inside” the atom because atoms do not have boundaries. Atoms are just an open space - a field of probabilities. The electrons that whirl about the nucleus in orbits form a cloud of charge. These orbits are referred to as “shells” but in reality they are not.

Therefore matter does not exist. Matter is energy and energy is insubstantial. We perceive the matter as existing. Yet it really does not exist beyond our perception. Now, suppose we were made of an immaterial substance. In that case we will have a total different perception of the matter and the material world. So matter is an “inexistent” existence that our senses perceive.

Let us clarify this with an example. Take the example of sounds. Our ears perceive the waves with certain lengths as sound. Any wavelength longer or shorter cannot be heard. Other animals such as bats can hear wavelengths that we do not. We cannot say that because we do not hear that wavelength, that sound does not exist. If bats hear it, it must exist. There are creatures, e.g. earthworms that do not need to hear anything for their survival. For them sounds have no existence. They perceive the world through other senses but not through sounds. Earthworms have a sensitive skin that is able to pick up nearby vibrations from surrounding sources. If we were earthworms we could argue that there is no such thing as sound. Then, there are creatures like cockroaches that have no sense of sight. They can feel objects though their sensitive antennae. For such creatures light does not exist. We can also, see only a certain band of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. We cannot see anything outside of those wavelengths and therefore we are not aware of the existence of other lights or colors even though they exist and some other animals and insects see them. In fact, to go on a slightly different track, some biologists believe that we really perceive more that what our eyes actually are seeing (sum is greater than the parts). Our brains fill in the rest of the meaning for us.

To paraphrase, the world that we know is a world that we perceive through our senses. It does not have any reality beyond our perceptions. Therefore it is not outlandish to believe that the world as we perceive it exists only in our minds. Other animals and creatures perceive it differently. The perceived world is just that. It is only relative to us. In reality it has no “real” existence. The only reality is perception.

Now we have to ask ourselves whether there are existences that are beyond our perception. Let us see what is Life? Can we say that an animate being has something that an inanimate thing does not have? Can we say that Life is a reality that “exists” in living beings, which does not exist in dead or inanimate objects? If so then Life is an existing reality. What is the difference between a live being and a dead one? One HAS something that the other does not have. This “thing” is Life. So Life exists. It is a reality that transcends matter, a reality that distinguishes living from the non-living or the dead. And it is reasonable to suppose that if matter can exist without life, life (or consciousness) can also exist without matter.

Now we have two forms of existence: Matter and Life. One can be sensed and the other is the sensor. Is that all or are there other existences? What is Intelligence? Does Intelligence have existence? One can argue that Intelligence does not exist and it is just the function of the brain. But then, so is Life. Life is the function of Matter. Life is generated when molecules interact. Yet we agree that it has its own existence. The same thing can be said about the Matter. Matter as we discussed above has no independent reality. It is the function of speed and energy. E=MC2. However speed and energy do not have any independent existence. Therefore it is fair to say that Intelligence is no less a being than Life and Matter.

As we see, existence does not begin and end with Matter only. There are other levels of existence that are perceived albeit not with senses. Now we have to ask ourselves whether existence is limited to what we sense and perceive? Are we humans the measure of all things? As we saw in the above discussion, this Universe does not exist beyond our perception. This Universe is made of atoms and when we crack the atom we find nothing therein. So we can conclude that the essence of the Universe is nothing. When Matter is nothing, its functions are also nothing. There is “nothing” to discuss about. If everything is nothing then who am I? I must exist in order to pose this question or to doubt. “Cogito ergo sum”, as Descartes, concluded. Yes I must exist but my existence is only a function of nothing. We are all functions of nothing. But can something come out of nothing? Logic says no! Then, wherefrom comes this Universe, with its pulsating life and all its functions?

One must admit that there is another Reality that is neither part nor apart from the Universe. This Universe, with all its material and immaterial intricacies that we sense and perceive is only a reflection of that Reality. From nothingness this Universe came into being by reflecting the existence of that absolute Reality (In an interesting aside, the quantum theory conclusively proves that the sum total of all forces and energies in the universe is zero. Hence this universe has indeed come out of nothing) . So Matter as well as Life, Love, Intelligence and other realities are reflections of a Reality that is absolute. Without the absolute Reality everything is but nothing.

This absolute reality is not a being. It is not a thing. Therefore it is not a person, a spirit or a god. It is HOW; how things happen; how things work. It is the law of the evolution. This Reality is the Single Principle underlying the creation. If this principle is HOW, the creation is WHAT. That is all there is: HOW and WHAT. The WHAT depends on the HOW but HOW depends on nothing. The HOW is self-subsisting, is eternal and is omnipresent. The HOW is the Principle of all things.
The Principle is neither forgiving nor vindictive. It is neither loving nor hating. It is neither wise nor ignorant. These are human attributes. These are functions of Life and Matter. The Principle is above all these attributes. However, there is a law of cause and effect, you reap what you sow.
In other words, this world that we perceive is nothing but a reflection from a higher Reality. It does not have any real existence. It is just a shadow, an image of a non-being Reality. This is an old concept of which many seers and mystics have spoken. Now what about the soul? Does soul exist? As we saw above, everything is a function of other functions. By that definition we can say that the soul is also a function of other functions such as Consciousness, Love, Intelligence, etc. That does not mean that it is any less real than other beings. The soul has its own independent existence, just like Love, just like Life and just like Matter. It has a functional existence that is as real, perhaps even more real than Matter itself. The soul is as real as the body. But while one can perceive bodies through senses while one cannot perceive the soul through senses.
We do perceive Love, Intelligence, Consciousness and other functions somehow, even if not through our senses. Therefore we accept that these realities do exist. Yet how can we be sure of such a thing as the soul when we cannot perceive it in anyways?

Well, we do actually! The soul is the ultimate function of a living being that makes it work. If our body can be compared to hardware our soul is the software that makes it work. If the hardware crashes, the software will cease to work but if the software is damaged the hardware will produce garbage. The soul and the body are interdependent. What is the difference between a person who is alive in one moment and is not in the next? Her body is the same. All her organs could be working independently and can be transplanted to other persons. All the cells of her body are still alive and will continue to live for several more days. Her hairs and nails will keep growing. Her organs are living. Yet she is dead. What is missing is the soul. The software that made it work is missing. Something in the hardware was damaged and the software stopped working.

Now will the soul survive after the death occurs? If we think of the soul as the function of Life, Consciousness, Intelligence, Love, etc, how can a function survive when the instrument that makes that function does no more exist? It is like saying that the music of a violin will survive after the violin is broken. But then again my voice is a function of me. After I die I can no more make sounds yet the sounds I generated during my lifetime will survive my death. The sound wave is indestructible. Theoretically, we could listen to the sounds of creatures long dead. So the sounds we utter are eternal even if we are mortals. Thus, if sound that is a function of us can survive our death, why can’t our soul? Also, extending the software analogy used above, it is the hardware that is damaged, leading to non functioning of the software. If the software is transposed to another piece of functioning hardware it will work just as well.

To sum it up, the only reality is perception. This universe does not exist except in the perception of one who perceives it. We do not perceive the Reality with our senses for the Reality is intangible but we can witness the functions of that reality. This would not exist if there were no one perceiving it as such, just as sounds do not exist unless there is someone listening to it. The sounds that dogs can hear, to us humans are not sounds. We call only those wavelengths sounds, which we can hear. Likewise, the Universe is our perception of the function of the Reality. The reality is a non-being that paradoxically is the only thing that exists. To put this in terms that religious people could also understand, let us say God is the only reality that exists and nothing beyond God exists. Yet God is the non-being that is the mother of all beings.