December 26, 2005
December 22, 2005
Savitri A Legend and a Symbol
PART ONE BOOK TWO The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
Canto Eleven The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind
- There ceased the limits of the labouring Power.
- But being and creation cease not there.
- For Thought transcends the circles of mortal mind,
- It is greater than its earthly instrument:
- The godhead crammed into mind's narrow space
- Escapes on every side into some vast
- That is a passage to infinity.
- It moves eternal in the spirit's field,
- A runner towards the far spiritual light,
- A child and servant of the spirit's force.
- But mind too falls back from a nameless peak.
- His being stretched beyond the sight of Thought.
- For the spirit is eternal and unmade
- And not by thinking was its greatness born,
- And not by thinking can its knowledge come.
- It knows itself and in itself it lives,
- It moves where no thought is nor any form.
- Its feet are steadied upon finite things,
- Its wings can dare to cross the Infinite.
- Arriving into his ken a wonder space
- Of great and marvellous meetings called his steps,
- Where Thought leaned on a Vision beyond thought
- And shaped a world from the Unthinkable.
- On peaks imagination cannot tread,
- In the horizons of a tireless sight,
- Under a blue veil of eternity
- The splendours of ideal Mind were seen
- Outstretched across the boundaries of things known.
- Origin of the little that we are,
- Instinct with the endless more that we must be,
- A prop of all that human strength enacts,
- Creator of hopes by earth unrealised,
- It spreads beyond the expanding universe;
- It wings beyond the boundaries of Dream,
- It overtops the ceiling of life's soar.
- Awake in a luminous sphere unbound by Thought,
- Exposed to omniscient immensities,
- It casts on our world its great crowned influences,
- Its speed that outstrips the ambling of the hours,
- Its force that strides invincibly through Time,
- Its mights that bridge the gulf twixt man and God,
- Its lights that combat Ignorance and Death.
December 10, 2005
The four higher planes are eternally pre-existent, and constitute the modes or qualities of the Absolute (in Indian philosophy, the Absolute is described as being Sat-Chit-Ananda or Sachchidananda, of the nature of pure Being, Consciousness, and Bliss. The Supermind is Sachchidananda in manifestation; the transitional stage between the unchanging planes of Sat, Chit-Tapas and Ananda and the finite lower ones. Aurobindo considers it pivotal for the Divine transformation of the world. "It alone contains the self-determining Truth of the Divine Consciousness (that) is necessary for a Truth-creation." [Letters on Yoga, vol 1, p.239]
Between the Supermind and the lower three planes is a transitional level, the Overmind, a level of global or cosmic consciousness. Beneath the Overmind one passes from Truth (albeit a multiform, rather than as in the Supermind a Unitary, Truth) into falsehood and ignorance. These are the lower planes of Mind, Life, and Matter. It is also in these lower planes that their dwells the Divine Soul, or "Psychic Being".
The terminology in all this is a little confusing, for Aurobindo and Mirra use the term Life or "Vital" to designate what Western occultists and Theosophists call the Astral plane. "Vital" in this context therefore has nothing to do with the life-principle (the Etheric plane of Steiner and the Prana of the Hindus). Similarily, "Psychic" is used to refer to the Spiritual or Higher Self, the Divine Soul, rather than the Astral realms, as is the case with the common understanding of the word (e.g. "psychic experiences"). This curious terminology derives originally from Max Theon, Mirra's teacher in occultism Kheper Home
December 09, 2005
December 07, 2005
2. How to read Being No One
How to read a book that is 634 pages long? My answer is to browse (as if this were a reference book) looking for a discussion of subjects that you know well enough to appreciate Metzinger’s analysis and then venture into more unfamiliar territory. Another answer is to emphasize the readability of Thomas Metzinger’s discussion of even the most obscure philosophical concepts. It is a pleasure to report that every page indeed every line of the book is well written and understandable.
3. The book itself
Having refreshingly introduced the questions he wants to answer (Part I) and the tools (Part II) he uses to answer them, Thomas Metzinger then lists eleven constraints upon theneural functions that could qualify as phenomenal representations (Part III). I found this section of the book to be annoyingly obscure and abstract. It blocks the reader’s access tothe more interesting discussion of neurophenomological case studies in Part III. And it is in Part IV that the clinician and the experimentalist will feel most at home. The same cycle recurs in the second half of the book. Opaque and abstract discussions of Tools (Part IV), Representational deep structure (Part VII) proceed a second pass at Neurophenomenological case studies (Part VII) before the conclusion (Part VIII). I found myself most at home in Part VII. On balance it may seem gratuitous to fault such a tour de force. In this book Metzinger covers just about everything. He is remarkably eclectic and balanced in his treatment of the philosophical and cognitive neuroscience literature. He proposes his own models which are original and interesting. What doesn’t he do? Metzinger doesn’t tell us that we need a more tactical approach to collecting first person data and a more strategic approach to correlating it with third person data. He doesn’t take seriously enough the charge of Anti Revonsuo (and David Chalmers for that matter) that the time is ripe for breaking down both the institutional and the methodological walls that divide the fields of philosophy, psychology and physiology and the tasks of consciousness science. I hope this essay will goad him into taking further step in this direction.
4. Why I like the book
The book is alive with the clarity and openness of Metzinger’s mind. From my initial reading I was so sure that Metzinger was authentic and sincere that I called him up to say so. Thomas Metzinger may be "No One" in the sense that there is no self without a brain but he is surely some one in the sense of a fully embodied self, a brain with a transparent (my meaning) motivation and interest in the truth. I have never read such a complete and penetrating analysis of my own scientific field: the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and dreaming. In this, as in other parts of the book that I understand well enough to comment, Metzinger cuts to the heart of the matter. I have always thought that the scientific study of sleep and dreaming was relevant to a science of consciousness. Metzinger endorses this view and brings to our field his own way of understanding the relationship of mind to body. Metzinger fully understands the state dependence of conscious experience and appreciates how much we can learn from an examination of the alterations in phenomenal experience that accompany the now well understood changes in brain function during sleep. In particular, he appreciates that the robust differences between dreaming and waking consciousness (such as the visuomotor hallucinosis, the delusional belief that one is awake, the distinctive defects in cognition, the heightened emotionality, and the poor memory) have their neural correlates in the altered neural activation pattern of REM sleep. Thus it is all the more surprising to note that Thomas Metzinger does not consider first person reports of conscious experience to be data. The importance of sleep and dreaming to understanding consciousness is a key point upon which Metzinger and I agree. So does Anti Revonsuo who goes so far as to suggest in his chapter Neural Correlates of Consciousness that a vigorous and sophisticated scientific assault on consciousness might well focus on dreaming as a virtual reality simulation that illustrates the brain’s intrinsic capacity to create a self and a world that are off-line but richly detailed.
5. What I don’t like about the book
Metzinger doesn’t tell us he himself is a lucid dreamer. Is this because he doesn’t trust first person data? On page 591 he states: "My politically incorrect conclusion is that first person data do not exist."
December 05, 2005
The convenient demarcation between secular and the sacred suits the academic approach. But for Sri Aurobindo this is a faulty notion because the causal aspect is eclipsed. The linkage between the two is less of the manner of an umbilical chord and more in the nature of interpenetrating imbrications. If our sensory and scientific construct of the world fails to accommodate such a picture, it must be understood as a lack.
Astronomy as an ancient passion has helped us to know about the outer universe. Astrology, too, by talking of stars and planets attunes us to their subtle influences. The different abodes of gods as described by various mythologies, also, permit us certain familiarity of the other worlds. But we rarely take their effect on our lives any seriously. And the task of Sri Aurobindo is to hammer the modern mind so as to rid it from secular superstitions.
The inner and the other worlds are a consistent theme in his poem, Savitri. Composed through the years from Quantum mechanics to nuclear holocaust, this modern epic puts a stamp of authority on the unseen fecund worlds and their inhabitants who are inextricably linked to our motions and emotions. To recognize this reality seriously, is what Savitri demands from its readers.
The different parts of our being and consciousness, as delineated by Sri Aurobindo in his Integral Yoga system, are nothing but the other worlds. We can well imagine our plights as puppets when disparate worlds are very much in the play to pull the strings. Somewhat similar to the insight offered by Baudrillard that it is the object which uses and employs us and not the other way round that we ordinarily perceive. But then, how do we benefit by this concept in our practical life?
That there runs a perpetual consonance between the seen and the unseen, might seem, at times, hard to digest, but a poetic impression can be allowed to swim aloft. The process should further deepen in the realm of creative imagination leading to a faint intellectual recognition. Since the notion runs counter to our egoistic autonomy, it is bound to take a long time to percolate down to the distant and defiant impulses. And regular recitation of Savitri helps here; its mantric effect casting its reach down to our body cells.
December 03, 2005
V. V. B. Rama Rao LANGUAGE IN INDIA HOME PAGE Volume 3 : 8 August 2003
- We find another exegesis of the workings and ascent of thought in the drashta, the seer Sri Aurobindo's poem Thought the Paraclete.
- The mystic mind bursts forth in effulgent thought (the very spur to expression and language) aspiring to become one with the universal radiance and ultimately merging itself into its origin.
- The heightened sensibility in the inspired mind releases expressive, electrifying language. It flows forth bubbling, seeking, electrifying expression.
- The virtue of such language is that, in the initiated reader, it is capable of throwing a flood of discovered light through the medium of speech, vaak or musical sound, naada.
The poem speaks of Thought as the Holy Spirit leading the mind upward through stages: the higher mind, the illumined mind, the intuitive mind and the over mind to the supra mental region which finally leads to the identification of the finite to the infinite. What is significant here is that it is not so much a matter of style as a dimension of the inner spirit, which defies analysis. It is a highly 'intuited' revelation.
What more aspiration or prayer could there be than this? Does this not echo many an Upanishad invocation? The harnessing of the polychromatic variations in the poem would take a separate paper for itself. The springs of spiritual aspiration lay at the bottom of the cadence and naada, which always runs as an undercurrent yielding a benediction.
As for initiation, the individual reader must fend for himself. Initiation is to being led into. A reader would do well to slowly get familiar with the seer's turn of expression with a degree of reverence. His own thought should be above the mundane, the commonplace and the routine. A basic familiarity with or an understanding of spirituality would be a great help.
December 02, 2005
David Johnston is a Jungian psychotherapist with a private practice in Victoria, B.C. You can read more of his work, and see some of his art, at http://www.theorems.com/johnston
This canto is best approached with some preparation on the part of the reader. Choose a time when you are not likely to be interrupted. Try to free your mind from all preconceived ideas about what you are going to read, and put aside for the time being any religious or spiritual teaching you may have encountered in your life. Most important of all, dismiss the notion that Savitri is difficult to understand, or that it has nothing to do with the ordinary business of living.
Before beginning to read, spend a few minutes thinking about the past - your past. Starting from yesterday, trace your own life back to earliest childhood. Be detached about this, reviewing events as if you were watching a film about a stranger. Then let your imagination run freely: where were you in a life before this one? What kind of work attracted you? What qualities or talents did you admire?Now turn to the opening lines of The Issue. You will see that Savitri did something similar to what you have just done. If you tried this at a time of conflict or trial in your own life the similarity will be even more striking, for Savitri in her surface self faced the extinction of all her worldly happiness with the untimely death of her husband Satyavan. She was at a crisis point when all human resources fail:
'An absolute supernatural darkness falls
On man sometimes when he draws near to God:
An hour comes when fail all nature's means;
Forced out from the protecting ignorance
And flung back on his naked primal need,
He at length must cast from him his surface soul
And be the ungarbed entity within:
That hour had fallen now on Savitri.'
There are moments when life forces us to exceed ourselves; these moments bring what popular wisdom calls 'a blessing in disguise.' Later we will read some mysterious lines:
One dealt with her who meets the burdened great.
Assigner of the ordeal and the path
Who chooses in this holocaust of the soul
Death, fall and sorrow as the spirit's goads....
Someone asked the Mother: who is this 'one' who dealt with Savitri? And she answered 'You can call him the Master of Evolution if you like'. Those who are ready to make the discovery of the inner Self (or as Sri Aurobindo calls it, 'the psychic being’) will often pass through a period of trial or personal tragedy or serious illness which demands more of them than 'the surface soul' can provide. Only 'the ungarbed entity within' armed with the divine strength, courage and unconditional love can act in this world free from sorrow and 'armoured against all fear'.
Savitri's profound meditation leads her beyond the happy years of her childhood into the discovery of past lives and she realises the chain of causal links that bind all human life on earth. This link she must consciously break, and live as one without a past in order to be reborn in the freedom of the spirit. As she draws nearer to the realisation of the inner Self, the sense of herself as an individual being drops away, and the burden of the whole earth becomes hers. It is an experience of utter loneliness and desolation:
A combatant in silent dreadful lists
The world unknowing, for the world she stood;
No helper had she save the strength within......
Read on now to discover Sri Aurobindo's wonderful evocation of the earth's natural beauty. Here, as it is through out the whole epic, the magnificence of Nature unspoiled by human depredations is a backdrop to the action. It enters into Savitri's meditation, preparing her for the revelation to follow:
And the mighty wideness of the primitive earth
And the brooding multitude of patient trees
And the musing sapphire leisure of the sky
And the solemn weight of the slowly passing months
Had left in her deep room for thought and God.
Wideness, silence, peace and a profound contemplation - the very conditions needed for the revelation to come. And suddenly, it is there! A door opens onto a spiritual world of harmony and bliss. Divine Love takes on the aspect of a radiant Goddess, whom Savitri realises as her true Self. The old antagonism between spirit and matter is no more. The gulf between human and divine is bridged in Savitri, the embodiment of that Love:
In her he found a vastness like his own
His high warm subtle ether he refound
And moved in her as in his natural home.
Now Savitri can no longer live an ordinary human life in the world. 'A work she had to do, a word to speak.' And more significantly 'In her the superhuman cast its seed.' This is the first direct reference in Savitri to the advent of the supramental consciousness, the ultimate stage of human evolution. Savitri realising her identity with the in-dwelling Divine, realises in the same instant her divine and human destiny:
To wrestle with the Shadow she had come
And must confront the riddle of man's birth
And life's brief struggle in dumb matter's night.
Whether to bear with Ignorance and Death
Or hew the ways of Immortality,
To win or lose the god-like game for man
Was her soul's issue thrown with destiny's dice.
This challenge faces everyone who accepts to share the vision that inspired Sri Aurobindo. All are called upon to decide 'whether to bear with Ignorance and Death' or to discover the inner being and bring it out from behind the veil. This is the issue for us as well.
In every house there is a locked door. Most of us are unaware of its existence, or if we suspect it is there we are not very curious about it. If someone told us that the place where we live held a vast treasure no doubt we would make every effort to obtain it, even to the extent of demolishing all the walls. But when the treasure is a spiritual one, we do not remove even one brick! In Savitri Sri Aurobindo affirms the existence of the door, and describes in detail what lies behind it, and even gives us the keys.
So let us join Savitri in her meditation, and who knows what door may open within?
By The Mother
compiled by Dr. A.S. Dalal
- The key to solving this problem actually lies in a deeper understanding of the true nature of our psychological being.
- We are actually composed of various different "parts" or "planes" of action that combine together, interact with one another and impinge upon one another.
This understanding allows us to differentiate between a mental idea, a force of will, an emotional movement, a vital energy, or a physical structure, and thereby more clearly understand the results of our psychological efforts and growth activities. 285 pp Paper Back ISBN: 0940985349
December 01, 2005
- As Emerson observed, "The soul environs itself with friends that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude; and it goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its conversation or society."
- Walt Whitman, for instance, presents a notable example of a temperament in which a strong love of independence and a determination to develop along his own peculiar lines were combined with a profound capacity for friendship and an enthusiastic affection for his chosen comrades. His cravings for fellowship were so intense that he pitied even a live oak growing in Louisiana, and "wondered how it could utter joyous leaves, standing alone there without its friend near."
- And Thomas Carlyle recognized the importance of both elements, personality and friendship, in the following passage: "A man, be the Heavens ever praised, is sufficient for himself; yet were ten men, united in Love, capable of being and of doing what ten thousand singly would fail in."
Edited and with a Biographical essay by Barbara Stoler Miller 1994 ISBN: 81-208-1208-x. This presents a selection of her influential essays, along with a biographical essay.
STELLA KRAMRISCH was a pioneering interpreter of Indian Art and its religious contexts. During her entire career as a creative scholar, teacher, museum curator and editor, she was a dominant force in shaping European, American and Asian notions of Indian culture. Among her many published works mention may be made of the Visnudharmottaram (Pt.III), Indian Sculpture, A Survey of Painting in Deccan, and The Hindu Temple.
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