October 30, 2007

With major pieces of the jigsaw firmly in the wrong place

Ancient Sanskrit Online Series Introduction
Karen Thomson and Jonathan Slocum
By Ancient Sanskrit we mean the oldest known form of Sanskrit. The simple name 'Sanskrit' generally refers to Classical Sanskrit, which is a later, fixed form that follows rules laid down by a grammarian around 400 BC. Like Latin in the Middle Ages, Classical Sanskrit was a scholarly lingua franca which had to be studied and mastered. Ancient Sanskrit was very different. It was a natural, vernacular language, and has come down to us in a remarkable and extensive body of poetry.
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1. The earliest Indo-European poems.
The earliest surviving anthology of poems in any of the Indo-European languages is in Ancient Sanskrit. Composed long before Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, it consists of over a thousand songs of considerable merit celebrating the riches of nature, whose forces are frequently deified. The relationship that the poets describe with their environment is a sophisticated one. Their hymns serve as talismans, ensuring that the natural world will continue to provide welfare and shelter for man. The power of poetry and song is their primary theme.
They indeed were comrades of the gods,
Possessed of Truth, the poets of old:
The fathers found the hidden light
And with true prayer brought forth the dawn. (VII, 76, 4)
The circumstances of the original composition of these poems remain unknown. Believed to be of divine origin, this large body of material, in an archaic and unfamiliar language, was handed down orally, from generation to generation, by priests in ancient India. The highly metrical form of the poems, together with their incomprehensibility, made them ideally suited to ritual recitation by a religious elite. Faithfully preserved through the centuries as a sacred mystery, the text has come down to us in a state of considerable accuracy.
2. 'The Veda'.
Over time a body of dependent and scholastic material grew up around the poems, known loosely as 'the Veda'. Perhaps around 1000 BC (all dating in prehistoric India is only approximate), editors gathered the ancient poems together and arranged them, together with some more modern material, into ten books according to rules that were largely artificial (see section 4 below). They gave the collection the name by which it continues to be known, 'Rig-veda', or 'praise-knowledge'. Other collections came into being, based on this sacred material, and they were given parallel names.
The editors of the 'Sāma-veda' arranged the poems differently, for the purpose of chanting, and introduced numerous alternative readings to the text. The sacrificial formulae used by the priests during their recitations, together with descriptions of their ritual practices, were incorporated into collections to which the general name 'Yajur-veda' was given. Later still, a body of popular spells was combined with passages from the Rigveda, again with variant readings, and was given the name 'Atharva-veda'. A continuously-growing mass of prose commentary, called the Brāhmanas, also came into being, devoted to the attempt to explain the meaning of the ancient poems. To the later Brāhmanas belongs the profusion of texts known as the Upanishads, which are of particular interest to Indologists, as Sanskrit scholars today often describe themselves, because of their important role in the development of early Indian religious thought.
2.1. The continuing influence of 'the Veda'.
This vast body of derivative material remains the subject of extensive study by Indologists. However, from the point of view of understanding the earliest Sanskrit text -- the Rigveda itself -- it has always been, and continues to be, crucially misleading.
Because the poems were put to ritual use by the ancient priests, much of their vocabulary was assumed by the authors of the later texts to refer in some way to ritual activity. The word paśú 'beast, cattle' came to designate a sacrificial victim in texts of the Brāhmanas, for example, and juhū́ 'tongue' was thought to mean 'butter ladle'. Abstract words of sophisticated meaning particularly suffered. The compound puro-ḷā́ś 'fore-worship' (from purás 'in front' and √dāś 'worship') acquired the specific sense 'sacrificial rice cake', despite the fact that the word vrīhí 'rice', found in later texts, does not occur in the poems of the Rigveda. The complex noun krátu 'power, intellectual ability', discussed in the introduction to Lesson 7, was misunderstood to mean 'sacrifice' by the authors of the commentaries. Similarly, a number of important verbs of abstract meaning were thought by the editors of the Sāmaveda to be related solely to the production of milk, and to refer to cows (see section 50 of Lesson 10). Indology has always used the word 'Vedic', 'of the Veda', to describe pre-Classical Sanskrit, and the poems to which the name 'Rig-veda' had been given are studied in the context of 'the Veda'. Many ancient mistranslations continue to be maintained with unshakeable conviction by Vedic scholars.
With major pieces of the jigsaw firmly in the wrong place, the rest, inevitably, refuses to fit, and the comparison of passages in the attempt to establish word meanings appears to be a fruitless exercise. Indology has concluded that the Rigveda is not only uninteresting, "describing fussy and technical ritual procedures" (Stephanie Jamison On translating the Rig Veda: Three Questions, 1999, p. 3), but that it is also intentionally indecipherable. "One feels that the hymns themselves are mischievous translations into a 'foreign' language" (Wendy O'Flaherty The Rig Veda. An Anthology, Penguin, 1981, p. 16). Stephanie Jamison vividly portrays the frustrations inherent in the indological approach for a conscientious scholar. "The more I read the Rig Veda, the harder it becomes for me -- and much of the difficulty arises from taking seriously the aberrancies and deviations in the language" (op. cit. p. 9). Viewed through the eyes of Vedic scholars, this most ancient of Sanskrit texts is by turns tedious, and unintelligible: "One can be blissfully reading the most banal hymn, whose form and message offers no surprises -- and suddenly trip over a verse, to which one's only response can be 'What??!!'" (Jamison, op. cit. p. 10). The sophistication of the earliest Indo-European poetry lies buried beneath a mass of inherited misunderstandings that overlay the text like later strata at an archaeological site. Not surprisingly, few Sanskrit scholars today are interested in studying the Rigveda...
10. Ancient Sanskrit Lessons
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Rigveda I, 98
Rigveda IV, 53, 1-6
Rigveda III, 33, 4-8
Rigveda VII, 81
Rigveda VIII, 18, 4-12
Rigveda VI, 21, 2-6
Rigveda X, 37, 5-10
Rigveda V, 42, 13-18
Rigveda II, 42 and X, 58
Rigveda VIII, 27, 10-20
Appendix 1: Sandhi
Appendix 2: Index of examples
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October 29, 2007

There is every need to ‘revisit’ the entire Vedic literature

Saturday October 27 2007 12:38 IST Express News Service
TIRUPATI: There is every need to ‘revisit’ the entire Vedic literature to derive from it those insights and clues which can clarify more and more luminously the various concepts which have played a great role in making Indian philosophy profound and sublime intellectually, even more practically fruitful, Indian Philosophical Congress vice-chairperson Kireet Joshi has said.
Inaugurating the 82nd session of Indian Philosophical Congress (IPC) here on Friday, he said Indian philosophy was so profound because of its Vedic roots. The vitality of the force of Vedas generating new ideas and new streams flowing, constantly enriching the Indian philosophy holding it high even in the face of western philosophy.
“Despite a large space being devoted to the exposition of the Vedas and Vedic knowledge in PHISPC (Project of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in the Indian Civilisation) there is a need to visit once again the entire Vedic literature to answer some of the most important issues of contemporary philosophy” he added.
Presiding over the meeting, SV University Vice-Chancellor S Jayarami Reddy said scientific relevance of Indian philosophy was felt now more than ever before in the existing global scenario of growing violence, extremism, fundamentalism, injustice, inequality and religious and political conflicts. “The search for wisdom should have been the better solution for these vexing problems and present predicaments” he said.
Stating that the concepts of Vedas and Vedic seers emphasising harmony, peaceful co-existences and universal brotherhood were invaluable contribution to humanity, Reddy said the United Nations declaring Gandhiji’s birthday as ‘World Non-violence Day’ established the fact that Indian philosophy was the only solution to conflict resolution in the strife-torn world. IPC general president Bijayanand Kar and local secretary of the congress B Sambasiva Prasad also spoke. SOUTHERN NEWS - ANDHRA PRADESH Oct 29, 2007

The Four primal personalities of the Divine are not separate and distinct

The Soul and its Journey (Nolini Kanta Gupta)
Man, the soul, we said, comes direct from the Divine and is thrown and almost stuck into the earth as a spark, as a point of luminous consciousness-force. This soul, as it develops, we find, belongs to one or other of the fundamental type of divine personality, it is a lineal descendant, as it were, of one of the quaternary and its growth means growing into the nature of that particular godhead and its fulfilment means. identification with that.

We may try to illustrate by examples, although it is a rather" dangerous game and may tend to put into a too rigid and' mathematical formula something that is living and variable." Still it will serve to give a clearer picture of the matter.

  • Napoleon evidently was a child of Mahakali; and
  • Caesar seems to have been fashioned largely by the principle of Maheshwari; while
  • Christ or Chaitanya are clearly emanations in the line of Mahalakshmi.
  • Constructive geniuses, on the other hand, like the great statesman Colbert, for example, or Louis XIV,' Ie grand monarque, himself belong to a family (or gotra, as we say in India) that originated from Mahasaraswati.

Poets and. artists again, although generally they belong to the clan of Mahalakshmi, can be regrouped according to the principle that predominates in each, the godhead that presides over the inspiration in each.

  • The large breath in Homer and Valmiki, the high and noble style of their movement, the dignity and vastness that compose their consciousness affiliate them naturally to the Maheshwari line.
  • A Dante, on the other hand, or a Byron has something in his matter and manner that make us think of the stamp of Mahakali.
  • Virgil or Petrarch, Shelley or our Tagore seem to be emanations of Beauty, Harmony, Love-Mahalakshmi.
  • And the perfect artisanship of Mahasaraswati has found its especial embodiment in Horace and Racine and our Kalidasa.
  • Michael Angelo in his fury of inspirations seems to have been impelled by Maha­kali,
  • while Mahalakshmi sheds her genial favour upon Raphael and Titian;
  • and the meticulous care and the detailed surety in a Tintoretto makes us think of Mahasaraswati's grace.
  • Mahasaraswati too seems to have especially favoured Leonardo da Vinci, although a brooding presence of Maheshwari also seems to be intermixed there.
For it must be remembered that the human soul after all is not a simple and unilateral being, it is a little cosmos in itself. The soul is not merely a point or a single ray of light come down straight from its divine archetype or from the Divine himself, it is also a developing fire that increases and enriches itself through the multiple experiences of an evolu­tionary progression – it not only grows in height but extends in wideness also. Even though it may originally emanate from one principle and Personality, it takes in for its develop­ment and fulfilment influences and elements from the others also.
Indeed, we know that the Four primal personalities of the Divine are not separate and distinct as they may appear to the human mind which cannot understand distinction without disparity. The Vedic gods themselves are so linked together, so interpenetrate one another that finally it is asserted that there is only one existence, only it is given many names. All the divine personalities are aspects of the Divine blended and fused together. Even so the human soul, being a replica of the Divine, cannot but be a complex of many personalities and often it may be difficult and even harmful to find and fix upon a dominant personality. The full flowering of the human soul, its perfect divinisation demands the realisation of a many-aspected personality, the very richness of the Divine within it.
Page – 210 From the Collected Works of Nolini kanta Gupta Volume 3 pages 201 to 210 basrd on the talk by The Mother Posted to: Main Page Themes IY PHILOSOPHY [posted by Debashish on Sun 04 Dec 2005 11:57 PM PST Permanent Link]

October 27, 2007

An absolutely surrendered and collaborating vital and an obedient, docile and supple physical being

If we take the best instance, of someone who has unified his being completely around the divine Presence within him, who is now only one will, one consciousness, this person will have grouped around his central psychic being a fully developed and organised mind, an absolutely surrendered and collaborating vital and an obedient, docile and supple physical being. This physical being, as it is fully developed, will have a subtle body — what Sri Aurobindo calls the “true physical” — which will infinitely surpass the limits of its body and have enough suppleness, plasticity, balance to be able to adhere to the inner parts of the being and follow the movement of the soul in its…
I don't want to say in its ascent, but in its peregrinations outside the body. What the soul will do, where it will go — it all depends on what it has decided before leaving the body. And this capacity to keep around itself the being that has been fully organised and unified in its physical life, will allow it to really choose what it wants to do. And this also represents a very different field of possibilities, from sing consciously from one body into another, directly — there are instances in which one of these fully conscious and fully developed beings has slowly prepared another being capable of receiving and assimilating it, and in order not to stop its material work when it leaves one body, it goes and joins another psychic being, merges with it, combines with it in another physical body; that is an extreme case, extremely rare also, but one which forms part of an altogether traditional occult knowledge — to the instance at the other extreme, where the soul having finished its bodily experience, wants to assimilate it in repose and prepare for another physical existence later, some times much later.
And so this is what happens, among many other possibilities: it leaves in each domain — in the subtle physical, in the vital, in the mental domain — the corresponding beings; it leaves them with a sort of link between them, but each one keeps its independent existence, and it itself goes into the zone, the reality, the world of the psychic proper, and enters into a blissful repose for assimilation, until it has assimilated (laughing), as described in this paper, all its good deeds, digested all its good deeds, and is ready to begin a new experience. And then, if its work has been well done and the parts or sheaths of its being which it has left in their different domains have acted as they should there, when it descends again, it will put on one after another all these parts which lived with it in a former life, and with this wealth of knowledge and experience it will prepare to enter a new body…
This may be after hundreds or thousands of years, for in those domains all that is organised is no longer necessarily subject to the deposition which here we call “death”. As soon as a vital being is fully harmonised, it becomes immortal. What dissolves it and breaks it up are all the disorders within it and all the tendencies towards destruction and deposition; but if it is fully harmonised and organised and, so to say, divinised, it becomes immortal. It is the same thing for the mind. And even in the subtle physical, beings who are fully developed and have been impregnated with spiritual forces do not necessarily dissolve after death. They may continue to act or may take a beneficial rest in certain elements of Nature like water — generally it is in some liquid, in water or the sap of trees — or it may be, as described here (laughing), in the clouds. But they may also remain active and continue to act on the more material elements of physical Nature.
I have given you here a certain number of examples; I tell you, I could talk to you for hours and there would always be new examples to give! But this covers the subject broadly and opens the door to imagination.
There we are.
Page - 338 Home Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of The Mother > English > Questions And Answers Volume-08 > 24 October 1956

October 25, 2007

Sidney's Renaissance humanism is closely akin to modern semiotic theory

The Defence of Poesy (also known as the An Apology for Poetry) — Sidney wrote the Defence before 1583. It is generally believed that he was at least partly motivated by Stephen Gosson, a former playwright who dedicated his attack on the English stage, The School of Abuse, to Sidney in 1579, but Sidney primarily addresses more general objections to poetry, such as those of Plato. In his essay, Sidney integrates a number of classical and Italian precepts on fiction. The essence of his defense is that poetry, by combining the liveliness of history with the ethical focus of philosophy, is more effective than either history or philosophy in rousing its readers to virtue. The work also offers important comments on Edmund Spenser and the Elizabethan stage. [edit]
Influence (An Apology for Poetry)
Sir Philip Sidney’s influence can be seen throughout the history of English literary criticism since the publication of the Apology. One of the most important examples is in the work of the poet and critic, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley’s modern argument for poetry is cast in a Romantic strain in his critical work titled A Defence of Poetry. In 1858, William Stigant, a Cambridge-educated translator, poet and essayist, writes in his essay titled "Sir Philip Sidney" in Cambridge Essays that Shelley's "beautifully written Defence of Poetry" is a work which "analyses the very inner essence of poetry and the reason of its existence, - its development from, and operation on, the mind of man" (Garrett 347). Shelley writes in Defence that while "ethical science arranges the elements which poetry has created," and leads to a civil life, poetry acts in a way that "awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought" (Shelley, Norton 517).
Sidney’s influence on future writers could be analyzed from the standpoint of his handling of the utilitarian viewpoint. The utilitarian view of rhetoric can be traced from Sophists, Scalinger, Ramus and humanists to Sidney (Bear 11). For instance, Sidney, following Aristotle, writes that praxis (human action) is tantamount to gnosis (knowledge). Men drawn to music, astronomy, philosophy and so forth all direct themselves to "the highest end of the mistress knowledge, by the Greeks called architectonike (literarlly, "of or for a master builder")," which stands, according to Sidney, "in the knowledge of a man's self, in the ethic and political consideration, with the end of well doing and not of well knowing only" (Leitch "Sidney" 333). Sidney’s program of literary reform concerns the connection between art and virtue (Mitsi 6). One of the themes of the Apology is the insufficiency of simply presenting virtue as a precept; the poet must move men to virtuous action (Craig 123). Poetry can lead to virtuous action. Action relates to experience. From Sidney, the utilitarian view of rhetoric can be traced to Coleridge's criticism, and for instance, to the reaction to the Enlightenment (Bear 11). Coleridge's brief treatise On Poesy or Art sets forth a theory of imitation which bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Sidney (Mack 131).
The impact of Sidney’s Apology is largely derivative of the humanistic precepts that inform the work, and its linkage of the rhetorical with the civic virtue of prudence. Prudence offers a middle ground between two extremes. Prudence, as a virtue, places a greater value on praxis than gnosis (Harvey 1). Action is thus more important than abstract knowledge. It deals with the question of how to combine stability with innovation (Jasinski 466).
Secondly, Sidney’s influence on future critics and poets relates to his view of the place of poets in society. Sidney describes poetry as creating a separate reality (Harvey 3). The Romantic notion, as seen in Wordsworth, is that poetry privileges perception, imagination and modes of understanding. Wordsworth seeks to go back to nature for moments recollected in tranquility. Sidney, like Shelley and Wordsworth, sees the poet as being separate from society. To Sidney the poet is not tied to any subjection. He saw art as equivalent to "skill," a profession to be learned or developed, and nature was the objective, empirical world (Kimbrough 44). The poet can invent, and thus in effect grows another nature.
Sidney writes that there “is no art delivered to mankind that hath not the works of nature for his principal object” (Leitch, Sidney 330). The poet then does not depart from external nature. His works are "imitation" or "fiction," made of the materials of nature, and are shaped by the artist's vision. This vision is one that demands the reader's awareness of the art of imitation created through the "maker," the poet (Kimbrough 45). Sidney's notion of fore-conceit means that a conception of the work must exist in the poet's mind before it is written (Harvey 3). Free from the limitations of nature, and independent from nature, poetry is capable of "making things either better than Nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in Nature" (Leitch Sidney 330).
Sidney’s doctrine presents the poet as creator. The poet’s mediating role between two worlds – transcendent forms and historical actuality – corresponds to the Neoplatonic doctrine of emanation. A complement to this doctrine is the concept of return or catharsis, which finds a parallel in Sidney’s contemplation of virtue, based man’s rational desire (Craig 117). Apology contains only elements of Neoplatonism without adhering to the full doctrine.
Thirdly, Sidney implies a theory of metaphoric language in his work. A recurring motif in Apology is painting or “portraiture” (Leitch 333). Apology applies language use in a way suggestive of what is known in modern literary theory as semiotics. His central premise is that poetry is an art of imitation, that is a “representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth” not unlike a “speaking picture” (Leitch, Sidney 331). Sidney pays his homage to Aristotle. Yet he develops his own idea of metaphoric language, one that it is based on an analogy through universal correspondences. Sidney’s humanist poetics and his tendency to harmonize disparate extremes – to seek mediation – find expression in poetic works by John Donne (Knauss 1).
The life and writings of Sir Philip Sidney remain a legacy. In 1819, Thomas Campbell concludes that Sidney's life was "poetry in action," and then in 1858 William Stigant wrote that "Sidney's real poem was his life, and his teaching was his example" (quoted in Garrett, Sidney 55). Sidney, the man, is apparent everywhere in his works: a study of Sidney's works is a study of the man (Kimbrough, "Preface" 1). [edit]
Significance (Apology)
An Apology for Poetry is the most important contribution to Renaissance literary theory. Sidney advocates a place for poetry within the framework of an aristocratic state, while showing concern for both literary and national identity (Griffiths 5). Sidney responds in Apology to an emerging antipathy to poetry that saw works like Stephen Gosson’s The Schoole of Abuse (1579) come to prominence. Gosson offers what is in essence a puritan attack on imaginative literature (Griffiths 5). What is at stake in Sidney’s argument is a defense of poetry’s nobility. The significance of the nobility of poetry is its power to move readers to virtuous action (Robertson 657). True poets must teach and delight – a view that dates back to Horace.
In an era of an antipathy to poetry, and puritanical belief in the corruption of literature, Sidney’s defense was a significant contribution to the genre of literary criticism. It was England’s first philosophical defense in which he describes poetry’s ancient and indispensable place in society, its mimetic nature, and its ethical function (Harvey 2). Among Sidney’s gifts to his contemporaries were his respect for tradition and willingness to experiment (Robertson 656). An example of the latter is his approach to Plato. He reconfigures Plato’s argument against poets by saying poets are “the least liar” (Leitch 348). Poets never claim to know the truth, nor “make circles around your imagination,” nor rely on authority (Letich 349). As an expression of a cultural attitude descending from Aristotle, Sidney, when stating that the poet "never affirmeth," makes the claim that all statements in literature are hypothetical or pseudo-statements (Frye 35). Sidney, as a traditionalist, however, gives attention to drama in contradistinction to poetry. Drama, writes Sidney, is “observing neither rules of honest civility nor of skillful poetry” and thus cannot do justice to this genre (Leitch 356).
Anti-theatricality was another phenomenon in Sidney's day. This was predominantly an aesthetic and ideological concern that flourished among Sidney’s circle at court (Acheson 11). Theatre became a contentious issue in part because of the culmination of a growing contempt for the values of the emergent consumer culture. An expanding money economy encouraged social mobility. Europe, at this time, had its first encounter with inflation (Davies 517). London's theatres at that time grew progressively in popularity, so much so in fact that by 1605, despite the introduction of charges, London commercial theatres could accommodate up to eight thousand men and women (Hale 278). Sidney had his own views on drama. In Apology, he shows opposition to the current of his day that pays little attention to unity of place in drama (Bear 11), but more specifically, his concern is with the "manner" and "matter" a story is conveyed (Leitch Sidney 357). He explains that tragedy is not bound to history or the story but to "laws of poesy," having "liberty, either to feign a quite new matter, or to frame the history to the most most tragical conveniency" (357).
Sidney employs a number of strategies to assert the proper place of poetry. For instance, he argues against the way in which poetry was misaligned with youth, the effeminate and the timorous. He does so by introducing the idea that “poetry is the companion of camps” and by invoking the heroes of ages past (Leitch 351). Sidney’s reverence for the poet as soldier is significant because he himself was a soldier at one time. Poetry, in Apology, becomes an art that requires the noble stirring of courage (Pask 7).
Sidney writes An Apology for Poetry in the form of a judicial oration, and thus it is like a trial in structure. Crucial to his defense is the descriptive discourse and the idea that poetry creates a separate reality (Harvey 2). Sidney employs forensic rhetoric as a tool to make its argument that poetry not only conveys a separate reality, but that it has a long and venerable history, and it does not lie. It is defensible in its own right as a means to move readers to virtuous action.
On Method (Apology)== Sidney’s approach to censorship in Apology is through his use of rhetorical devices. Censorship is one problem Sidney had to overcome when he wrote Apology. Sidney was also versed in the phenomenon of courtiership. As part of his strategy against the threat of censorship, Sidney uses the structure of classical oration with its conventional divisions such as exordium and peroration. Sidney's use of classical oration stems from his humanist education (Harvey 1). He uses this method to build his argument, by making use of the rhetorical methods in such guides as Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique (Harvey 2). Sidney also uses metaphor and allegory, to conceal and reveal his position. For instance, his use of horsemanship as imagery and analogy substantiates his vision of the transformational power of poetry. Sidney, as author, enters his work undetected in that the etymology of his name “Philip” is “horse-lover” (Pask 7). From the opening discourse on horsemanship, Sidney expands on the horse and saddle metaphor throughout his work by the “enlarging of a conceit” (Leitch 333). It is Sidney who then guards against a falling out with the “poet-whippers” (Leitch 346). Sidney also attends to the rhetorical concept of memory. Poetry, apart from its ability to delight, has an affinity with memory (Leitch 347)...
Method and style are thus key components of the Apology to overcome the problem of censorship. For this reason, Sidney consciously defends fiction, and he attacks the privilege that is accorded to “fact.” He argues that the poet makes no literal claims of truth, is under no illusions, and thus creates statements that are in a sense “fictional” and as true as any others (Bear 5). What is at stake then is not only the value of poetry in the sense of its utility, but also its place in a world replete with strife, the contingent and the provisional. [edit]
In pop culture
Supt. Harold Gaskell of the Metropolitan Police Vice Squad is repeatedly mistaken for Sir Philip Sidney in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch (ep. 36). 3:18 PM

October 24, 2007

A time comes when the creator of beauty revolts and declares the charter of his own freedom

  • The search for beauty is only in its beginning a satisfaction in the beauty of form, the beauty which appeals to the physical senses and the vital impressions, impulsions, desires.
  • It is only in the middle a satisfaction in the beauty of the ideas seized, the emotions aroused, the perception of perfect process and harmonious combination.
  • Behind them the soul of beauty in us desires the contact, the revelation, the uplifting delight of an absolute beauty in all things which it feels to be present, but which neither the senses and instincts by themselves can give, though they may be its channels, - for it is suprasensuous, - nor the reason and intelligence, though they too are a channel, - for it is suprarational, supra-intellectual, - but to which through all these veils the soul itself seeks to arrive.

When it can get the touch of this universal, absolute beauty, this soul of beauty, this sense of its revelation in any slightest or greatest thing, the beauty of a flower, a form, the beauty and power of a character, an action, an event, a human life, an idea, a stroke of the brush or the chisel or a scintillation of the mind, the colours of a sunset or the grandeur of the tempest, it is then that the sense of beauty in us is really, powerfully, entirely satisfied.

It is in truth seeking, as in religion, for the Divine, the All-Beautiful in man, in nature, in life, in thought, in art; for God is Beauty and Delight hidden in the variation of his masks and forms. When, fulfilled in our growing sense and knowledge of beauty and delight in beauty and our power for beauty, we are able to identify our Selves in soul with this Absolute and Divine in all the forms and activities of the world and shape an image of our inner and our outer life in the highest image we can perceive and embody of the All-Beautiful, then the aesthetic being in us who was born for this end, has fulfilled himself and risen to his divine consummation. To find highest beauty is to find God; to reveal, to embody, to create, as we say, highest beauty is to bring out of our souls the living image and power of God. Page-135 Home Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > Social And Political Thought Volume-15 > The Suprarational Beauty

October 22, 2007

Sublimation, altruism, suppression, anticipation, humor

Level 4 Defense Mechanisms (Mature) - are common among most "healthy" adults and are considered the most "mature". Many of them have their origins in the "immature" level, but have been honed by the individual to optimize his/her success in life and relationships. Use of these defenses gives the user pleasure and feelings of mastery. For the user, these defenses help them to integrate many conflicting emotions and thoughts and still be effective; and for the beholder their use by someone is viewed as a virtue. They include:
  • Sublimation - transformation of negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behavior, or emotion (EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLES, art, sports, hobbies, or even one's choice of profession)
  • Altruism - constructive service to others that brings pleasure and personal satisfaction (EXAMPLE)
  • Suppression - the conscious decision to delay paying attention to an emotion or need in order to cope with the present reality; able to later access the emotion and accept it. (EXAMPLE)
  • Anticipation - realistic planning for future discomfort (EXAMPLE)
  • Humor - overt expression of ideas and feelings (especially those that are unpleasant to focus on or too terrible to talk about) that gives pleasure to others; (humor lets you call a spade a spade, while "wit" is actually a form of displacement) (EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE)
Research on the use of mature defenses (Level 4) has shown that they lead to: 1) excellent adjustment as an adult, 2) happiness(by self-report), 3) job satisfaction, 4) rich friendships, 5) fewer medical hospitalizations over life, 6) better overall health;and 7) a lower incidence of mental illness.
OTOH, use of immature Defenses (Levels 1, 2, 3) is related to: 1) poor adjustment as an adult, 2) higher divorce rates and marital discord, 3) poor friendship patterns, 4) higher incidence of mental illness, 5) greater number of sick leave days taken, 6) poorer health generally.
You can see from some of the examples of these defenses I have chosen, that defense mechanisms are not limited to individuals. Societies also sometimes need to protect their self-images and cope with events in the world. They need to explain why their society is failing; why the ideologies or religions they embrace aren't successful in relieving their misery; why they are not as important in the world as they feel they should be, etc. etc.
Societies, like individuals, can adopt mature defenses and deal with reality; or they can deny reality and look elsewhere for the source of their problems. Many countries, like individuals, prefer to put the blame for their own failures onto an outside source, since that is safer for the self-image. A "healthy" country, like a healthy individual will evaluate the facts and utilize mature defenses to cope with and change the situation they find themselves in. They are not afraid of their aggressive impulses because those impulses are reigned in by reason and not indulged in lightly. When necessary, healthy societies look inward. When necessary, they focus outward... Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 10:30 AM

Socrates was a great teacher, because ironically he didn’t have an agenda to teach

What You Can Learn From the Timeless Philosophy of Socrates
Radical Thinking: October 8th, 2007 by Tejvan Pettinger
During his lifetime Socrates wrote nothing down. Yet his wisdom has formed the bedrock of western philosophy. Socrates was viewed as a great teacher. But he did not claim to be a teacher. In fact, he frequently said ‘all I know is that I know nothing’. By all accounts Socrates was both poor and ugly. Yet in a society that placed tremendous value on beauty and wealth, people of all classes were magnetically drawn to his teachings and enigmatic personality.
As he wrote nothing down, there is some dispute about what Socrates actually said. But, from the writings of Plato and others, we can gain a few glimpses into the character and ideals of this ancient sage and unique philosopher.
The Socratic Dialogue
Perhaps the most arresting feature of Socrates’ legacy is his unique method of teaching and arriving at the truth. Socrates didn’t claim the truth is this or the truth is that. He sought to question students in a way that would lead them to arrive at the truth themselves. Socrates frequently claimed to know nothing. Yet, if Socrates knew nothing, why were people so eager to hear him talk? The reason was that Socrates was able to make people reconsider their own ingrained ideas; Socrates had a way of making people think for themselves and consider truth from different angles.
This method of conversation incurred the ire of some people; they were not happy that Socrates was able to show the limitations of their thinking. Yet, the genius of the Socratic method was that he never had to directly tell people their inadequacies; they came to realise it themselves.
Independence of Thought
One of Socrates most admired traits was that he did not follow popular opinion. He questioned every orthodox belief and decided independently if it was worth pursuing. Socrates looked at issues from both perspectives; he did not allow himself to be tied down by religious, political, or social conventions.
This independence of thought and mind was particularly powerful given the forces of conformity predominant in Greek society. The importance he placed on independence of thought can be seen by his response to his trial and death. Socrates had numerous opportunities to flee; however, he didn’t wish to flee — he felt that escape would weaken his philosophic independence.
Socrates was also non dogmatic; he had friends with both Oligarchs and Democrats. At the same time, he had enemies in both parties; Socrates would never moderate his words to curry favour with others.
Interest in the Welfare of Others
Socrates spent most of his time wandering the streets of Athens, talking with people interested in discovering more about life. Socrates was a great teacher, because ironically he didn’t have an agenda to teach. He was not interested in imparting a certain dogma or attracting followers. He wanted people to think for themselves and consider the real nature of life and truth. As Socrates said to one student.”If you take my advice, you will give but little thought to Socrates but much more to the truth.” [1]
Socrates was not just a great talker, but also a great listener. It is this balance which set him apart from ordinary teachers who want only to lecture others.
Fear Not Death
“‘The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows”- Socrates [2]
The authorities felt threatened by the popularity and independent nature of Socrates and sought to have him silenced. The result was a travesty of justice; however, Socrates was able to meet his death with an enviable equanimity. Not only did Socrates maintain a philosophic calm, he also bore little anger or ill feeling to his judges who had unjustly tried him. He magnanimously said:
“I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.” [3]
It is easy for a philosopher to talk about the unreality of death, but the real test is how we respond when faced with it ourselves. The equanimity of Socrates suggests he lived the ideals he spoke of.
Self Control
Socrates once visited a palm reader. The palm reader looked at his hands and said to him: “so many undivine qualities you have: anger, pride, lust…”. His followers were furious — how could she say this about the great saint, Socrates?
Socrates replied, “Wait, let us see whether she has anything else to say.” The palm reader continued, “Yes, he has these qualities, but, he also has them under his complete control.” Like all people, Socrates had negative emotions and qualities but he was able to prevent them from controlling him.
Tolerance of Others
Socrates married Xanthippe, who was renowned for her irritating behaviour and quick temper. Socrates didn’t get upset about his wife’s negative qualities. Instead he saw it as an opportunity to develop tolerance, patience and humility. Socrates even made a joke of it saying, “As I intended to associate with all kinds of people, I thought nothing they could do would disturb me, once I had accustomed myself to bear the disposition of Xanthippe.” [4]
Outer Appearances Do Not Matter
It is said even by his admirers that Socrates was ugly. Reports suggest he was short, fat, and had a big nose. Yet, despite his unflattering looks, many eagerly sought his company for his wisdom, counsel and inspirational views on life. Despite an ugly outer countenance people saw in Socrates an inner beauty. As the aristocratic military genius Alcibiades said of Socrates “His nature is so beautiful, golden, divine.”
Socrates paid little attention to outer form. This doesn’t mean he could not appreciate beauty; however, as a true philosopher, it was his duty to see beyond the outer form.
Know Thyself
It is said that Socrates once visited the oracle of Delphi, where he was told the most important task in his life was to know his real self. To know the real self is perhaps the ultimate goal of philosophy. If we don’t know who we are, how can we solve the mysteries of life and help other people?
For Socrates knowing thyself was more than a mere intellectual quest. It was an idea that shaped his life and inner attitude. He was never satisfied with accepting outer appearances and conventional wisdom, but always strove for a deeper understanding of his real Self.
Above all, Socrates taught us not accept our existing thoughts as true. Step back and reevaluate the truth and veracity of your opinions and beliefs. Seek to know your real self and seek truth. It is a lofty philosophy, but one that has retained an enduring appeal and fascination through the ages.
Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He also offers mediation classes as a community service and updates a blog at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration a collection of articles on meditation and self improvement Welcome to PickTheBraina website focused on self improvement. We provide tips and advice to help you live a little smarter.

An amazing poetic logic to accomplish the miracle of tracing the entire course of this measureless evolution

Book of Fate—Narad comes chanting five songs by RY Deshpande on Sun 21 Oct 2007 09:56 PM PDT Permanent Link [Based on a talk given at Savitri Bhavan on 5 October 2006, Part I. A good deal of material presented here has been drawn from my book Narad’s Arrival at Madra.]
The cry of the Truth is the cry of the involved Being’s, the Being, the Purusha, locked up in bottomless pit of the Involution; it is that cry which is trying to emerge out of the Night. The wise dynamic Force with her feeling and concern for this Truth, and the working of the Idea though alienated from the Real,—they both are present in the mute breast of Nature. The result of these high involvements, the involvement of the Truth-Idea-Force, is the growth of consciousness that has presently arrived at the human stage. All this progress has taken place in Ignorance; but being the cry of the Truth itself, it shall proceed beyond it and step into the vasts of Knowledge. This in the very nature of things is inevitable, willed as it is in the eminence of the manifesting Real-Idea.

He sang of the glory and marvel still to be born,
Of Godhead throwing off at last its veil,
Of bodies made divine and life made bliss,
Immortal sweetness clasping immortal might,
Heart sensing heart, thought looking straight at thought,
And the delight when every barrier falls,
And the transfiguration and the ecstasy.

This is the fifth song Narad is singing when he is about to alight upon Earth. The theme is of the glory and marvel entering into the unfolding evolution. By this evolving soul are left behind the dreadful abysms of Ignorance and it is now ready to step into Knowledge; the broad vistas of Truth-Idea stretch invisibly on; the veil is getting thinner and thinner; the splendid possibility of divine Wonder living in Matter’s house has been unequivocally asserted. The life divine shall be real in the divine’s birth on earth. There is harmony and sweetness and joy; the involved Spirit has triumphed over the obduracy of the physical Nature. In the divine multitude’s oneness is the victory of the Spirit. Out of that shall arise a new and marvellous creation. Sad thoughts have become sweet songs. The long-suffering existence is now changing into a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever.

By the process of an amazing poetic logic, with the swift-running force of a narrative, revelatory with the power to realise what is revealed, the poet has accomplished the miracle of tracing the entire course of this measureless evolution, accomplished just with a few tens of lines the stupendous. Out of the Inconscience and the obscurity of Matter came first Life and then Mind; what is now expected is the glory and marvel of the divine birth, the gold-green organic birth of the name of Vishnu here. Such is the delightful song of Narad in the rasa of felicitous devotion, imbued with its bliss. This song has the entirety of sweetness to bring joy to the hostiles who have stood too long in the way of this growth of consciousness. They are happy that they will soon be vanquished in the greatness of the Spirit and that, in its victory, their horrendous task will get terminated; the product of the dark Inconscience shall be metamorphosed into its divine element.

And as he sang the demons wept with joy
Foreseeing the end of their long dreadful task
And the defeat for which they hoped in vain,
And glad release from their self-chosen doom
And return into the One from whom they came.

Evolution need not have been a painful process, explains Sri Aurobindo in one of his letters. But then a dark possibility could have been there, left unattended, remaining untapped, and it had to be worked out and exhausted, its potential turned into a divine opportunity. In this many-dimensional unfoldment of the divine delight the infinity of Inconscience had to be met in its full scope and operative might. In response to every descent that had occurred until now, it always threw answers antagonistically to distort it, if not destroy it. Therefore, triumphing over it means establishing a greater delight in mode of the very existence-consciousness itself. The demons now return into the supreme Origin from where they had come, back to the bright Womb of Creation. Thus is cleared the hazardless way for the evolution to grow from lesser knowledge to greater knowledge, to the widening infinity of knowledge. The miracle is of reaching, via the gainful Ignorance, the divine multitude by the mechanism offered by such an extraordinary possibility.

After a long journey from Paradise to Earth, Narad the heavenly sage now reaches his destination. His stadia on the way were: Heaven, World-Soul, Mind, Material Things, Earth and now he is here, on the banks of Alacananda, in the crown city of king Aswapati, Madra, flowering up in delicate stone. It is on one summer morning that Narad visits the king’s palace. After meeting the royal family he leaves the palace at noon, more importantly, after delivering the Word of Fate. He must have been here for about four or five hours of the morning. Wouldn’t that morning prove to be the auroral morning in the brightness of the topaz sun? Such is the beauty and charm of Savitri’s poetry.

This theory of evolution traced in Narad’s five songs, appears in different forms in different places in the epic’s narrative. We have a long description of it, a lucid and gorgeous essay in verse, when Savitri launches herself on the yogic journey exploring the inner depths of her being. (pp. 477-87) The first thing she notices is the cosmic past, moving through it as in a dream. She notices the shadowy beginnings of the world-fate, how from the indeterminate state creation took its first mysterious steps and how the human creature was born in Time. By the labour of the blind World-Energy a conscious being was made. “This is the little surface of man's life”, man who lives unknown to himself. And yet there is the ancient aspiration for God-Light-Freedom-Immortality:

Man in the world’s life works out the dreams of God.
But all is there, even God’s opposites;
He is a little front of Nature's works,
A thinking outline of a cryptic Force.

October 21, 2007

How this way of overcoming skepticism could leave us with anything as object of knowledge

Review - The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley by Kenneth P. Winkler Cambridge University Press, 2005
Review by Gabriele M. Mras, Ph.D. Oct 9th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 41)
The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley, edited by Kenneth Winkler, is an impressive collection of twelve articles about a philosopher whose work has all too often been regarded as resting on some basic confusions or even being plainly unintelligible. The peculiarity of Berkeley's "subjective idealism" makes it indeed hard to understand how this way of overcoming skepticism could leave us with anything as object of knowledge. That, in addition to Berkeley's conviction that that realism had to be given up, and so that all we ever perceive are ideas, that matter is mind dependent, and that there are no causal relations, represents a challenge to anybody seeking to expound Berkeley's views. One of the aims of this Cambridge Companion therefore, is to make understandable how common sense and the doctrine "esse est (aut) percipi" could be thought to go together. A further aim is to place Berkeley in the philosophical as well as the scientific contexts of the times in which he developed his philosophical theories.
These goals and the more general goals of the whole series as a whole are amply fulfilled. In the centre of this Companion (chapter 2 to chapter 7) there is an illuminating study of Berkeley's relationship to empiricism and rationalism (Chapter 2). two interesting essays about his theory of vision, and his account of "signs" (Chapter 4 and 5), an assessment of the "master argument" for immaterialism (Chapter 6), a brief account of what Berkeley held to be true of that which perceives (Chapter 7), as well as an informative outline and discussion of Berkeley's early views about, among other things, "extension", "substance", vision, and the distinction between primary and secondary qualities (Chapter 3).
These six essays taken altogether are not only worth studying because they give a good picture of Berkeley's relationship to "modern philosophy" -- by Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Malebranche -- whose account of our relationship to material objects he was so strongly opposed to. What they manage to bring any reader to appreciate is that Berkeley's views about vision, language, and thought in general have their source in philosophical puzzles that arose from 17th century empiricism but still are present in our current philosophical thinking. Michael Ayers in "Was Berkeley an empiricist or rationalist?" traces the philosophical problems 17th century and early 18th century philosophers faced and Berkeley's relationship to empiricist views about the sources of all knowledge. Berkeley's turn to immaterialism is illuminatingly explored by Ayers as a decision to break down the connection between empiricism and materialism in order to account for the explanatory function of experience which on his view was the only way to secure common sense. Kenneth Winkler in "Berkeley and the doctrine of signs", as Ayers before, traces the crucial role the criticism of "abstract ideas" plays for Berkeley's own understanding of what could count as objects of our thoughts. The representational picture of the mind takes "ideas" as that which enable thought to be about something. Berkeley's insight that neither by resemblance nor by the postulation of a causal dependency can "ideas" be said to be about material objects led him to an account of vision and language that is radically different from is radically different from Locke's theory of ideas, though indebted to it.
Berkeley's account of how our beliefs are about objects like "houses, mountains, rivers" is the main topic of Winkler's essay in which he offers an interpretation of Berkeley's account of language. He thereby suggests understanding Berkeley's concern with questions about generality of thought have led him to the assumption of "natural signs" instead of role "abstract ideas" which cannot fulfill that explanatory role. Whereas Winkler investigates the further metaphysical implications of taking "natural signs" as objects of conventional linguistic expressions, Margaret Atherton in "Berkeley's theory of vision and its reception" stresses the significance for his theory of vision of Berkeley's criticism of abstract ideas - their incapacity to account for the combination of different kinds of sensations. Both authors explore the dependence of Berkeley's theory of vision on his theory of signs. All these authors, as well as A.C. Grayling in his "Berkeley's argument for immaterialism", are far from defending the view that Berkeley's repudiation of abstract ideas implies metaphysical claims about what there is in the external world. It is thereby made clear that Berkeley's understanding of "ideas", and his distinction between two kinds of signs are seen as decisive steps in Berkeley's "core argument" for immaterialism but only in conjunction with further assumptions involving his views of "existence", "substance" and ultimately his religious convictions and objectives. All this shows is that Berkeley broad philosophical work should neither be reduced to one premise in his "argument" for immaterialism, nor should the premise itself -- "what we perceive are only ideas" -- be viewed as simple confusion between what is represented and the representing of it.
This Cambridge Companion deals, too, with a lot of issues that were of great of importance to Berkeley, such as moral and political questions, but also questions about the basis of scientific explanation. There is one essay that focuses on Berkeley's engagement with scientific questions in general in "Berkeley's natural philosophy and philosophy of science" (Lisa Downing, Chapter 8), a careful discussion of Berkeley's extensive criticism of Newton's and Leibniz' infinitesimal calculus in "Berkeley's philosophy of mathematics" (Douglas M. Jesseph, Chapter 9), and one essay "Berkeley's economic writings" by Patrick Kelly (Chapter 11). Stephen Darwall in "Berkeley's moral and political philosophy" and Stephen R.L. Clark in "Berkeley on religion" discuss the significance of Berkeley's defense of immaterialism for questions in moral philosophy and religion (chapter 10 and chapter 12). At the very beginning there is an interesting and quite balanced account of Berkeley's personality and life by David Berman "Berkeley's life and works", showing him as philosopher that was engaged with a variety of much diverse projects.
The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley is an excellent volume, covering a wide range of topics -- from metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues to his philosophy of mathematics and natural science, as for sure his deep concern for religious matters. It will be helpful to students and of great interest to Berkeley scholars. © 2007 Gabriele M. Mras
Gabriele M. Mras, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, Philosophy Division, Vienna University of Economics

A man who simply encouraged critical thinking

Socrates taught his students to question the validity of virtually everything. He never claimed to be a teacher of truth but just a learner himself. His method of teaching was dialectical. It was a method whereby he posited questions and his students tried to find the answers on their own through discussions and debates. Hence, syntheses of ideas were formed from theses and anti-theses.
One of the many things that Socrates questioned was the polytheist religion of his time. The rich Greek mythology that we know today was formerly a religion that was believed by many. Socrates doubted the existence of the Greek gods and the many stories related to them. He asked if the gods really do exist or they were mere personification of the forces of nature invented by humans and given human attributes.
However, Socrates was far from being an atheist. Nonetheless, his religion was more rationally-based and morally superior than the polytheist religion of his time. He was a Deist. He strongly influenced Aristotle’s idea of the “transcendent unmoved-mover.” Socrates hinted the idea of a supreme being who created the cosmos. On the other hand, when it comes to ethics, Socrates’ adhere to the principle of the summum bonum or supreme good. This principle is sometimes corrupted to the idea of greatest good for the greatest number. Socrates religious and moral philosophy were more akin to the Christian philosophy. In fact, a significant number of theological ideas of Christianity were based on the teachings of Socrates and other ancient Greek Philosophers. The great triumvirate of ancient philosophy was composed of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle... Posted by Homar Murillo at 1:32 AM

Suspect the integralists and the post-humanists

Re: The Athenians and the Visigoths and the Modern Gurus
by RY Deshpande on Sat 20 Oct 2007 06:47 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
There are modern gurus who tell us to forget all that old Wisdom, kind of useless Wisdom, and recognize the fact that today we live in a Quantum world, that this is a world in which everything is connected with everything else which the ancients didn’t know. Forget about Socrates and Plato and Aristotle and espouse the integralists and the post-humanists, look for the spiritual masters who are living amongst us. But will or can the quantum Wisdom take care of the modern Visigoths?
Fundamentally, it is not a question of ancient or modern Wisdom, of the classical or quantum Wisdom; it is the question of Wisdom itself, the Ageless. In our universities and cultural centres what is expected is the promotion of this ageless Wisdom. Athenianism is that quality, that ageless Wisdom, and the regret is we are forgetting it. Art and craft and skill and perfection should not mean dismissing thought and intuition and the possibilities of brighter visions. They should not be one against the other, even as they complement each other in a greater fulfilment.
I remember William Shockley, one of the inventors of transistor, who had given an apt phrase in a slightly different but pertinent context. He bemoaned, to paraphrase him, the Brahmins of Physics looking down upon the Shudras of Technology who in turn were wasteful outcastes in the Industry. He called Technology as the “Excluded Optimum”, desirable at both the ends of the spectrum—Wisdom and Wealth—but loathed and disdained by both. We have to have W-T-W.
But we are making Maheshwari and Mahasaraswati as competitors to promote Mahalakshmi in our educational institutions and that is unfortunate. Indeed, all the Four Powers, Maheshwari-Mahakali-Mahalakshmi-Mahasaraswati should work together in the cosmic scheme and it is in that perfection that the higher powers can enter into the evolutionary process. RYD

October 20, 2007

What The Mother and Sri Aurobindo teach flies in the face of both modernity and premodernity, materialism and Traditionalism

Recently I have been reading a lot more of Traditionalist literature, i.e. Frithjof Schuon, Rene Guenon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and others of the perennial philosophy school of thought. My favourite is Schuon, a brilliant metaphysician, but who nevertheless does not seem to understand science at all. Mark Sedgwick’s book Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century talks about the Traditionalist involvement in various political movements during the 20th century, including various fascist movements. However, although some Traditionalists were certainly neo-fascists — Julius Evola, for instance — not all of them were, and it seems to me, really, that Schuon and Guenon were largely apolitical. Moreover, to be fair, reactionaries like Evola would be considered an embarrassment to people like Schuon because he tried to subordinate contemplation to action, thereby allowing for impulsive action rather than detached action which is the dictum of such scriptures as the Bhagavad-Gita.
Traditionalism is largely premised on the duality between Creator and creation which cannot be overcome within the manifest universe itself. Spirit is generally considered “good” and matter is considered “fallen” or “evil”, and is irredeemable. The manifest universe therefore has a divinely-ordained hierarchy built into it. Traditionalists are romantics, and are anti-modernity, anti-science, anti-evolution, and at times it seems to me, also anti-woman (which may have something to do with the fact that “nature” or the material world, is seen as “feminine”). The duality between Creator and creation is seen as a permanent fixture of the manifest universe, and so too, therefore, is the duality between man and woman. Traditionalism is largely patriarchal, and justifies patriarchy through a cosmology that sees the marriage between man and woman as reflective of that between Creator and creation...
Anyhow, in my view Traditionalism, while correct in its affirmation of metaphysics and its emphasis on finding man’s spiritual nature through contemplative practices, does itself no favours by rejecting modernity and its insights, especially evolution. It is moreover totally incompatible with the modern concept of the individual. Traditionalism also seems to me to be as much a creation of modernity as anything else — a “living tradition” would always avoid any “-ism” or fixed ideology. See my post, Why I am not (Just) a Traditionalist. Mark Koslow, a former member of Schuon’s spiritual order, has a website critiquing spirituality, but on closer reading it is actually mainly critiquing the Traditionalist conception of spirituality, which seekers of nonduality and integralism would actually appreciate.
The way I sum it up is to say that Traditionalism seems to want to resign to the dualistic nature of the manifest universe and just accept it the way it is, whereas modernity wants to pretend that no dualities exist in the first place and to remain in drastic denial of them. However, there is a perspective that neither denies dualities nor says we have to resign ourselves to them, and that is the integral perspective of Mother and Sri Aurobindo (and others also, but they put it forth most fully).
What Mother and Sri Aurobindo teach flies in the face of both modernity and premodernity, materialism and Traditionalism — or, at any rate, includes and transcends both. What they teach is that the Divine is hidden in matter itself, but that matter’s inconscience veils this from us. Therein lies the secret to transcending the dualities of the manifest universe. (For this reason Traditionalists openly disdain Sri Aurobindo, e.g. Seyyed Hossein Nasr relegates Sri Aurobindo’s brilliant synthesis to a mere footnote in his book Knowledge and the Sacred.)

October 19, 2007

The Brahmi script was the ancestor of all South Asian writing systems

Brahmi Quick Facts: Type Syllabic Alphabetic, Genealogy Brahmi, Location South Asia, Time 5th century BCE to 4th century CE, Direction Variable (Horizontal)
The Brahmi script is one of the most important writing systems in the world by virtue of its time depth and influence. It represents the earliest post-Indus corpus of texts, and some of the earliest historical inscriptions found in India. Most importantly, it is the ancestor to hundreds of scripts found in South, Southeast, and East Asia.
This elegant script appeared in India most certainly by the 5th century BCE, but the fact that it had many local variants even in the early texts suggests that its origin lies further back in time. There are several theories on to the origin of the Brahmi script.
  • The first theory is that Brahmi has a West Semitic origin. For instance, the symbol for a resembles Semitic letter 'alif. Similarly, dha, tha, la, and ra all appear quite close to their Semitic counterparts.
  • Another theory, from a slightly different school of thought, proposes a Southern Semitic origin.
  • Finally, the third theory holds that the Brahmi script came from Indus Valley Script.

However, at least in my personal opinion, the lack of any textual evidence between the end of the Harappan period at around 1900 BC and the first Brahmi and Kharoshthi inscriptions at roughly 500 BC makes the Indus origin of Brahmi highly unlikely. Yet on the other hand, the way Brahmi, and its relative Kharosthi, works is quite different from Semitic scripts, and may point to either a stimulus-diffusion or even indigenous origin. The situation is complex and confusing, and more research should be conducted to either prove or disprove any of the theories.

Brahmi is a "syllabic alphabet", meaning that each sign can be either a simple consonant or a syllable with the consonant and the inherent vowel /a/. Other syllabic alphabets outside of South Asia include Old Persian and Meroïtic. However, unlike these two system, Brahmi (and all subsequent Brahmi-derived scripts) indicates the same consonant with a different vowel by drawing extra strokes, called matras, attached to the character. Ligatures are used to indicate consonant clusters.
The following chart is the basic Brahmi script. There are many variations to the basic letter form, but I have simplified it here so that the most canonical shape is presented....And an example of strokes added to indicate different vowels following the consonants /k/ and /l/.

The Brahmi script was the ancestor of all South Asian writing systems. In addition, many East and Southeast Asian scripts, such as Burmese, Thai, Tibetan, and even Japanese to a very small extent (vowel order), were also ultimately derived from the Brahmi script. Thus the Brahmi script was the Indian equivalent of the Greek script that gave arise to a host of different systems. You can take a look at the evolution of Indian scripts, or the evolution of Southeast Asian scripts. Both of these pages are located at the very impressive site Languages and Scripts of India. You can also take a look at Asoka's edict at Girnar, inscribed in the Brahmi script. Related links: Languages and Scripts of India Eden's Page: Scripts of all of Asia Copyright © 1996-2007, Lawrence Lo. All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2007

These Suns are not mere metaphors, just descriptive; they are functional, they are creative powers

Re: Book of Fate: Below him burned the myriad suns
by RY Deshpande on Wed 17 Oct 2007 04:33 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link Dear Angelo Your question about the line “Whose creative slumber kindles the suns” in the following passage on p, 1 of Savitri
As in a dark beginning of all things, A mute featureless semblance of the Unknown Repeating for ever the unconscious act, Prolonging for ever the unseeing will, Cradled the cosmic drowse of ignorant Force Whose moved creative slumber kindles the suns And carries our lives in its somnambulist whirl.
is of course connected with the dark beginnings of things. The Symbol Dawn opens with it, the commencement of this creation. We have in it a cluster of phrases describing in various ways what actually happened at that sombre moment: “tenebrous womb”, “dark beginning of all things”, “unconscious act”, “unseeing will”, “cosmic drowse”, ignorant Force”, “somnambulist whirl”, “shadow spinning in the soulless Void”, and so on. This is the “last Nothingness” from which has to come the intended manifestation. But this “Nothingness” is different from the “first Nothingness”, the Non-Manifest, Avyakta, the unexpressed Absolute. The “last Nothingness”, the Unmanifest, is kind of negative Absolute, and has in it present the inconscient Self and the blind somnambulist Force, Achetana Purusha and the Andhah Prakriti. So, whatever has to happen will happen by the workings of this unseeing Prakriti, Nature, and it happens or will happen only because there is present behind it the supporting inconscient Will of the inconscient Being or Purusha. This pair we meet also in the passage pertaining to Narad’s arrival on earth (p. 415)
He passed from Mind into material things Amid the inventions of the inconscient Self And the workings of a blind somnambulist Force.
Therefore it is this “ignorant” or the “blind somnambulist Force”, who is going to kindle the suns in her creative slumber. Note that the action is the action of kindling, kindling of the suns who are in their dark states, the unexpressed potentials, potentials which can flame up, blaze. The same sense is present in the other passage I have quoted as another example of the “suns” as plural in Savitri: (p. 314)
She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire. The luminous heart of the Unknown is she, A power of silence in the depths of God; She is the Force, the inevitable Word, The magnet of our difficult ascent, The Sun from which we kindle all our suns, The Light that leans from the unrealised Vasts, The joy that beckons from the impossible, The Might of all that never yet came down.
“The Sun from which we kindle all our suns,”—again the suns are there but they have to be kindled. But what is meant by “kindling”? The stars in scientific astronomy are kindled by the force of gravity, the ubiquitous force that cannot be dissolved, eliminated, gravitational collapse leading to rise in temperature to a point when the thermonuclear fusion can set in, gravity acting as a matchstick or the lighter. But then they will have the sense of the stars and not of the suns.
In the language of the mystics, the Suns or the Vedic Adityas represent certain qualities and cosmic functions, certain powers, personalities, living godheads active in their roles. I have briefly indicated these in the article. Thus Love and Light are represented by the Sun as Mitra. In the form of Bhaga he is the Lord of Enjoyment, as the Increaser, he becomes Pushan. These Suns are not mere metaphors, just descriptive; they are functional, they are powers, creative powers operating in the scheme of things. The suns are possibly, as I said, the sun of knowledge, the sun of joy, the sun of beauty, of love, passion, strength, wisdom, skill, perfection, harmony; there are the myriad suns.
There are five Suns of Poetry,—the Sun of Truth, the Sun of Beauty, the Sun of Delight, the Sun of Life, and the Sun of the Spirit. But let us not take them in their abstract sense, even as they are powers and personalities. I am avoiding describing them as deities, which they are, but not in the religious sense just to be worshipped; their aspects have to be imbibed. Sun as the creator brings out one or the other faculty and it is that which is being done, somnambulistically, by the ignorant Force. They are present there, dormantly, and she is the one in her long travail kindling them slowly. So shall they become manifest in their authentic blaze and glory, a long process for which she works tirelessly, works through the sempiternal ages.
I don’t know if this answers your question, but perhaps that is one way of looking at things. Thanks for your interest in the subject and the keenness with which you are following it. RYD

Read the epics in the native tongue

Here’s Mortimer Adler, from his treatise, How to Read a Book (ch. 15):
Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton — they are the authors that every good poet, to say nothing of other writers, has read. Along with the Bible, they constitute the backbone of any serious reading program.
And, I would humbly add, the backbone of the Western wisdom tradition. So, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and the Old and New Testaments — the major epic poems of the West — are the grammar (or rudiments) of Great Artistry, from the transdisciplinary level. Note that to read each in the native tongue — which is self-evidently desirable — would mean learning Ancient and Koine Greek, Latin, Tuscan Italian, and Biblical Hebrew (on top of knowing English, of course). And the study of these works in each’s native tongue doesn’t comprise the standard for genuine education in today’s world, why?

Milton’s Sankhya

Book of Fate—Narad shares identity with the dumb spirit
by RY Deshpande on Tue 16 Oct 2007 05:17 PM PDT Permanent Link [Based on a talk given at Savitri Bhavan on 13 April 2006—Part III. A good deal of material presented here has been drawn from my book Narad’s Arrival at Madra.]
Narad has no idea about these aspects, of the materialisation of the psychic being, and the additional Chakras, though he is quite aware of the “dangerous brink”, of the moment when all will be won or all will be lost for man. Narad is a spiritual being stationed high above, very high above, bordering on the supramental; he is essentially an overmental being and his concern, his operation is in that relationship only, in its possibilities. In fact, had he been a supramental being he would not have been able to come here, visit Aswapati. That process of materialization is not yet available.

We have to perhaps read implications of some of these clues in the reverse process of Narad’s communion with the dense Matter:

Into solid Matter’s dense communion
Plunging and its obscure oneness of forms
He shared with a dumb Spirit identity.

Spirit’s identification with Matter means, it becomes the Upanishadic Food, Anna, the base which supports material things. In another experience, it is the Eucharistic Bread and Wine. Participating in the holy sacrament is a communion which could be of different degrees. In the causal Matter the communion would be creative and nourishing and dynamic, Spirit and Substance flowing into each other, the former energising and the latter determining and moulding the potent expressive urges; there would be an intimate and firm identity. On the other hand, in solid Matter which is weighed heavily by the Inconscience, the communion would be clumsy, onerous, burdensome, uncertain. The character of Matter at this stage is, apart from its gravity, one of obscurity. This can be seen in contrast to communion and oneness of the gnostic being with the Creator within him where the relations of gnostic being with gnostic being are an “expression of their one gnostic self and supernature shaping into a significant power and form of itself the whole common substance.” (The Life Divine, p. 978) Presently, the dense communion is with the dumb Spirit. Narad shares it when he comes down to this last stage in his descent from Paradise; his identity with the obscure oneness of form is the dumb Spirit’s.

There is an interesting point made by Milton, as to how the elements change into each other. This pertains to the visit of Raphael to Adam in the Garden of Eden; the visit was to warn Adam about the danger that may come to the new creation under temptation. He was specifically sent “to render Man inexcusable, to admonish him of his obedience, of his free estate, of his enemy near at hand.” Adam sees him descending on his Paradise and tells Eve to welcome him with a feast in his honour. While they are having a sumptuous dinner, the Angel gives details to Adam about the process of transubstantiation and how the corporeal becomes ethereal. Incidentally, we may remark that, whereas Raphael’s forewarning remained unheeded, the parallel situation in Sri Aurobindo’s epic pertaining to Narad’s visit on the wings of the divine inspiration initiated Savitri into Yoga to meet the eventuality of the death of Satyavan. Savitri’s positive thrust is reassuring.

In the Garden of Eden, as the feast prepared by Eve was being enjoyed, Raphael explains in minute details how the corporeal turns into the incorporeal: (Paradise Lost, Book V)

…Therefore what he gives
(Whose praise be ever sung) to man in part
Spiritual, may of purest Spirits be found
No ingrateful food: and food alike those pure
Intelligential substances require
As doth your Rational; and both contain
Within them every lower facultie
Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste,
Tasting concoct, digest, assimilate,
And corporeal to incorporeal turn.
For know, whatever was created, needs
To be sustained and fed; of Elements
The grosser feeds the purer, Earth the Sea,
Earth and Sea feed Air, the Air those Fires
Ethereal, and as lowest first the Moon…

Milton’s description is partly Platonic, partly Christian-theological. But what is missed in all these formulations is the force of Nature deployed by the great Agent to produce the material world, a world though in likeness one with him yet, being a creation, somewhat different from him. Milton’s Sankhya, more specifically, speaks of the corporeal turning into the incorporeal through the process of concoction, digestion and assimilation of material alimentation; but we are not told anything if the reverse is at all possible. This is important in the context of Narad’s present appearance in a physical body. Did Raphael appear in the Garden of Eden the way Narad had when he paid a visit to Aswapati, through the Sankhya procedure of materialisation? If Adam and Eve were in flesh and blood, like us, Raphael ought to have undergone the same transmutation in establishing communion with matter. But nothing is told to us about it. Narad’s undertaking through the soul-space, and then through the five elemental stages, finally leads him to identification with the dense earthly stuff; herein the subtle becomes the gross. If we are to get some understanding of this process, then we will have to go to the theories of the material creation of the Indian tradition having their profound beginnings in the Veda. In these systems the five elements are actually the five causal evolutionary stages through which the boundless creative Energy evolves itself in terms of the manifest universe. The Sankhya gives the description of Purusha and Prakriti in this context. It might be surmised that some of these ancient Indian ideas had travelled to other countries in the course of early unknown history, but in those countries the full context remained disjointed.

There is a truth in the idea of transubstantiation though the modern mind thinks that it contradicts common sense. Of course, it does; but the modern mind has no capacity to get to the profundity of its truth. Nor can it be called a miracle, simply because we cannot comprehend the occult of it. The doctrine claims that the bread and wine used in the communion ceremony is changed in substance, so that what is bread and wine to all the senses is, in fact, the body and blood of Christ. What a wonderful possibility opened out if only we can grasp its deeper and truer esotericism, its mystic-spiritual significance! In it is the hope of the substance changing into that of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ himself. In it is indeed the Real Presence. When we do not know the process, to us it looks to be a mystery; when it does happen without our coming to know of it, it appears to be a miracle. But reason should admit that there are things beyond reason, that it should be reasonable to itself. Hamlet-like, we have to hold that there are things in earth and heaven we can hardly imagine.

Let us read St. John 6:

By the miracles of the loaves and fishes and of walking upon the waters, on the previous day, Christ not only prepared his hearers for the sublime discourse containing the promise of the Eucharist, but also proved to them that he possessed, as Almighty God-man, a power superior to and independent of the laws of nature, and could, therefore, provide such a supernatural food, none other, in fact, than his own flesh and blood.

But it seems that, regarding transubstantiation, Christ was talking more of the future possibility than of an immediate event leading to the transformation of the physical body. The threefold food is the feast of tomorrow and not of the present. Moses dispensed Manna; the heavenly Father is the bread of Heaven, Christ himself offering later his true flesh and blood. That will be the Holy Communion in the fulfilment of the Eucharist ritual, if we are to say in that manner. That will be the Real Presence declared in “This is my body—This is my blood.” In it are included all the three, Body and Soul and Divinity. Such is the concept totally beyond Grecian formulations, and of course beyond the rational mind of our own time. It is even said: “St. Augustine was deprived of a clear conception of Transubstantiation, so long as he was held in the bonds of Platonism.” One can well understand this. Nor is it just conversion, a change or transmutation from one into another, but transformation itself. In it the substance itself undergoes a fundamental metamorphosis. In it is the commune tertium, in it is the substantial union of materia prima and forma substantialis.

It is because the Spirit identifies itself with Matter that Matter has hope. What is the hope, therefore, Narad is bringing to us? But he brings the Word of Fate. By his action he sets free the spring of providence, of the cosmic Future. Such a vast action is in his identity with the destiny of the earth. It is to promote this destiny that he rushes to Madra to meet Savitri and her parents. Narad shares identity with the obscurity of Matter and, as he has done that, there is hope that the see-saw game will stop and the glory and the marvel usher in a new day, the Everlasting Day.

The heavenly sage from Paradise has accomplished his task: he has delivered the Word of Fate; he has justified the ways of God to Man, proclaimed the bright prospects of the ecstasy and the transfiguration. He had timed his visit well, reaching Aswapati’s palace in Madra just one hour before the return of the jubilant dreamy princess, after making the discovery of her love in the distant land. Narad has done his job; he has done his job ably, competently, with finesse, and now he is ready to depart, he is ready to go back to his home in Paradise, his far-off home away from mortal sight. (Savitri, p. 462)

He spoke and ceased and left the earthly scene.
Away from the strife and suffering on our globe,
He turned towards his far-off blissful home.
A brilliant arrow pointing straight to heaven,
The luminous body of the eternal seer
Assailed the purple glory of the noon
And disappeared like a receding star…

He has gone back to his abode in Paradise with the epic speed of sight and sound. But the stamp of his mission is permanent in the spiritual chronicles of the earth. He has gone, swift like a golden arrow, but still

A high and far imperishable voice
Chanted the anthem of eternal love.

Having completed his mission, which is a threefold assignment, the sage goes back to his happy and agreeable country, iştam deśam, as the Mahabharata would say. He must have resorted to the same technique by which he had prepared his physical form when he arrived in the palace. The dissolution of that form must be by the reverse Sankhya process of materialisation. Again, Sankhya must enter into the process.

On his way to the earth Narad sang five songs. During the return journey it is the anthem of eternal love that he is singing. While coming down he saw the cosmic Being, Virat Purusha, at his cosmic task. He sang of Ignorance and Fate; he sang the name of Vishnu and the birth; he sang of darkness yearning towards the eternal Light, and death that climbs to immortality; he sang of the Truth that cries from Night’s blind deeps, and consciousness waking in beasts and men;

He sang of the glory and marvel still to be born,
Of Godhead throwing off at last its veil,
Of bodies made divine and life made bliss,
Immortal sweetness clasping immortal might,
Heart sensing heart, thought looking straight at thought,
And the delight when every barrier falls,
And the transfiguration and the ecstasy.

And as he sang the demons wept with joy
Foreseeing the end of their long dreadful task
And the defeat for which they hoped in vain,
And glad release from their self-chosen doom
And return into the One from whom they came.

The four great Asuras who had gone very far away from the Supreme, who had separated themselves from the Supreme, are now happy to return to the Supreme. Narad is singing the arrival of such a moment. Such is the power of Narad’s song, that the demons should weep with joy. When did he compose that song? Or who composed that song for him? We do not know. How long it must have taken for Narad to sing the five songs? Perhaps four hours. Could that be the time Narad had taken to travel from his home in Paradise to Aswapati’s palace? Could that be the time for a spiritual being to become the mental-physical, manomaya, upon earth? But let me leave these questions for you to answer. At the time of his departure he simply says: Let noble and auspicious things be to all! sarvéşām bhadram astu vah! Let us simply say, Salutations to Narad! Salutations to Narad! Keywords: SriAurobindo, SCIY, Savitri, Poetry, Gita Posted to: Main Page .. Poetry INTEGRAL YOGA IY PHILOSOPHY SRI AUROBINDO .. 'Savitri' A Spiritual Biography of Savitri ZAADZ RELATED 11:09 AM