October 15, 2007

Sri Aurobindo's influence in Western thought has been far reaching

While many writers and thinkers could be chosen to discuss the emergence of this new level of human consciousness, the writings of two have had a most profound impact on me personally. These two seem somehow "essential" in that they articulate the core of what this revolution is about. -- Matt Wesley
A. Whitehead
In 1927/1928 a brilliant mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, delivered the Gifford lecture series in what was eventually collected in the book Process and Reality. This book is very tough sledding, made even more so by the fact that Whitehead never bothered to polish his lecture notes. The process cosmology elaborated in these lectures proposes that the fundamental elements of the universe are in process as occasions of experience. According to this notion, what people commonly think of as concrete objects are actually processes. Occasions of experience can be collected into groupings; something complex such as a human being is thus a grouping (or nexus) of many smaller occasions of experience. According to Whitehead, everything in the universe is characterized by experience (which is not to be confused with consciousness); there is no mind-body duality under this system, because "mind" is simply seen as a very developed kind of experiencing while "body" is a lower order process. Whitehead's occasions of experience are interrelated with every other occasion of experience that precedes it in time. Inherent to Whitehead's conception is the notion of time’s directionality; all experiences are influenced by prior experiences, and will influence future experiences. An occasion of experience consists of a process of prehending other experiences, and then a reaction to it.
By application of his ideas, Whitehead is able to fundamentally reconcile a number of very difficult Western philosophical problems in unique and compelling ways. His solution – when stripped down, look profoundly Eastern – reality, as we perceive it, simply arises as processes – that being is a potential for becoming. Because of its density, this book has not seeped into popular conceptions, but it is the first and most profound attempt at a post-Kantian philosophic cosmology after Einstein. Whitehead essentially provides the intellectual freight needed to ground much of the intuitive insight expressed by the Continental existentialists and to a lesser extent the German Idealists, who were otherwise too easily dismissed by more rigorous approaches. It is not so easy to dismiss Whitehead.
B. Aurobindo
In India, between 1914 to 1949, a western educated Indian mystic and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, wrote a series of articles that would eventually be collected into book – “The Life Divine”. He realized that Einstein and the developments of Quantum physics pointed the way to a reconciliation of Eastern and Western thought and that it was possible for human beings to perceive the world in way that brought reason and subjective experience together. In his book The Life Divine, he posited that humans represent a apex of evolution to date and that they are uniquely situated to lead a spiritual life. By this he meant that Matter and Spirit are met in human consciousness. He posited that the purpose of existence is to discover the latent spirit in all things and release infuse and elevate all of life by application of higher forms of human and transpersonal consciousness. The importance of Aurobindo cannot be overstated. His influence in Western thought has been far reaching through the seminal work of Allan Watts, Aldous Huxley, the Beat Movement. Indeed, the entire gestalt of the 1960’s (and New Consciousness thinking) was fundamentally shaped by his work. Whether people recognize the lineage or not, most progressive thinking in the Western world since then has been significantly influenced by his work.
Based on these two pillars of early 20th Century thought, as well as some sother ignficiant writers, I have begun to develop a personal metaphysics. Posted by Matt Wesley at 9:39 AM Labels: , ,

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