September 28, 2008

Proust by asserting that “the true hawthorns are those of the past”, paints the essence of a mythical time, a time “prior to time”

Post-interpretation from The Joyful Knowing by Mike Johnduff

Quentin Skinner, the brilliant and extremely charming historian at Cambridge, has just delivered a neat lecture that pretty much explains what I was trying to get at a while ago: how Foucault would reply, frustrated, to Derrida. Rehearsing many of Derrida's arguments, marrying them with nice, clear analytic language, Skinner in "Is It Still Possible to Interpret Texts?" (The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Volume 89, Issue 3, Date: June 2008) tries to ask if we can interpret anything anymore: in short, what the use of hermeneutics is in a post-hermeneutic world, a world subjected to the Derridian critique.

His only mistake--but it is a really, really crucial one (and I think I was making it too until recently)--might be thinking that Derrida, and not Foucault, is really trying to kill off hermeneutics. Derrida wants to use hermeneutics at that point where it collapses: that is, use it otherwise. So describing him as someone who levies a critique against hermeneutics is way off the mark...Posted by Mike Johnduff What is written about: ,

Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, depth, and the body, concluded
from The Joyful Knowing by Mike Johnduff

I ended my last post by saying that Merleau-Ponty, in his working notes, outlines two notions of the invisible in order to clarify its relationship to the visible. The invisible, which we tried phenomenologically to specify as that sort of reversibility of the seeing-seen relationship, or touching-touched relationship (when I touch my hand touching something, as Husserl said, suddenly I feel the... [6:27 PM]

Proust was a Neuroscientist: N.Y. Times Review
from Science, Culture and Integral Yoga™ by Rich

Since the subject of memory, interpretation and the possibility of the truth telling of history has been raised it seems like good time for a supporting reference both from the arts and sciences

Not only this but Lehrer's book, which I just finished is also heartening in that it opens a possibility of a 4th culture.

If C.P. Snow in 1959 proposed a 3rd culture enjoining the arts and sciences to date this 3rd culture has been dominated by scientist examining the arts with causality still being reduced to physical processes.

Third cultural writings are considered those by such authors as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks, V.S. Ramachandran, Steve Weinberg, Mitchio Kaku. E.O. Wilson et al. Although certainly thought provocative and entertaining the works of the above authors fail to achieve a harmonizing of artistic and scientific cultures because they ultimately privilege science. Lehrer who is equally skilled in science attempts to rebalance the situation in which the Arts are equally as important to the narration of what we call reality.

To gather a posse together to cause harm to the author is surely deplorable and such acts ought to be condemned unequivocally

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Debashish on Sat 27 Sep 2008 09:41 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rakesh, Have you read the book?

In all this hype against "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" and the questions raised regarding the factuality of its descriptions, "taking liberties about events", etc. the fundamental and basic question on reading skills needs to be first answered. The tenor of this discussion is so familiar as the development of a kind of mob mentality, where a large number of people are ready to lynch someone based on a few flying snippets of purported wrong-doing, but when you question the individuals in the mob, not more than one in a hundred has first hand knowledge of what has happened. It is interesting and amusing how much time, energy and emotion people are anxious to expend without bothering to form a considered judgment based on experience and study. If I saw even a few adequate quotes (not partial and distorted excerpts) along with footnotes as actually carried in the text, I could have at least found some matter of interest in this discussion.

Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs
by Rich on September 27, 2008 10:09AM (PDT) Permanent Link

There is a movement of folks in Pondicherry who are so upset by the biography that Peter Heehs has written entitled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo that they have instigated a movement to discredit the author. Some people have even become so embolden as to try and have him ejected from the Ashram itself. The folks who have spurred this on have in the course of their attacks on Mr. Heehs openly distorted his text by decontextualizing portions of it or by a series of selective omissions to make it suit their own interpretation of events that facilitate their own story they wish to tell.

Because of this movement I have decided to post all the portions of the text that have been decontextualized or omitted and reprint them with corrections to demonstrate how the text from the book actually reads in its entire context. The portions of the text that have been lifted to suit the purposes of those with an agenda against the author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo are in black, the missing portions of the text that are needed to give the entire context of the narrative are in red. As everyone will see there is a lot of red in the text.: more » Leave Comment Permanent Link

Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Vikas on Sat 27 Sep 2008 12:08 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rich "I dont think it serves any constructive purpose to try and and gather a posse together to cause harm to the author of a work they do not agree with".

Ofcourse. "To gather a posse together to cause harm to the author" is surely deplorable and such acts ought to be condemned unequivocally. We are agreed on that...

Neither Mother nor Sri Aurobindo told him to write a biography to appeal to the academia much less write it from a "perspective of the secular historian", "in keeping with the academic style" which compelled him to twist the truth to prevent failure of his project...

This need not necessarily be a misdirected reaction of a mere emotional or devotional fervour. Reflect upon this. I think we should discuss this no further because of the controversial nature of the subject. Vikas

Reply by Rich on Sat 27 Sep 2008 04:17 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rich: And are you in such privileged communication with Mother and Sri Aurobindo that they told you that you should denounce this biography? Or did you choose to write these comments just as PH chose to write his biography? ...

Rich: And so are you claiming to be the sole possessor of truth in the matter? as I said in my comment to Rakesh, the story of history is the story of interpretations. It seems like the folks denouncing the book in question assume they are the only ones in possession of the 'Truth". There seems to me to be a fair amount of hubris in making this claim, that seems contrary to the humility required of those claiming to be sadhaks.

Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Debashish on Sat 27 Sep 2008 01:54 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Vikas, You raise an interesting point here that bears deeper consideration. On the issue of taking Sri Aurobindo's espousal of the acceptance of the Cripp's proposal as something which would have averted the partition "with a grain of salt", you make it appear that this is the expression of a falsehood on Peter's part. Why is this a falsehood? Is it because:

(1) Peter is a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and disciples have to take all that their guru says as "gospel truth" and anything they may say which casts doubt on the guru's words is a falsehood? or (2) Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are the Divine, are avatars, and everything that they say is therefore truth and so, to question whatever they say is a falsehood - or (3) Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as yogis are in possession of an infallible source of knowledge and therefore anything that casts doubt on this is a falsehood? - or - (4) Am I missing something?

(1) certainly cannot hold water. In guruvada, one must follow the injunctions of one's guru, but one need not therefore eschew a "grain of salt" until one arrives at knowledge. This is evidenced by Sri Aurobindo himself in his attitude towards Lele's words, when he was told that thoughts come from the outside. Sri Aurobindo tells us that he found the notion outlandish, but that he gave it a try as a possibility. A disciple may very well follow an inner process leading to knowledge, which includes questioning. Given that the spiritual journey is a matter between disciple and guru, to dictate from the outside what a disciple should or should not consider "true" is rather inquisitional, I feel.

(2) would be possible, if there was anywhere in the writings of Sri Aurobindo or the Mother both the claims that (a) they were avatars and (b) whatever avatars express in their lifetimes is to be taken as 100% truth. Whatever case can be made for (a), I have not found any evidence for (b) in my readings. If you can provide some sources, I would be happy to consider the proposition.

As for (3), while we know that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were attempting to realize the supramental consciousness, which alone according to both of them, gave absolute certainty about anything, we also know by their own telling, that they had not realized this consciousness integrally or were not in possession of it at all times. Hence, unless any of us have an identical consciousness as either of them at the time of the utterance of a statement and can assert that it was said from the supramental consciousness, or unless they make it clear that the statement is made from the plane of truth-consciousness, it is possible for an individual, even a disciple, to hold its truth-content in question, until verified in experience. You or I may have a different threshold of disbelief, but one cannot expect everyone to accept all things said by even supreme yogis as "truth" unless it is unquestionably from the plane of truth-consciousness. DB

September 27, 2008

I apologize if the fact I have posed the question has caused anyone to feel that their guru has been disrespected

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Respect for spiritual master from Srimad Bhagavatamby Rich on Fri 26 Sep 2008 08:14 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rakesh, Your points are well taken, of course it is only natural to spontaneously respect ones dear ones and be devoted to them. However this is not the issue I have tried to raise which is namely that in many places both SA/M has stated Integral Yoga eschews traditional religious practice. It is not a religion

However. my experience and those of many many people whom I respect and who are very also devoted to the yoga is that many of the institutions of Integral Yoga have for all practical purposes become akin to religious institutions, and many followers seem to follow it as a variation of Hinduism, and not as a non-sectarian spiritual system.

Now if you do not agree with that then we have to agree to disagree, if you however, as I do, perceive a reification of the teaching into a traditional religious practice then one can honestly ask the question:

Why when IY was proclaimed to eschew religion has its institutions come to resemble traditional religious institutions and why do many of its followers resemble followers of traditional religious practice? If you even think the question is a valid one, perhaps you do not agree with the answer I have arrived at, and again we can agree to disagree.

But if you think the question regards how religion crept into IY is a meaningful one, then it begs a question, which I feel worthwhile to address. But that is something I feel compelled to do, because in my opinion the very religiosity that have crept into will stifle its relevance for the future, now maybe that is ultimately a right or wrong attitude but for many reasons the issue has relevance for me.

I apologize if the fact I have posed the question has caused anyone to feel that their guru has been disrespected, that certainly is not the intention. And although it may be hard for some to believe asking the question -and even coming up with a answer which seems to be a critique = has only increased my respect for Sri Aurobindo rich [7:34 AM]

September 23, 2008

Scotus is comfortable with many diversities and resists to press all of reality into One unity

Does Scotus’s Modal Distinction Save God’s Transcendence?
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

At least two important conclusions follow from what I’ve sketched above by way of King’s comments: (1) God’s simplicity is upheld, and (2) God and creatures are in fact diverse and not merely different-if the latter were the case, God’s transcendence would be weakened because “there would be some real factor common to God and creatures” in light of Scotus’s univocity (of the concept) of being thesis (p. 56). However, this is not the case. Again, turning to King, we read:

although formal distinctions may introduce real complexity, they only introduce real composition when they are combined as genus and differentia. In this case, there are elements united as potency (genus) and act (differentia), making up a composite. But unless distinct elements are so related, they will not produce composition in the relevant sense, and so there need be no composition introduced by the formal distinction (p. 56).

In other words, Scotus’s univocity of being thesis does not construe being as a common genus shared by God and creatures. Rather, we begin with the most indeterminate concept of being as that which is not repugnant to existence. As this imperfect concept becomes more precise (more perfect), we find that it has intrinsic modes (e.g. either infinite or finite), which refer to real aspects of being, viz. a being’s intrinsic intensity.

For Scotus, however, there is only One Reality that corresponds to the concept of infinite being, the Triune God. Every other existent being falls under finite being; hence, the two realities are diverse. In sum, the transcendental concept of being, while being a unified concept, picks out or refers to realities which are diverse, and is set forth as a disjunctive proposition: Being is either finite or infinite. Here Scotus exhibits a non-Parmenidian impulse and resists the urge to press all of reality into One unity. In other words, Scotus is comfortable with a reality that ends up reflecting many diversities - diversities which of course find their ultimate unity in relation to God.

Kant’s secular-Enlightenment updating of the old Christian virtue of hope

A Note on Evil from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

In particular, I was referring to Kant’s essay “An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?”, which forms one part of the late (post-Critical) book The Conflict of the Faculties. I think that this essay deserves a contemporary rethinking and “updating” — in much the same spirit in which Foucault rethought and “updated” Kant’s essay “What is Enlightenment?”.

Foucault rejects the way that, in the hands of Habermas and others, Kant’s Enlightenment principles have become the basis for what Foucault “like[s] to call the ‘blackmail’ of the Enlightenment.” Foucault says that it is ridiculous to demand “that one has to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ the Enlightenment.” For “the Enlightenment is an event, or a set of events and complex historical processes,” rather than a permanent set of values to be identified with “rationality” or “humanism” tout court. Indeed, for Foucault it is precisely in refusing this for-or-against “blackmail” that one can most truly remain faithful to the Kantian task of a continued “historico-critical investigation” of our own assumptions and presuppositions, including precisely and especially the ones that seem to us to be most self-evidently “rational” and “humanistic.”

With regard to “An Old Question Raised Again,” similarly, we might do well to rethink Kant’s interrogation of the possibility of “progress,” precisely because we now find ourselves in a world where nobody can believe any longer in “progress” in the sense that Kant meant it. Lyotard wrote in the 1980s that nobody could believe in “grand narratives” (like the Enlightenment and Marxist one of progressive human emancipation) any longer; Francis Fukuyama wrote in the 1990s that the perpetuity of neoliberal capitalism was the only “end of history” that we could ever hope to attain. Today, in 2008, we are if anything even more cynical, as years of booms and busts in the market — with the biggest bust of all currently looming over us — have all the more firmly established capital accumulation, with its concomitant technological improvements, as the only form of “progress” that we can at all believe in.

But it is precisely in this context that Kant’s essay speaks to us with a new relevance. “An Old Question Raised Again” makes the point that there is no empirical evidence whatsoever to maintain the proposition that the human race is progressing — by which Kant means morally progressing, to a state of emancipation instead of slavery, mutual respect (treating all human beings as means, rather than just as ends) instead of subordination and hierarchy, and cosmopolitan peace instead of strife and war. (In other words, Kant is implicitly referring to the three watchwords of the French Revolution — Liberty, Equality, Fraternity — though we might well want to replace the last one with “cosmopolitanism,” to avoid the gendered connotations of “fraternity”).

There is no empirical way to assert that humanity is progressing in these terms, rather than regressing or merely remaining at the same point. (It is worth maintaining this Kantian point against all those fatuous attempts to claim that the USA is benevolently improving the lot of the rest of the world, or somehow standing up for “freedom” and “democracy,” when in fact it is exporting the imperious demands of neoliberal capital, whether by outright war or by other forms of influence or coercion, to other parts of the world).

However — and this is the real crux of Kant’s argument — although there is no empirical evidence in favor of the proposition that “progress” has taken place, there is a reason, or an empirical ground, for us to believe in progress, to hope for it, and even to work for it — rejecting the cynicism that tells us that any such hope or belief is deluded or “utopian” (this latter word is most often used pejoratively, in the form of the claim that any attempt to make human life better, such as all the efforts of the Left in the 19th and 20th centuries, inevitably has “unintended consequences” that end up making things worse).

This ground is the occurrence of certain events — for Kant, the French Revolution — whose sheer occurrence, in itself, however badly these events miscarried subsequently,

“demonstrates a character of the human race at large and all at once… a moral character of humanity, at least in its predisposition, a character which not only permits people to hope for progress toward the better, but is already itself progress in so far as its capacity is sufficient for the present.”

Humanity hasn’t actually gotten any better, but its active ability to imagine and project betterment, on a social and cosmopolitan scale, is itself evidence that a “predisposition” to betterment does in fact exist...

The two key terms here are universality and disinterestedness. Kant is not merely praising enthusiasm and fervor. He is almost oppressively aware that enthusiasm and fervor guarantee nothing, and that they have propelled many of the worst happenings and the worst movements in human history — something that is all the more evident today, after the horrors of the twentieth century. Nothing that is narrowly drawn, chauvanistic, nationalistic, etc., can stand as evidence for a predisposition towards betterment.

But beyond that: Kant is not saying that the French Revolution in itself is the evidence of a human predisposition to betterment. He is saying, rather, that the “universal yet disinterested sympathy” that “spectators” from afar felt for the French Revolution is such evidence. Our “moral predisposition” for betterment is revealed in the way that “all spectators (who are not engaged in this game themselves” feel a “sympathy,” or “a wishful participation that borders closely on enthusiasm,” for the distant revolutionary events of which they are the witnesses. Such sympathy-from-afar can be “dangerous,” Kant warns us; but it is genuine evidence for the potentiality or “predisposition” toward improvement of the human condition — at least to the extent that it is “universal” (rather than being partial, chauvinistic, or favoring one “nation” or “race” against another — as fascist enthusiasm always is), and that it is “disinterested” (not motivated by any expectation of personal gain; an aesthetic concern rather than a merely self-aggrandizing one).

(I think that, for example, Foucault’s enthusiasm from afar for the Iranian revolution can be regarded in the same way as Kant’s enthusiasm from afar for the French revolution; in both cases, the bad outcomes of these revolutions does not disqualify the reasons for which Kant and Foucault found themseves in sympathy with them; and this is why such events, and such expressions of sympathy, must be radically distinguished from the enthusiasm for fascism that consumed so many early-20th-century artists and intellectuals).

I suppose that, genealogically, all this is Kant’s secular-Enlightenment updating of the old Christian virtue of hope. But it locates what is hoped for in this life, this world, rather than in an afterlife, or in some sort of post-apocalyptic recovery (in this way, it is actually more secular, and less mystical and religious, than, say, Walter Benjamin’s messianism; and although it refers, or defers, to an as-yet-unaccomplished future, it is more materially and empirically grounded than, say, Derrida’s “democracy to come.” Benjamin and Derrida must both be honored as true descendants of Kant, yet arguably they have both diminished him). The human predisposition towards betterment already exists in the here and now, even if its fulfillment does not.

This supramental level is to be attained through the practice of Integral Yoga

KANNADA Integral Yoga V. GOPALAKRISHNA The Hindu Tuesday, Sep 23, 2008
DIVYA JIVANA: Tr. by Ko. Chennabasappa of the original “The Life Divine” by Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aravinda Prakashana, Basaveshwarnagar, Bangalore-560086, Rs.500.

TO INTERPRET Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual vision in any of our languages requires a lot of patience, learning and ability of expression. Since the celebrated Yogi experienced by dint of strict adherence to Yoga, his vision is a hard nut to crack especially for those who have no basic knowledge of the scriptures of our land. Viewed from this angle the translator of this magnum opus has succeeded in his endeavour to give the essence of this philosophical work to the Kannada readers in a simple and lucid style.

It is divided mainly into two parts each comprising 28 chapters. The first part discusses Brahman and the universe, and the second with spiritual evolution. Aurobindo in his philosophy of Absolute affirmation emphasises the essential factors such as faith in the scriptures, initiation by the Guru in addition to earnestness for spiritual realisation. He synthesises the best in the East and the West.

Regarded as a poet of patriotism, prophet of nationalism and a lover of humanity, Aurobindo says that man is a socio-religious and transitional being and is yet to proceed to a still higher level of existence. This supramental level is to be attained through the practice of Integral Yoga to enable him live in peace and joy. This divine life on the Earth can only come about by a spiritual change in our being. The foreword written to the first edition by poet laureate Kuvempu illuminates the volume.

September 20, 2008

Thompson presages riding on the shoulders of such as Jean Gebser and Marshall McLuhan

At the Edge of History and Passages About Earth (Paperback) by William Irwin Thompson (Author) (3 customer reviews)

Outside the Academy, April 25, 2004 By Allan J. Cronin "francis gerard" (Santa Barbara, CA) - See all my reviews

These two books neatly collected into one volume are written by a man who was a traditional academic but chose to work outside the academy and it is this that he discusses in these books. Trained as a historian Thompson takes a mythical view of history informed both by his own views and those of W.B. Yeats whose "A Vision" is interpreted here.

To classify Thompson as simply "new age" would be to dismiss him too easily. While his work does fit at times with that nebulous genre he wrote these before that term was coined. This is a different take on history and on the academy. I regularly give copies of this one to my academic friends to keep them from getting stagnated by the university system. Essential reading. Comment Permalink

A Must For Every Library, May 19, 2005 By City Boy "RPM" (Maine) - See all my reviews

William Irwin Thompson is one of the truly great minds of our time. These two early works (which were originally published separately) are the perfect introduction to Thompson's opus. While some of the pop culture references may seem dated, passed over by events, the basic world view presented here remains valid.

Thompson, riding on the shoulders of such as Jean Gebser and Marshall McLuhan, illuminates the transitional period we are undergoing, as we move out of the modern era into ... whatever is coming -- we don't really know yet, but the so-called "postmodern" isn't the future, it's just a replay of isolated elements of the modern. Thompson sees signs of one possible future in the emerging planetary consciousness where thinking globally while acting locally is more than a pop phrase but a new way of perceiving our oneness with a sacred world.

Thompson looks at signposts all over the planet which, taken individually might seems interesting, but taken together begin to form a picture that inspires either hope or dread, depending on your attachment to the prevailing consciousness. (You'll have to read his more recent books to get his take on capitalism's latest phase of globalization.) I won't give any more away as I don't wish to spoil the intellectual feast that awaits the reader.

I urge anyone interested in the history of ideas and in understanding the changes taking place in the world around us to read Thompson, starting with this publication. Then work your way through the rest of his books. It's a journey that can change your worldview and your life. Comment Permalink

A Model to understand the world with., February 11, 2000 By David Jonas (Denver, Colorado) - See all my reviews

This is one of those few intellectual works that can truely change one's understanding of how things work. A profound analysis of historical change that presents both models of change and societal models. Comment PermalinkSee all 3 customer reviews 7:31 AM

September 18, 2008

Where the author is commissioned to write what the publisher wants him to write

The Lives of Sri Aurobindo—a Controversial Biography by Peter Heehs
by RY Deshpande on Wed 17 Sep 2008 09:37 AM PDT Permanent Link

What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme. ~ The Mother
(14 February 1961)

The present article is apropos of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, a controversial biography by Peter Heehs, published recently by the Columbia University Press, USA, May 2008. It is claimed that the work is based on researched material, something which is missing in the earlier publications. Please also go to where there is a pretty extensive discussion on a few of the related matters. ~ RY Deshpande

The Technology of Promotionalism
Peter Heehs’s Lives of Sri Aurobindo is a recent arrival in the thriving genre of biographies and professes itself to be founded on researched material. It essentially treats the subject as a human person and not really as a yogi or a spiritual stalwart, and in the least as an incarnate. The book has been recently published by the Columbia University Press and appears to be rough on the sentiments of the devotees of the Mother and the Master. The author claims himself to be a meticulous professional historian and wants to present the subject strictly as it should emerge from the documentary material. The approach is, holds the author, strictly rational and is grounded in the principles of research, eschewing goody-goody emotionalism of the hagiographic presentations of such themes. This may have certain merit but there are things that lie far beyond the reach of such scientification of occult and spiritual matters. In fact, it is not possible for reason to grasp the issues connected with them although to some extent it could open to its intuition; this is simply true, for the reason that “things are never on the surface for men to see them”.

On the other hand, with a degree of spiritual experience and realization, there is a chance of presenting them to the rational mind also. This spiritual experience and realization must come first before one attempts to speak about them who live in the richness of the spirit, in its multi-dimensionality. If this basic fact is not recognized, then the work will fail to carry in it the substance or essential conviction of the higher principles. Not only that; such a work should be at once dismissed as an inchoate or garbled attempt, without any further consideration—because of the wrong premises with which it begins, because it smacks more of “I’m wiser than you all, the gullible, that you utterly lack rational faculty and capacity to detach yourself from your object of adoration." Such unfortunately seems to be the case of the much touted Lives of Sri Aurobindo brought out with great fanfare, which is of course a part of the modern publication dynamics where the author is commissioned to write what the publisher wants him to write.

Truth, the spiritual truth then gets sacrificed on the altar of promotionalism. And it is a peculiar game, a very queer game in which the more the writer becomes diabolical the more gets promoted promotionalism. But we need not fall prey to all this full-size ballyhooing if we are established in the spiritual principles that guide and govern our aspiration and that bring fulfilment to it, the decisive factor being transparent sincerity and devotion in the sense of commitment to one’s persuasive or compelling ideals. So without getting impressed by the “gunny sack” scouring of facts of pseudo-rationalism we could depend more upon the intuition and the inner conviction in matters of spiritual personalities. This need not carry any guilty feeling in us; rather it is that which will strengthen our refined perceptions and subtleties of understanding...

An Extraordinarily Complex Individual
As a part of systematic promotionalism of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo we have in the August 2008 issue of Auroville Today, Peter Heehs being interviewed by Alan. The author maintains that his is a biography based on enormous amount of archival material, on “authentic documents”, something which the earlier works totally lacked. “It wasn't always easy,” informs the biographer, the records of Baroda College, for instance, were stored in “gunny sacks covered with bat droppings, heaped up in an unused”. While fact collection is an important aspect of the work, much has yet to be done in presenting them in a coherent understandable manner, often comparing several sources. In the process certain subjective elements also enter in, something which is inevitable in this kind of a job. However, the author maintains that “the Sri Aurobindo that emerges from the new biography is much more lifelike, more unpredictable, more complex, than the Sri Aurobindo of earlier biographical writing, including my own.” But then there is a puzzling statement also: “If spiritual experience is something which is not merely subjective but represents a human capacity, one would expect to find such accounts.” Although such a stand might be perfectly justifiable for a book to be written for people “in the academic world”, it at once spells doom as far as the representation of the subject is concerned. Never in the case of a spiritual person should come any consideration that is not spiritual, and therefore the argument that “a certain priority to the academic approach” be given turns out to be fallacious.

So what the Mother called “a direct action straight from the Supreme” has to prove itself right in the eyes of the academicians, they sitting in the lofty judgement seats. The fallacy becomes particularly glaring when the interview comes to the deep occult matters, for instance the passing away Sri Aurobindo. Peter Heehs replies:

“You correctly put your finger on a special difficulty of dealing with a life like Sri Aurobindo's. When, as historians, we speak of physical events, there's an established way of dealing with them, using documents to corroborate what we say. When we talk about a person's spiritual experiences, we have that person's own account of what took place. But when we talk about occult workings and effects, we are talking about spiritual things having an impact on physical events. But the influence of the inner world on the outer is not verifiable in ordinary terms. I could have used the Mother's accounts of his death etc. as she is certainly an authority in these matters; but the kind of the biography I wanted to write had to be based upon verifiable facts. When I think about things like Sri Aurobindo's death, I certainly take what the Mother said about them into consideration. But I didn't put everything I think into this book.”

But has any criteria been spelt out as to what should be put and what be not? We have no idea from the interview. In conclusion the biographer says:

“All in all, Sri Aurobindo stands up very well to the critical approach. Devotees think they have to be protective of him, that any criticism will destroy him and all his work. This is ridiculous. His accomplishments in various fields are so strong and lasting that he emerges firmer and stronger from a critical treatment that deals squarely with difficult questions.”

But this statement itself is ridiculous, as it fails to recognize the foundational basis of the spiritual work. It will of course be grossly ridiculous for the Ashram to consider Sri Aurobindo as its property, but to speak of “an extraordinarily complex individual” with multiple spiritual dimensions only in terms of facts found in the gunny sacks lying in the attic is sheer falsification, certainly it is perversion. And the fact is that facts are not always presented. The whole approach therefore displays complete lack of sensitivity; in it spiritual perceptions are unfortunately absent.

This becomes more astonishing when the author also claims himself to be the follower of Integral Yoga. He proclaims: “I am, after all, a practitioner of Sri Aurobindo's yoga, and I take what he has written about his own practice of yoga, and the yogic discipline he recommends to others, quite seriously.” But who is going to decide the “quite serious” aspect of the matter? In any case, it need not be our concern, it need not concern us here...

But what are the spiritual credentials of those people who opine about Sri Aurobindo? We have not been informed about these. Nevertheless, we are persuaded to go by the findings of scraps in gunny sacks, with droppings of bats on them. Or else, we have to go by the bazaar talk and dismiss even what the Mother says:

“What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.”
RY Deshpande
Keywords: SriAurobindo, Spirituality, Sethna, Savitri, Satprem, Review, Religion, Pondicherry, Mother, Biography, Avatar, AurovilleToday, Aurobindo, Ashram, Amal, Science, Culture and Integral Yoga [10:25 AM]

September 16, 2008

Phyllis Granoff, Paul Hacker, Hajime Nakamura, Wilhelm Halbfass, and Sengaku Mayeda

kelamuni Gender: Male Age: 47 Location: Victoria About Me: The Sanskrit term “kela” is related to “keli,” which in Sanskrit means play, dalliance, or jest. The appellation “kelamuni” thus means “playful-muni.”

In a former life I was an Indologist. In my current incarnation I am exploring my capacities as a musician and transmitter of musical traditions. I remain interested in Indian intellectual history and spirituality, though I take an historical-critical approach toward modern Western appropriations of Asian religion and philosophy. For my views on such matters you can check out my web site, Explorations in Neo-Vedanta and Perennialism.

As an Indologist, I am a specialist in the thought of Shankara. As for scholars of Vedanta, I respect the work of Phyllis Granoff, Paul Hacker, Hajime Nakamura, Wilhelm Halbfass, and Sengaku Mayeda. My philosophical views have been shaped by Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Collingwood, and Kant, though I have an interest in traditional philosophers and exegetes like Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. My personal views on spirituality can perhaps best be described as anarchic, in the spirit of figures like Asthavakra.

I studied Philosophy as an undergrad and Sanskrit at grad school. I have played in numerous orchestras and ensembles; managed a symphony orchestra for a stint; lived and studied in India; taught Buddhist Studies at a major American university; and helped raise my charming daughter...

Long term projects include: a short history of the origins of Vedanta; a collection of essays on the nature of advaita/advaya in classical Indian thought; a collection of annotated transcriptions of traditional reels and hornpipes from the Celtic and Oldtime fiddle traditions; a collection of recipes from the Moroccan, Turkish, Persian, and north Indian culinary traditions; and a CD of Donegal fiddle tunes. Member Since: Saturday, January 12 2008 6:38 PM

September 15, 2008

In what sense is India a persistent entity?

RESUME D.P.Chattopadhyaya, Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations
Introduction PublicationsCSCHomeAdministrationProgrammesLinksContact

D.P.CHATTOPADHYAYA, after obtaining his Ph.D. degrees from Calcutta University and London School of Economics, taught philosophy at Jadavpur University, Calcutta.He is the founder Chairman of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations, and General Editor of this Project.

Chattopadhyaya is one of the propounders of interdisciplinary studies in the country with his wide knowledge on philosophy, political theory, economics, history and science. His publications include Individuals and Societies: A Methodological Inquiry (1967); History, Individuals and World (1976); Rupa, Rasa O Sundara (in Bengali, 1980); Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988); Anthropology and Historiography of Science (1990); Induction, Probability and Skepticism (1991); Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997).

Back For editorial information regarding published volumes and volumes in progress.
Dr. Bhagat Oinam Editor (Research and Publication) Tele.: 91-11-6076657/ Ext.37 6099541/ Ext.41

  • What is India?
  • In what sense is India a persistent entity?
  • What power lay concealed in the initial seeds of symbols, vision and experiences that impelled the sprouting and blossoming of intertwined branches of a complex culture?
  • What is Indian culture?
  • And how did it grow and shape multitudinous philosophical and scientific ideas?
  • Is there behind this development a living soul or spirit?
  • Can we somehow grasp it?
  • And can we, by understanding it, replenish ourselves for fresh creativity?

These and similar questions occupy the pioneers of the Indian renaissance, and there has been since a growing formulation of the discovery and rediscovery of India. Today we feel impelled to delve once again much deeper into our roots and their manifestations. This implies fresh study of Indian history, at its subtle and complex levels, - study of the growth of its science and philosophy, not in their isolated and compartmental limit, but in their interconnections as also in the context of a dynamic panorama of multi-dimensional currents of our civilization and culture...

The idea of undertaking a comprehensive research project of interdisciplinary study of history of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture (PHISPC), was initiated by Professor D.P Chattopadhyaya in 1981, when he was the Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR). This idea was discussed informally with other members of the Council. Many eminent scholars of History, Science, Philosophy and Culture were also consulted. A warm support was received from various quarters. A major effort was accordingly considered necessary to undertake an interdisciplinary study so that interconnections between Science, Philosophy and Culture as they developed in the long history of Indian civilization could be understood.

Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya discussed the basic idea of the proposed project with the then Prime Minister Srimati Indira Gandhi. At her instance, the Project was also discussed with Professor Nurul Hassan, the then Vice-President of the Council of Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR). Initial lines of collaboration between ICPR and CSIR began to take shape.

In due course, the idea of the project matured further, and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research included this idea among the programmes for its 8th five year plan. The proposal of the project was discussed at various meetings of the ICPR as also the meetings held in the Department of Education , Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Planning Commission. The proposal was also discussed in the office of the Prime Minister, and there was also a discussion between Professor D. P. Chattopadhyaya and the then Prime Minister, Shri V.P. Singh. With the approval of the Prime Minister's office and the Department of Education, a preparatory Committee was constituted in July 1990, under the Chairmanhip of Professor D. P. Chattopadhyaya. The project has since been approved by the Planning Commission and was included in 8th Five Year Plan.

At a late stage, Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya discussed the project with the then Prime Minister Shri Chandra Shekhar and Shri Mohan Dharia, the then Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. As a result of these discussions, initial financial assistance was accorded to the project by the Government of India in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and in the Department of Science and Technology during 1990-91. Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya also discussed with the Prime Minister Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao who welcomed the project very warmly and promised to support it. While various research councils and agencies participated in the planning and execution of the project, the Indian Council of Philosophical Research worked as the nodal agency for the Project till March 1997.

From April 1, 1997, PHISPC was officially de-linked from Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) for a greater autonomy to complete the Project by the stipulated period, and is now affiliated to Centre for Studies in Civilizations . Government of India has recognized CSC as the nodal agency for the purposes of funding the ongoing research project, PHISPC.

SANDHAN Introduction Publications CSCHome Vol. I Number 1 From The Editorial Desk Contents Notes for Contributors Sandhan: General Information Contributors

From The Editorial Desk
Sandhan, closely associated with the Centre for studies in civilization, is now in its resurrected form. Mainly for two reasons the Centre was forced to suspend temporarily its publication. One, the Centre started thinking of bringing out a full-fledged journal instead of news bulletin. Two, the non-availability of sufficient material of good quality also forced our hands. Given goodwill and cooperation of our contributors and readers, it is hoped that it will be possible from now onwards to publish Sandhan in a regular manner.
Stricly speaking, it is not intended to be a research journal. Rather we would be primarily interested in the presentations which make analytical, critical and constructive use of the research materials already available. I must qualify the point. If any writer persuasively shows that his / her research may be a critical input for the Centre’s on-going activities, we will be naturally be interested in it.
It is not easy to draw a clear line of demarcation between civilization and culture. Yet one can justifiably say that while the former is primarily infrastructural and instrumental in character, the latter seems to be mainly located in the mid-structural, super-structural and ideational levels. Analysis reveals a continuous process of upward and downward causation bringing them continuously close.
From the articles and other items published in this new issue of Sandhan, I feel, one thing will clear to the readers. While our areas of interest will comprise both sciences and humanities, we would try to lend a South Asian orientation to our published materials. In our view of South Asia the whole world has an unmistakable place in its broad and catholic canvas. Our endeavor will ensure a civilizational dialogue between what we are thinking and doing in this part of the world with the thoughts and events elsewhere in the larger world.
D.P. Chattopadhyaya Editor

Contents I. Articles
The Emergence of the person: Some Indian Themes and Theories Sibajiban Bhattacharyya
Ravidas of the Sikh Tradition J.S. Grewal
Culture, Secularization and Religion G.C. Pande
Beyond the Clash of Civilizations Fred Dallmayr
The Concept of Dharma in Indian Tradition with Special Reference to Swami Vivekananda Krishna Kant
Towards the Idea of Civil Society Ruben G. Apressyan
Schism in the Colonized Soul: A philosophical View of India’s Transit from Raj to Swaraj D.P.Chattopadhyaya
II. Symposia Intellectual Traditions of India: Linguistic and Cultural
III.Comments On J.V. Nalikar’s ‘Four Questions that History might answer’
IV. Book Reviews V. News and Notes VI. Contributors

Diverse research paradigms based on differing ontologies, concomitant epistemologies and methodologies

Paradigms of Psychological Knowledge: A Historical & Cross-Cultural Perspective
Teacher: Suneet Varma
BEGINNING 3RD OCTOBER 2008 (duration: 14 weeks) Brief Overview

All knowledge-seeking endeavours can be understood with the help of three issues:
(a) The assumptions about the nature of reality under study (ontology);
(b) the relationship between the knower and that which is to be known (epistemology); and,
(c) the methods to be used for acquiring knowledge (methodology).

In the late 19th century, academic psychology emerged emulating physics, the queen of sciences. The natural science approach served as its model, and psychology aimed at objective, value-free, quantifiable, and generalisable knowledge. From the 1970’s onwards it was increasingly felt that the natural science paradigm did not serve well the goals of psychology. Today the discipline consists of diverse research paradigms based on differing ontologies, and concomitant epistemologies and methodologies. No system of psychology can be complete unless it includes the spiritual dimension of existence, and contemporary psychology has begun to take this profound aspect of existence more seriously. Indian systems of psychological knowledge have for millennia emphasized the essential, spiritual nature of human beings, and the need to integrate the spiritual with everyday life, in order to attain a meaningful and fulfilled existence.

Overall Learning Outcomes of the Course
After completing this course, you will begin to appreciate the multi-dimensional nature of knowledge in general, and psychological knowledge in particular.
You will have a good understanding of the social and political forces which have shaped the discipline of psychology.
You will have an international perspective on the discipline of psychology, and its history.
You will be able to locate spirituality within the framework of psychology.
Psychology will begin to appear as a discipline whose major focus is the complete and optimal development of human beings, leading to higher levels of functioning accompanied by feelings of extraordinary love and joy.
After completing the course you will have a basic understanding of some of the major schools of Indian psychology, viz. - Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism, Sufism, the Yoga system, and the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo.

Course Modules
Three aspects of knowledge paradigms: Ontology, Epistemology, and Methodology
Historical emergence of Psychology as a science: Four paths of scientific Psychology
Positivism, Post-positivism, and the Critical perspective
The Social Constructionist movement in Psychology
Participative Research/Co-operative Enquiry in Psychology
The Existential-Phenomenological and the Indian conception of knowledge
An alternative history of Psychology. Perspectives from non Euro-American backgrounds
Avidya and Vidya as two distinct forms of knowing in the Indian tradition
Self knowledge in the Indian tradition: A selective appraisal
The Integral way of knowledge: Sri Aurobindo's contribution

International Centre for Integral Studies (ICIS) is an educational, not-for-profit trust, located in New Delhi, India. It is a unit of The Gnostic Centre ( ICIS offers online postgraduate level courses in liberal arts through a consciousness perspective, derived largely from the spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. ICIS is not affiliated to or recognized / approved by any state/ central government statutory bodies or agencies like UGC /AICTE/ UNIVERSITY. All courses are autonomous. ICIS does not award a Degree. For its courses, it offers ICIS postgraduate course certificates.Contact:

September 07, 2008

Sri Aurobindo’s representation of Western theological views within his model is less than adequate

Edward Berge Says: July 7th, 2008 at 8:46 pm
Balder responded to some of Rich’s essay at his Gaia pod:

Surely Carlson is aware of Aurobindo’s own “appropriation” of Western theological ideas into his “Indo-centric” model? Beatrice Bruteau, a Christian Aurobindian scholar, has noted, for instance, that Aurobindo’s representation of Western theological views within his model is less than adequate in a number of instances. Why attack Wilber while simultaneously defending another scholar who arguably has taken a very similar “tack” in his own efforts to create an integral spiritual model?

Beyond this, while it is true that Wilber highlights Aurobindo’s spiritual writings rather than his cultural or political ones, this does not, in itself, render Wilber’s Integral model inherently oppressive or faulty. It might be an oversight on Wilber’s part, but it doesn’t undermine the validity of the model he has created.

September 01, 2008

There is a difference between one's own country and the political parties of that country

from: Anirban Ganguly <> date 8 July 2008 14:42

Its not ethical or proper on our part, who are outside the Ashram and have no direct responsibility nor experience to sit on judgement on the management & their handling of things.

from Debabrata Ghosh <> 9 July 2008 12:06

It's an insult to Sri Aurobindo if one takes the help of mean and opportunist politicians to improve the situation of the Ashram.

from Venugopalan Kannapiran <> date 9 July 2008 10:33

Its not our part to think or act on this current situation since we are not Ashramites (at least myself) and also I strongly feel this situation is brought by Mother for different purpose unknown to our little mind, She knows what to do, when & how to do, just we need patience in our prayer and continue our daily work in sincere way... Hope everything should be good by Her grace.

from Tusar N. Mohapatra <> date 9 July 2008 11:08

I am afraid, I can't agree with your perception of things, as my "daily work" as a public person is perhaps different than yours. Things happen through human beings and not in a vacuum. At this moment 100 years ago, Sri Aurobindo is living in the Alipur jail. So, no escape from practical action... If you look at the History of the World, always the then "current day politicians" have taken the human civilization forward, and not dead people. So, don't go by superficial generalizations. date 9 July 2008 15:35

Barindranath Chaki said... 22 July 2008 14:07

First of all, it is about politicians. We cannot, logically and even practically generalise like that. All politicians do not steal money.

Vivek 26 July 2008 10:55

Luckily devotees prefer to lead quiet, inner lives. Why worry so much about what Auroville, Ashram, centres, doing or not. Either join and help, or just do own sadhana. Aspiration, Rejection, Surrender, Mother says. It is only thing which matters. My simple opinion.

From: bijan ghosh <> Date: 10 Aug 2008 08:33

Please do raise strong demand - to Trustees - and ask all others to raise the same demand - to ask Ashram to kick off peter - to expel from ashram for ever with a black stigma for disowning Sri Aurobindo 5:10 PM

Reply by ned on August 17, 2008 at 3:27 am Permalink

The thing with human politics based on vital impulses and ambitions is that it is so partisan. That is exactly what makes politics almost the opposite of what the Supramental force demands: no more divisions!

Reply by Kavitha on August 17, 2008 at 6:56 am Permalink

I am not much in favour of diversifying by spending more time on political activities. Mother and Sri Aurobindo would decide what is best for us and the country.

Reply by Gopal on August 17, 2008 at 2:18 pm Permalink

the political life is full of greed, insincerity, selfishness, all the stuff we know about them...but entering the politics itself implies that one has to act in the level of the vital and its insistences. instead of aspiring to higher realms, it is downgrading ourseleves first.

Reply by Debabrata Ghosh on August 17, 2008 at 8:27 pm Permalink

We may try to create an atmosphere with our discussions and other works to spread the consciousness of the Mother among the people. But the moment we step in political path we will bring in adverse consciousness... But when I think of the plight of Mother India at the hands of corrupt politicians - I feel to support a good movement. But - in the ultimate analysis this is against my cherished ideal.

Anonymous said...11:23 AM, August 18, 2008

Those who are devotees of Sri Aurobindo should not be involved psychologically and externally in favour of any political party and political opinions. There is a difference between one's own country and the political parties of that country. This political discussions will surely bring in conflicting psychological conditions in the minds of the devotees.

Reply by Pramod Kumar Das on August 20, 2008 at 5:05 pm Permalink

There is a clear distinction between community work and political initiatives. I believe that community work should be the priority of a spiritually oriented individual or institution (after having attained a stage of maturity)... I believe sincere work with communities at the ground level is surely the work of the sadhaka but a political party is a very slippery ground. May god guide the persons in these tumultuous ground. Permalink Reply by Pramod Kumar Das on August 19, 2008 at 10:59pm