September 30, 2008

The ability "to hold two contrary ideas simultaneously" is beyond the scope of the purely rational mind

Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by koantum on Mon 29 Sep 2008 10:14 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Someone objected to my labeling the hagiographies as "childish." That person is right and I apologize. I can only speak of my personal reactions when I read some of those hagiographies many years ago. In comparison to Sri Aurobindo's own luminous writings, I found them painfully limited in their vision and comprehension. I have no such reaction to Peter's book because he deliberately limits himself to the documented externalities of Sri Aurobindo life. Reply 8:02 AM

Re: Rationalism and the yogic life by koantum on Mon 29 Sep 2008 07:40 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

The message is clear: We are wasting our time trying to reach agreements while remaining at our present level of consciousness. The one thing needful is to grow beyond it, and those petty quarrels are some of the things that hold us back, if we let ourselves be drawn into them. Reply Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

Peter Heehs has naturally offended the Indian sentiments

Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by Debashish on Mon 29 Sep 2008 10:23 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Re. the present flurry of attacks against the book and its author, at the risk of over-simplification, I may add what seems obvious - that differences in cultural psychology between modern western and Indian habitus lies at the foundation of the matter. But with this as basis, certain collective formations have grown up.

  • On the Indians' side, this has taken the form of an unconscious religiosity whose bane is the self-righteous orthodoxy of worship and the aggressive policing of largely self-created and interpreted myths and whose detrimental effect is that the growth of consciousness is obscured and the non-religious see only a stereotypical structure of hyperbole which they reject even before having a chance to see the solutions which have been offered.
  • On the westerners' side it is an insistence on "fact" and an analysis of objective facts on the basis of reason and an infants' psychology. This is what has been happening on a large scale in western scholarship of late and it is largely to this audience that Peter's book has been addressed.

In doing so, he has naturally offended the Indian sentiments and in anticipating and answering the western analytical framework, has sometimes acknowledged these approaches, which has raised eyebrows. The problem is that though neither side is sufficiently illuminated, the religious attitude ends up building an impenetrable wall (unless one knows the right passwords for the gatekeepers, such as "avatar", "divine", "surrender", "psychic" and "falsehood of reason") and thus excludes a wider reach of the yoga.

Sri Aurobindo's yoga is for the transformation of the world and unless all the different mentalities and vitalities can see what he has to offer, it cannot achieve its ends. And for this, all these mentalities and vitalities must be spoken to in their own languages. The bridges must be built. If even the attempt is stifled because of pedantic injunctions and through inquisitions and witch-hunts, what future can we expect? DB

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by koantum on Mon 29 Sep 2008 06:05 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Debashish, You summed up the underlying differences very well. The sectarian spirit, which has declared jihad on Peter, is a far greater threat to Sri Aurobindo's "image" than Peter's biography, which is no threat at all but a welcome corrective to those childish hagiographies. These jihadis prove to the world that Sri Aurobindo is at the head of a sectarian religious movement. This a disaster.

it is necessary that he [the sadhaka of the integral Yoga] should ... cast from himself that exclusive tendency of egoistic mind which cries, “My God, my Incarnation, my Prophet, my Guru”.... All sectarianism, all fanaticism must be shunned; for it is inconsistent with the integrity of the divine realisation.... (Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga)

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by Rich on Mon 29 Sep 2008 06:29 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Koantum yes images of Salmon Rushdie did pop into my mind. but Debashish point is very well taken regarding the underlying cultural differences at play which are sorely transparent. And here dialog is needed rather than attacks and/or retreat to ones own xenophobic position, regardless of the side on which one identifies oneself.

Sri Aurobindo has spoken of the need to be able to hold two contrary ideas simultaneously as a feature of his yogic synthesis. This issue before us seems to me to be an acid test as to the success or failure of a community with common beliefs in an ideal and way of life which refers to itself as Integral. [12:34 PM]

September 29, 2008

Attempting to resolve such a profound question from the limited viewpoints of normal human consciousness is fruitless

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity
by ronjon on Sun 28 Sep 2008 01:48 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Thank you for this wise comment Debashish. I like its "integral" perspective, somehow reconciling the either/or debate about the avatarhood of Sri Aurobindo (& perhaps that of the Mother also?). To me, attempting to resolve such a profound question from the limited viewpoints of normal human consciousness is fruitless. Sort of like scientific materialists attempting to prove/disprove the existence of the soul by weighing a body at the moment of death. I'd prefer to simply acknowledge the possibility of more expanded levels of consciousness in which direct personal experience may render the question moot. For me, your recount of your conversation with Nirodbaran rings with the elegant simplicity of a deep truth: [5:31 PM]

Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by ned on Sun 28 Sep 2008 07:31 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Personally, I met Peter in New York and at Lodi and heard him speak about his book. He's a very nice person and clearly worked hard on this biography. He's also very knowledgeable. His approach is a little too rationalistic for me and I do think that there were portions of the book where I thought he "sold out" too much to a Western audience (e.g. at one point he says that maybe all these experiences are hallucinations or schizophrenic breakdowns).

But overall, I liked the biography because it describes the human personality of Sri Aurobindo and in an odd way that strengthened me in my sadhana. It made me think that if Sri Aurobindo could rise from his "human self" to the greatness that he eventually attained, there is great hope for all of us. The biography actually reminded me of this statement from Sri Aurobindo himself:

"I had no urge toward spirituality in me, I developed spiritually. I was incapable of understanding metaphysics, I developed into a philosopher. I had no eye for painting -- I developed it by Yoga. I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it by a special manner, not by a miracle and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done. I did not do it out of any personal necessity of my own or by a miracle without any process. I say that if it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake -- a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. You all seem to think it a great compliment to me to say that what I have done has no meaning for anybody except myself -- it is the most damaging criticism on my work that could be made. I also did not do it by myself, if you mean by myself the Aurobindo that was. He did it by the help of Krishna and the Divine Shakti. I had help from human sources also."

The hubbub created over the biography is clearly just an immature emotional reaction of some devotees. While I don't think that a rationalistic biography can ever do justice to a being as vast as Sri Aurobindo, I agree with Ulrich and Debashish above that there is a place for this sort of biography to make Sri Aurobindo more accessible to a Western audience that is already being misled by psychoanalytic perspectives on Eastern philosophers.

At the same time, as an unabashed devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and as someone who considers herself an "initiate" into the Vedantic tradition, I do also think that though there's no need to be apologetic or put on a facade of false humility with overly Westernized psychoanalysts or psychologists about parts of our spiritual tradition such as the guruvad. The danger is always that in our zeal to show rationalistic academic audiences the great value of spiritual teachers like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother we may end up sacrificing our own integrity. That must never be allowed to happen.

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by Debashish on Sun 28 Sep 2008 08:11 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Thanks, Ned, for posting that beautiful quote by Sri Aurobindo. This is exactly why I can't see where a deified mythology of Sri Aurobindo can help anyone. Sri Aurobindo may have realized integral union with the divine, he may be an avatar etc., but his life is an example for everyone that the integral yoga can be done and that by power of yoga a struggling and helpless human ignorance and falsehood can be transformed to an integral divine consciousness.

However, you also say: "at one point he says that maybe all these experiences are hallucinations or schizophrenic breakdowns." This is one of the decontextualized statements which I address in the very posting under which you have made your comment. Please go through that post. You also say "there's no need to be apologetic or put on a facade of false humility with overly Westernized psychoanalysts or psychologists about parts of our spiritual tradition such as the guruvad."

Why is there no need? You or I may not have the need to do this or may feel no calling, but that does not mean someone else may not feel the calling to anticipate these questions and answer them within their means. If guruvad has a truth beyond that claimed by extant theories of human psychology, a dialog should be possible leading to the expansion, transformation or rejection of such theories which hold hegemony over the modern mind.

There may be other ways of doing this than what PH had done, but it is important first to see what it is intended. One of the first ground rules of textual criticism (and an basic reading skill) is to ask the question what is the author aiming at, not what is the author not aiming at or what should the author have aimed at. These are secondary questions which may be raised after the primary one is understood. But without the primary understanding of the author's intent and achievement, pressing such questions only obscures the issue. DB

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by ned on Sun 28 Sep 2008 09:04 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Hi Debashish -- I do see your point about the intent behind the book which I did and do appreciate. The quote I'm referring to is a slightly different one from yours though, it's in the preface on page xiv.

Also, I suppose some people have a greater emotional need to address the anxieties of Western-trained academics about the guruvad tradition. Given the failure of so many gurus in the West lately, one could also say that this is understandable.

But there's also an inordinate tendency in the Western world to bash gurus indiscriminately. If you read Geoffrey Falk's "Stripping the Gurus", Falk does a great job of criticizing people like Adi Da, Ken Wilber, and all the rest, but he gets his facts *so wrong* on Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda (relying on books by Christian missionaries to criticize him!), Sri Ramana Maharishi, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and so on. What Falk writes on these giants of spirituality is often just straight-up slander or hearsay.

I sometimes feel there is an arrogance there that also needs to be addressed. But (as you rightly point out) this is a secondary point not related to Peter's biography of Sri Aurobindo -- when I was reading the biography I may have conflated this concern with Peter's modus operandi.

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by Rich on Sun 28 Sep 2008 10:19 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Ned, Your points are well taken. While there is certainly a history in the West of first valorizing and then taking a certain glee in destroying the reputations of gurus. There is also a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water and not bother to make a nuanced judgment about the positive contributions they have made to the tradition of Indian Spirituality.

Unfortunately as witnessed by the hatred directed at Peter Heehs, and you have only seen a small bit of it on SCIY because there are other documents being transferred about between a large collective of folks that besides claiming he is a "madman and a charlatan and should be ejected from the Ashram call for him being criminally charged, to lobby Penguin not to publish the book in India, to lobby Columbia U to discontinue publication aka censorship. The people making these are the very same one who pass themselves as luminaries of the yoga with claims to special lineages of authority -

But as witnessed in these character assassinations on a scholar who wrote a critical biography of a Guru, one can understand why some folks only superficially knowing the complexities of it all would reject the whole tradition entirely.

Although I personally see Sri Aurobindo as a guru, my own deconstructions -that have also been royally misunderstood- have pertained to a certain religious fervor, zealotry and fanaticism that go along with the reification of turning a spiritual practice into a Religion.

I think the self-righteous outrage and damaging actions that has been demonstrated and taken by those claiming the author of the lives of Sri Aurobindo blasphemed their guru underscores the point I have made about the all too close association that has evolved between the IY and the very worst of Religiosity. rich

Reply Re: Rationalism and the yogic life
by ned on Sun 28 Sep 2008 12:04 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rich, total agreement with your comments here. Peter is a great guy and it's sad that there are people in the Ashram attacking him like this. It's also really sad how people have been taking Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's philosophy and turning it into a religion and even a political ideology.

Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Rich on Sun 28 Sep 2008 11:02 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Rakesh wrote: Rich are you alright???? Well besides being my old Texas millennial fanatical self, I am just fine, thank you and apologize if I named you in my response to you instead of Vikas. I think you know who the collective of people are that I refer to but if you dont know perhaps Deshpande can tell you. But I want to end this current train of conversation here and I will do so with a quote from Mother that Koantum reminded me of: "Why do men want to worship? It is much better to become than to worship!" (Mother's Agenda, April 30, 1969) rich

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 26, 2008

No one can or should tell anyone what is the right way to think about such a personal matter as spirituality

by Rich on Tue 23 Sep 2008 10:56 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link ... And of course there is Integral Yoga fundamentalism with its claims that its founders are gods or avatars and that similar to the Christian myth make the case for them descending to Earth to take up the suffering and redemption of humanity. True to all fundamentalist assumptions in this one the founders are seen to be infallible, beyond the scope of any critical inquiry, and their pronouncements relative to world events be they in 1913 or 1947 are thought to be fixed , eternal and unchanging.

Reply Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Rich on Thu 25 Sep 2008 02:13 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

I would like to add a nuance to the last item mentioned in the previous comment. Online discussions are not generally favorable to nuanced positions, especially when they take the form of a debate, in which positions become polarized and the rhetoric become largely polemical. My position here is directed at certain tendencies which I have observed and verified with others whom I respect regarding the collectivization of a certain Religiosity in the institutions of Integral Yoga. In the course of my research on how this originated I have traced out certain genealogies which is where my inquiry led. Other's are free to disagree with me on this as they can my position visa vie the entire Religiosity question, and as we have done in this forum we can debate the matter.

However my concerns are with the question on the collective level, and a clear distinction must be made between the collective and individual level. My belief is that no one can or should tell anyone what is the right way to think about such a personal matter as spirituality. Therefore, my comments are not addressed to anyones personal belief system, and in this instance whatever one chooses to believe about the founders of Integral Yoga. This is for each one alone to decide.

I personally dont think there is an answer that can be universalized here, because how we understand such signifiers as God, Avatar, Humanity, Evolution will be a matter as individual and unique as each of us are. If I believe in any "one truth of things" it is the right of individuals to differ and follow their own path wherever it may lead. rich


Continuing to operate with all the trappings of traditional religious practices while claiming not to be a religion is a Huge contradiction and IMO has produced a myriad of unresolvable problems in the Integral Yoga community after Sri Aurobinodo's and Mother's passing. -- by Rich on Tue 05 Aug 2008 Permanent Link ...there is not a shred of evidence you can offer to support your arguments that they were Gods. The best you can do is to supply texts which can only refer to themselves in endless tautology. by Rich on Sun 24 Aug 2008 Permanent Link

September 25, 2008

RY Deshpande quits SCIY blog over Heehs

Re: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo—One way out
by RY Deshpande on Wed 24 Sep 2008 07:56 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

One way out is, I quit sciy without a moment’s delay. I’ve no regrets about it if all my editor-colleagues wish it so. But before I do that please allow me to express my appreciation for the great opportunity the blog and the blog managers had given me to express myself freely all along. May I await an answer in a next couple of days? Thanks again and au revoir. ~ RYD

Reply Re: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo—One way out
by Rich on Wed 24 Sep 2008 11:17 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Well its up to you to choose what you would like to do. My intention here is not to silence any point of view. Rather it was to stop fanning the flames of hatred which were beginning to catch fire, in the effigy of the author. Throwing such invectives around as calling him "Mr Objective" or claiming that: Because he leads a double life: one, as a sadhak of integral yoga to gain access to materials in the Archives, and the other as an ambitious worldly man to earn fame and money. is simply out of place in this forum. In fact dont the integral yoga call for equanimity? If so it should be possible to review the book one time cite the reasons you disagree with it have a discussion and then move on. The hankering after it for almost a month with each post becoming progressively more insulting to the author is hardly a way to conduct a reasonable discussion of its pluses and minuses...

Your reading of this book was obviously different from mine. But reasonable men can disagree. If anything the book increased my appreciation for Sri Aurobindo as I found it not a fawning biography of an Avatar, but an extraordinary human being who overcame the myriad of challenges thrown at him to become one History's great figures; someone who has managed to illumine a passage for humanity to follow to enable it to avoid its disappearance into technology or to be devoured by the machinery of Prakriti. Rich

Reply Re: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo—One way out
by Debashish on Wed 24 Sep 2008 01:50 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

I have no wish to advise on quitting etc. but I do feel that the postings on this topic have been incendiary, lopsided and misleading. I cannot agree that the author of the book in question comes away as a "rationalist" passing judgment on spiritual matters, nor that his work is one designed to flout the validity of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual experiences or achievements. Once the intent of the work is lost sight of, misreadings are bound to occur and this is what I believe has happened in this case. However, the tenor of the postings has left little room for discussion, since the assumptions made have been pressed without any openness to the possibility of other interpretations. The book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs is clearly intended for a particular readership with a particular mindset. The publicity machinery around the work published by a major American University Press is directed towards the mainstream western academic readership. This readership is being presently exposed to a variety of "rationalistic" and "psychoanalytic" approaches to the works of major Indian spiritual personages. Sri Aurobindo has not featured as yet in a major way in the attention of these scholars, but there is no doubt that he will be soon be targeted and is already being referred to in a variety of misleading ways.

A biography which acknowledges the relativism of reason and provides a framework for inner experience within that relativism is very necessary if spirituality is to establish a footing as an object of serious consideration by the general modern mind and can show a way to a higher knowledge to those who grapple with the problems of the reason. A "rational" mind which is not "dogmatically rational" cannot dismiss or reject the validity of inner experience. It can doubt it but cannot pass judgment on it. Once this is established, a place for inner experience can be made, co-existent with the rest and open to the formulation of a clear understanding and a subjective science. It is my reading that this is clearly the intent of this book and it is an admirable attempt in this direction. The extensive postings here completely obscure this purpose. Moreover, I agree with Rich that this obscuration has been engineered through partial and decontextualized quotations. In fact, one of the main quotes presented to make a case for the rationalist rejection of inner experience is just the opposite; it provides the grounds for a discussion on the limits of reason and psychoanalysis and the difficulties presented by mysticism, and attempts to arrive at a distinction between pathological and spiritual forms of subjectivity, particularly vindicating Sri Aurobindo's inner coherence and balance. Here I put down the complete quote. I do hope that after reading this, the intent of the author will be more clear and we can put a stop to this barrage of emotional incitement:

"Before continuing it is necessary to consider a question that may have occurred to some readers. In writing and speaking about his sadhana, Aurobindo made the following claims: that he saw visions, heard voices, and had other sources of knowledge independent of the senses and reason; that he could read people’s minds and had knowledge of the future; that by means of mental power he could change the course of events, cure diseases, and alter the form of his body; that he went into trance; that he felt physical pain as pleasure and experienced spontaneous erotic delight; that he had a sort of supernatural strength; that he was in touch with goddesses and gods; that he was one with God. Those familiar with Indian mythological literature will not be surprised by these powers and experiences, as they are commonplace in the epics and Puranas. Those familiar with the literature of mysticism will observe that Aurobindo’s powers and experiences are similar to those that other mystics from Milarepa to Rumi to Saint Teresa are said to have possessed. But those familiar with the literature of psychiatry and clinical psychology may be struck by the similarity between Aurobindo’s powers and experiences and the symptoms of schizophrenia. "The question of the relationship between mysticism and madness has been discussed since antiquity. In the folklore of many cultures, a man or woman of exceptional ability has often been thought closer to the lunatic than to the ordinary mortal. Indian tradition offers hundreds of examples of yogis, mystics, and sufis whom others regarded, at least sometimes, as out of their minds. India assigns an honored place to the divine madman and madwoman once their spiritual credentials have been accepted. In the West, someone who acts eccentrically and claims divine influence is more likely to be considered a psychotic with religious delusions. Recent psychiatry has barely amended Freud’s idea that “religious phenomena are only to be understood on the pattern of the individual neurotic systems familiar to us.” A defender of mysticism would argue that the truth value of mystical experience is so much greater than the truth value of psychiatry—a discipline based on dubious assumptions—that any attempt by the latter to explain the former is absurd. But unless the defender was an experienced mystic, this would just be substituting one set of unverified assumptions for another. When I speak of Aurobindo’s experiences, my aim is not to argue for their veracity or for their delusiveness; I simply present some of the documented events of his inner life and provide a framework for evaluating them.

"In his Varieties of Religious Experience, William James examined the experiences of “religious geniuses,” some of whom were considered unbalanced by their contemporaries. James insisted that such experiences had to be interpreted “in the immediate context of the religious consciousness.” The correct criteria for judging them were “immediate luminousness,” “philosophical reasonableness,” and “moral helpfulness.” Later writers continued on similar lines. Anton Boisen felt that there was “an important relationship between acute mental illness of the functional type and those sudden transformations of character” known as conversion experiences. “Certain types of mental disorder and certain types of religious experience” were, he wrote, “attempts at [personality] reorganisation.” When successful, such attempts can lead to a new synthesis; when unsuccessful, they lead to insanity. Neither Boisen nor James attempted to erase the line between mysticism and madness. They ac¬knowledged that many people who claimed to have mystical experiences suf¬fered from psychological anguish that made them incapable of leading productive lives. They also noted that certain well-known mystics passed through periods of apparent madness. Sudhir Kakar, who discussed this with reference to Ramakrishna, felt that the distinguishing sign of psychosis in such cases was “painful or anxious affect.” In the absence of psychological pain or anxiety, “certain types of mystical experience” could be regarded as having “their ground in creativity, akin to the heightened fantasy of an artist or a writer, rather than in pathology.”

Most of Aurobindo’s experiences are familiar to the mystic traditions of India and elsewhere. He wrote about them in language that is reasonable and luminous, though often hard to understand. Some of this writing is in the form of diary notations that were concurrent with the experiences. Around the same time he also wrote more than a dozen books on philosophy, textual interpretation, social science, and literary and cultural criticism, along with a mass of miscellaneous prose and poetry. Numerous scholars admire these works for their clarity and consistency; thousands of readers believe that they have been helped spiritually or mentally by them. No contemporary ever re¬marked that Aurobindo suffered painful or anxious feelings as a result of his experiences. In one or two letters written during the 1930s, he wrote that his life had been a struggle, and hinted at inner dangers and difficulties as great as any “which human beings have borne,” but at no time did he give evidence to others of inner or outer stress. Indeed, virtually everyone who met him found him unusually calm, dispassionate, and loving – and eminently sane. The reports to the contrary are so rare that they can be examined individually. As noted earlier, while working as editor-in-chief of Bande Mataram, Aurobindo sometimes was severe and occasionally angry. After witnessing a tongue-lash¬ing Aurobindo gave to another, Hemendra Prasad Ghose wrote in his diary that he thought Aurobindo might have inherited “a tinge of lunacy” from his mother. R.C. Dutt, asked by the government for information about Aurobindo, also mentioned Swarnalata’s madness and suggested that her son was “eccentric”. After Aurobindo had spoken of his vision of Krishna in the Uttarpara speech, a few of his associates murmured that he had lost his balance. These scattered reports by people out of sympathy with him are hardly significant in themselves; viewed together with every other known report of Aurobindo’s character, they stand out as exceptions. Aurobindo’s anger was remarkably rare and did not leave scars. A few months after noting down the outburst that had surprised him, Hemendra Prasad wrote to Aurobindo that he would “always look back with pleasure on the period of my life dur¬ing which I had the privilege of working with you for a cause.” That some of Aurobindo’s political opponents considered him eccentric or unbalanced is not surprising. When people asked him about his claim to have seen Krishna, the calmness and lack of self-assertion of his answer convinced them that he was anything but unbalanced.

"Calm—shanti—was the first element of Aurobindo’s yoga; balance—samata—was its basis. Asked in 1926 about his ability to overcome the difficulties of yoga, he replied: “A perfect yoga requires perfect balance. That was the thing that saved me—the perfect balance. First I believed that nothing was impossible and at the same time I could question everything.” Record of Yoga is remarkable not only as a chronicle of unusual experiences, but as the self-critical journal of a practitioner who was never satisfied with anything short of perfection." (245-247)

91. Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, quoted in R. Hood, “Mysticism, Reality, Illusion, and the Freudian Critique of Religion,” 58. 92. W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 24–33; A. Boisen, The Exploration of the Inner World, ix. 93. S. Kakar, The Analyst and the Mystic, 26. 94. Diary of Hemendra Prasad Ghose, July 28, 1907, in SAAA. 95. Talk of November 11, 1926, quoted in A. Purani, Life, 205.

September 24, 2008

Integral Yoga fundamentalism with its claims that its founders are gods or avatars

Re: Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism (a speech by Peter Heehs: Hyderabad 2006)
by Rich on Tue 23 Sep 2008 10:56 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link Sekhar,

Sri Aurobindo is a historical figure of such complexity as to be malleable enough to be almost whatever we want him to be. Hindu Nationalist, Jeffersionian Democrat, Spiritual Anarchist, or like Mr Chattopadhyaya someone who shares affinities with Karl Marx.

In my opinion the claim that he was a Hindu Nationalist is seriously undercut by his major socio-political text The Human Cycle and the Ideal of Human Unity. While some claims could be made that he was a Hindu Nationalist early on -before 1913- there has not been anyone I have come across yet who has made the claim that was a Hindu Nationalist who could square this view with these major text (HC, IHU). In fact my experience is whenever someone from the Hindu Nationalist school is confronted with these texts they prefer not to debate the matter further.

While Sri Aurobindo makes a claim that India has a special destiny to be the guru of nations, this is really no different than claims by other nationalist authors in the 19th and early 20th century, that their own particular nations somehow had a special destiny to perform in the world. This was true for example with the Polish nationalist Adam Mickiewicz who preached that Poland was the Christ of nations, and its suffering would redeem the world.

These nationalist claims in themselves however do not substantiate the belief that Sri Aurobindo wanted India to be exclusively a Hindu state. In fact his major text advise a secular national state at present which will hopefully realize the potential for a World State and than a form of spiritual anarchy.

With regards to denouncing Islamic Fundamentalism as well as Hindu Fundamentalism indeed that should be done. The misplaced concreteness that Fundamentalist ascribe to history and their own special place in it undermine any hope of Human Unity. But one should in fact condemn all forms of religious fundamentalism which positively reinforce the hatred between them be they Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish.

One could even argue that the most dangerous forms of fundamentalism today are in fact the Evangelical Christian claims of George W. Bush because they have wrought chaos in the entire world. One could also argue that the unlawful occupation by fundamentalist Zionist of Palestine have been the driving force behind the contemporary rise of xenophobic Islamic fundamentalism.

But we should not stop here one could also make negative claims about Scientific Fundamentalism and its reduction of everything to the non-material world of sub atomic particles, or Neo-Liberal Market Fundamentalism whose collapse has undermined the world's economies, which leeches off taxpayers when they blunder and whose preferred form of government is the Fascist State.

And of course there is Integral Yoga fundamentalism with its claims that its founders are gods or avatars and that similar to the Christian myth make the case for them descending to Earth to take up the suffering and redemption of humanity. True to all fundamentalist assumptions in this one the founders are seen to be infallible, beyond the scope of any critical inquiry, and their pronouncements relative to world events be they in 1913 or 1947 are thought to be fixed, eternal and unchanging.

September 23, 2008

The vision of this pioneer of a higher evolution was continually evolving

The Yoga of Self-Perfection and the Triple Transformation by Richard Hartz
Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Mon 13 Aug 2007 Permanent Link

One who has attained spiritual liberation and continues to participate in the life of this world is known in India as a Jivanmukta. Maintaining his “freedom in Infinity” as he led a revolutionary movement, Sri Aurobindo was a Jivanmukta with a difference...His work in the world also took on a deeper significance as part of the terrestrial unfolding of the Divine and was not just a prolongation of his former activity. A “constant heightening and widening”, with no end in sight, became the character of the Yoga he practised and taught during the remainder of his life on earth.

Sri Aurobindo was an explorer of the realms of consciousness. Like Aswapati in his epic Savitri, he was a “voyager upon uncharted routes”,[18] an untiring and undaunted discoverer and experimenter. The vision of this pioneer of a higher evolution was continually evolving. In his writings, he was capable of building massive structures of thought. But as he was more intent on forging ahead than on consolidating and publicising what he had already done, he left many of his works unfinished or incompletely revised. Not only did his terminology vary from one book to another and change in the course of time, but even within a single book he sometimes left us with layers of writing and revision belonging to different stages of his development.

This is particularly true of The Synthesis of Yoga, which cannot be accurately understood without knowing something about the history of the text. The incompleteness of this book reflects the exigencies of the attempt to refashion Yoga into a means of further evolution. A transition of the magnitude Sri Aurobindo envisaged could not be accomplished in one lifetime. By leaving The Synthesis unfinished he emphasised, as it were, the point made in the book itself that one who sets out on the adventure of this Yoga “is not the sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a sadhaka of the Infinite.”[19]

Of the works Sri Aurobindo published in monthly instalments in the Arya, there was only one that continued from beginning to end of the six and a half years of the journal’s existence—from August 1914 to January 1921. This was The Synthesis of Yoga. Years later, after he had substantially reformulated some aspects of his Yoga, Sri Aurobindo returned to this book.

  • In the 1930s and 1940s, he thoroughly revised Part One, “The Yoga of Divine Works”, which was published as a separate volume in 1948.
  • He partially revised Part Two, “The Yoga of Integral Knowledge”, but did not publish the revised version.[20]
  • The Introduction remained almost untouched.
  • Part Three, “The Yoga of Divine Love”, was left as it was written in 1918.
  • The half-finished Part Four, “The Yoga of Self-Perfection”, also remained unrevised. Thus its terminology is that of the Arya period, unlike Part One and some chapters of Part Two which reflect later developments.

Part Four of The Synthesis contained, when it was first published, Sri Aurobindo’s most original contribution to the theory and practice of Yoga. This is not said with the intent of minimising the significance of the other parts of the book.

  • The Introduction placed Yoga in an evolutionary context and gave a new meaning to the word “integral”. Today more than ever, these chapters deserve the attention of all who are concerned with the future of spirituality, even if they read no further.
  • “The Yoga of Divine Works”, in the form in which Sri Aurobindo eventually expanded it, was to become his definitive account of the most dynamic aspect of his teaching.
  • As for “The Yoga of Integral Knowledge”, it is a monumental treatment of a subject on which he could write with unrivalled depth and insight.
  • The beautiful part that follows, “The Yoga of Divine Love”, has an importance out of proportion to its comparative brevity.

The Magic Leverage
The idea behind Yoga is that any human faculty can be turned from its ordinary functions to a higher purpose by purifying and concentrating its action. Even apart from spirituality, all intellectual, ethical and aesthetic culture does this to some degree. Reason, will and emotion are freed from the confusions of their haphazard workings in the undisciplined nature and trained to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth, good or beauty. The primary task of culture has always been to lift these most conscious powers of our normal being out of subjection to the obscure and disorderly movements of the lower nature into the clear light of self-awareness.

But throughout history, as Sri Aurobindo shows in The Human Cycle, the supreme expressions of thought, art and moral idealism have tended to go further than this. Not content with raising humanity from the infrarational to the rational level, culture at its highest has been in effect a preparation for Yoga, where the same psychological powers are directed deliberately towards a superhuman and suprarational object.

The great dreamers and doers rise above our ordinary limits by sheer force of genius and character despite the resistance of human nature and society. But these are exceptional cases which seem to have no rational explanation. In Yoga, on the other hand, a principle is recognised by which the surpassing of the current stage of general development becomes a natural and intelligible possibility. Three factors have to be taken into account: the individual, the universal and the transcendent. Referring to the second of these as “Nature”, Sri Aurobindo reveals how the link between the individual and the transcendent that is the secret of Yoga can change the rules of the cosmic game:
If the individual and Nature are left to themselves, the one is bound to the other and unable to exceed appreciably her lingering march. Something transcendent is needed, free from her and greater, which will act upon us and her, attracting us upward to Itself and securing from her by good grace or by force her consent to the individual ascension.[23]

So far, human evolution as a whole has proceeded at the pace of Nature’s “lingering march”, however much it may have speeded up in comparison with the staggering expanses of time involved in biological evolution. If the individual’s evolution is quickened by introducing another factor with a freer law, this should have an effect on the general movement. But if individual liberation is seen as an end in itself, drawing souls away from the world, its potential impact on the collective evolution will be neutralised. That is what tended to happen in India in the past. Sri Aurobindo, on the other hand, refused to regard a quietistic liberation as the ultimate goal of Yoga. According to his experience, a one-pointed concentration of thought, will or feeling that brings us into contact with something beyond ourselves canand should have more dynamic consequences. It may even set in motion the “magic leverage” whose effect he evokes in Savitri... It is the depiction of the Yoga of King Aswapati in Part One of Savitri, especially in the third canto, that resembles most closely in a number of places the Yoga of self-perfection as described in The Synthesis and in Sri Aurobindo’s diary, the Record of Yoga.

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.

Sri Aurobindo is really talking like an Orthodox Christian. It's all very Jewish as well

God is a Joke and Bill Maher is a Barbaric Idiot
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

I believe we were discussing evolution and creation. In Christian terms, man is the vertical link that potentially spans all the levels of creation. As Ware writes, he is both microcosm and mediator, and "it is his God-given task to reconcile and harmonize the noetic and the material realms, to bring them to unity, to spiritualize the material, and to render manifest all the latent capacities of the created order."

That's interesting, because you could say the identical thing about Sri Aurobindo, which is again why I think that the two approaches are so compatible. Remember, Aurobindo was educated at Cambridge, and had no knowledge of his homeland at the time he returned there in his early 20's. As such -- in contrast to a commenter the other day who suggested that he was influenced by Rudolf Steiner -- I think he was influenced by both Christianity and western science -- including the theory of evolution -- and applied them to Indian metaphysics. So when Aurobindo talks about "divinizing matter" or reconciling all the levels of creation, he is really talking like an Orthodox Christian.

It's all very Jewish as well. Ware quotes a venerable rabbi who writes that man is called "to advance from rung to rung until, through him, everything is united." Note that there is no unity in the absence of the ascent. True unity cannot be achieved horizontally, both in principle and in fact.

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 22, 2008

Protest letters demanding expulsion of Peter Heehs from the Ashram

from PP Raghavachary <> to date18 September 2008 20:20 subject Protests against Peter Heehs

Dear Mr. Mohapatra,

How are you sir? Presently there are many protests raised by various senior inmates of the Ashram demanding expulsion of Peter Heehs from the Ashram. Please find the protest letters attached which came to me through some friends's emails.
-- Regards, PPR
From: PP Raghavachary Advocate First Floor, No. 15, Sri Aurobindo Street Pondicherry-605001 Ph: 0413-2228215 Mob: +91 9443602818
4 attachments — Letter to Manojda-Final from Anand Reddy.pdf76K, letter.doc33K, The Role of Peter Hees in the Archives.doc25K, The Role of Peter Hees in the Archives.doc25K

*** [Writing an irreverent book is not a crime] ***

from PP Raghavachary to "Tusar N. Mohapatra" <> date 20 September 2008 10:20 subject Re: Protests against Peter Heehs

Dear Mohapatra,

1) Certainly you can publish them in Savitri Era Forum because I had received it through email and same is the case with you. Since the letters do not bear signatures you may contact the concerned authors of the letters through emails and obtain their permission. I shall forward the emails which I received so that you can verify from them.

2) In fact, the tampering of Savitri and Peter Heehs's attitude of writing agaisnt Sri Aurobindo in a derogatory manner were questioned by many senior sadhaks who include Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya and some others. For your verification those letters are also attached now with this email. Since the original letters are not legible it was got retyped on the Computer and the original typewritten letter is also attached.

3) No one questions the freedom of Peter Heehs to write whatever he likes, if he is somewhere outside like many had done. The question is that of an attitude who claims himself a disciple and living in the Ashram for more than 37 years can be allowed to critisise the Master himself ? If he can be given this freedom then there is no meaning in permitting him to stay in the Ashram.

4) Divine Mother had categorically stated that it is not necessary to write any biography on Sri Aurobindo's life at Pondicherry i.e., after he came to Pondicherry in the years 1910. Here is the extract from Mother's words cut and pasted from Mother's Agenda Vol. 12 page 66 -- Mother's Agenda dated 10.03.1971 (Concerning a disciple who wanted to finish "The Life of Sri Aurobindo" left incomplete by Rishabhchand.)

I thought Rishabhchand had finished "The Life of Sri Aurobindo." He stopped where Sri Aurobindo comes to Pondicherry [in 1910]. That's enough. There's no need to add anything, just a note – a sentence or two will do. There's nothing to say about his life here.... Basically no one really knows the life he led here. I am afraid they'll write a lot of nonsense. I would prefer that nothing be said – they can say he retired to Pondicherry to lead the life of Yoga and henceforth only that mattered, and it's better not to speak of it. That's all. It doesn't have to be lengthy: just a chapter to close the series, to say that his life in Pondicherry was exclusively taken up with Yoga and that he wrote what he wanted to say, and consequently there's nothing more to add. We have everything he wrote, and it's much better than anything we can say about it. What's that sound? Nothing.... Someone's playing a flute in the school.... Someone who must have a lot of heart! (Mother caresses Satprem's head and goes within)

Thanks, Regards, PP Raghavachary
4 attachments — jugalda first letter to trustees1.pdf853K, JUGAL KM.doc171K, SAVITRI-A MANTRA.doc216K, Savitri-Sacrosanct.doc44K

*** [Whether Heehs has actually "criticized the Master"...] ***

*** [Criminals, habitual offenders and perverts like Peter Heehs have hijacked the Ashram] ***

*** [Mr Peter Heehs seems to have treated the Archival holding as personal property. SM 8:05 AM] ***

*** [Biased train of conversation which denounces the integrity of a fine critical biography] ***