October 15, 2008

Lewis noted the stupidity of making men without chests and then demanding virtue and enterprise from them

The Abolition of Man from Thoughts, Books, and Philosophy by jhbowden
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 2001)

Lewis wrote that the purpose of a liberal education was not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. The traditionalists wanted to initiate young people into the mystery of life. They also wanted to inspire participation, and were interested in cultural propagation. The progressive teaching molds people for the purposes of which the molded know nothing. Instead of propagation, we have propaganda. Instead of participation, we have repudiation.

People constantly complain that our civilization needs more citizens with priorities and initiative. Well, Lewis noted the stupidity of making men without chests and then demanding virtue and enterprise from them. We laugh at honor, and then act shocked that there are traitors in our midst.

We cannot debunk everything. That is the main lesson of this book. Explaining everything entails that we explain away the very idea of explanation itself. Much of our mental furniture must be accepted as a datum. For as Lewis concludes, “To 'see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”

October 14, 2008

The humanities ultimately are formative, not informative

The Culture We Deserve
from Thoughts, Books, and Philosophy by jhbowden

Barzun asserted that art and culture do not belong in a university, in the sense that the university is not their natural home. Great art is meant to be fun. The words amateur and dilettante, which have been turned into words of contempt, in their original sense meant “lover” and “seeker of delight.” Before 1850, after all, there weren’t any subjects and courses to instruct a lover of the arts. Few even believed the arts should be studied in the spirit of the sciences. Rather than methods and theories, the arts presuppose what Pascal called esprit de finesse, an intuitive understanding that seizes upon the character of its object as a whole...

A history, Barzun argued, is a piece of writing meant to be read. History, by showing the heroic side in man side by side with the vile, exercises our imagination and furnishes it. A good history shows the movers and shakers because if we delete them, the story is missing from the history. Too often an enterprising historian will try to make a name for himself by imposing an original idea upon events, a single cause. However, the presence or absence of particular individuals, along with sheer contingencies, both make a difference to the outcome of events; Barzun warned us not to miss the motive power nor the accidents interwoven in the passage of time. History is a product of acts of intelligence, will, and self-interest; things like the Colt revolver and barbed wire simply do not appear out of the ether.

History extends our experience by building an intuition of what is likely and what is important. After all, the humanities ultimately are formative, not informative; they organize our minds and make us attentive to the world. Relativist in the true sense of the word, the humanities link and relate the human soul to the rest of existence. The humanities broaden our horizons by giving us a taste of the philosophic atmosphere and historical perspective. As William James roughly described it, a liberal education allows us to know a good man when we see him; it is not only important for man to have skill, but to be a judge of skill, particularly of other men. Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1989)

October 13, 2008

We need to work through this moment in time as an aspiring Gnostic community

Re: Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs
by Rick Lipschutz on Sun 12 Oct 2008 07:03 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

As I understand it, in responding to an intellectual position taken by another, an approach practiced and favored by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother begins with this premise:

Not only all forms and forces, but all thoughts, chains of ideas and works of reason, have behind them, are ultimately based on some truth. This truth has real existence, in the Absolute and in the Saccidananda and, however changed, diminished, distorted it may have grown from the original, any idea of any coherence derives from some basis in truth.

What Sri Aurobindo will often do, in his writings, is express clearly a thought, idea, and chain of reasoning and demonstrate what truth is trying, through such ideas, to be expressed. There is, for example, some truth in Materialism that is aspiring to be realized in life. Sri Aurobindo will then go to express another truth, which may be at apparent odds with the first (There is a truth in Spirituality that presses to materialize), showing clearly how both truths—may be even multiple truths—are striving for living expression, and he will proceed to suggest a more comprehensive truth that assimilates the principal elements in each, reaching in this way some expanded synthesis only partially contained in the various elements of seemingly contradictory truths. He will do this using perfectly well the outward form of mental reasoning, but applying from behind it a wider view based on amore comprehensive or intuitive mode of perceptive understanding.

What he will NOT do is what we human beings always seem to want to do. We always find ourselves saying: This is wrong! I don't agree, I don't like its expression, it's simply not true; maybe it's a deliberate lie, on the basis of some hostile agenda, but it is most certainly false, pernicious even. I don't accept it and I in fact question the very motives of the person who puts forth this pernicious form of expression.

The Mother said more than once that when we disagree with another person's position, a healthy exercise is to identify with that exponent and their position sufficiently so that we can express their side of the issue. This can be a means to broaden our viewpoint, help us not only relate to the other person but strengthen our mental faculties, our understanding, and if we have enough aspiration, reach a greater truth than ours or the other's alone.

I have read in full Peter Heehs's book, "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo," and met with him when he came to San Francisco giving readings and discussing his work. I found he added to my understanding and appreciation of Sri Aurobindo—not only in his life before Pondicherry, but after his great realizations: the Silent Brahman, the Cosmic Consciousness that he entered in the Alipur jail, the Parabrahman realization, the Overmental Realization and through the entire arc of his earthy life. I have adeeper sense now how Sri Aurobindo, by the power of yoga, transformed a human consciousness into an integral divine consciousness. And in respect to his Integral Yoga, which is my principal focus (I was recently co-facilitating a Synthesis of Yoga study group and plan to resume it) the book afforded me stronger hope that humans like myself can make progress on this difficult and thorny path.

Sri Aurobindo struggled with human problems, family problems, national problems; found a way through Integral Yoga to surmount them for himself and even to bring into the world a greater force so that others individually and collectively and the nations and the earth itself have a more certain hope, or at least the main chance, to transform our ignorance and struggling lives into something divine. I venerate Purani's biography, I love and enjoy what I've read of Iyengar's, have deep respect for Van Vrekhem's, but I feel there is room for "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo."

I feel his approach to a critical, scholarly work based on a great deal of research, directed to the scholarly and academic community, is a potent form of inoculation against inevitable intellectual attacks to come. After all, Sri Aurobindo and Mother are not only for devotees, and for much-needed karma yogis; they're also for intellectuals, those with a more mental bent—and an integral Yoga must include in it and integrate the heart, the will, the mind and more, in a "methodized effort towards self-perfection."

I am distressed at the personal invective in the attacks on a hard-working scholar and sadhak whose love for Sri Aurobindo shines clearly through the work, if from under the surface.. He is a good writer and, I feel, a sound scholar who has done much original research.

Peter's work, and that of others, in unearthing and bringing to light the "Record of Yoga" (Sri Aurobindo's own diary of his yogic experience) has shown the world that Sri Aurobindo experimented as much or more than any scientist and attempted to realize (and by his own, remarkably self-consistent account, succeeded in realizing) what he wrote about for the sadhaks and the the public.

It is so disappointing, so dismaying to see so many luminaries whom I respect so much attacking a sadhak who has devoted his life to needed scholarship, and attacking him in such a personal un-Aurobindonian fashion. "I could feel my eyes turning into dust/Like two strangers turning into dust."

I find it hard to believe what I've been seeing. We need to work through this moment in time as an aspiring Gnostic community, however far from a functioning collectivity we still seem to be. This chaotic episode is an opportunity for us to begin again to try to put forward our opinions in an Aurobindonian fashion, respecting the truth that is expressed in another position, trying with the Mother's help to bring it into harmony with our own positions, or showing with logic, respect and fairness where we believe it falls short. This would be the least we can do, as human beings discoursing with other human beings, as well as followers of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo who aspire for a divine life for the earth, based on liberty, mutuality and harmony.

Let me add here that I have been a grateful reader on the SCIY website but have not yet posted. I appreciate the postings of Debashish, Ronjon, Rich, Vladimir, Rakesh, Ned, all the many others. We all have to realize that there are real and still-potent forces that WANT us to clash just as we've been doing, fall into anambush, so to speak. If we have the aspiration, if we can summon it back, there are greater more conscious forces that are leading, even as we speak, to a multi-poised Unity that has infinite room in it for the diversity of our approaches. Rick Lipschutz

October 09, 2008

It is one of the cardinal principles of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy that intuitions differ very much in value


Sri Aurobindo as a true descendant of our ancient sages, has kept true to this standpoint. He looks at the whole universe from the standpoint of the highest consciousness, which he calls Sachchidananda. Unlike the Greeks, who oscillated between the naturalistic and the idealistic interpretation of the universe, Sri Aurobindo looks upon the naturalistic interpretation itself as one that is made from the standponit of consciousness at one stage of its evolution. Paradoxical as it may sound, even the idealistic interpretation is made from the standpoint of the same level of consciousness. This level is what we call mental consciousness. Mind is incapable of framing a perfect synthesis, and therefore, all its constructions exhibit gaps or contradictions. Even the intuitions of Plato had not completely freed themselves from mental elements, and therefore, there was a clash between them and his logic or reason. How this standpoint enables Sri Aurobindo to steer dear of the difficulties of Plato's philosophy, I shall explain in the next paragraph.


Plato's philosophy, thus, is haunted by a sense of its incompleteness: its intuition and reason cannot be reconciled with each other. This is its great tragedy.

  • It may be removed by lowering the intuitions, by doing away, for example, with the idea of good. This was the solution offered by Aristotle. He did away with the idea of good, the philosopher-king and all the other great ideals revealed by Plato's intuition.
  • Or the remedy may be applied to logic by raising it so that it may be made a fit vehicle for the intuitions. This second method was that which was adopted by Hegel.

Sri Aurobindo's solution is totally different from either of these. He avoids Plato's tragedy not by lowering the intuitions, nor by raising the logic, but by still further raising the intuitions. His diagnosis of Plato's tragedy is that it is due to Plato's having imperfect intuitions. The intuitions that Plato had were inutitions of abstract truths, and therefore did not have the potency to project themselves out of themselves. The highest intuitions create their own logic and do not have to wait for logic to come up to their level.

It is one of the cardinal principles of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy that intuitions differ very much in value. This is one of the main points of difference between Sri Aurobindo and most of those Western philosophers who also rely partly or wholly upon intuitions. Whatever that may be, it 'is undoubtedly true, from Sri Aurobindo's point of view, that Plato's intuitions were imperfect, as they were intuitions of abstract truth. His idea of good, grand as it is, is yet nothing but an ab- straction. It is impossible with such a principle to have any kind of rela- tionship with the world of sensible experience. It is dead before it is born, and it is useless to try to make it work by offering it a more suitable logic. The only remedy is to raise it to the position of a concrete universal.


One of the most serious defects in Plato's theory of ideas is that the ideas as he conceives them are absolutely static and have no power of generation or creation. It is only the souls that have got this power, and therefore God as the highest soul performs the functions of creation in his philosophy. One consequence of this static view of the ideas is that they cannot bring themselves into any sort of connection with the world of sense. The only way in which a connection is effected is through the agency of God. But the God of Plato is only an underdog, having the power to create only according to the pattern seen in the ideas. Thus the connection between the idfeas and the world created by God is a somewhat remote one. In the case of the human world it is still more remote, for God does not create it directly but leaves it to the inferior powers. This g ; ves the human world a much lower status than what it would have if it had direct connection with the ideas. Although it is supposed to participate in the ideas, such participation can only be very imperfect. This defect we notice also in other systems of philosophy which take a similar static view of their ultimate principle.

For instance, we notice it in the philosophy of Spinoza whose Substance or ultimate principle is also, like the ideas of Plato, static. There is no passage in Spinoza from Subs- tance to the world of modes or finite beings, and he has therefore to fall back upon all sorts of devices, such as that of infinite modes, in order to bridge the gulf between the two. We notice it also in the philosophy of Hartmann who has borrowed his main ideas from Plato: the values of Hartmann cannot bring themselves directly into contact with the world. Another consequence of his static view of the ideas is that Plato has no theory of evolution. There is no goal or destination towards which the world may be said to be moving. Individual souls can, of course, imporve themselves by education, and if they are sufficiently enlightened, they can, through instruction in dialectic, have even a vision of the idea of good, but there is nothing in Plato which gives us any indication of the whole world marching to a higher goal. On the contrary, the nature of the world has been determined beforehand by the manner of its creation, and con- sequently the possibility of such advance is ruled out. We shall discuss this question when dealing with the problem of evil.


The contrast here with Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is striking. His theory of evolution is the pivot round which the whole philosophy of Sri Aurobindo moves. Evolution is the movement which is the reverse of the movement of involution or creation. It is because of the descent of the Spirit into matter, life and mind, that these can ascend to the higher regions of the Spirit. Because the Spirit in creation has involved itself in matter, life and mind, therefore, matter, life and mind feel an impulse to rise to their Source. Evolution, thus, is a sort of home-sickness of the Spirit. The Spirit has descended into the lowest particle of matter; therefore, matter seeks to evolve into something higher than itself, namely life. There is a descent of the Spirit into life, and therefore, life seeks to rise to some- thing higher than itself mind. Similarly, there is a descent of the Spirit into mind;, and consequently mind must ascend to something higher than itself, namely, Supermind. The highest principle so far evolved is mind. But evolution cannot stop with mind^ for mind is not its last word. It must move further up and come to the next stage, namely, Supermind. There is no uncertainty about it: it is bound to do so by the necessity which is forced upon it by the process of involution or creation. But when it does so, there will be a radical change in the nature of the world, for with the emergence of Supermind the process of evolution becomes a process through knowledge, the previous process being through ignorance.

Such, in brief, is Sri Aurobindo's scheme of evolution. It is the most optimistic scheme ever conceived by the mind of man. What concerns us more particularly here, however, is the picture which it presents to us of the goal of human life and society. I cannot do better here than quote a passage from his recent book The Human Cycle, where it is set forth as clearly as possible:

"The true and full spiritual aim in society will regard man not as a mind, a life and a body, but as a soul incarnated for a divine fulfilment upon earth, not only in heavens beyond, which after all it need not have left if it had no divine business here in the world of physical, vital and mental nature. It will therefore regard the life, mind and body neither as ends in themselves, sufficient for their own satisfaction, not as mortal members full of disease which have only to be dropped off for the rescued spirit to flee away into its own pure regions, but as first instruments of the soul, the yet imperfect instruments of an unseized diviner purpose. It will believe in their destiny and help them to believe in themselves, but for that very reason in their highest and not only in their lowest or lower possibilities. Their destiny will be, in its view, to spiritualise themselves so as to grow into visible members of the spirit, lucid means of its manifestation, them- selves spiritual, illumined, more and more conscious and perfect. For accepting the truth of man's soul as a thing entirely divine in its essence, it will accept also the possibility of his whole being becoming divine in spite of Nature's first patent contradictions of this possibility, her darkened denials of this ultimate certitude, and even with these as a necessary earthly starting-point. And as it will regard man the individual, it will regard man the collectivity as a soul-form of the Infinite, a collective soul myriadly embodied upon earth for a divine fulfilment in its manifold relations and its multitudinous activities. Therefore it will hold sacred all the different parts &f man's life which correspond to the parts of his being, all his physical, vital, dynamic, emotional, aesthetic, ethical, intellectual, psychic evolution, and see in them instruments for a growth towards a diviner living. It will regard every human society, nation, people or other organic aggregate from the same standpoint, subsouls, as it were, means of a complex manifestation and self-fulfilment of the Spirit, the divine Reality, the conscious Infinite in man upon earth. The possible godhead of man because he is inwardly of one being with God will be its one solitary cree

October 03, 2008

Aakash Singh and Rimina Mohapatra lay out the intricate tapestry of Hegel’s thought

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Reading Hegel: The Introductions
G.W.F. Hegel Edited and introduced by Aakash Singh and Rimina Mohapatra
Price: $35.00 AUD$25.00 USD £16.00 GBP
ISBN-13: 978-0-9805440-1-5 (paper) Publication date: October 2008 Pages: 272 Format: 234x156 mm (6x9 in) Paperback Series: Transmission
Download book as PDF (Open Access)

Bringing together for the first time all of G.W.F. Hegel’s major Introductions in one place, this book ambitiously attempts to present readers with Hegel’s systematic thought through his Introductions alone. The Editors articulate to what extent, precisely, Hegel’s Introductions truly reflect his philosophic thought as a whole. Certainly each of Hegel’s Introductions can stand alone, capturing a facet of his overarching idea of truth. But compiled all together, they serve to lay out the intricate tapestry of Hegel’s thought, woven with a dialectic that progresses from one book to another, one philosophical moment to another.

Hegel’s reflections on philosophy, religion, aesthetics, history, and law—all included here—have profoundly influenced many subsequent thinkers, from post-Hegelian idealists or materialists like Karl Marx, to the existentialism of Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre; from the phenomenological tradition of Edmund Husserl to Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and other post-moderns, to thinkers farther afield, like Japan’s famous Kyoto School or India’s Aurobindo. This book provides the opportunity to discern how the ideas of these later thinkers may have originally germinated in Hegel’s writings, as well as to penetrate Hegel’s worldview in his own words, his grand architecture of the journey of the Spirit.

Editors’ Introduction: The Circle of Knowledge Chapter 1: Phenomenology of Spirit Chapter 2: Science of Logic Chapter 3: Philosophy of Right Chapter 4: Philosophy of History Chapter 5: Philosophy of Fine Art Chapter 6: Philosophy of Religion Chapter 7: History of Philosophy Editors’ Epilogue: The End of Introductions Further Readings Index

Authors, editors and contributors
AAKASH SINGH is a Research Professor at the Centre for Ethics and Global Politics (Luiss University, Rome), specializing in International Legal and Political Philosophy. He is author of Eros Turannos, and Editor of several books, including Buddhism and the Contemporary World: An Ambedkarian Perspective, and L’Inde à la conquete de la liberté.

RIMINA MOHAPATRA is an MPhil graduate from the University of Delhi, and completed her MA in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College. She has been a Junior Research Fellow, University Grants Commission of India and a Junior Specialist at the Department of Philosophy, University of California Santa Cruz. She is currently formulating and compiling a second collection of Hegel’s writings, to be published in 2009.
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