February 29, 2008

Our physical nature offers an inert obstruction to any radical change

The Yoga of Self-Perfection and the Triple Transformation, by Richard Hartz
posted by Debashish on Mon 13 Aug 2007 04:06 PM PDT Permanent Link

Life and the Suprarational

At the heart of the difficulty of spiritualising human existence and elevating it towards the suprarational is the resistance of the parts of our being that seem to belong intrinsically to the domain of the infrarational. Our physical nature offers an inert obstruction to any radical change. But before we can even hope to deal with it, we must master the life-force connecting mind and body—the vital being, as Sri Aurobindo called it—whose problematic character already raises serious doubts about the possibility of an integral transformation.

We have seen that the leading powers of human nature—the intellect, the ethical will and the aesthetic and higher emotional faculties—may be said to be pursuing, each in its own way, some ideal of truth, good or beauty that points beyond itself to the Divine and Infinite. The vital being, on the other hand, appears to have no motive except its own self-assertion and enjoyment. Ethics, religion and spirituality have generally responded to its waywardness with coercion and repression, frustrating or throttling its impulses instead of transmuting them. Yet its free and enthusiastic cooperation is needed for the fullness of living. The vital nature dominates much of our individual and social existence. If it cannot be converted, the idea of spiritually perfecting our embodied life would seem to be a chimera.

The viability of a Yoga of self-perfection depends, therefore, on the discovery that “this great mass of vital energism contains in itself the imprisoned suprarational”. It has, in other words, an “instinctive reaching out for something divine, absolute and infinite which is concealed in its blind strivings”. Sri Aurobindo makes this point in a chapter of The Human Cycle entitled “The Suprarational Ultimate of Life”—the longest chapter in the book, whose extensive revision indicates the importance he gave to it. He goes on to observe: “The first mark of the suprarational, when it intervenes to take up any portion of our being, is the growth of absolute ideals”. As instances of vital ideals of this kind, he continues, we need only note, however imperfect and dim the present shapes, the strivings of love at its own self-finding, its reachings towards its absolute—the absolute love of man and woman, the absolute maternal or paternal, filial or fraternal love, the love of friends, the love of comrades, love of country, love of humanity.[29]

It is relevant to note that one of these ideals, “the absolute love of man and woman”, is the theme of the ancient story of Savitri and Satyavan. If Sri Aurobindo, instead of completing The Synthesis of Yoga and other works, devoted most of his literary energy in his later years to an epic based on this legend, it was evidently because through this tale of the victory of love over death he could symbolise a truth that was central to his message. That truth, we may say in the terminology of The Human Cycle, is the presence of “the imprisoned suprarational” in human life and the possibility of releasing it, with a consequent transformation extending even to the conquest of death.

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. But the poem as a whole, through the way the legend itself is told, conveys symbolically an essential aspect of the Yoga: the power of the Spirit over life and matter and the deliverance of our vital and physical being from subjection to the determinism of the present laws of Nature. Moreover, the debate between Savitri and Death provides an opportunity for bringing out the significance of the ideals which Sri Aurobindo saw as signs of a suprarational influence. In The Human Cycle, after mentioning the various expressions of love’s “reachings towards its absolute”, he goes on to say:

These ideals of which the poets have sung so persistently, are not a mere glamour and illusion, however the egoisms and discords of our instinctive, infrarational way of living may seem to contradict them. Always crossed by imperfection or opposite vital movements, they are still divine possibilities and can be made a first means of our growth into a spiritual unity of being with being.[30]

In Savitri, Sri Aurobindo joins his own voice to those of the poets who have chanted through the ages “the anthem of eternal love”.[31] In Book Ten, Canto Two, “The Gospel of Death and Vanity of the Ideal”, and in “The Debate of Love and Death” which follows, he takes up precisely the question raised in The Human Cycle. Are such ideals mere self-delusion or do they point to a divine possibility? Death heaps scorn on them, harping on human selfishness and the mutability of this world. Savitri’s reply is reminiscent of The Human Cycle, where Sri Aurobindo maintains that human relations, however disfigured by our present egoism, can become “not the poor earthly things they are now, but deep and beautiful and wonderful movements of God in man fulfilling himself in life”.[32]

The Synthesis of Yoga: Second International Study Camp at Nainital

News Upcoming Events Sri Aurobindo Darshan: The University of Tomorrow
Click here to read SACAR Newsletter

Seminar on Integral Spirituality - Feb 20 - Mar 3, 2008 Participants will be a group of nurses, healing practioners and educators from the US.

Seminar and Interactive Learning Programme - April 20 - 29, 2008 Seminar Title: "An Orientation to the Multi-faceted Genius of Sri Aurobindo" Registration open now ! Limited seats ! Download the programme brochure click here for the Registration form email the completed form to

Second International Study Camp at Nainital - Oct 1 - 9, 2008 Programme Theme: Yoga of Divine Love (focus will be on selected chapters from The Synthesis of Yoga) Facilitator : Ananda Reddy Registration open now ! Limited seats ! Download the programme brochure Participants from India, click here for Registration Form and Instructions Participants from abroad, click here for Registration Form and Instructions email the completed form to

12.01.08 We will be offering the Orientation Programme course starting 21 February 2008. This 16 week course covers four areas of Sri Aurobindo’s thought and writings: The Indian Tradition, Social Theory, Integral Metaphysics, and Integral Yoga Psychology. Each section will provide an introduction to the subject based a selection of Sri Aurobindo’s own writings.

Prior uses of the ‘invisible hand’ in literature, known to Adam Smith

'Providence' Was Not Necessary for Adam Smith's Argument But Allowed Him to Make His Argument from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Roman law over the centuries created a massive litigation library of cases of arguments, some bloody, over inheritance disputes – historically quite advanced in scope and subtlety). So, ‘nearly the same distribution’ when tried, failed in the Roman Empire. But the vast estates within the Roman empire and after it required labour to produce the sustenance and subsistence for most and its luxurious version for a few, without which it could not be sustained. Rome expanded militarily; barbarian lords and their subordinates depopulated the commercial networks of cities, the countryside was ravaged by warring Lords and ‘banditii’, and it took centuries to return to local peace.

The lords learned that feeding their employees was a necessity for their security to continue. They did not need the illusion of Providence to nudge them in this manner; self survival was sufficient. Indeed, ‘Providence did not divide the earth’; violent men did that on their own account. In 18th century British society, Smith had no choice (self-preservation) but to accord ‘sage’ religious sanction to what violent usurpers (of each other) did on their own, though it was not ‘safe ‘to say so. His readers included many of the descendants of lords, who held sway politically in the king’s parliament, and his overarching aim was to persuade those who had influence, and those who influenced them, to adopt policies that would aid ‘progress towards opulence’, which would necessarily ‘spread to the inferior orders’ (the poor).

Picking St Augustine out from among 11 other authors for making a case for the invisible hand is disingenuous, if it is to be into a meaningful case that Adam Smith meant his use to be taken this way. The point is that the metaphor was well known to educated readers and Smith drew on it for his purpose, not to introduce metaphyiscal influences into his arguments. His case was perfectly explained on the two occasions he used in his books and the metaphor added nothing that was not perfectly understood from his two examples before he introduced it.Here is a list of prior uses of the ‘invisible hand’ in literature, known to Adam Smith:

● Homer (Iliad, 720 BC); ‘And from behind Zeus thrust him onwith exceeding mighty hand’; ● Horace (65-8 BC), Ovid (Metamorphoses, 8 AD): ‘twisted and plied his invisible hand, inflicting wound within wound’;● Lactantius (De divinio praemio, c.250-325): ‘invisibilis’; ● Augustine, 354-430, “God’s ‘hand’ is his power, which movesvisible things by invisible means’ (Concerning the City of God, xii, 24);● Shakespeare, ‘Thy Bloody and Invisible Hand’, (Macbeth, 2.3; 1605);● Daniel Defoe, ‘A sudden Blow from an almost invisible Hand,blasted all my Happiness’, in Moll Flanders (1722); ‘it has all been broughtto pass by an invisible hand’ (Colonel Jack, 1723); ● Nicolas Lenglet Dufesnoy said that an “invisible hand” haspower over “what happens under our eyes”; ● Charles Rollin (1661-1741), described as ‘very well knownin English and Scottish Universities’, said of the military successes of Israeli Kings “the rapidity of their consequences ought to have enabled them to discern the invisible hand which conducted them”; ● Charles Bonnet (whom Smith befriended in Geneva in 1765)wrote of the economy of the animal: “It is led towards its end by aninvisible hand”; ● Jean-Baptiste Robinet (a translator of Hume) refers tofresh water as “those basins of mineral water, prepared by an invisiblehand”. ● Voltaire (1694-1178) in Oedipe (1718) writes: “Tremble,unfortunate King, an invisible hand suspends above your head’; and ‘aninvisible hand pushed away my presents’;● Professor W. Leechman (1706-1785) (1755): ‘the silent andunseen hand of an all-wise Providence.'● Kant E.(1784) ‘Universal History’: ‘leads on to infer the design of a wise creator and not [the hand of a malicious spirit]’.

We see the structure of Auroville changing organically

Landmark event at Auroville Serena M. Josephine The Hindu Front Page Friday, Feb 29, 2008
Focus on the future at 40th anniversary celebrations
— Photo: T. Singaravelou Sir Mark Tully speaks at Auroville on Thursday. To his right are Aster Patel, member of the governing board, and Amadou Mahtar M’bow, former Director-General of UNESCO. PUDUCHERRY:

Aiming for a true state of unity in diversity, speakers at the 40th anniversary celebrations of Auroville have stressed the need to come together and stay united, while overcoming differences and working towards building the township.
As part of the landmark celebrations here on Thursday, a symposium on “Auroville… and the Ideal of Human Unity” was held. In his message, chairman of the Auroville Foundation Karan Singh called upon Aurovilians to re-dedicate themselves to the future and focus on the next task of building the township.
“The shape of Auroville has to develop and we should see it fulfilled within the next decade or so. We should overcome our differences and should not allow the progress of Auroville to be slowed down,” he added.
The completion of Matrimandir marked the conversion of the Mother’s vision into a reality, he said. He highlighted the need to look at providing more facilities such as houses, roads, sewers and public lights at Auroville.
— Photo: T. Singaravelou Matrimandir moment: The 40th anniversary celebrations of Auroville commence with a bonfire and kolam offerings on Thursday near Puducherry. Hundreds of Aurovilians participated.
With human unity being the focal point of the celebrations, member of the International Advisory Council of Auroville Sir Mark Tully referred to two forms of balance — between individual and society, and between change and tradition.
“Indian society pays too much attention on the individual. Why we are getting it wrong at the moment is because we live in a world where individuality is over-valued,” he added.
Governing board member Aster Patel said: “We have savoured that unity in diversity and know its depth and value. But to create structures of life, we have made a headway but have not reached that point which we need.”
Taking the gathering on a journey into the future, Ameeta Mehra talked of the changes that Auroville is expected to undergo. “As the years go by, we seem to sense a kind of goodwill, and people want to come together. We see the structure of Auroville changing organically.”

February 28, 2008

The Supermind had touched the earth on 29 March 1914

When the Mother first met Sri Aurobindo, on 29 March 1914, she was in deep prayerful concentration. In it she saw things in the Supermind; she was seeing things that were to be but somehow were not manifesting. She narrated to Sri Aurobindo what she saw and asked him if they would manifest. He simply said, “Yes.” And immediately she saw that the Supramental had touched the earth and was beginning to be realized! This was the first time, she says, she had witnessed the power to make real what is true, the power of that “Yes”.

The Supermind had touched the earth on 29 March 1914. The yogic tapasya was now directed to fix it permanently in the earth’s physical. The Mother’s total surrender to the Lord is the only means to achieve the glorious miracle. The change had already occurred. RYD by RY Deshpande on Mon 25 Feb 2008 03:47 AM PST Permanent Link

Going beyond earth-time and coming back to create the universe

[Savitri] The Quest from savitri by sri aurobindo by Joydip Chakladar

These unfamiliar spaces on her way
Were known and neighbours to a sense within,
Landscapes recurred like lost forgotten fields,
Cities and rivers and plains her vision claimed
Like slow-recurring memories in front,
The stars at night were her past's brilliant friends,
The winds murmured to her of ancient things
And she met nameless comrades loved by her once.

Every event, which happens around us, is experienced by our sense organs, which ultimately creates impression in our sense mind. The deeper the impressions are, better is our memory of the event. And certain times, this impression are so deep that it remains for a life time,and other lives too. And, while the sadhak comes back to certain situations, on his next life time, which has close coherence with the events she has experienced in earlier lives, she gains that memory. However, in this case, she does not go beyond the laws of earth time. She only gains a memory, about some point of time.

Going beyond earth time, is a ascension ability, which helps any yogi to ascend in different higher plane of time conciousness. The sadhak now stands beyond time. These experiences are commonly referred as Nirvana. When some sadhak, reaches here, they never come back to earthly time.

Though at this point, he can opt to comeback, and be an associate with the supermind on creating the universe, still having the regular mind and regular body. Only difference is, his mind now becomes an instrument of the supermind.

By studying the impression of mind and getting details of other life times , is a process popularly known as “Past life regression". The original thought and text beyond it, could be found from Maharishi Patanjali’s sutra’s on Raj-Yoga (‘Vibhuti Pad’).

Going beyond earth-time and coming back to create the universe, which will have the same perfection, as it is in the layer of supermental conciousness, is a supramental experience, and references could be found in ‘Synthesis of Yoga’ Chapter 25 onwards.

Kant’s method demonstrates a tacit dogmatism - assumptions smuggled in without proof

Science of Logic Reading Group: Not Adding Up from by N Pepperell

This extended close critique of Kant leads Hegel to a larger objection to Kant’s method - its self-restriction to appearances or phenomena, to what can be sensuously perceived. Contemplating objects as sensuously perceived, for Hegel, is never sufficient to grasp objects in their Notion. Kant’s conclusions are therefore restricted to what is available to sensuous perception - yet Kant extrapolates his conclusions to reason as a whole. Hegel argues that this amounts to an argumentative leap from:
all our visual, tactile and other experience shows us only what is composite; even the best microscopes and the keenest knives have not enabled us to come across anything simple (424)
Then neither should reason expect to come across anything simple. (424)
Close examination of Kant’s method, however, demonstrates a tacit dogmatism - assumptions smuggled in without proof, that composition (rather than continuity) is the mode of relation of substances, and that substances are therefore absolute and are related contingently. From the point of view of Hegel’s argument about quantity, Kant’s approach amounts to a separation of the two moments of quantity, that fixes each moment as absolutely separate. This approach results from treating substance, matter, space, time and similar categories as absolutely distinct and divided from one another - taking these categories as continuous, sublates this division. In Hegel’s words:
Since each of the two opposed sides contains the other within itself and neither can be thought without the other, it follows that neither of these determinations, taken alone, has truth; this belongs only to their unity. This is the true dialectical consideration of them and also the true result. (425)
Hegel’s move here is extremely interesting: this sublation in the category of the continuous, contains division - but as potential, as possibility (425). Hegel will develop from this an interesting critique of non-dialectical positions for confusing abstractions that grasp such potentials, with concrete or really existing entities. Hegel argues:
What is abstract has only an implicit or potential being; it only is as a moment of something real.
Such intellect commits the error of holding such mental fictions, such abstractions, as an infinite number of parts, to be something true and actual; but this sensuous consciousness does not let itself be brought beyond the empirical element to thought. (427) 1:09 PM

February 27, 2008

Radhakrishnan, Sri Aurobindo, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Rama, Adi-Da (Franklin Jones), Georg Feuerstein, and Ken Wilber

Explorations in Neo-Vedanta and Perennialism Informal Essays and Book Reviews Examining Basic Themes and Ideas in Neo-Vedanta, Neo-Advaita, Perennialism, and Transpersonal Theory
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 The Neo-Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda: Part Two Introduction

Part Two of this essay will look at the Neo-Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda in greater detail by way of a direct examination of his writings, specifically those contained in the convenient one volume anthology, Selections from Swami Vivekananda. In the first five sections of Part Two, particular attention to the rhetorical features of Vivekananda's writings. The seven sections that follow (which will be posted at a later date) will look at some of the more original aspects of Vivekananda's Neo-Vedanta, and close with a brief look at Vivekananda's Indian addresses with the hope that they will help put into relief those writings that were intended for Western audiences. Where relevant, Vivekananda's ideas will be related to those of his Neo-Hindu "forerunners," the European philosophy he had been exposed to as a youth, and to the traditional Vedanta and Yoga of classical India.
Several related themes emerge from a critical reading of Vivekananda. Many of these themes reappear in the writings of later scholars of Indian thought, such as T.M.P Mahadevan and Chandradar Sharma, and in the writings of later Neo-Vedantins and perennialists, such as Sarvapella Radhakrishnan, Aurobindo Ghose, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Rama, Adi-Da (Franklin Jones), Georg Feuerstein, and Ken Wilber. Some of the more prominent of these themes involve various dichotomies. These dichotomies are used toward particular rhetorical effects by Vivekananda...

In contrast to Shankara, Vivekananda treats the Vedic scriptures in toto, as well as the revealed word of other traditions, as instances of the "ossification" of religion...As already noted, Vivekananda replaces traditional revelation with personal "experience." Like Debendranath and Keshab, Vivekananda views religious experience as the essential core of religion...The idea of religions "quarrelling with each other" because they are based on different doctrines is similar to an argument used by Shankara, namely, that the different heterodox darshanas, such a Buddhism, Samkhya, etc., are all mutually contradictory (paraspara-viruddha) because they are based upon heterogenous teachings. Shankara's solution to this problem of the "multivalency of truth" is to insist upon the authority of the authorless Veda. Vivekananda's solution is to replace scripture with "experience." The implication appears to be that if people recognized that all religion is based upon experience, quarrelling among the various religions would disappear. Here, Vivekananda hastily infers the uniformity of religious experience from the premise of its universality. He does not stop to consider the possibility that personal experience too is multiform.Like the other world religions, Hinduism too, for Vivekananda, is based upon experience. Drawing on classical authors like Yaska and Vatsyayana, and possibly moderns like Debendranath, Vivekananda argues that the Veda itself finds its basis in the experience of the ancient seers, the rishis...Like Vatsyayana, Vivekananda insists that the Vedas are intuited or "seen" through super-sensory (ati-indriya) perception (pratyaksha)...If experience is the source and basis of all religion, then it is also the supreme authority. Accordingly, for Vivekananda, personal religious experience is the basis of the authority of the guru...

While Vivekananda's relationship towards the Vedas remains ambiguous, it is at least clear that, for Vivekananda, the authority of the Vedas does not have to do with their being anonymous revealed scripture (shruti) per se, but with their being the "record" of the religious experience of certain individuals. In other words, it is not scripture here that grounds and authenticates personal religious experience, but religious experience that grounds and authenticates scripture. What this does, in effect, is wrest control away from the perceived traditional mediators of authority, represented here by the "Pundits," and sets up in their stead a new priest-craft, the "Gurus," whose claim to authority is based not on the Veda but on their own personal experience. The oligarchy of the "Pundits" and their scripture has effectively been replaced by the tyranny of the Guru and his "experience." It is sometimes claimed that Shankara also downplayed the importance of the role of scripture. I would like to briefly examine the basis of this claim. The point in doing so will not be to assert the superiority of Shankara's Vedanta over that of Vivekananda. (Shankara's own position on the authority of scripture vis a vis the authority of his Advaitic interpretation of Vedanta is not without its own share of problems.) The point here is simply to compare how Shankara dealt with the issue of authority and the role of experience... posted by kelamuni at 2:42 PM About Me Name: kelamuni Location: Victoria, Canada View my complete profile Previous Posts The Neo-Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda: Part One

Raja Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda, Tagore, Tilak, Gokhale, Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, and K.C. Bhattacharyya

Sri Aurobindo and His Contemporary Thinkers
— Articles by various authors ISBN: 978-81-246-0428-1 Publisher: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi in Association with Jadavpur University, Kolkata Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 349 Price: Rs 600

The authors represented in this interdisciplinary study are all concerned with the personalities, ideas, movements, and contributions of some of the most prominent leaders of what has come to be known as the Renaissance in India, that period from the latter half of the eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century, which is marked by the reawakening of a national spirit in search of its past. By analysing the social, cultural, and political background of the period and comparing the contributions made by Sri Aurobindo and others such as Vivekananda, Tagore, Tilak, Gokhale, Gandhi, Raja Rammohan Roy, and Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya to the freedom movement and the rejuvenation of India’s heritage, a clear distinction is drawn regarding Sri Aurobindo’s unique role in this renaissance movement. To view previous issues of SABDA eNews, visit our Newsletters page.

February 25, 2008

Satprem states, the 20th century was still at the Stone Age of psychology

PhD Confidential Confessions of a former executive: trading the corporate ladder for a mountain of knowledge About My Research Libraries Lit. Reviews Posted by: Dorianne 24 February 2008
Integral Yoga Consciousness
I have been reading several books on human consciousness theories in preparation for my research project. Here’s a synopsis of a non-Western theorist, Sri Aurobindo, from a book called Aurobindo, or The Adventures of Consciousness by Satprem. I really enjoyed reading the book and recommend it to anyone with an interest in consciousness theory.
Satprem wrote this book to provide an understanding of Aurobindo from a Western, practical point of view. His motivation was to educate and spread the word of Aurobindo’s integral yoga teaching. Satprem states, the 20th century was “still at the Stone Age of psychology” and therefore studying and practicing consciousness expansion through integral yoga is one way to save our world. Aurobindo’s given name at birth was Akroyd Ghose, so the publications referenced below are under that name.
Spirituality and The Force of Life
Aurobindo starts with the premise that “All is Brahman” or Spirit. He says most people believe the physical world is separate from Brahman, and the conflict between matter and Spirit is a “modern creation” (Satprem, 1968, p. 23). Brahman exists at every point in space and time and on every plane and dimension. Aurobindo also calls God the Force of Life and uses the term Consciousness-Force interchangeably. He describes the consciousness-force using the Sanskrit terms Chit (consciousness) and Agni (heat, energy). According to Satprem, “the Force of Life does not suffer, it is not troubled, not exalted, not wicked, not good – it just is, it flows vast and peaceful” (1968, P. 82).
The Vedas teach “we are all sons of God,” (1968, p. 167), and Satprem relates this to Jesus’s statement that “I and the Father are One,” John 10:30 (New International Version). Aurobindo says “the heavens beyond are great and wonderful, but greater yet and more wonderful are the heavens within you” (Ghose, 1959, p. 102). He also contends that if God is All, the devil or wickedness is also God. Aurobindo and The Mother taught that our misery comes from “the little cloaks we throw over things to avoid seeing" rather than blaming the devil. The key to life is to discover the divinity within oneself.
A key precept is that one cannot separate the physical from the spiritual. We are living, spiritual beings, whether we recognize it or not. The goal is to integrate the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves. Hence the practice of integral yoga to reunite “the infinite in the finite, the timeless in the temporal and the transcendent with the immanent” (1968, p. 273).
Thoughts, Truth and the Self
According to the Upanishads, consciousness is energy vibrating at different frequencies. As Einstein’s famous theory of relativity proves, matter is formed from energy; matter is a more dense form of consciousness. This means that everything has some form of consciousness depending on its vibration, including plants, animals and inanimate objects. They are not considered to be lower or more limited than human consciousness, just different vibrations of energy. Aurobindo says we begin to understand this as we awaken our own consciousness.
Satprem explains that thoughts are vibrations. They originate from a Universal Mind; we receive these vibrations, and depending on our level of awareness, we can choose to accept or reject them. As we receive these vibrations, we translate them into symbols; a similar concept to Hofstatder’s view of perception (2007). Why do different people have different thoughts if they all come from the same Universal Mind? Satprem’s answer is that we translate the same vibration differently depending on our state of consciousness.
Our true selves are covered over by thoughts, feelings and habit patterns. Aurobindo states that the intellect can “interfere with the inspiration” (Ghose, 1949a, p. 5) and that “intuition is a memory of the Truth” (Ghose, 1949b, p. 1127). He means that we carry a larger understanding of the truth within ourselves and we have forgotten it. When we experience a flash of intuition, we reconnect with the Universal Mind and knowledge is immediately available to us, but it was always there.
There are several mental layers of the mind. The physical mind is described as “the most stupid” (Satprem, 1968, p. 110) and a remnant of our earliest human evolution. It is steeped in fear, reaction and conservatism. The vital mind is focused on our desires and emotions. Our thinking mind is the center of logic and reasoning. At the lower levels of consciousness, using the metaphor of the atom, we experience only fragments of joy, love and power.
Aurobindo contends that consciousness exists in a continuum and is independent of human existence, thought or feeling. There is no such thing as unconsciousness; only other consciousness. Satprem describes the planes of the mind that one encounters in seeking higher consciousness. The first, ordinary mind, perceives light as grey and dense. The ordinary mind sees duality; black or white, truth or error, God or Satan. The ordinary mind can see only one thing at a time as the truth and experiences joy in very small increments.
Next comes the higher mind which is often expressed by philosophers and thinkers. The higher mind is more open and perceives light as grey moving to blue with flashes of bright light. Joy lasts longer within a higher mind. The next plane is the illumined mind The light of an illumined mind is translucent and diffused, often a stream or flood of golden light. Composers, artists, dancers and musicians embody this plane of consciousness. and is characterized by deeper and wider experiences of joy and enthusiasm.
The intuitive mind experiences joy as a recognition, rather than a wave. It sees a subset of the whole truth as a flash of insight. The intuitive mind perceives light as clear and transparent with flashes of color and light. The next plane, overmind, is rarely attained and represents an experience of cosmic consciousness without loss of the individual. Satprem contends that the world’s religions were birthed from those who had overmind experiences. The overmind sees huge extensions of space and time in a mass of stable light, and experiences universal love, joy and beauty. At this plane, the entire being is linked together with every level of consciousness. This is a key concept. According to Aurobindo, higher consciousness is not complete without encompassing lower levels of consciousness.
Nirvana can occur at any plane of consciousness. It is described as an experience without ego, feeling or thought. Aurobindo said the experience brought him “an inexpressible Peace, a stupendous silence, an infinity of release and freedom” (Ghose, 1953, p. 153). He realized that attaining Nirvana was just the beginning of his journey to higher planes of consciousness.
The next level of consciousness, supramental mind, cannot be described in either mental or three dimensional terms. It is not the pinnacle of consciousness; it is considered to be transformational. The supramental mind’s vision is global and simultaneously includes all viewpoints. The supramental consciousness lives in the Absolute – there is no past or present. There is no duality; “the two poles of all things are constantly spanned in another ‘dimension’” (Satprem, 1968, p. 271).
Quote attributed to The Mother without citing a publication
Ghose, A. (1949a). Letters of Sri Aurobindo (on poetry and literature) Third series. Bombay,: Sri Aurobindo Circle.
Ghose, A. (1949b). The life divine. New York,: Greystone Press.
Ghose, A. (1953). Sri Aurobindo on himself and on The Mother. Pondicherry,: Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Ghose, A. (1959). The Hour of God ([1st ed.). Pondicherry,: Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Hofstadter, D. R. (2007). I am a strange loop. New York: Basic Books.
Satprem. (1968). Sri Aurobindo : or, The adventure of consciousness (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

February 24, 2008

Enlightened self-interest is different from pure altruism

Newman on the Gentleman
George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University [
Home —> Victorianism —> Authors —> Religion —> Philosophy —> Science —> Politics and Society] John Henry Cardinal Newman, the most famous English convert to Roman Catholicism of the nineteenth century, included the following description of the gentleman in his treatise on university education for Roman Catholics, who had only recently received civil rights. As you read Newman's portrait of the gentleman, compare it to those found in discussions of the concept of gentleman in Elizabeth Gaskell and other authors as well as specific characters in Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope.

It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder. [From The Idea of a University, 1852]

Taken in isolation, Newman's descriptive definition, which appears an exemplary idealization of the British gentleman, appears a standard, unsurprising presentation of a sociopolitical ideal clearly related to specific class interest. In context, however, his statement immediately appears more complex, since he does not address those with political or even economic power. In fact, his intended audience of Irish Catholics were doubly disenfranchised as members of a colonized people and a despised, only recently permitted religion. In addition, as David J. DeLaura points out, for Newman, "the insuperable defect of humanistic culture," appears in the limitations of the gentleman, who has 'no means for transcending the limits of the natural man (p. 238).'"


Enlightened self-interest From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest. [1] It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual, group, or even a commercial entity will "do well by doing good". [2][3]
This is in contrast to greed or the concept of "unenlightened self-interest", in which it is argued that when most or all persons act according to their own myopic selfishness, that the group suffers loss as a result of conflict, decreased efficiency because of lack of cooperation, and the increased expense each individual pays for the protection of their own interests. If a typical individual in the group is selected at random, it is not likely that this person will profit from such an ethic.
Some individuals might profit, in a material sense, from a philosophy of greed, but it is believed by proponents of enlightened self-interest that these individuals constitute a small minority and that the large majority of persons can expect to experience a net personal loss from a philosophy of simple unenlightened selfishness. Enlightened self-interest might be considered to be unrealistically idealistic and altruistic by detractors and practically idealistic and utilitarian by proponents.
Enlightened self-interest also has implications for long-term benefits as opposed to short-term benefits to oneself.[4] When an individual pursues enlightened self-interest that person may sacrifice short-term interests in order to maximize long-term interests.
An individual may choose to forsake pursuing immediate gratification by supporting and not interfering with others' pursuit of self-interest. An individual may have to sacrifice his immediate self-interest for the purpose of a positive relationship to a group of individuals to which he relates. For example, a merchant likely will maximize profit over the long term if she chooses to be generous to her customers in a manner beyond the requirement of policy, say, in accepting returns and refunding the purchase price when not required to by the letter of the law. By doing so, she may lose short-term gain but likely will eventually profit from increased business volume as she gains a reputation for being reasonable, honest, and generous.
Enlightened self-interest is also different from pure altruism, which calls for people to act in the interest of others often at the expense of their own interests and with no expectation of benefit for themselves in the future. Some advocates of enlightened self-interest might argue that pure altruism promotes inefficiency as well.

In the domain of Indian Writing in English, drama is a much neglected genre

National Seminar on Indian Drama in English on February 7 & 8, 2008
India State Tamil Nadu City Dindigul Email
Contact Faculty of English and Foreign Languages Gandhigram Rural University, Gandhigram- 624 302 Dindigul Dist., Tamil Nadu URL
Venue Gandhigram University Description

In the domain of Indian Writing in English, drama, unlike novel and poetry, is a much neglected genre and it has been referred to as the "sad Cinderella waiting for a knight" to give it an identity. Against this backdrop, this national seminar on Indian Drama in English will definitely serve as a platform to scholars and students alike to undertake an in-depth study of Indian drama and dramaturgy which will eventually help the academic community to familiarise themselves with the dramatic tradition of India, both ancient and modern, and national as well as regional, and also assess and critique the works of Indian playwrights writing in English. The seminar will also examine the representation of Indian culture embodied in these plays.

The seminar will focus on major as well as minor playwrights and national as well as regional dramas. Teachers and research scholars are invited to present papers on the works of: Rabindranth Tagore Sri Aurobindo T. P. Kailasam Asif Currimbhoy Gurucharan Das Girish Karnad Mahesh Dattani Manjula Padmanabhan Vijay Tendulkar Badal Sircar They may present papers on other notable dramatists as well. They may also present papers on: Natyasastra and ancient Indian dramaturgy Indigenous/Alternate theatre Drama as literature and performance Comparative study of playwrights and their works

Process of the last decisive physical transformation in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga-tapasya began sometime in the mid-thirties

Main Page Previous: February 23 Quote of the Day Next: What is SCIY ?
Physical Transformation—the Early Beginnings by RY Deshpande on Sat 23 Feb 2008 04:25 AM PST Permanent Link

It is perhaps not very wrong to say that the process of the last decisive physical transformation in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga-tapasya began sometime in the mid-thirties. The siddhi or realisation of the Overmind consciousness working in the physical was already obtained by him in 1926; it set off a certain globality of operation for its functioning at the material level. Since then his entire yogic effort was organised towards getting the higher, the supramental siddhi in the substance of the body itself. This was a totally new situation in the context of the evolutionary earth; but it was also a situation fraught with dangers, it yet holding in it all the glorious possibilities opening themselves in the direction towards which a secret hand had already started guiding the process.

This transformation of the death-afflicted physical was certainly a most difficult endeavour whose parallel could perhaps be seen only in a remote way in ancient times, more specifically in the Vedic tapasya of Rishi Agastya. But his body could not withstand the effect of "the triple poison" and he had to finally give up the golden attempt. The body was not ready to hold the charge of luminous immortality in it. It did not possess the necessary spiritual merit for this purpose: it was still unbaked, atapta tanu, and another kind of tapasya was needed to overcome the difficulty. The cells of the body had not awakened yet to the reality that is seated deep within them. The groundwork of the Overmind consciousness in the sequel of evolution, working in the collective, had also not yet been prepared and kept ready. This happened much later, only after the coming of its Avatar, towards the end of Dwapar Yuga, at the time of the Mahabharata war.

After these long and tentative centuries of preparation the pioneering task of Rishi Agastya was taken up again by Sri Aurobindo who brought to it a decisive completeness. Granting that such a moment in the evolutionary history of the earth had arrived, and that there was the necessary sanction of the Supreme for it, the problem of the inconscient nature had yet long remained untackled. Sri Aurobindo’s concern was chiefly this. It was a twofold effort, of invoking and bringing down the dynamism of the supreme Truth on the earthly plane and preparing the unregenerate inconscient nature to receive it for its unhampered action. The spiritual and occult-yogic tapasya carried out together by him and the Mother saw that this was done. That opened new doors, bright doors of the physical, for the entry of the Infinite's dimensions in the earth-play. Presently it has made its manifestation an accomplished fact, here in the physical’s subtle.

It will be perhaps quite enlightening to know the broad stages through which this yoga-tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had proceeded. We do get a certain glimpse of it in some of their writings of the period, particularly Sri Aurobindo’s poetic compositions which have at times unmistakable autobiographical suggestions in them...

In July 1938 the Yogi-Poet had an assignation with the primordial Night, the Night of Creation. He went to meet her, carrying “God’s deathless light”[26] in his breast. He was aware that this was going to be a very bold and dangerous rendezvous; it was going to be an exceptional and most decisive affair, fraught with possibilities. His fate and hence the fate of the world remained locked in them, in the possibility leading towards earthly deathlessness. So, he the pilgrim-soul made an assignation with the Night. But what was the outcome of that bold and dangerous rendezvous? What had actually transpired in the course of the meeting? But apart from dropping some broad hints, no communiqué was issued. If at all, it seemed that the way was lost and that there was no end to the “weary journeying”[27].

Yet there was hope, there was conviction and certitude that the outcome was going to be a path leading towards immortality. There was the inalienable freedom, and the Yogi-Poet lived in the Spirit’s calm, and was in possession of the vast immobile bliss of the Being. Soon his rooms would get lit up with an endless Light, and rapture would be coursing through his nerves, and through every cell of his body. In a mute blaze of ecstasy, and preserving the “living sense of the Imperishable”[28], even in the bodily existence, he would proceed towards his goal. That was great indeed, marvellous. If the bodily existence was set ablaze in this way, it meant that there was the wonderful realisation or the siddhi of the Mind of Light in him, that the physical had started receiving the supramental. Sri Aurobindo had definitely moved towards it, a remarkable event, a landmark event in the evolutionary sequence. It is said that Pythagoras had a thigh of gold, and that Vamadeva, after crossing the hundredth year, lived in a golden body for sixteen full years. Something golden had happened in that far past, but now the Mind of Light has made the body its permanent base, permanent home.

In his sonnet The Golden Light we have a very clear statement of this most extraordinary siddhi of the Mind of Light achieved by Sri Aurobindo.[29] It is in that that he worked for the last dozen years or so, pursuing the immortal lines of Infinity, compelling it to take earthward turn.

The sonnet was first written on 8 August 1938,—just one week after his explicatory letter to Amal Kiran mentioned above, regarding the “general descent” which was not in view at that instant of time. The sonnet was later revised on 3 March 1944. The revisions are of a few minor verbal type but for our purpose, as far as the essential substance is concerned, it has remained intact...

If the golden Light of the one whom he had earlier apotheosised as “O my sweet” in the first draft has come down into his brain and throat and heart and feet, illustratively representing “my earth”, then we can surely recognise the body-mind opening to the supramental: here is the most definite statement of the experience of the Mind of Light Sri Aurobindo had, about which the Mother spoke later that the supramental had descended in him “long ago”[32].

This must be considered as the first beginning of the process of physical transformation which he had received as a birthday gift a week in advance, before 15 August in 1938. He has now offered his entire physical being to the invading deity and made it a temple for her permanent residence. Supramental Light and Consciousness and Force of that deity, breathing and living and luminous, have appeared dynamically and giftedly and splendidly upon the earth’s playfield.

February 20, 2008

Human aspiration for God, light, freedom and immortality dates back to the dawn of civilisation and it still goes strong

Globalisation is a way of life, say speakers at meet Staff Reporter PUDUCHERRY: The Hindu Date:18/02/2008 Back Other States - Puducherry

Globalisation is not a political or economic philosophy, it has become a way of life, Aster Patel, member of the Governing Body, Auroville Foundation, said on Sunday.
“Globalisation is not a term which has got its meaning in economic or political parlance. It has become the expression of a life force,” she said while participating in the deliberations of the three-day meet on “Sri Aurobindo… the new dynamism of the material and the spiritual,” which commenced on Friday.
Globalisation is part of the evolution of humanity, she said while discussing the evolution of humanity and its existential urge to attain a perfect order. Scientific and technological developments happening around had brought in a “sea change in the thinking process of humanity.” In spite of the handicaps, humanity s such had not lost its urge to reach out to its fellow being at the time of distress, she said.

Drawing a parallel between religion and science, Ms. Patel said, “Science is trying to do what religion was attempting for. Both religion and science are aimed at helping humanity progress physically and mentally. All scientific and technological developments lead towards the discovery that life has many potential.”

Bilingual writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Manoj Das, in his presentation, said, “Human aspiration for God, light, freedom and immortality dates back to the dawn of civilisation and it still goes strong. Life has a spiritual culmination on this physical plane and not beyond.”
In his presentation on “Research on supernormal human functioning,” Michael Murphy, Member of the International Advisory Council, Auroville Foundation, said this philosophical aspect ranges from sports to yoga, artistic performance to “spontaneous feats” in moments of crisis. “Such research helped humanity learn about the human potential and practice to actualise,” he said.

For those who have a knee-jerk allergic reaction to "spirituality"

Will the REAL Evolution Debate Please Stand Up! (Reloaded)
from ~C4Chaos by ~C4Chaos

A little more than a year ago I blogged about a WIE issue entitled, The Mystery of Evolution. During that time the entire article was not freely accessible online. But now it is. So check it out if you still haven't read it. The REAL Evolution Debate - "Everything you always wanted to know about evolution but the mass media wouldn't tell you."

The common notion is that the evolution debate is only between intelligent design proponents (aka creationists) vs. evolutionists. That's only a small picture. There are debates among evolutionists themselves. There is a spectrum of evolutionary thought from the Neo-Darwinists to the Transhumanists to the Integralists. WIE did an excellent job at presenting various perspectives on evolution in this issue.

For those who have a knee-jerk allergic reaction to "spirituality," I ask that you suspend your cynicism for a while and look at this article as objectively as you can. There's more to the evolution debate than you probably think.

Sri Aurobindo, Schuon, Teilhard, Polanyi

On Imagining Reality from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

We've dabbled a bit in Schuon's understanding of the symbolism of color. What about his arch-nemesis, Sri Aurobindo? What does he say? (Schuon held Sri Aurobindo in the lowest regard, as he wasn't a strict "traditionalist," to such an extent that he could not even bring himself to utter his name when smacking him around. He would just use generic descriptors such as "certain intrinsically heretical deviant modernist pseudo-yogis with deplorable evolutionist pretensions," or suchlike.)...

For example, modern physics requires a great leap of imagination to see "beyond" or through the deceptive appearances of solid matter. For the physicist, matter is nothing whatsoever like the way it presents itself to our evolved senses. It is, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, a "floating condensation on a swarm of the indefinable." (BTW, Teilhard was Schuon's other evolutionist arch-nemesis, a veritable Catholic Sri Aurobindo, unless Aurobindo is the Hindu Teilhard.)

But does this mean that scientific theories are just human inventions, mere fancy with no anchor in reality? No, not at all. Rather, as described by Polanyi, scientific theories -- no less than authentic spiritual visions -- are analogous to "probes" with which we reach beyond the senses and into the unknown. They are both an irreducible blend of objectivity and subjectivity, without which thinking cannot take place -- neither scientific thinking nor spiritual intellection. One cannot reason in a void, whether one is reasoning about so-called "matter" or about Spirit. In both cases, the subject is merely attempting to penetrate and evolve beyond its own representation. These, er, epistemological problems are all discussed in the opening chapter of my book...

Now, as Aurobindo explains in a letter to a disciple, spiritual visions and experiences can serve as keys "to contact with the other worlds or with the inner worlds and all that is there and these are regions of immense riches which far surpass the physical plane.... One enters into a larger freer self and a larger more plastic world.... These things have not the effect of a mere imagination (as a poet's or artist's, although that can be strong enough) but if fully followed out bring constant growth of the being and the consciousness...."

This very much reminds me of when I first began studying psychoanalysis, as I had some difficulty getting beyond the concrete meaning of some of the words used to describe primitive unconscious phenomena...

Anyway, back to Aurobindo before I run out of time, which I am about to. In another letter, he summarized our present discussion by writing that "Subjective visions can be as real as objective sight -- the only difference is that one is of real things in material space, while others are of real things belonging to other planes down to the subtle physical; even symbolic visions are real in so far as they are symbols of realities.... Visions are unreal only when these are merely imaginative mental formulations, not representing anything that is or was true or is going to be true."

February 19, 2008

Online version of Sri Aurobindo's and The Mother's complete works

We are working on an online version of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's complete works. Until this is ready you might want to download the PDF version of their works.

Sri Aurobindo's Writings

The Mother's Collected Works
ashram visitors darshan selected works research music publications image gallery Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Volume 14
Vedic and Philological Studies (TO BE PUBLISHED) Writings on the Veda and philology, and translations of Vedic hymns to gods other than Agni not published during Sri Aurobin­do's lifetime. The material includes (1) drafts for The Secret of the Veda, (2) translations (simple translations and analytical and discursive ones) of hymns to gods other than Agni, (3) notes on the Veda, (4) essays and notes on philology, and (5) some texts that Sri Aurobindo called "Writings in Different Languages". Most of this material was written between 1912 and 1914 and is published here for the first time in a book.

Volume 15
PDF last updated: 18 Dec 07 The Secret of the Veda Essays on the Rig Veda and its mystic symbolism, with transla­tions of selected hymns. These writings on and translations of the Rig Veda were published in the monthly review Arya between 1914 and 1920. Most of them appeared there under three headings: The Secret of the Veda, "Selected Hymns" and "Hymns of the Atris". Other translations that did not appear under any of these headings make up the final part of the volume.

Volume 16
Hymns to the Mystic Fire (TO BE PUBLISHED) All translations of Vedic hymns to Agni; and related writings. The material includes all the contents of Hymns to the Mystic Fire (translations of hymns to Agni from the Rig Veda, with a Foreword by Sri Aurobindo) as well as translations of many other hymns to Agni, some of which are published here for the first time.

Volume 17
PDF last updated: 18 Dec 07 Isha Upanishad Translations of and commentaries on the Isha Upanishad. The volume is divided into two parts: (1) Sri Aurobindo’s final translation and analysis of the Isha Upanishad. This small work contains his definitive interpretation of the Upanishad. It is the only writing in this volume published during his lifetime; (2) ten incomplete commentaries on the Isha. Ranging from a few pages to more than a hundred, these commentaries show the devel­opment of his interpretation of this Upanishad from around 1900 to the middle of 1914.

Volume 18
PDF last updated: 18 Dec 07 Kena and Other Upanishads Translations of and commentaries on Upanishads other than the Isha Upanishad. The volume is divided into two parts: (1) translations of and commentaries on the Kena, Katha and Mundaka Upanishads and some "Readings in the Taittiriya Upanishad"; (2) early translations of the Prashna, Mandukya, Aitareya and Taittariya Upanishads; incom­plete translations of and commentaries on other Upanishads and Vedantic texts; and incomplete and fragmentary writings on the Upanishads and Vedanta in general. The writings in the first part were published by Sir Aurobindo during his lifetime; those in the second part were transcribed from his manuscripts after his passing.

Volume 19
PDF last updated: 18 Dec 07 Essays on the Gita Essays on the philosophy and method of self-discipline presented in the Bhagavad Gita. These essays were first published in the monthly review Arya be­tween 1916 and 1920 and revised in the 1920s by Sri Aurobindo for publication as a book.

Social cognition and dynamics of cultural evolution

Language Evolution V: Christiansen & Kirby (2003)
from Shared Symbolic Storage by Michael

As I’m going home over the vacation and thus will only have relatively infrequent access to the internet, I’ll write some kind of preliminary presentation of my discussion of language evolution by presenting the contributions found in Kirby and Christiansen’s (2003) anthology “Language Evolution.” Kirby and Christansen tried to get together the “big names” in the study of language evolution, and had them write some kind of an introduction to their take on the key issues on the topic. I will present the contributions when I find the time, probably infrequently.

The book includes 17 contributions, with the first chapter being some kind of general introduction by the editors. I will briefly discuss each contribution, trying to give a short overview on the main approaches to the topic...

Of course, since then a lot of interesting things happened, and some approaches defintiely have gained importance. The most influential elaborations were I think in the Area of Social Cognition, as illustrated by Tomasello et al.'s (2005) paper, and, for example, this excellent new blog post by Edmund Blair Bolles. The other area were much progress was made was theoretical inquiry into the dynamics of cultural evolution, and especially its (mathematical) application to historical language evolution.

So in my next post I’ll write about Pinker’s approach, or rather about the extensions and modifications of his original framework in (Pinker & Bloom 1990)

February 18, 2008

Education, in its truest sense, would be the living process of learning directly from Life itself

Home > Edits & Columns > FAITH LINE Magnet of ascent
Indian Express
: Monday, February 18, 2008 Awakening from the outer trance Partho:

Integral education labours to awaken the soul in the child, labours too to awaken the child in her integrality to herself, and in doing so, it attempts to awaken life itself to its higher heights or deeper depths. This is at once the evolutionary labour of life and education... and both, drawn by the same magnet of ascent, must move towards an eventual convergence. How long would it be natural for an integral life education to remain isolated from the very content and dynamics of real life, life as lived in the moment?

Beyond a point, such a convergence would indeed be inevitable. Education, in its truest sense, would be the living process of learning directly from Life itself, drinking straight from the source; but the human spirit is at first not ready to learn directly from the living source. It must make a detour to come to itself, feeding on external and more tangible sources such as the parent, the teacher, the friend, the school, society or religion: this is indeed the first stage of education...

Integral education is perhaps the second stage of this same process, possible when the spirit becomes maturer and the mind and its faculties better trained to turn the gaze inward, to the inner sources of knowledge and wisdom, the inner springs of growth and evolution... As this process deepens, the hold of the external teacher loosens and the learner begins to discern, with growing clarity, the inner teacher...

Sri Aurobindo calls this inner source of knowledge and wisdom the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. Integral education seeks finally to awaken the mind and heart to this eternal Veda, and once this is done, even in an initial sense, the work of education is complete, for from that point on, the learner becomes independent in the truest sense of the word. Excerpted from ‘Integral Education: A Foundation for the Future’ (Sri Aurobindo Society)

The concept of beauty has changed with the evolving socio-economic changes around the world

Concept of beauty has changed with time, say experts
Staff Reporter The Hindu Sunday, Feb 17, 2008 Other States - Puducherry
Contemporary issues discussed at meeting on Sri Aurobindo
Photo: T. Singaravelou New concepts: Mustansir Dalvi, professor of architecture, Sir J. J College of Architecture, Mumbai, speaking at the meeting on Sri Aurobindo at Auroville on Saturday. —

PUDUCHERRY: Experts drawn from various fields such as art, humanities and architecture, who made presentations on the second day of the three-day meet on “Sri Aurobindo…the new dynamism of the material and the Spiritual,” discussed issues related to the contemporary world.
Opening the session with his talk on “Evolution of Beauty,” Michael Murphy, member of the International Advisory Council, Auroville Foundation, said the concept of beauty has changed with the passing of time. The evolving socio-economic changes around the world has made a great impact on the thinking process of the human being, he added.
Among the written and spoken art forms, the world of cinema has become a powerful tool to convey ideas and beliefs, Mr. Murphy said. “It has become a powerful tool. Cinema has the power to make human being sit at one place and think,” he added.

On the topic “Evolution accelerated, Auroville’s paradigm: A search”, Deepti Tewari, member of the Auroville community and teacher, said a collective effort should be made to transcend humanity to bring a new world order devoid of war and genocide. She appealed to all Aurovillian’s to work towards making the Mother’s dream come true.
Alok Pandey, psychiatrist, in his talk on “A greater psychology of man” said man has reached a breaking point in his inner life that we see symbolically translated in his outer life as well. There is discontent the world-over and the edifices of old well established norms were being brought down. Humans were longing for a change and looking for new ideas and concepts. Speaking on “Looking for affirmative architecture in a disenchanted age,” Mustansir Dalvi, professor of architecture in Sir J. J College of Architecture, Mumbai, said the field of architecture had been highly commercialised by realtors and builders.
The present day interdisciplinary approach practised in all fields had come into architecture too and it had brought immense change in the concept of design and building a house, he said.

Common cultural patrimony of both Christians and non-Christians

Distinctive qualities of classical eduation from The Daily Goose by Matthew

From Andrew Campbell’s website:

  1. Classical education treats classical languages and mathematics as the organizing principles of education. These subjects can only be mastered by orderly, systematic study over a period of many years. They provide the best training for “learning how to learn” and the most solid foundation for further study in literature, history, and science.
  2. Classical education recognizes that memory, analysis, and expression are important facets of learning at all levels. It therefore treats the medieval Trivium subjects - Latin grammar, logic, and rhetoric - as disciplines in their own right. It suggests that to place undo emphasis on “ages and stages” can lead to rigidity in the curriculum and an unnatural emphasis on technique in teaching.
  3. Classical education is holistic: it trains not only the mind, but also the emotions, the will, and the aesthetic sense. It fosters love for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful wherever they may be found. Its goal is to produce men and women both knowledgeable and virtuous: good persons speaking well.
  4. Classical education is traditional and conservative in the sense that it seeks to hand on to each new generation “the best that has been thought and said in the world.” It stands for the Permanent Things. It mitigates against chronological snobbery by setting our current concerns against the backdrop of history and requiring us to take long views. It lays upon us the responsibility of doing our part to preserve and transmit the accumulated wisdom of the race.
  5. Classical education rests on the principle of multum non multa: quality, not quantity. It does not let the good crowd out the best. Rather than rushing students from book to book, from author to author, classical education invites students to contemplate the representative masterpieces of each historical period. It gives entree into the Great Conversation by allowing students to speak at length with the master teachers of the last three millennia.
  6. Classical education unites the great spiritual and intellectual streams of the West, rising from Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. As such, it represents the common cultural patrimony of both Christians and non-Christians.

February 17, 2008

Truth either has to be autonomous and absolute, or there's nothing but the chaos of the bad infinite

The Swerve around P: Literary Theory after Interpretation Jeffrey T. Nealon Pennsylvania State Notes

1. As Hallward writes, Badiou's "problem with Schmitt's concept of the political, in other words, is that it is not prescriptive enough. Politics divides, but not between friends and enemies (via the mediation of the state). Politics divides the adherents of a prescription against its opponents" (774). That's right, the official political theorist of the Third Reich was too soft--"not prescriptive enough"-- in his thinking of the friend/enemy distinction.

2. Infinity, at the end of the Badiouean day, is akin to the il y a of Levinas, the given multiplicity of the world that we have to "evade" if we are to be ethical subjects (see Nealon 53-72). For his part, Badiou writes that "Most of the time, the great majority of us live outside ethics. We live in the living multiplicity of the situation" ("Being by Numbers"). For Badiou, as for Levinas, infinity or multiplicity is something that has to be escaped rather than deployed otherwise (a la Deleuze) or mapped (à la Foucault): "The set of a situation's various bodies of knowledge I call 'the encyclopedia' of the situation. Insofar as it refers only to itself, however, the situation is organically without truth" ("Being by Numbers"). All claims to radicality notwithstanding, this is the profoundly conservative heart of Badiou's thought: Truth either has to be autonomous and absolute, or there's nothing but the chaos of the bad infinite. That sentiment is, it seems to me, the driver not of philosophy, but of philosophy's (eternal?) enemy, dogmatism.

Unlike Levinas's, Badiou's ethics is (literally) not for everyone. In "Being by Numbers," Badiou is asked by an interviewer about the ethics of the ordinary person, who doesn't care much for universal "truth": "But can one seriously confide and confine ethics to mathematicians, political activists, lovers, and artists? Is the ordinary person, by definition, excluded from the ethical field?" He responds not in a Foucaultian way (with the sense that we are all hailed by literal encyclopedias of truth-procedures), but with this: "Why should we think that ethics convokes us all? The idea of ethics' universal convocation supposes the assignment of universality. I maintain that the only immanent universality is found in the truth procedure. We are seized by the really ethical dimension only inside a truth procedure. Does this mean that the encounter of ethical situations or propositions is restricted to the actors of a truth procedure? I understand that this point is debatable" ("Being by Numbers"). It's "debatable" whether most people are capable of ethics or truth? That really is Platonism for a new age.

It seems equally clear that Badiouian "events," those drivers of change in the historical and political world, are exceedingly rare and addressed narrowly to certain quite unique individuals--people like Badiou, one would assume, who are long on smarts and short on modesty: "Actually, I would submit that my system is the most rigorously materialist in ambition that we've seen since Lucretius" ("Being by Numbers").

3. Badiou is, of course, no fan of Foucault, though given sentiments like the following, it's hard to imagine he's read Foucault closely: "Foucault is a theoretician of encyclopedias. He was never really interested in the question of knowing whether, within situations, anything existed that might deserve to be called a 'truth.' With his usual corrosiveness, he would say that he didn't have to deal with this kind of thing. He wasn't interested in the protocol of either the appearance or the disappearance of a given epistemic organization" ("Being By Numbers").

Foucault was of course obsessed by nothing other than the appearance and disappearance of epistemic organizations (sovereign power, social power, discipline, biopower), which he called "ways of speaking the truth." Though of course the only "truth" worth the name in Badiou is ahistorical and subjective, and here Foucault can be "corrosive" indeed: "Truth is a thing of this world: it is induced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power . . . . The problem is not changing people's consciousness--or what's in their heads--but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth" (Power 131, 133).

4. Maybe literary theorists need to heed something like Badiou's call to philosophers: "Philosophy has not known until quite recently how to think in level terms with Capital, since it has left that field open, to its most intimate point, to vain nostalgia for the sacred, to obsession with Presence, to the obscure dominance of the poem, to doubt about its own legitimacy . . . . The true question remains: what has happened to philosophy for it to refuse with a shudder the liberty and strength a desacralizing epoch offered it?" (Manifesto 58-9).

The Immanent Frame symbolizes a sea-change in American higher education

Religion & higher education: Religion’s return posted by John Schmalzbauer

As a religion blog sponsored by the prestigious Social Science Research Council, The Immanent Frame symbolizes a sea-change in American higher education. When I was in graduate school in the early 1990s, I don’t recall the SSRC taking a special interest in the academic study of religion. Today a visitor to the SSRC webpage is confronted with an entire program area on “Religion and the Public Sphere,” with links to such topics as “Religion and International Affairs” and “The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates.” Far from a marginal area at the SSRC, such initiatives have attracted the involvement of such world-class scholars as Talal Asad and Robert Bellah.

The SSRC is not alone in its renewed attention to the sacred. At the 2007 Modern Language Association, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age generated “the most discussion and sales by far,” according to officials at the Harvard University Press booth. Taking up the first two pages of Harvard’s Fall 2007 catalogue, Taylor’s book is part a succession of high profile religion books, including Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God and Michael Lindsay’s Faith in the Halls of Power. Earlier in 2007, a stack of Lindsay’s books occupied the most prominent spot in the Oxford University Press exhibit at the American Sociological Association meeting.

I have watched these developments with more than a little curiosity, for together with historian Kathleen Mahoney, I am completing a book on the return of religion in American higher education. This book originated as an evaluation of Lilly Endowment’s $15.6 million religion and higher education initiative. In our 2000 report, we concluded that Lilly’s efforts were part of a much larger movement to revitalize religion in the academy, noting that “increased interest in religion, spirituality, and religious activity throughout the academy, coupled with substantive efforts by Protestant and Catholic colleges to strengthen their religious identities, comprise one of the most striking trends in the recent history of American higher education.”

Since the year 2000 the evidence for our thesis has steadily mounted, as high-profile scholars have joined the movement for a post-secular academy. In 2004 UCLA’s Alexander Astin wrote that “spirituality deserves a central place in liberal education.” The following year Stanley Fish predicted that religion “would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy.”

The book we are finishing focuses on three areas where religion has enjoyed renewed vitality: scholarship (faith and knowledge), sponsorship (church-related colleges), and student life (spirituality and campus life). A section of the chapter on spirituality and student life is available as part of the SSRC’s web forum on “The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates.” The SSRC has also released our working paper on “Religion and Knowledge in the Post-Secular Academy,” a longer version of which will be a chapter in the book.

A condensed version of this chapter will appear in the Winter 2008 issue of the American Sociological Association journal Contexts, and is currently available online. The theme of the issue (which also includes a contribution from sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund) is “Religion Returns to Campus.” As Kathleen Mahoney and I complete our book manuscript, we welcome your thoughts on the place of religion in the American academy. ShareThis This entry was posted on Saturday, February 16th, 2008 at 5:01 pm and is filed under Religion & higher education. SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home