July 10, 2012

God is man’s first and longest-lasting devotion

Recently I am struck by the ambiguity of the concept of the religious. Reading Linda Heuman’s review of Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution, and then turning to Bellah’s book itself, after having been reading Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies, I feel as I have before how uncertain it is that we who write about religion in history are all writing about the same thing! [...] 
The history of this working-out of religion and not-religion, insofar as we know it, unfolded from the later half of the nineteenth century, not before. It was only then that ordinary black peasants in the middle of South Africa midwived the religious domain among themselves, and the process was (in-line with Paul Feyerabend’s argument in Against Method) not instantaneous. After about 1840 one could adopt a new faith and meaningfully protest that one’s loyalty to a chief would continue; after 1880 one could preach as an Anglican and be a Sotho even during wartime (never before); after 1915, one could for the first time be a Christian and Zulu at the same time.
Talal Asad has shown how problematic colonialism makes the whole project of describing what people “believe,” as has Greg Dening. Among archaeologists, the category of cultic or religious (as is well known) is conveniently large, good for grouping together objects whose functions are mysterious. On slender evidence (it seems to me) whole lost societies are imagined to have operated as religious centers. It has often been much the same in ethnographies of African and Polynesian societies (on which archaeologists draw), wherein opaque chains of reference or ritual are grouped together as religion. My view is they may be better positioned within the realms of ideology, politics, and art. The danger in factoring in “religion” to political explanations of preconquest societies is that scholars sometimes imagine that their own lack of knowledge was a native opacity, and so a source of indigenous occult power. The sign of their ignorance slips somehow into the evidence pile.

...the wide cross of the universe; To enjoy my agony God built the earth, My passion he has made his drama’s theme. He has sent me naked into his bitter world And beaten me with his rods of grief and pain That I might cry and grovel at his feet And offer him worship with my blood and tears.

Bryan Magee, British writer and politician on the difference between Western and Eastern religions:
Almost the first thing a Christian has to believe if he is to be a Christian at all is that certain historical events took place in the Middle East about two thousand years ago – that God came and lived on earth as a man, was crucified, and after three days rose again from the dead, and so on. In this important sense Christianity is a history-based religion: it centrally involves believing that certain things happened. (Bryan Magee. The Story of Philosophy, New York: DK Publishing, 1998, p 146)

That is the new book by Greg Woolf.  Could it now be the best single-volume introduction to the history of ancient Rome?

The Question of God from Centre Right India by Vijay Vikram
God is man’s first and longest-lasting devotion to something beyond him and greater than him. God was the first entity to imbue animal man with a sense of divinity and divine purpose. If I were to employ wholly utilitarian reasoning I would say that God should not be sought to be banished from this Earth as he provides a source of meaning and sustenance for most humans. To de-sacralise the Earth (not that we have the power) would lead to an anarchy so dangerous that it would destroy civilisation as we know it. But, that is an aside. What I wish to say is that it is possible to passionately believe in thephysical-material non-existence of God but still believe in the divine and pursue the divine. 

Now what is an anarchic ontology?  It is an ontology that forecloses transcendent terms such as God, Platonic forms, a-historical essences, sovereigns, fathers, a-historical structures, transcendent subjects, etc.  All of these beings are treated as naturalistic, social, nation, and psychological transcendental illusions (cf. Difference and Givenness).  Within an anarchistic ontology, everything unfolds within immanence, without anything standing outside of history, becoming, time, etc.  An anarchic ontology is an ontology without fathers; or rather, it is an ontology where the name-of-the-father is foreclosed or banished both ontologically and socially as a necessary term.  It is a queer ontology.

But works like Aurobindo’s “The Secret of the Veda” written about a century ago is an antidote to such travesties. The Secret of the Veda obliterates the ignorance about the sublime Sruti. Sri Aurobindo decoded the inner meaning of the Rig Veda through such tools as philology and etymology. For example, Ashwa is not a horse but Energy/Force,  and Cow means Light/Illumination,  and Soma is not alcohol, but Divine Bliss. The yogi thus fetched the sublimity of the mystic poetry to the vicinity of a commoner. Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana enjoy equal status A Letter From Grandpa By Niranjan Shah My dear Nikita and Sanjna:
On August 7, 1906, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) started his paper Vande Mataram, which became an immortal and unforgettable newspaper in the history of Indian Journalism.

As an aside, I always find it amusing when people raised in Western culture refer to “marriage” as an “institution”. I guess its because over the past 4-5 centuries, people in the West have fought to reclaim their individuality against the artificial diktats of the Church (no divorce, no sex for recreational purposes, etc) as well the cumbersome rules of government.
In India, people see marriage not as an institution but as a natural stage of life. Since ages, people have been taught that there are four stages of life: […]
The Mother had to battle against these ancient ideas as well. Old and retired people would come to her asking for admission to the Ashram. From her perspective, it was too late for any yogic transformation. She used to tell them to apply to the graveyard instead (or some such thing). Its somewhere in the Agenda but I can’t find it right now.

Voice of Yoga: The error of psychoanalysis and the yogic corrective by Govind Nishar on July 10, 2012 From Rishabhchand's "The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo", Chapter IX, "The purification of nature"

My new book “Sri Aurobindo and the Cripps Mission” is finally out. This is a collection of essays and documents which show the various sides of the story of how Sir Stafford Cripps brought a proposal to India from the … finish reading

Sri Aurobindo’s prose style – by Goutam Ghosal Posted on July 10, 2012 Goutam Ghosal is the Head of the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan
This is English on the surface, but Sanskrit at bottom. Sri Aurobindo does not sacrifice the principle of the English sentence structure, but he infuses in his impeccable English the rhythm of Sanskrit verse. 

By this I mean to say I am not interested in the removal of reference from language. On the contrary, I want its referents to live and breathe with even more vitality than words themselves. The style of a work, I’m saying, is not an effect of the language; language, rather, is but the ornament to what I might suggestively call style’s intensity. Kkk

Second, I should mention my old mentor Alphonso Lingis, the most dazzling prose stylist and most interesting human character I've ever known. He's one of the few people who took phenomenology in any sort of realist ... (Graham Harman)

Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (zerO Books, 2011) ...Harman is associated with Speculative Realism in philosophy, which was the name ... Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making ...

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