August 24, 2013

Sri Aurobindo seems to write in order to explain and not to convert

Apart from talking to him personally, I have the purest form of information available in that I can read the work of Sri Aurobindo in its original language, English, and it is thus not suffering from the possible drawbacks of translations and interpretations. In performing this task I am accepting the social responsibility of presenting and to a degree interpreting the work of Sri Aurobindo. It is therefore my human abilities or lack thereof that will determine the degree of my success. It will be coloured by the depth of the dialogue we can have and by my ability to understand his mystical existential reality… This cosmology of Sri Aurobindo is not totally unique but is embedded in a vast historical movement. It is similar to for instance the approaches of Plotinus and Vivekananda… Was Vivekananda in fact original? In fact, was Plotinus original? … I use the framework of Whitehead for the scholarly inquiry into Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. Where relevant, the thoughts of Bergson and James regarding different states of consciousness, especially intuition, are touched upon… Sri Aurobindo, in exploring the realities of evolution of both the mental and the intuitive faculties, arrives at a parallel solution to that of Bergson… It is clear that both Aurobindo and Bergson accept and acknowledge the importance of the different aspects of consciousness, especially as utilised in the intellectual and the intuitive faculties.

A number of mystic philosophers developed cosmologies along strikingly similar lines to that of Sri Aurobindo. Parmenides, Plotinus, Nicholas of Cusanus, Jacob Böhme and Giordano Bruno immediately come to mind… The similarities between the views of Bruno and the thinking of Sri Aurobindo is not so obvious as far as the structure of his cosmology is concerned, but the terms and meanings that are utilised are very similar… I experience a similarity in the teachings and in the way in which Parmenides and Sri Aurobindo teaches. Both deal with absolute truth, both illuminate their subject with a transcendental enthusiasm and both successfully reach beyond the words that they have to use. Parmenides wrote his truth in verse, millennia ago. Whatever the source of this truth; thought, inspiration, incubation or a Goddess, to this day it awes us… These views of Parmenides relate to the views of Sri Aurobindo regarding the existence of a supramental original absolute and a subsequent yet timeless relative creation… What becomes clear in reading The Life Divine is his intense passion in expressing his thoughts and insights, and his apparent unconcern for acceptance. He writes in a complex way with the intention of conveying his message… We are furthermore presented with the problem of "Truth for whom". From what I have read it appears that Sri Aurobindo seems to write in order to explain and not to convert… The departure point of Sri Aurobindo in his cosmology is not man but the totality of what is. He produced a magnificent and comprehensive panoramic cosmology starting at the very beginning of nothingness, describing a process that eventually incorporated humanity on a very short leg of the overall journey. This is not the journey of humanity, it is the journey of infinity to itself. Wherever man is and whatever he does always has this return journey as telos… 

The cosmology of Sri Aurobindo is arguably one of the most complete I have encountered; he views evolution from a very broad canvas. He holds that Life is already involved in Matter and therefore Life should be able to evolve out of material elements. In essence, Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness, … but to me it seems virtually impossible to ignore what he says. Literally every facet of our normal knowledge about what is, is turned upside down and is reinterpreted in a radical way… Sri Aurobindo, in page after page in his various books, paints pictures that strive to transcend this limitedness of our humanity… Sri Aurobindo presented us with a spectrum of our cosmic potential and the assurance that that potential can be realised. In the process he moved beyond what we normally understand and can comprehend.

In writing books and in teaching his students, it is obvious that Sri Aurobindo wanted his knowledge to be passed on to succeeding generations of evolving humanity… On the face of it this seems to be a religious undertaking. This is not what he intended, Sri Aurobindo decided against the creation of a new religion. In teaching his techniques he made a decision not to form a new religion because it seems that he was not enamoured with the way in which religions tended to become dogmatised and formalised, even during the life of the founder… Should therefore his philosophy not be viewed as a religion? Are we perhaps dealing with a meta-religion, where the intentions are sublime and noble yet doomed to failure in achieving its high aspirations? Perhaps the reality is, as is the case with all other religions, that with some exceptional individuals he will achieve his high esoteric aspirations, but the mass of his followers will be identical to the mass of the adherents of any of the other religions, operating mainly on a superficial level… He did not teach emotionalism or blind acceptance of dogma, but he has made statements that indicate that he is of the conviction that whatever shape or form of either knowledge or inspiration one experiences, should be verified by the intellect and by common sense. But he also contended that, regardless of the merit that the intellect has, it has its limitations… The true reality of what is cannot be understood by analytical means: analysis of what is will destroy the wholeness and create duality.

Here we are not looking at a new religion. But there are still perplexing questions about Sri Aurobindo in this regard. As already mentioned, he stated that he did not wish to establish a new religion. How do his students or followers respond to this wish? What have they made of his philosophy? Has it been changed into a cult and should his every dictate be followed slavishly? Is he viewed as an avatar, not necessarily in name but in fact? Or is he considered a great thinker or perhaps a combination of all three these possibilities? If his disciples follow his philosophy to the letter, either at present or in the future, would that be wrong? The reason for this question is, if they do not operate in this way, can the positive results envisaged by Sri Aurobindo be guaranteed because now it is not a Sri Aurobindo philosophy but the disciple philosophy that is relevant and determinative. Further, if he is to be followed slavishly, can original and thinking minds tolerate such a restrictive environment? As in all religions and philosophical groupings, there are certain latitudes that are operative. The teacher did not cover everything and what he did cover was set out in words which immediately brings into question exactly what his teachings were. Always the teacher speaks from his level and always the student hear from his. Certainly we can see his words but we only see the surface: to what degree can disciples see the depth? … I would argue that his philosophy is comprehensive, profound and of great potential value for humanity… Potentially, it can supply a holistic evolutionary roadmap for humanity to move beyond the problematic physical, spiritual and environmental reality it finds itself in. [THE RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY OF CONSCIOUSNESS OF SRI AUROBINDO by Andries Gustav Barnard, NOVEMBER 2005]

I have long been an admirer of Aurobindo's poetic work, and had some notes on a paper regarding some problems in Aurobindo's poetry and also his theories of time and race… I remain very critical of Aurobindo as a cultural theorist; some of the stuff I have written about on Hegel applies directly to Aurobindo and by extension Wilber, and yes, I did this intentionally. ~Daniel Gustav Anderson (between 30 April and 26 May 2009).

Update: October 7, 2013 
Since the higher knowledge is not an intellectual or mental accomplishment, it cannot be achieved by study, reading, or acquiring of facts and practical skills or capabilities. These things may be part of preliminary steps to prepare the mind and the nature. The Kena Upanishad provides an extensive exposition of the paradox of knowledge: “That which is unexpressed by the word, that by which the word is expressed, know That to be the Brahman and not this which men follow after here. That which thinks not by the mind, that by which the mind is thought, know That to be the Brahman and not this which men follow after here.” (part 1, v. 4-5)

Indian psychology and contemporary research: Part III Posted on October 3, 2013 by Don Salmon The Indo-Tibetan tradition contains many sublime descriptions of knowledge by identity – particularly in the writings of Tibetan Buddhists and the great 11th century Kashmiri philosopher Abhinavagupta. Building upon this tradition, Sri Aurobindo gives some hints as to how intuitive knowledge may contribute to a radically new understanding of matter. Sri Aurobindo’s comments are offered here as scientific hypotheses to be tested.

Traditional Roots of Sri Aurobindo's Integral YogaDebashish Banerji, INTEGRAL REVIEW, September 2013 Vol. 9, No. 3. Abstract: Sri Aurobindo’s teachings on Integral Yoga are couched in a universal and impersonal language, and could be considered an early input to contemporary transpersonal psychology. Yet, while he was writing his principal works in English, he was also keeping a diary of his experiences and understandings in a personal patois that hybridized English and Sanskrit. A hermeneutic perusal of this text, The Record of Yoga, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, uncovers the semiotics of Indian yoga traditions, showing how Sri Aurobindo utilizes and furthers their discourse, and where he introduces new elements which may be considered “modern.”  

A New Creation on Earth: Death and Transformation in the Yoga of Mother Mirra Alfassa - Stephen Lerner Julich, INTEGRAL REVIEW, September 2013 Vol. 9, No. 3. Abstract: Focused mainly on her discussions of the psychic being and death, it is argued that the Mother remained rooted in her original Western Occult training, and can best be understood if this training, under the guidance of Western Kabbalist and Hermeticist Max Théon, is seen, not as of merely passing interest, but as integral to her development. []

Tweets Peter Heehs ‏@peterheehs 5 Oct Situating Sri Aurobindo: reader with excellent essays by Bose, Chimni & others and intros by me released by OUP India - @gchikermane Hope you like it. You should find many of the essays interesting, e.g. Hartz on Savitri and Chimni on internationalism.

August 19, 2013


'Atlantic Rim': Chomsky v. Zizek The Nation - Aug 15, 2013

All Roads Lead to Jerusalem! - What do Indians Need: A History or the Past – S.N. Balagangadhara February 16, 2012 The ideologues of the Sangh Parivar, in their haste to capture political power, in their utter and total ignorance of the western culture, are pushing a Christian religious theme on to the Indian culture. Reconceptualizing India Studies by Balagangadhara – a new book How to speak for the Indian traditions: an agenda for the future – SN Balagangadhara

What a Secularist can and should be Proud of? - Aravindan Neelakandan Independence Day Special: An Indian secularist should be proud of Hindutva and should be ashamed of pseudo-secularism

Mohanty’s work suggests that we specialists need to think more about topics and less about schools and individual thinkers. Mohanty draws from inter-school debates without regard for niceties of attribution, and flushes out positions for their intrinsic interest apart from historical setting. At the heart of philosophy are, after all, issues, views, and arguments, not persons. Mohanty’s vision is, instead, the revitalization of Indian philosophy through continued work that accepts many uniquely classical Indian assumptions and much of an interlocking scheme of categories while making improvements and refinements. The real possibility for this is connected with, in Mohanty’s view, thought’s ability to transcend culture, or, as he puts it, the life-world. 

Polymorphously Perverse Nature Posted by larvalsubjects August 17, 2013
Nature is auto-constructing without a constructor, not designed. In short, we must build a concept of nature as polymorphously perverse and differential.  The polymorphous, of course, refers to that which is capable of taking on a variety of different forms.  Far from being characterized by ineluctability and necessity, life testifies to the essential plasticity and creativity of nature.  In a Freudian framework, the “perverse” refers to that which deviates from its aim.  For example, the oral drive is “perverse” in that it aims not at sustenance, but at the pleasure of orality. The oral drive, as it were, subverts the teleology of the mouth and tongue.  In this regard, Freud gave us a non-teleological account of sexuality.  Despite all of is problems, the novelty of Freud’s account of sexuality lies in having decoupled the sexual and reproductive.  Within a Freudian framework, we reproduce because of sexuality– as an accidental by-product of sexuality –we do not have sexuality for the sake of reproduction.  Sexuality, in a Freudian framework, is inherently queer; even in heterosexual contexts.
Surprisingly, it was Darwin that taught us to think of life as inherently perverse and queer (although this message is often missed).  Despite the abuses to which evolutionary thought is endlessly subjected by things such as Spencer’s social darwinism and evolutionary biology, Darwin’s first step lay in erasing teleology. Within a Darwinian framework, form does not follow function, but rather function follows form.
Latour tirelessly makes exactly this point. The aim is not to erase signification– as I quite explicitly say in this post –but to challenge that sort of linguistic and semiotic imperialism. Obviously, as Latour points out, assemblages involving humans involve components of power, text, and materiality. They are hybrid. The problem with culturalism is that it only acknowledges the first two, ignoring the third. At any rate, signification/culture is itself a formation of nature. You might look at my work on “wilderness ontology” to see more of what I mean by this.
I hope that my position is nuanced on these issues. It is not a matter of suggesting that we abandon thinkers such as Derrida. It’s a matter of tempering their more imperialistic claims so as to make room for other modes of analysis in addition to the sort of work they do. Certainly I have benefited immeasurably from the thought of Derrida, Lacan, Barthes, Baudrillard, Zizek, etc. I have learned things from these thinkers that pervade everything I do. It’s not a question of abandoning that work but of reworking it in a realist/materialist framework capable of analyzing materiality without reflexively treating it as a discursive or semiotic construction.

Freud was the first to acknowledge the fact that it is not possible to understand the complexities of the psyche, without resorting to multiplicity of structure. He proposed his trinity of the Id, the Ego, and the Super-Ego. When speaking of Eros, Thanatos or Oedipus, he was also resorting to personifying, which did in fact contribute to the success of his theory. Everybody began to "believe" in Oedipus' complex, in Eros and Thanatos , almost unaware that this is a metaphoric device that gives some vitality to a concept. Yet we should not take these personified concepts more literally than the Ancient Greeks took their divinities.
But Freud, although convinced of the multiplicity of the psyche, and although he occasionally personified his concepts, never admitted that, he was speaking metaphorically and not scientifically. By his exclusive valuing of Science, Freud and today freudians, are heading right back to the same monotheistic ideal that Freud himself had criticised as oppressive. First, he wrote a remarkable analysis of the alienation that comes from rigid religious beliefs, but then he professed an absolute faith in Science. In the name of scientific truth, he transformed his theories into dogmas. Moreover, by his refusal to acknowledge his own subjectivity in the formation of his theories, he was at fault with the scientific method itself. Freud's attitude, called "scientific monotheism” by some critics, also made him act as if he was really the Pope of the psychoanalytic dogma. Consequently, he felt entitled to refuse Adler, Jung and many others, the right to oppose, contradict him in any significant fashion, if they were to stay in the club of wich he was the only, omnipotent God…
It seems that Freud was himself victim to the male judaic obsession with god the father, the very obsession he had denounced. Even his idea of love, which was after all the only domain left to women, was personified by a male divinity. Why did Freud choose Eros, instead of its mother Aphrodite, the great Goddess of libido? Had he chosen to personify love by Aphrodite, instead of Eros, he would certainly not have written that libido is male. Ginette Paris
It is helpful to look at Marx’s notion of scientific methodology. Marx, in this sense an heir to Plato, regards as a minimum necessary condition of any science, that it uncovers the reality behind the veil of appearance that conceals it. He claims that without this basic criterion science would be stripped of its legitimacy, because it would be useless to want to get to know something which is already obvious and known pre-scientifically. If scientists did not lift any veils to show what is concealed behind them, they would do something absolutely different than what science requires. They might engage in what Marx calls with reference to some forms of economics: vulgar science. If we follow Marx in taking astrology as a typical representative of such a "science" this idea becomes more feasible. 2:59 AM  

Amod Lele 20 short bits to sum up the philosophical ideas I currently believe