May 03, 2017

Are they saints or just marketers?

Enlightenment is not about "experiences", but about a zero state of consciousness beyond experiencing (which implies that any vision excitedly ascribed to Ramakrishna by his followers was not Enlightenment). Whereas Descartes said that "I think, therefore I am", with "thinking" covering all states of consciousness, and with all these states standing on the side of consciousness in its dualistic opposition to matter; the ancient Indian Sankhya philosophy opposes only pure consciousness, conscious of itself but not "experiencing" anything outside itself, to all matter including all states of applied consciousness (sensory perception, memory, imagination...) lined up on the other side. As you know, the intake of substances can trigger altered states of consciousness. For Descartes, this poses a problem, for how can something material affect the separate world of "thinking" (pure plus applied consciousness) ? For Sankhya, the problem doesn't pose itself, for the altered states of consciousness triggered by substances (starting with chocolate taken to soothe depression) all belong to Nature/Prakrti, as distinct from Purusha, the unit of consciousness. Compare it to a computer: it can reason, it can deduce a conclusion from the data it is fed, yet this process is not conscious.

So, it is a perfectly natural state of affairs from the Sankhya viewpoint if electrodes applied to specific parts of the brain trigger altered states of consciousness. If neurological research, and now perhaps Arun Shourie, confirm this, they may ruffle some feathers among Bhakti (devotional, "religious") Hindus, but they remain within the confines of Hindu philosophy. Many mental phenomena may well fall within the ambit of neurology, many strange experiences may well be triggered by mechanical and material causes; and Hindus may well be called upon to define their spiritual practices anew. POSTED BY KOENRAAD ELST AT 8:00 AM

Arun Shourie's new book: TWO SAINTS: Speculation around and about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharshi (publisher Harper Collins).
Should we think again about their experiences when these occur as points in the brain are stimulated with an electrode during surgery? What if they can be recreated in a laboratory non-invasively? When they occur to ordinary persons placed in extraordinary circumstances?

Did the experiences occur from some ailment? As was alleged in the case of Sri Ramakrishna? From some ‘madness’, which he feared he had? From the fits that Sri Ramana said he used to have? [...]

In the light of their pristine example, how should we view and what should we do about the godmen and gurus who control vast financial and real estate empires today, to whom lakhs flock? Are they the saints they set themselves up to be or just marketers?

The Wrong Notion that Sri Aurobindo Rejected Hinduism – Raman Reddy

(With specific reference to The Clasp of Civilisations (2015) by Richard Hartz, published byNalanda International, and Nationalism, Religion, and Beyond (2005), a compilation of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on Politics, Society and Culture, edited by Peter Heehs.)  

I was rather disappointed after reading The Clasp of Civilisations by Richard Hartz because I expected from him a better understanding of Hinduism than most Western scholars.[1] The book starts off well with a sense of universality in spiritual matters which justifies the title, but gets caught halfway through with the usual antipathy towards Hinduism that is so common among secular scholars of India. The chapter on Vivekananda’s famous address in the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in September 1893 is indeed well-written and the circumstances of the historic event depicted in a most interesting manner with an undercurrent of humour. But the chapter on Hinduism titled “Untold Potentialities: Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Aurobindo and the Idea of India”, in which Nehru is elevated into a spiritual figure and Sri Aurobindo converted into a secular icon, shows the fundamental flaws of Richard’s scholarship. One immediately gets the impression of encountering one more Hinduphobic armchair scholar, who meticulously builds his arguments on the works of other Hinduphobic scholars who also have never empathised with Indian culture. Ironically, Richard Hartz has studied the Vedas and is an expert in Sanskrit, but this only shows that mere scholarship does not open the gates of spiritual comprehension. After all, Peter Heehs, his colleague, did the same, wasting forty years of research on Sri Aurobindo and producing such a hostile biography that the disciples of Sri Aurobindo had to go to the Court to take him to task. But let us come back to Richard Hartz who could have easily come to his own conclusions instead of following the path of Peter Heehs with regard to Hinduism, or what is in fact the path of leftist secular scholars of India and abroad which Peter Heehs himself follows faithfully for the sake of his academic career. After all, for him academic success is more important than stating the fundamental truth of Hinduism!   
  ...full text...

Jeffrey JKripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is the author of several books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion and The Serpent's Gift:Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion.

The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained

Feb 2, 2016 by Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal

Dear Kashyap,
I read it with pleasure. Such view reflects also the web of number/machine dream in arithmetic on which I am working.

I am glad you feel dissatisfied by attempts to introduce a physical non locality, as in the Universal wave, such non locality is explained by first person (plural) notion.

I try to explain that if we assume mechanism (be it classical or quantum does not matter) then the physical appearances, including the universal wave, is the product of some statistics on the internal state that we can associate with the Church-Turing universal computations, as they are all emulated in a tiny portion of the arithmetical reality. 

That is testable, as physics is reduced to the theology of the universal number, which belongs to the arithmetical reality (since Gödel, we know that the provable part, by finite entities like machines, is only a very partial views, whatever the point of view adopted. Is Shunyata the phenomenological quantum void, or the classical number zero? Is Brahman the universal wave or the arithmetical truth? The last one run deeper, despite they are conceptually simpler, they justify the appearances of the former. 

Physicists are aware of the growing role of number theory in physics, but if we assume Mechanism, that could be justified in theoretical computer science (a branch of arithmetic, amazingly enough), and we may understand how the numbers makes consciousness losing itself in a labyrinth of dreams, capable of awakenings, and recognizance of Itself, from times to times.

It was a nice reading, and might make more precise comment later. You might better understand my comments if you read 

And feel free to criticize, or ask any question, of course.
Best regards,
Bruno Marchal
May 3, 2017

To view this discussion on the web visit

Dear Srikanth,
I think that they are not enough "careful" in doing so. I agree most are erring, but not because they would be pushing the scientific proof paradigm out of its legitimate scope, but because they ignore the data and the questions asked.

Glad to hear that. I suggest this as a first axiom on consciousness on which we can perhaps agree. Consciousness is true and not provable. And perhaps most people here might agree with a second axiom: consciousness is undoubtable. But that might be derived from less assumption. We cannot doubt our consciousness because to genuinely doubt, we need to be conscious.

This suggests also a way to work "scientifically" on consciousness. We can agree on some axiom(s) and then search if something obeys to such or similar axioms. In that case, computer science and mathematical logic suggest already a candidate for the first axiom above: the unprovability of consciousness. Indeed, thanks to the work of Gödel, we can readily show that for *all* "sufficiently rich machine there is a true proposition about them that the machine cannot prove: consistency. Now, consistency is a pure third persn notion, and it would be ridiculous to equate it with consciousness, yet, it might still be something playing a role in what is consciousness and justifying its unprovability. This is even more so due to the fact that the "sufficiently rich" machine or theories are able to prove their own incompleteness in the conditional way. such machine do prove that ((I am consistent) -> (I cannot prove (I am consistent)), and so, if they have some abductive inference ability, they can infer the truth of their consistency, or "live" it in some manner.

I think scientist must do something like that each time they want to apply a theory to a reality. after all, most believe in a reality, although none can prove that there is a reality, not even of the moon. In fact in science we can only have assumptions, derivation and refutation, but no proof of a positive fact can be done on reality. The essence of science, or at least fundamental science, is already spiritual, as it guesses that there is a reality, perhaps unifiable through some principle(s), and try to experiment with them. Then, unfortunately, when a theory is confirmed for a long period, we forget the hypothetical nature of our theories, and take some reality for granted ... until we get eventually refuted, which is welcome, as this is the part where we really learn something.

Now, concerning the mind body problem, we need also to be coherent. The use of both Materialism and Mechanism leads to serious difficulties. The use of a notion of primary matter to solve the mind-body problem, in the mechanist frame, can be shown similar of the use of God to dismiss the theory of evolution: it is not logically valid. So, in the mechanist frame, primary matter itself is forced to play a "supernatural role" if we want it to select computations in arithmetic, and try to make them more real than other. In philosophy, that type of reification is not valid. This means that mechanism does NOT solve the mind-body problem per se: it makes it two times more difficult: not only we must justify the "non provable character of the personal truth, and explain how we can still know them, but we have to justify the appearance of matter without invoking a magical (non Turing emulable) role that primary matter could play.

Absolutely. I like very much Ramana Maharshi. Its koan "Who am I" is a simple but very good one. I have a PhD, but I am probably too much biased by my own work and experiences to be a good meditator :)
May 3, 2017

Whit Blauvelt
May 3, 2017
I appreciate the patience. At the least, we'll get a good contrast of

I am not a foundationalist. The notion that things must be on foundations is specific to gravity wells. In the larger universe, things are most often without foundations. So our task is not to build on foundations, but explain relations.

Although not a foundationalist, I agree that each journey has to start somewhere. I take it as more obvious than "living organisms do exist" that "consciousness does exist." We have direct experiences of it. Our models had best be true to its evidence. Arguments that evidence is "illusion" should be a last, not a first resort.

You have defined away consciousness. Robots contain models of the world. Your robotic vacuum cleaner is not conscious -- not in the any sense of the word that's in general use. Therefore your theory fails.

Good clarification. Let's say a piece of wood is to be carved into a model. This can be done by a wakeful person, in which case it is a product of consciousness; it can be done by a robotic machine, in which case it is not a product of consciousness; it can be done by random patterns of erosion by wind and rain, in which case it is not a product of consciousness, yet its later recognition as a model by a person who happens on it is.

Therefore the attribute, "has as its product, models," does not accurately point to consciousness. Nor does it show that consciousness is nothing else than what allows living organisms to construct models. Hands for example allow us to carve wooden models. Hands also have other uses, which are distinctly those of hands, having nothing to do with making or handling models.

Whatever a robot can do, unconsciously, with reference to a model, a person can do, consciously, with reference to a model. This includes activities which reduce entropic state. However, when you say "the whole system" you're being vague, in that the only whole system is the universe, as long as its open systems we're discussing -- which living systems are.

I would not, ever, call consciousness a "tool". Tools exist by reference to purpose. Purposes exist by reference to consciousness. So for something to be a "tool" implies consciousness already, external to the tool. Consciousness itself cannot be a tool.

Consciousness is not a tool of study. Consciousness is we, who study, and who with various forms of reflection are able to study ourselves.

This is, truly, generous of you. Yet I think there are things a child knows about consciousness that, when we go too far into formal models, we often lose sight of. It is the child's consciousness, "original mind" if you will, that fascinates me. Most philosophers, even the best of them, lose sight of it. Concepts so often obscure it, rather than cast more light.

To view this discussion on the web visit

No comments:

Post a Comment