Friday, February 26, 2010

Question of statecraft and good government is preeminent

  1. Amod Lele Says: February 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm
Hi Levi – thank you very much for this post. As I mentioned, my understanding of SR is very limited, and I was really hoping an SRist or OOOist would come in and trip me up to help me figure out what I wasn’t yet understanding.
That said, I’m not entirely sure that I did misunderstand, though I suspect I didn’t state my points clearly enough. There are clearly a vast number of nuances and subtleties I don’t yet know, some of which your post helps explain; but I have a feeling I may still have been right on the basics.
First on Rand. I certainly didn’t mean to say that Object-Oriented Ontologists were basically Objectivists (and actually hadn’t even been thinking of the “Objectivism” name when I wrote the post). I was focusing specifically on the idea of correlationism. While Rand’s thought is certainly anthropocentric in a way that OOOists would oppose, it still seems to me that she would share the opposition to correlationism qua correlationism, as it is found in Kant. Things in the world – including humans – are real things, and while it is a noble and heroic task to dominate them, we can only dominate things in a way that they themselves allow room for. Things resist our attempts to make of them what we want. To leave the things themselves out of the picture and be entirely anthropocentric, allow human subjectivity free rein whether in a broadly Sophistic or more narrowly Kantian sense – that is what leads to “mysticism,” one of her favourite pejoratives, which is something that (to her) hippies and Christians share. This mysticism leads in turn to a lazy refusal of productive work, a refusal to engage in a transformative relation with the physical world; and if one doesn’t want to do productive work oneself, one will end up siding with the “looters” who appropriate others’ productive work, the communists and socialists. Now obviously these reasons for rejecting Kantian correlationism are very, very different from OOO’s reasons; I admit that and should have been clearer about it. But it seems to me that the critique itself remains similar: Kant is refuted by the persistence and obstinacy of “the things themselves.” Is there something I’m still missing here?
On to China, a comparison which I think is much less of a stretch. It strikes me that the way you characterize OOO in this section of your post still describes classical Chinese thought quite well. Especially: there is no question, to my mind, that humans are among the objects of the world for Chinese thinkers. The concern of classical Confucian thinkers was very much with the human – but with the human conceived relationally, as an object (in this sense) interacting with other objects, especially with other human objects. Thus the question of statecraft and good government is perhaps the preeminent question in the thought of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi (just as it is peripheral – at best! – to the Upaniṣṣshads or the Buddhist Pali canon). How can one create harmony in the world, among humans and the other things they are a part of? 
In this respect I neglected to mention an important aspect of Chinese landscape painting: those landscapes do usually involve a human figure somewhere, but very small (finding him is almost a matter of playing “Where’s Waldo?”). Humans on this line of thought are integrated into their environment, whether the human environment or the natural environment. As I mentioned in the post, there is debate among modern interpreters as to just how much subjectivity or interiority remains (as, perhaps, there might be among the circle of SR, especially if the Churchlands are included in the picture…?) But I don’t think that changes the point that subjectivity is not the focus of the picture here. Now there isn’t a critique of the Indian or Western subject, since the classical Chinese hadn’t encountered those yet (although later Confucian thinkers, with whom I’m less familiar, might be very interesting on this point). Rather, it seems to me that the starting point of Chinese thought is much, much closer to SR/OOO conclusions than are either Indian or Western thought.
  1. larvalsubjects Says: February 26, 2010 at 12:50 am Amod,
The only reason that I can surmise that you would compare object-oriented ontology to Rand’s objectivism is because rhetorically you’re engaging in a rather underhanded attempt to besmirch OOO and SR with the disapprobation generally directed at Rand’s despicable philosophy. Here are some other thinkers that are critical of Kant: Marx, Whitehead, Deleuze, Bhaskar, Latour, and Stengers. Each of these thinkers is more or less realist, yet none of them advocate a metaphysics or epistemology even remotely like Rand’s. I’m not sure why the comparison would even come up unless for rather unappealing reasons, hence my strong response. The line of reasoning here seems similar to arguing that members of the Tea Party are critical of the American government, Marxist socialists are critical of the American government, therefore members of the Tea Party and Marxist socialists are the same.
The reason that there has been a focus on Kant isn’t out of any particular animosity towards Kant, but rather because Kant invented correlationism. 
Speculative Realism, Indian, Chinese and Aurobindo's thought

Amod Lele  has a brilliant post that has initiated a discussion that gets interesting by the day. I have had some connectivity problems since yesterday and this has indeed prevented me keeping pace with the threads regularly. I have entered into a discussion in person with a colleague of mine who has told me about his understandings of Aurobindo and is candid enough to admit his own shortcomings when talked to about SR, but on the whole is quite startled to learn the probable points of convergence between the two ways of thought. This is a post that deals mainly with the replies and opinions and would have to wait for a deeper understanding of Aurobindo's thought and thereby correlating (oops!, I believe this is taken as a dictionary lexicon) it with SR. 

I had never thought of Chinese philosophy coming close to SR. I myself have had issues with coming to terms with Harman’s notion of OOO and the dismissing of Anthropocentrism and many Indian thinkers I have had the chance to discuss the nullifying of human-centeredness have directed me close to Buddhist thought, wherein at one level, the being and what is being thought become one. I also found some interesting linkages between SR and Aurobindo’s thought. But the real problem lies in ‘correlationism’ and is it ever possible to exorcise the ghost of it. One thing is for sure that Indian thought is getting more and more human-centric and there I think your analogy of moving away from Indian Philosophy and ever closer to Chinese philosophy as what the SR is doing sounds interesting. though, i must admit, Chinese philosophy is hopelessly unexplored by me and this post would get me to look into it. thanks for it. another point is, can everything be treated as objects as in Harman’s OOO. As in one of his criticisms, it is said, that Harman’s (Kvond’s blog) attempt to decenter and remove the human from the privileged point of access for any ‘first philosophy’, naturalizes the human by smuggling it through the backdoor: he takes Husserl’s transcendental starting point of the Cartesian withdrawal-into-self through universal doubt and then extends it to the propositions that “all objects withdraw into themselves” is apt. isn’t it? 

Amol replied by asking to elaborate on the linkages between SR and Aurobindo, to which I have only cursorily replied at present:

The link between SR and Aurobindo is what I am deliberating on with a colleague of mine from the ashram. It is said by Aurobindo that even an inanimate object has consciousness that could act morphogenetically to evolve. This consciousness is innate/inherent and is particulate in nature: a kind of separated one at that from the cosmic consciousness. this could be looked upon as a play, albeit never a revision to determine if the particulate consciousness on its own could evolve to realize the divine plan. as of now, in the writings, man is invested with the exponential acceleration of realizing the plan, or even if he fails in his endeavour, the superman concept of Aurobindo would achieve it. Although this is to a large extent human-centric, what really interested me and is still is baffling me is the contingency invested in the inanimate object with its particulate consciousness to achieve it as well. This is where i see the link between SR and Aurobindo and Meillassoux's reaction to post-Kantian 'correlationism'. This might not have been articulated all that well, but i have just laid hands on my copy of letters on yoga by Aurobindo and this purports to strike some revelations. himanshu POSTED BY HIMANSHU DAMLE AT 08:09:00 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Psychosis is a basic ontological disturbance of your relationship with reality

kelamuni has left a new comment on your post "Kelamuni unimpressed by Sri Aurobindo": hi tusar,
it's not that i'm unimpressed with aurobindo, or than i am consciously ignoring him. the fact is, i was hoping to deal with aurobindo's more philosophical version of neo-vedanta after having given my account of vivekananda's. for this reason, there have been no detailed descriptions or analyses of aurobindo's thought in my blogs, only cursory references. cheers. Posted by kelamuni to Savitri Era at 12:59 PM, February 16, 2010

Slavoj Žižek on ontology in psychoanalysis.
For Lacan, when he talks about philosophy, apparently clinical categories like psychosis, like neurosis, hysteria, these are not just subjective pathologies, these are disturbances in the basic ontological relationship between the subject and the world. Here Lacan is maybe close to Heidegger who, in his conversations with the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss, claims, for example, to understand psychosis. You must know how a human being ontologically stands in the world, how the world is open for you because psychosis is a basic ontological disturbance of your relationship with reality. Reality no longer exists for you as ontologically constituted. So this is what Lacan did. For him basic clinical categories are ontological attitudes of the subject.

(title unknown) from enowning by enowning
In-der-Blog-sein Philosophy in a Time of Error interviews Paul John Ennis (anotherheideggerblog).
I think a major problem is the temptation to fit people into neat categories. We argue endlessly as to whether Hegel is an idealist or Derrida is a realist…It can be interesting but with a thinker like Heidegger it is not a case of discovering whether he a realist or an idealist because he simply not engaged in that kind of debate. He has a very peculiar, singular direction and it is foremost an ontological rather than an epistemological issue.

It has often been noted that Dewey frequently sounds in advance like Merleau-Ponty. Here’s one such moment (nice Latour Litany at the beginning, too):
“In a painting, colors are presented as those of sky, cloud, river, rock, turf, jewel, silk, and so on. Even the eye that is artificially trained to see color as color, apart from things that colors qualify, cannot shut out the resonances and transfers of value due to these objects.” DeweyArt as Experience, p. 126

Fundamentalism and the Integral Yoga – Auroville Today Interview ... February 2010 ... an interview with Debashish Banerji by Alan and Carel. What are the roots of fundamentalism? 
It may be through innocent and unthinking means that the apparatus of fundamentalism gets established. For me, it begins with how identity constructs build up unconsciously. Often people pin their sense of self on a group identity. As a group develops, things may get done at certain times in certain ways and over time these characteristics get fixed in the minds of that group as defining that group’s reality. This reality is reinforced by a theology or ideology – the fundamental yet invisible pillars around which identity is built – as well as parables, metaphors and stories, mythologies, which make the members of the group identify with the ideology at the personal, core level.  Finally certain people start authorizing these characteristics as defining  a movement and rigidly controlling what can or cannot be done or believed. As the characteristics of identity crystallize in a group, people seeking power gravitate inevitably to set themselves up as self-appointed controllers of the boundaries of the group.
The need for a clear self-identity is also fostered by ‘othering’, the feeling that “I am who I am because you are not who I am.” In its most extreme form, the members of the group may see outsiders as evil, as not worthy of a place in this world.
All this may crystallize in what I call fundamentalism…
And then, of course, the whole thing is about God, the Infinite. This is another aspect of fundamentalism; the group identity stretches to colonize the invisible, the universal, it assumes this tremendous transcendental quality and literalises it in a set of tenets which have to be obeyed.

The Spirit and Form of an Ethical Polity: a Meditation on Aurobindo’s Thought by Sugata Bose, Modern Intellectual History, 4, 1 (2007), By debbanerji Posthuman Destinies
It engages in that exercise of elucidation by interpreting a few of the key texts by Aurobindo Ghose on the relationship between ethics and politics in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Both secularist and subalternist ...
The misappropriation of Aurobindo by the Hindu right has been facilitated by the secularists’ abandonment of the domain of religion to the religious bigots. To a secularist historian like Sumit Sarkar the invocation to sanatan dharma by Aurobindo is deeply troubling and makes him implicitly, if not explicitly, the harbinger of communalism in the pejorative sense the term came to acquire some two decades after Aurobindo had retired from active political life.4 To an anti-secularist scholar like Ashis Nandy the “nationalist passions” of Aurobindo located in “a theory of transcendence” are mistakenly deemed to be too narrowly conceived compared to the broader humanism of the more universalist, civilizational discourses ascribed to Tagore and Gandhi.5 The specific failures in fathoming the depths of Aurobindo’s thought are related to more general infirmities that have afflicted the history of political and economic ideas in colonial India…
The Indian intellectual deserves to be put on a par with the European thinker and, as Kris Manjapra argues, ought to be viewed “as engaging and revising through phronesis” the full range of Indian, European and in-between ideational traditions which he or she encountered.9 … In 1905 Bepin Pal wrote of the new patriotism in India, different from the period when Pym, Hampden, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Kossuth and Washington were “the models of young India”. The old patriotism “panted for the realities of Europe and America only under an Indian name”. “We loved the abstraction we called India”, Pal wrote, “but, yes, we hated the thing that it actually was”…
“And so”, Sumit Sarkar writes somewhat derisively, “the revolutionary leader becomes the yogi of Pondicherry”. 31 Aurobindo may have retired from active participation in politics, but his days as a thinker on the problem of ethics and politics were far from over. In that respect the best was perhaps yet to come.

This article elucidates the meaning of Indian nationalism and its connection to religious universalism as a problem of ethics. It engages in that exercise of elucidation by interpreting a few of the key texts by Aurobindo Ghose on the relationship between ethics and politics in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Both secularist and subalternist histories have contributed to misunderstandings of Aurobindo’s political thought and shown an inability to comprehend its ethical moorings. The specific failures in fathoming the depths of Aurobindo’s thought are related to more general infirmities afflicting the history of political and economic ideas in colonial India. In exploring how best to achieve Indian unity, Aurobindo had shown that Indian nationalism was not condemned to pirating from the gallery of models of states crafted by the West. By reconceptualizing the link between religion and politics, this essay suggests a new way forward in Indian intellectual history. 

In order to succeed in business a man does not need a degree from a school of business administration. These schools train the subalterns for routine jobs. They certainly do not train entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur cannot be trained. A man becomes an entrepreneur in seizing an opportunity and filling the gap. No special education is required for such a display of keen judgment, foresight, and energy. The most successful businessmen were often uneducated when measured by the scholastic standards of the teaching profession.

The very fact of getting back in touch with metaphysical questioning is itself a call to a refound confidence in the capacities of thought. This confidence certainly assumes an increased vigilance, bound by the critical heritage of the last decades, toward the dogmatic illusions which speculative philosophy was able to haul through the centuries. But we see today that the abandonment of metaphysical reflection, far from causing the intolerance of thought to decline, did nothing but exacerbate the desire for a blind faith—as though an overreaching skepticism towards reason turned into a fanaticism wishing to be inaccessible to discussion. Resetting ourselves in a metaphysical perspective permits us to confer anew on the concept—rather than on faith alone or the sole opportunism of interest—the duty of helping us to construct our existence, to “vectorise” the concept in its relation to a world both rich and opaque. A metaphysics instructed by the work of its great adversaries—instructed by its reversals (Nietzsche), by its destruction (Heidegger), therapeutic dissolution (Wittgenstein), or deconstruction (Derrida)—sets out both an extraordinary heritage, a treasure of unique thought towards which we are yet able to return—and at the same time imposes on us a totally new and exciting task: that is, how to produce a contemporary metaphysics, able to give a meaning, even a fragile one, to our lives by the sole force of thought, and one which may be likely to “pass across” [passer au travers] those tremendous undertakings of “demolition” which together ran through [traversé] the 20th century.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Radical Atheism, Liberal Fascism, Capitalist Realism

Ethics, Hospitality, and Radical Atheism
A Dialogue Between Derek Attridge (University of York) and Martin Hägglund (Harvard Society of Fellows) 5.15 pm, Thursday March 4, 2010 New Seminar Room, Wadham College University of Oxford
Hägglund’s recent book, Radical Atheism, offers a novel and provocative account of Derrida’s thinking on life and death, good and evil, self and other. The book has already been the subject of a special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review and has prompted enthusiastic critical responses from thinkers like Ernesto Laclau and Derek Attridge. Attridge, eminent literary critic and theorist, is responding to Hägglund in his forthcoming book Reading and Responsibility, where he further develops his influential notion of the relation between deconstruction, ethics, and literature. In his response, Attridge raises the question of what difference deconstruction makes for the way we live our lives and opens the stakes of the debate through the question of hospitality. This dialogue will stage a wide-ranging discussion between these distinguished interlocutors before opening the debate to the floor. Places are limited. Please register interest with Ankhi Mukherjee: Yet Another Conference Announcement from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith

Check out Jonah Goldberg's new book "Liberal Fascism". I disagree with the title. It should be "Leftist Fascism". New Zeal: Why Fascists Are Leftists 10 Jan 2008

Now, what would be the difference between absolutism and totalitarianism? I don't think I want to get too deeply into that question because it's just too vast a subject, but it is beautifully addressed in one of my perennial raccoomendations, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, by William Gairdner. A key point is that the Absolute does not deny our freedom, but is its first and last guarantor. Absolutist Philosophy and Totalist Necrophilia from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

Towards the end of Capitalist Realism Fisher puts his finger on the central reason for my reluctance to discuss issues of normativity… One of the more compelling themes that punctuates Fisher’s Capitalist Realism is the linkage between the rise of certain mental illnesses and post-Fordist capitalist modes of production, identifying it as a key site of thepolitical (at least virtually). Paradoxes of Mereology and Social Systems from Larval Subjects, Depression, Affectivity, and Capitalism

We’ve now completed compiling all the articles for The Speculative Turn so the manuscript will be sent off to Re.Press in the next day or so. A Little Less Speculative, A Little More Real from Larval Subjects

Just as a kind of heads-up, we will begin our reading of Catherine Malabou’s Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction next week. Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing Book Event: Announcement from An und für sich by Brad Johnson

On a related note, Julia Fischer of the Cognitive Ethology Laboratory at the German Primate Center in Göttingen, Germany has written a short review of Michael Tomasello's book "Why We Cooperate." Biolinguistics, Cooperation, the Importance of Theory of Mind for Language - and Dinosaurs  from Shared Symbolic Storage by Michael

But the self-interest of the Capitalist can only be achieved by serving his customers better. The self-interest of the personnel of The State is achieved only by screwing the people. One works for good things; the other is pure evil. Gordon Tullock's little bookThe Vote Motive, proves that this is the motive that is pure evil. On the other hand, the much maligned "profit motive" is totally innocent, seeking only to benefit the customer, as in this old songOn Selfishness - Good And Evil from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

Ludwig von Mises from his magnum opus, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, For MBA Students And Aspirants from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lukács inaugurates a unique approach to aesthetics and literary criticism

The following is an interview with Jack Sanders and Katie Terezakis, coeditors of the new edition of György Lukács’sSoul and Form.
Q: Why publish a new edition of Lukács’s early essays now?
Jack Sanders and Katie Terezakis: Lukács first published the Hungarian version of Soul and Form in 1910, so this is its centennial. In the hundred years since the first edition, consider how vastly the world has changed; even Lukács’s own thinking went though profound transformation after penning these essays. Yet the essays still speak to us powerfully: of the difficulty of meaningful communication and the forms though which it can be achieved, of the need to criticize forms of authority without taking on the mantle of authoritarianism, of the sort of suffering that characterizes human alienation and of its honest assessment. In other words, these essays engage ideas that continue to trouble and encourage us, not merely as topics in aesthetic or political theory, but as matters of binding human concern. In a way, one wants to insist that these essays are searching, evocative, and often downright beautiful, simply in themselves. Yet Lukács also addresses a diverse set of thinkers, including his favorite author-heroes, among them Plato, Novalis, Kierkegaard, and Stephan George. And as he does, Lukács inaugurates a unique approach to aesthetics and literary criticism. From the perspective of our distance from that inauguration, we can appreciate where the thought presented here indicates a serious challenge to well-known readings of Lukács as well as to common approaches of our contemporary literary criticism. So, for us personally, when we began rereading these essays we were struck by the perspective they allowed on Lukács’s thinking and on subsequent developments in criticism as well as by their contemporary relevance.
Q: Did you bring anything new to this edition?  
JS and KT: Yes, beyond updating the language and adding scholarly references, we included an additional essay-dialogue, “On Poverty of Spirit,” written at about the same time as the others and bearing a vital relationship to them. Judith Butler contributed the book’s introduction, which situates Soul and Form among Lukács’s other works as well as contemporary movements in criticism and draws out the internal dynamics of the essays. Butler analyzes the historical, expressive character of literary forms according to Lukács and probes the conditions of their emergence. She also evaluates the transition these essays chart, from Lukács’s early romanticism to his version of realism, and she connects Lukács’s furor over the social conditions that suppress expressive capacity with similar appraisals of the young Marx. Perhaps most vitally, Butler’s introduction provides an incisive account of Lukács’s vision of form as the index by which historical life, in all its complexity, becomes distilled and known. We’ve also added an afterword, written by Katie Terezakis. It connects Lukács’s early account of form with his appropriation of elements of Kantianism, then looks forward at the morphology of the concept of form as it develops in Lukács’s work, in the work of his Budapest School students and in theory and criticism after him.
Q: Lukács is famous for changing his mind a lot or, to speak less playfully, for engaging in as much self-refutation as new production. Are these essays fundamentally different from his better-known works in the field of Marxist aesthetics?
JS and KT: No and yes. What’s interesting about these early essays is how faithfully they mirror Lukács’s later concerns with human emancipation or with the forms that allow for it and the mechanisms that undermine it. One could condense these essays into a set of questions about human possibility and the role of artworks and then read Lukács’s subsequent works as systematic responses to them. At the same time, Lukács was twenty-five years old when Soul and Form was published; most of the essays were written in his early twenties. Here then we have the considerations of a categorically brilliant mind, formulating the passions and judgments of a very young man, still years from conversion to Bolshevism, from serving in government, from exile, from working as a professor, and from serious involvement in Communist Party politics. These essays tell a palpable truth about why Lukács became a militant and how he became so disposed toward Marxism, but they are bracing works of criticism on their own.
Q: Would you say then that Lukács’s early aesthetic theory can be judged apart from his later political position?
JS and KT: It isn’t possible to depoliticize Lukács. There is good reason neither to excuse his apologetics nor to ignore the truly radical, always political nature of his aesthetic theory. Even at its most conceptual and speculative moments, Lukács’s aesthetic work is about action; it is a call to action and a questioning of the intellectual, historical, social conditions of action.
Q: Is there a good, paradigmatic example in Soul and Form of how “soul” and “form” function, or what role they play in Lukács’s aesthetic criticism?
JS and KT: According to Lukács, for example, Plato is the greatest essayist who ever lived or wrote. Plato as much as invented the form of the philosophical dialogue, and in so doing he gave form to the myth of Socrates. We have “Socrates” thanks to the fortitude of Plato’s invented form. Yet Lukács says that Plato used Socrates’ destiny as the vehicle for the questions that he, Plato, harbored. Lukács appreciates that Socrates must have been full of the deepest longings––for truth, beauty, goodness––but such longing is simply longing without the right form in which it can manifest and be shared. Indeed, Plato captures the very nature of longing in a concept, along with the incommodious interruptions and disruptions that life imposes on it. So Plato’s achievement, according to Lukács, is form in its true sense: the bringing into communicative being of an individual life, an independent soul.
Q: How did you come to work on Lukács?
JS and KT: Jack first became acquainted with Lukács’s work in 1972, when he was asked to translate “On Poverty of Spirit,” along with a commentary on the piece by Lukács’s Budapest School student Agnes Heller, for a special issue of The Philosophical Forum commemorating Lukács’s death. Katie studied with and subsequently wrote on Heller. So each of us was long aware of Lukács’s importance and each of us wanted to see his thought discussed still more by our contemporaries. Lukács is a thinker who asks us to apprehend the relation of otherwise obscure social forces; he also asks us to consider the conditions of great works of philosophy and literature (including great lesser-known works) and thus speaks of thinkers like Plato and Kierkegaard with an intimacy and insightfulness seldom encountered in the secondary literature. Yet Lukács also tells us not to settle on being merely theoretical when we can be committed to and engaged in emancipatory struggle. So we think it’s worth putting him squarely in public view. Posted by Columbia University Press in Literary Studies,Philosophy

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sublime purpose and perfect control in the unfolding of events

from Robert Wilkinson Commentaries on the Supermind vs. CG Jung’s Overmental Psychology 

Having read David Johnston’s presentation on the Mirror of Tomorrow blog ( there can be no doubt that he is one of the more erudite students of Carl Jung’s work. I think it is fair to say that his exposure to Sri Aurobindo’s knowledge, as far as he has taken it, has provided unique insights into the structure of Jung’s vision that one cannot glean from Jung alone. There are however a number of fatal flaws in his analysis of Jung in the light of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s teachings on the Integral Yoga, flaws that proceed from a ‘partial’ view of the lines of that yoga and a truncated vision of the Supramental Descent.

In an earlier posting I mentioned that one of the critical differences between Sri Aurobindo and Jung was that Sri Aurobindo came to fulfill a divine ‘evolutionary action’, an action that the Mother described as being ‘direct from the Supreme’. In his paper David Johnston has provided us with a means of insight into that ‘action’ by including the legendary dialogue between Osiris and Maria Prophetissa which reveals the central axiom of Alchemy; "One becomes Two, Two becomes Three, and out of the Third comes the One as the Fourth". This alchemical formula, grounded in the quaternion model, precisely describes the stages or octaves of the Supramental descent through a living bridge made up of the four members of the Solar line; Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Thea and the Fourth, Kalki, who is Sri Aurobindo returned - ‘the One as the Fourth’. This formula describes, among other things, the descent of the Transcendent Divine into what Thea calls the ‘Absoluteness of Immanence’ or hidden foundation of the Supermind. It is also the formula which clarifies the occult process by which Spirit becomes Matter; how Brahman, ‘THAT in its transcendent form’ becomes the Vedic Skambha ‘THIS in its immanent form’. Thea’s recovery of this Vedic knowledge lost for millennia has given us the means of connecting Spirit and Matter in a seamless continuum which resolves for all time, the paradoxes and irreconcilables of an old spirituality. It is this very formula that provides the basis of a Supramental Gnosis - a knowledge Sri Aurobindo described as being, ‘…free from doubt, self-evident, self-existent, irrefragable and absolute’.

We can follow this process of descent and unveiling in the lives of each member of the Solar Line. One may observe, for example, that Sri Aurobindo's actual work on the spiritual plane is almost never revealed. The Mother's work on the occult planes is somewhat clearer yet even she was not inclined to explain the details of what she did and saw. It isn't until the Third level of the descent that these details become revealed in their entirety because that is the nature of the Third – ‘precision in truth’. With Thea’s level of the work, we are able to perceive this precision in its myriad aspects. Take for instance the Supramental Time Vision that Sri Aurobindo introduced in the last chapter of ‘Synthesis of Yoga’. While he knew that Time was the remaining aid needed for the effectivity of the Supramental yoga, it was not until the Third level that the details of this synthetic Time Vision are finally revealed. The ability to see with such detail at this level comes about because the action is observed from the most intimate dimension the human consciousness can experience, the 'center' or individual Soul. But this is most certainly NOT the Soul postulated in the psychology of Carl Jung, nor can it be obtained through his Individuation process.

What I find lacking in David Johnston’s presentation is a realistic view of the Becoming. Search as we may, there is nothing of the New knowledge and precision in detail to be found in Jung’s work. It is primarily a product of the Overmental Plane, full of Gods, Archetypes and speculative Visions, incapable of providing access to a genuine integral experience. Moreover, it leaves the student stranded ‘up there’ on the Transcendent/Mental-Cosmic planes and unable to link the Vedic Truth-Consciousness to the Earth where it must finally be grounded if any meaningful transformation of Matter is to occur. When I read postings by David Johnston or RY Deshpande, erudite as they may be, they do not even begin to acknowledge or describe the sublime purpose and perfect control in the unfolding of events accompanying the Supramental Creation. And perhaps worse, even though they have been given indisputable evidence to the contrary, they continue to mislead their readers by suggesting that there are no Third and Fourth levels of the Supramental Descent. Clearly these wisemen would prefer to talk and sleep but for those who are tired of playing in the antechambers of the higher mind and aspire to a more satisfying non-speculative realization, I will leave you with this quote from Thea’s New Way:

‘May we not seek miracles…let us rather have Realization. This is the solid way. Let us not see visions or lights or etheric forms…let us BE light, let us SEE IN UNDERSTANDING, let us be the ‘new seeing’. Thea, Preamble to The New Way, Vol. 1 & 2 [The New Way: A Study in the Rise and Establishment of a Gnostic Society (Two Volumes in One) Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet]

In the last few days, a friend and colleague, Lori Tompkins, posted an extraordinary essay entitled, ‘The Infinite and the Detail’ ( I would highly recommend this essay to those interested in learning more about the Supermind and the details of its manifestation.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Genetics, Epigenetics, Epipylogenesis in Steigler in terms of Physical, Vital, Mental in Sri Aurobindo

In Part IV-B I examine what Sri Aurobindo referred to as the humankind’s double nature consisting of its animal nature of instincts impulses desires and automatisms and its higher, self-reflective, mental, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual nature. I particulary study humankind in terms of modern western individuals, with their damned-up repressed instincts.

I then study the Evil Persona as defined by Sri Aurobindo, suggesting that it be understood in light of the persona as presented by CG Jung. Sri Aurobindo defined it as a being that is attached to the sadhaks who creates wrong conditions. The persona is the ideal image and mask that one wears to present oneself to the world, either professionally or otherwise. Although the persona serves the purpose of greasing the wheels of life, one is enjoined not to identify with its false wrappings. The Evil Persona, in fact, seems to be a product of both the workings of the persona, and also the shadow. The brighter and more virtuous the persona, then the darker is the shadow, the repressed other side of the coin. If the falseness of the Evil Persona can be relegated to the field of the Asura of Falsehood, then the darkness of the shadow is the realm of the Asura of Ignorance.

I then examine the nature of first the personal shadow and then the archetypal shadow, or the shadow side of the God-image. The personal shadow is not evil per se, but awkward and ill-adapted aspects of the psyche that need to be integrated into consciousness, often to the advantage of gaining a greater range of life and instinctual connectedness. At the archetypal level, the goal is for to suffer the opposites of good and evil, to allow them to come together in the Self as a vessel filled with divine conflict. I end the essay by studying the shadow as positive value and source of vitality, and then indicate how the spiritualization and assimilation of the animal shadow at an individual level enhances the transformation of community. An important goal of the opus is realization of the fourfold quaternity of the mental, vital and physical planes of being organized around the psychic being. This requires coming to terms with the persona and the shadow. 

Another relevant article on Bernard Steigler (and Derrida among others). I'll mention briefly again that although his discourse is separated by both an epistemic rupture and cultural chasm from those of Sri Aurobindo there are some interesting points of convergence from which one could begin a dialog with the future in Sri Aurobindo's. For instance when you see Genetics, Epigenetics, Epipylogenesis in Steigler, roughly think, in terms of Physical, Vital, Mental in Sri Aurobindo. In one of the passages in this article, the author speaks of: "Derrida’s ethical insistence on maintaining a distinction between technical conditions and phenomenological experience" which seems to me to speak to the question of disappearance we have raised on sciy in other places.

I disagree with author in how he assess Steigler here however, in that rather that ascribe a primacy to technicity, Steigler thinks phenomena and prosthesis to be co-determined, in terms of a who and a what. The Journal Tranformations has done an excellent job in putting this sampling of Steiglerian scholarship together. "Whereas Derrida considers the history of the grammē as that of life itself, Stiegler holds that technics (as one of the names of the grammē, or the “trace”) constitutes a break with “pure” life. “The passage from the genetic to the nongenetic is the appearance of a new type of grammē and/or program” (Vol. 1, 138); which Stiegler immediately compares to “cultural codes” (akin to genetic codes—again, we see the uncritical extension of these concepts across the genetic-cultural border). This is a decisive stage in the history of différance, an articulation whereby life exteriorises itself into a foreign deposit. “The grammē structures all levels of the living and beyond, the pursuit of life by means other than life” (137). Stiegler suggests that the grammē “as such” is consciousness (138), a temporal structure of retention/protention, forgetfulness/anticipation that finds its constitutive condition of possibility in the technical trace. Mark Hansen argues that Stiegler, unlike Derrida, posits originary technicity as the proper (or better) name for the trace.

Whereas Derrida believes that arche-writing precedes the history of technics, and cannot be reduced or conflated to it, Stiegler projects technics deep into the heart of life qua gramme itself, thus forgetting “Derrida’s ethical insistence on maintaining a distinction between technical conditions and phenomenological experience …” (15). As a result, Hansen argues, Stiegler’s philosophy falls prey to a “general overvaluation of technics” and a “desire to ground time exclusively in technical inscription or registration” (17). It could be suggested that DNA itself is already a form of technical inscription and registration; a form of organized inorganic memory that accumulates the experience of previous individual existences (and thus learns from experience). Is there not technicity at the heart of life itself, in the very definition of an organism? Isn’t the living always already biotechnical? Stiegler seems to point in this direction at the end of Vol. 3, when he speaks of the relation between the materiality of the recording surface and the conditions of reproducibility.

As we have reviewed the density and opposition of Matter to the action of higher principles of consciousness, and peered into the abyss of pessimism that implies that nothing can change, and that our hope for some higher significance to our lives is merely an illusion, we have sought for some sign or indication that a transformation of life in the world of matter is both possible and, perhaps, inevitable.
If the world of matter is fixed and immovable, then no such transformation can actually take place in this world, and we need to seek our salvation elsewhere and in some other form. This in fact is the root cause of what Sri Aurobindo has termed the “refusal of the ascetic.”
When we begin to recognize however, that all manifested existence, including the world of matter, is made up of energy in vibration, and when we see that behind all energy lies consciousness; and when we find that there is in fact an ascending series of planes with increasingly subtle vibrational patterns, we begin to see the opportunity for a transformation. What is essential is that we can see that the current relationship of Matter to Life and Mind, and even higher vibrational patterns of consciousness, is not the sole possible relationship and that starting from different standpoints, the entire response of nature can change as new principles are brought into play.

Sri Aurobindo expounds “Life and mind may manifest themselves in another relation to substance and work out different physical laws, other and larger habits, even a different substance of body with a freer action of the sense, a freer action of the life, a freer action of the mind. “
It is in no small sense true that we tend to limit our vision and our will to those things that already exist for us. Sri Aurobindo suggests here that other and different viewpoints will lead to other and different results, even here in the world of Matter. reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter 26, The Ascending Series of Substance

Monday, February 01, 2010

Philosophy of religion's concern for the secular and its speculative character

from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith

Recently James KA Smith and Bruce Benson had a conversation that unfolded on the pages of the journal Faith and Philosophy. As Daniel Whistler and I are currently finishing up editing on our edited volume, After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion, I read it to see if I could get a sense of where two mainstream Christian philosophers see the discipline. I was, quite simply, disappointed in the dialogue as it continues a rather uncritical discourse on Continental philosophy of religion that perpetuates its status as a kind of ersatz-philosophical theology, but adds a bit of new analytic envy and Christian victimhood.

I’m not too concerned with the so-called analytic/Continental split anymore and, like many, hope that some new constellation is emerging that will though whose work is “Continental” to break through the institutional biases of mainstream Anglophone departments and join with post-analytic thought in doing new and interesting work. Still, there is something distinctive about Continental philosophy of religion that differentiates it form both mainstream Anglophone philosophy and philosophical theology. In our volume we locate three distinct characteristics: its coming out of the modern tradition, its concern for the secular, and its speculative character. Perhaps Smith’s account is impovershed because of his focus on phenomenology and hermeneutics.

I would argue that, while these philosophical forms can support philosophies of religion, they have tended to be used as a method for a theological thinking rather than a philosophy of religion. This theologization of Continental philosophy largely goes unacknowledged within those circles, both because figures like Marion are both theologizers of philosophy and respected expositors of the phenomenological method. Thus, the notion that somehow Marion is ostracized by most Continental philosophers, just strikes me as absolutely false.