Sunday, December 9, 2007

Peirce’s evolutionism is the same as that of the Vedas and of Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo and Western Thought Recent Publications, SABDA NOV 2003
This comparative article written from a refreshingly unique perspective raises intriguing possibilities of a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought based on their common roots. The views expressed are the anonymous author’s own.
Sri Aurobindo is not only a leader of East Indian spirituality, but he is also a very important figure in Western thought, especially in Western Heathenism/Paganism. His mystical, or "esoteric," interpretation of the Rig Veda and ancillary writings, which considers the essence of these to be the evolution of consciousness, places him at the center of Western spirituality and thought and therefore at the center of the great tripartite supersystem formed by Vedism, Zarathushti Din (Zoroastrianism), and Western Heathenism. In old Anglo Saxon, "heathen" refers to the people of the heath, of the countryside, who were nature-worshipping folk; in Latin, "pagoni" means people of the hills, the unurbanized, nature-connected folk. Today, the authentic heathen movement is called "Odinism" (after Odin, the Norse-Germanic God) or "Asatru" (true, or loyal, to the Aesir, the collective Norse-Germanic gods).
The geographic origin of the Indo-European people is unknown, but it is known that they divided into three main migratory groups: one went into India and produced the Vedic literature, another went to what became Persia and elaborated Zarathushti Din, and the third ventured westward and diversified into the various European ethnic groups (Slavs, Scandinavians, Germans, Kelts, Mediterraneans, etc.). Interestingly, recent molecular genetic studies have shown that East Indian Brahmins have significant genetic similarity with the European folk, and this finding substantiates the intimate connection among the Indo-European
religions. Indo-European spirituality developed in parallel in all three geographic areas, and was based upon the same Idea of Evolution: the evolution of Universal Consciousness, biological evolution of life, and personal development towards the realization of one’s soul, of the divine within. The progress of Indo-European spirituality was temporarily interrupted by the interjection of an alien and antithetical creed, Judeo-Christianity, but Heathenism is the essence of the souls and the minds of the Indo-European folk, and today it is recovering and resurgent. This event is making Sri Aurobindo ever more relevant and important, since a study of his thought reveals that his philosophy has strong similarities to Western Heathen philosophy: This is because both systems are based upon the Vedas, upon the Vedic Idea that the evolution of consciousness is the main universal, cosmic, and human dynamic. Consideration of a few common ideas and themes demonstrates this identity.
First, the basis of Sri Aurobindo’s thought (which was partly derived from the Rig Veda) is Evolution: The Universal Self is Consciousness itself, and this Oneness, this "spirit-energy," realizes itself or evolves itself through the evolution of the cosmic or physical order and through the human order wherein individuals strive to raise their consciousness to the supernal within their souls - to the Godhead, to the Universal Self.
To Sri Aurobindo, Involution (descent) and Evolution (ascent) occur simultaneously and cooperatively; generally, this action produces an upward spiral as there is steady improvement and increasing complexity resulting from the spiritualization and divinization of the cosmos and of life. To Sri Aurobindo, Reality is the evolution of consciousness; at the human level, this involves the ascension of consciousness from the "self" (the isolated, individual ego) to the "Self" (the Universal Self) in a process of ensoulment. In this process, aspirants (Agni) try their utmost to Become, to know and to participate in the spiritual Being, i.e., to attain true Being. Heathenism teaches the same system. In Norse mythology, the initial state is Ginnungagap, an emptiness, a void (non-Being), a potential from which spontaneously come Fire and Ice (cosmic complementary opposites, heat and cold, energy-action and matter-substance), and from the interplay of these, comes the world, the Midgard of the Vikings. The existence of this cosmos is punctuated by a series of cataclysms called "Ragnarok," or the Sri Aurobindo and Western Thought Recent molecular genetic studies have shown that East Indian Brahmins have significant genetic similarity with the European folk.
The resurgence of Heathenism is making Sri Aurobindo ever more relevant in the West. Twilight of the Gods; these are evolutionary nodes since they mark the end of one cycle or era of upward development and the beginning of a new, improved, higher phase. This, the key myth in Heathenism, depicts the death of one group of gods (which signify the ideas and ways that support a given level of civilization) and the end of their world, and the birth of a succeeding group of gods, of a new, better world. One order of gods dies, but it is replaced by its progeny gods on the Field of Gimli, and evolution proceeds: death is ever followed by rebirth, or regeneration, and this is the action of evolution.
This point is discussed by Hans F.K. Gunther in Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans (reprint, London: Craig Press: 1968).
Second, mysticism is the essential factor, or mode in both Vedic and Western Heathen practice and experience and in Sri Aurobindo’s praxis. Briefly, mysticism is the direct, unmediated, intimate knowing and experiencing of the Godhead, the Universal Self, the Universal Truth. For Vedism and for Heathenism, it is the means by which the aspirant develops and transforms his consciousness so as to attain the final step to the Supermind which is the mystic state in which the Godhead is apprehended and entered, in which "mystic union" is realized.
According to both Sri Aurobindo and to Heathen thinkers, this mystical process occurs because the divine is transcendent (Involution) and immanent (Evolution); because the divine is immanent it is within, it is at the core of one’s self – the self has within it the Self (in its soul).
In the Vedic terms used by Sri Aurobindo, "Atman is Brahman," the self is the Self (and vice-versa), and likewise in Heathen terms, "God is within." In its slow revival beginning just before the Middle Ages in Europe, Heathenism expressed itself through mysticism: In the Judeo-Christian Church, cryptoheathens acted as mystics, and in the modern era, heathens have appeared as nature mystics, such as JohnRichard Jefferies.
An informed reading of the Western Mystics’ writings discloses that their soul-impulsions and ideas were the same as those of the Vedic rishis who later so inspired Sri Aurobindo. For example, Heathen Mystic MeisterEckhart (1260-1328?) wrote: "The Father [Sat] looked at the Son [Chit] and laughed [Ananda], the Son looked at the Father and laughed, and together their laughter was the Holy Spirit." This expresses the Vedic idea of the joy in and of Being, of Ananda as the main cause and true character of Becoming [Chit] and of Being [Sat], as the essence of the world.
In the last 50 years, a number of books have appeared which trace and document the connection - the identity - between Vedic spiritualism and Western Mysticism; thus, there is an increasing awareness of the great continuity of Indo-European spirituality which extends from Vedic India to the modern age – and to the future. One such book is Hindu Thought and Carmelite Mysticism by Swami Siddheswarananda [Translated by William Buchanan (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1998, 172 pp.)].
Third, the Vedic sacrifice is reiterated in Indo-European mythology. The sacrifice involves the giving up of all of the smaller self (the lesser consciousness, ignorance) to earn the greater Self (true knowledge, the higher consciousness, divine realization). In effect, it is the giving of self to Self, of the One giving Itself to Itself. The Indo-European version tells of Odin, the god of intelligence (of consciousness), hanging from a tree for nine days and nights in a giving of "Myself to Myself" to win the knowledge of the Runes (the mystic symbols/diagrams knowledge of which enables, or empowers, the aspirant to know ity, the Truth, the Godhead, or in Vedic words, the Universal Self).
Fourth, Sri Aurobindo has commented extensively on the Purusha-Prakriti duality whose interaction sustains the cosmos. In the One, Purusha is the male, the soul aspect, and Prakriti is the female, the nature aspect: Purusha realizes or embodies itself through Prakriti, and this action, this dynamic unity of Soul and Nature, is the world in the process of evolving. The Norse pantheon reflects this idea because all the chief male gods have a female counterpart, that is, male and female are considered to be two different aspects of the same action/entity: Odin/Frigga [Chit], Thor/Sif [Sat], and Frey/Freya [Ananda]. The first pair are man and wife and the last are brother and sister, and thus fully represent the malefemale relationships.
A number of books have appeared which trace and document the connection between Vedic spiritualism and Western Mysticism; thus, there is an increasing awareness of the great continuity of Indo-European spirituality which extends from Vedic India to the modern age.
Fifth, the tripartite scheme so prominent in the Vedas and in Sri Aurobindo’s system, is equally prominent in Heathenism. This point is demonstrated by the Frenchman, Georges Dumezil, who wrote a number of major studies showing that the same tripartite idea is the basis of Vedism, Zarathushti Din, and Western Heathenism.
Dumezil’s work may be the first to suggest that Vedism, Zarathushti Din, and Western Heathenism form a huge unified spiritual supersystem.
Sixth, modern Western philosophy, all of whose worthwhile thinkers were or are Heathens, with exactitude recreates and restates Vedic philosophy, as does the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. One example is Max Stirner (Caspar Schmidt) whose classic, The Ego [the self] and Its Own [the Self], is a Vedic paraphrase: Its theme is that true and progressive living (which promotes general cosmic evolution) requires one to discover and act according to his inner self, and this is a repeat of the Vedic theme that to satisfy dharma, the outer person (self) must act in accordance with the inner person (Self). Some other Western philosophers who share the evolutionist viewpoint of the Vedas and of Sri Aurobindo are F.W. Nietzsche, Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced "purse"), Duren J.H. Ward, and Martin Heidegger.
Peirce, a practising experimental scientist and a philosopher of logic and science, restated and extended Vedic evolutionary ideas in modern rational scientific terms. Consider this synopsis by scientist Francis Abbott: Peirce begins with absolute or pure potentiality [the One, Brahman], with absolute Chance, or negation of all law, even logical, to evolve at last Absolute Being [Atman] and Absolute Law... [Francis Abbott Diary, February 13, 1886, quoted in Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life by Joseph Brent (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993, 1998, p.177)].
Writing in The Monist, January, 1893, Peirce elaborated: Like some of the most ancient and some of the most recent speculations it would be a Cosmogenic Philosophy. It would suppose that in the beginning, – infinitely remote, – there was a chaos of unpersonalized feeling [impersonal Brahman], which being without connection or regularity would properly be without existence [non-Being].
This feeling, sporting here and there in pure arbitrariness, would have started the germ of a generalizing tendency. Its other sportings would be evanescent, but this would have a growing virtue [evolution]. Thus, the tendency to habit would be started; and from this with the other principles of evolution all the regularities of the universe would be evolved [Brent, ibid., p.207, brackets added].
Peirce’s evolutionism is the same as that of the Vedas and of Sri Aurobindo: I have begun by showing that tychism [from astronomer Tycho Brahe] must give birth to an evolutionary cosmology, in which all the regularities of nature and of mind are regarded as products of growth, and to a [Frederich von] Schelling-fashioned idealism which holds matter to be a mere specialized and partially deadened mind [condensed Consciousness] [Brent, ibid., p.209, first and third brackets added, second original].
Peirce’s tripartite scheme of Reality, explained in the issue of The Monist cited above, is that of the Vedas, too: First is the conception of being or existing independent of anything else [Sat]. Second is the conception of being relative to, the conception of reaction with, something else [Chit, active consciousness].
Third is the conception of mediation, whereby a first and a second are brought into relation [Ananda, the joyful realization of Being]...[Brent, ibid., p. 207, brackets added].
Lastly, Sri Aurobindo’s integral approach is echoed in the "holistic" approach of the more advanced forms of Heathenism: the transcendent is immanent, the spirit-energy is innate, inherent, in everything, Consciousness is the source and the essence of All, hence all of Reality is
It is evident that in principle Sri Aurobindo’s Vedic-derived system has strong parallels to the other major Indo- European spiritual and philosophical systems – Zarathushti Din and Western Heathenism/Paganism. Sri Aurobindo is gaining in importance because Western Heathenism, for centuries suppressed by Judeo-Christianity, has recovered and is growing and enriching itself once again, and is destined to exercise dominant power among Indo-Europeans. Western Heathens are increasingly cognizant of Sri Aurobindo, and thus he is a central factor in the development and in the success of this great movement and in the emergence of the tripartite spiritual supersystem – Vedism/Zarathushti Din/Western Heathenism. — anonymous

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