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Monday, April 30, 2007

The problem of Life’s abysmal condition is the central issue

Re: 10: Across the Silence of the Ultimate Calm by RY Deshpande
on Mon 30 Apr 2007 05:57 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
The problem of Life’s abysmal condition is the central issue, and Aswapati cannot rest content without tackling it. In this world of fallen Life, fair is foul, and foul fair. If there is creative Darkness engendering pain, wickedness, suffering, corrupting truth, then it could be here. Now Ignorance, Falsehood, Error, Ego walk in its thick shadow and the Satanic votaries proclaim: “Evil, be thou my God.” Life in that gloom, with her perilous charm and beauty, lies cursed under the Gorgon spell. There Aswapati felt that his body was being licked by the hostile Power, and he suffered fear.
God created Hell in his mood of infinite love and justice, but this love has to first conquer the appalling Inane. The existential problem is the denial to all that is God’s. Here are titans and maniac powers and cruel operators; here, allowed by the mighty Spirit, work determinedly terrible agencies. But Aswapati, in the strength of his soul, takes up the challenge. He probes this kingdom of pain, this world of sorrow and hate, of wickedness and malignancy. Not only that. Shiva-like, he drinks all the poison till not a drop is left. He puts his finger upon the error and the pain, and at once awakens there new knowledge, the sense of this mysterious creation.
In the occult abyss was fixed Aswapati’s rendezvous with the Night. He had gone there to woo her dark and dangerous heart. His footprints on the track have become the seals of divinity, and thence shall gush radiant fountains. Around him all is felicitous, and wonderful, and the daylight of conscious suns is within him. The dread is over, and Aswapati is in the company of the great Gods and Goddesses. His whole being is filled with bliss and an undying power becomes his strength. But he has also the perception that this is not the journey’s end, and that the Highest must be reached.
Across the land of sensuous beauty are the realms of observation and understanding. Now another faculty, that of the early mind, has been set into action. In the process Reason stumbles upon the fissioned atom and in it sees the omnipotent’s force. Yet what is witnessed is the tyranny of Matter’s logic imposed upon the Spirit’s swiftness of thought. There has to be a greater Mind to see a greater truth. Yet of little avail are these wonderful powers of Mind. Aswapati now meets in the Ideal’s world the Thinker or Manishi. He is in the company of shining archangels and kings of thought. Theirs is an attempt to grasp Truth’s absolute. The divine powers of seeing and hearing come as natural gifts. But Mind is incapable of understanding these works of Truth.

We have highly reactionary, very well funded, very powerful movements

larvalsubjects Says: April 28th, 2007 at 11:33 pm What the Cynic Librarian said. I don’t think this form of critique can simply be dismissed as being a product of those who don’t understand the theory. There are those who both understand the theory and who have been sympathetic to those forms of theory that come to feel this way. In the realm of secular political theory, high theory can be seen as enabling certain forms of oppression by encouraging theorists of high theory to engage in arcane debates without getting into the thick of things. In the case of theology the issue, I think, is even more egregious. The high theory theologian enables very negative actual religious practices, becoming an apologist for these practices on the grounds that the critic simply doesn’t understand the nuances of the theology (which the average believer doesn’t either). The high theory theologian portrays himself as correcting a misapprehension of religion, without giving any clear picture of how these proposals will be enacted or communicated to followers. Consequently, while the critic might be very sympathetic to the views of the theologian, he nonetheless discerns that said theologian simply allows current practices to continue as they do by
1) pretending said practices don’t exist, and
2) getting caught up in debates about how many angels can fit on the head of a needle.
The lack of a concrete practice thus makes the theologian suspect as an apologist, even if that theologian doesn’t endorse these views. Political theory works this way as well. The lack of a communicable and concrete practice can make the radical leftist political theorist an enabler of the very excesses of capital she decries because she believes it’s the academic debates that are important rather than engaging in a viable practice that might actually effect change in the social sphere. It might as well be noise.
Anthony Paul Smith Says: April 29th, 2007 at 3:06 am I really don’t want to take the time to explain to you why you are wrong, but I know you won’t simply accept you are wrong. This is a conundrum further confounded by the fact that you never see yourself as wrong, so even if I were to take time away from my own work (work that, according to you, is simply apologetics for keeping homosexuals in chains or from working in a factory or something) you wouldn’t exactly ‘grow’ or ‘change’ from it. It is kind of sad watching a Dawkins grow right in front of you, knowing that they are wilfully choosing to take a myopic view on things for the sake of polemic. Sure does not lend itself to anything like friendship.
Adam Kotsko Says: April 29th, 2007 at 8:09 am Larval Subjects has an axe to grind with us because every fucking Christian in the fucking world is nothing but a rank fundamentalist, and we try to cover up that self-evident fact...
Adam Kotsko Says: April 29th, 2007 at 8:21 am And what’s really infuriating is that he’s structured his argument so as to inoculate himself from all of our responses. He thinks all theologians are “objectively” apologists for Pat Robertson, so any counter-example we offer can be dismissed since we’re all theologians and therefore blind to the appalling reality of what we’re doing. All religion is fundamentalism, and so any attempt to improve religion is only prolonging fundamentalism — the only solution is to get rid of religion altogether. And if we point out something like, say, the fact that Stalin and Mao tried to get rid of religion and the results were hugely destructive, then we’ll learn that he can make nuanced fine distinctions about atheism (they didn’t kill people because they were atheists!), or else that Stalinism and Maoism were actually a lot like religion and that was precisely the problem!
larvalsubjects Says: April 29th, 2007 at 10:03 am There are a lot of ad hominems in this thread subsequent to my comment, which are par for the course in these discussions. Adam posed a question and I suggested a possible answer. I simply haven’t seen that the sort of theology Adam is talking about has had any impact on the very oppressive and conservative way religion is functioning in American politics. I think Alex’s remarks are a case in point. Alex speaks about the rhizomatic nature of the Catholic church. But how is the Catholic church functioning rhizomatically in the United States? For years now Catholics have been motivated to vote en mass for republicans due to the abortion issue. As a result, they end up supporting all sorts of other things by proxy that go against their mission of social justice and compassion. We get lots of nuanced theology that tells us how this is not the real church. Yet the living church, the people, objectively help to enable these very things. So tell me what the argument is. Are you working from within religion and the church to change these political constellations? Is this the idea?
larvalsubjects Says: April 29th, 2007 at 10:22 am I do think, however, that your response is a prime example of participating in objective enabling with regard to these movements. I point out that we have data to support my thesis about the role of the church, and rather than engaging a discussion as to strategies to change this trend, you instead attack me and change the subject, pretending it doesn’t exist and insinuating that I’m just some sort of bigot that doesn’t understand true religion. In the meantime, Rome continues to burn. I’ve been pretty upfront in the past in pointing out that it’s not the metaphysics that bothers me. If people wish to believe that’s fine. If we can have good progressive movements with a religious ground that’s fine. I don’t happen to share these beliefs, but I’m not going to begrudge anyone who does so long as they’re good neighbors. But as it stands, we have neither in the United States right now. Instead we have highly reactionary, very well funded, very powerful movements. How can that be changed?

The Life Divine has been acclaimed as the greatest book of our times

The Life Divine, the magnum opus of Sri Aurobindo, says the American Sri Aurobindo Library, has been acclaimed as the greatest book of our times. It goes on to say that The Life Divine is a landmark in human thought and aspiration. Sri Aurobindo was also the author of the epic English poem Savitri, which runs into 24,000 lines of blank verse. As Sri Aurobindo attained Mahasamadhi before the Nobel Prize committee could implement its decision to award him the prize for literature, the prize was never awarded that year.
Sri Aurobindo says that his is not merely a philosophy or an ideal towards which one strives, but a Force in action. The Force enters into those who are open to it and urges their march towards the Supreme. And to authors his writings have a special message. He was unique as a writer in the entire history of the Eastern and Western civilized world, in that he started writing five of his major books simultaneously in 1914 and he wrote them in installments for his monthly journal ‘Arya’, completing all of them in 1921. They are only a sixth of his total writings which run into 30 volumes. History tells us that neither Aristotle nor Shakespeare nor Vyasa nor Shankara undertook such a phenomenal effort of writing at the highest level of human thought.
Writers are endowed with several faculties such as imagination, a right turn of phrase, inspired language, a knack for a striking plot, a capacity to maintain the readers’ interest, suspense, vivid images, descriptive narratives, etc. When a writer reads Sri Aurobindo’s writings or takes to his teachings, His FORCE enters the writer and energizes all his faculties. The writer finds that his imagination is more active, the right phrase comes to his pen more easily and more often, his ordinary writing becomes inspiring and his inspired moments creative, his dull plots change structure to become striking, his readers never tire of reading his writings, more images constantly present themselves and are live with energy, and descriptions become long and very interesting.
It is common knowledge with the devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother that after their Force enters the lives of devotees, in whatever profession they are, the devotees steadily rise in their profession, often ending at the top. That is true of writers too, only that being writers, the effect is two-fold in their lives. The writer’s main faculty is thinking and the Force’s main expression is light. The light of His Force shows in the mind of the writer as higher capacity of the already existing faculties and also it creates new ones. On this score alone, the writer becomes a better member of the profession. In its general expression of inherent progress, the Force takes the writer to higher levels of his work.
In life, the writer finds his unpublished works are solicited for publication, long awaited recognition sails to him, rewards are announced for unexpected works, his services are sought for by the profession and the public at large, and above all, the intrinsic value of his thought, so far unrecognised, is now fully appreciated. He becomes a creative writer credited with wider recognition at all levels of the society. 31. Sri Aurobindo, The Writer KARMAYOGI The Mother's Service Society Pondicherry 605 011 India

I appreciate your hateful, egomaniacal, acid-spewing, demonic, psychopathological, and genocidal offering!

On the Uselessness of Freedom and the Impossibility of Truth One Cosmos Under God
Robert W. Godwin Sunday, April 29, 2007
Since American style liberty was conceived primarily in negative terms, it is either unappreciated or wasted by anyone without a spiritual grounding. In other words, our political liberty is not fundamentally "freedom to" but "freedom from," specifically, from the coercion of government. However, at the same time, if it is only freedom from, then it can quickly descend into mere license, or nihilism, or anarchy. I apologize to those who are offended by my use of the term "left," but I use it as a shorthand to designate any philosophy that conceives of our liberty in the opposite way -- as freedom to -- say, to get an abortion, or to be paid a "living wage," or to receive free health care, or to "marry" your homosexual partner. These are not real freedoms, if only because they involve coercion of someone else. For example, a "living wage" simply means that the government must force someone to pay you more than you are worth, while "free" healthcare simply means that you want to force someone else to pay for it.
Likewise, the absolute "right" to abortion can only be grounded in a metaphysic that maintains that human beings are literally worthless. The absurd outcome for the leftist is that human rights are more precious than human beings. For the leftist, the right to abortion is sacred, while the human being to whom the right is owed is of no more value than a decayed tooth. But stranger beliefs can be found on the left, the reason being that it is fundamentally rooted in the absolutization of the relative, which is the essence of the absurd.By the way, when I discuss leftist philosophies, I am not trying to be insulting, but simply as accurate as I can be, so I don't know why anyone should take offense. It is simply a fact that if you believe you are entitled to free healthcare, then you have a very different philosophy of freedom than I do or than the American founders did, for you believe that your fellow citizens should be forced by the federal government to pay for your healthcare. Likewise if you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to make it against the law to be racially colorblind, then you have a very different conception of liberty than I do. As Dennis Prager says, I am not interested in agreement, only clarity. I am hardly offended if someone simply describes my views accurately, so I don't really understand why leftists don't feel the same way. For example if you express the truism that Democrats wish for us to surrender in Iraq, they go ballistic. They seem to have a fundamental difficulty in simply saying what they believe in a straightforward manner. It's not really a mystery why they are so deceptive, for if they came out and said what they believed, they could never get elected.
For example, if citizens are actually given the choice, they are overwhelmingly against the idea of a few elite judges redefining the fundamental unit of civilization, marriage. In any event, assuming we have the "freedom from," what is freedom for? This question is at the heart of classical liberalism, which has a very different answer than any illiberal leftist philosophy. Again, I do not quite understand the incredible hostility to me that is expressed by various leftists, new-agers, and "integralists" (I actually consider the latter two groups to be more or less the same -- integralists are simply new-agers with a superiority complex, or "new-ageists").
For example, the so-called integralists commonly express anger -- even rage -- at me because I am not "integral," meaning that I do not integrate left and right.But here again, this is an utterly incoherent philosophy because it absolutizes the relative, placing "integralism" above truth. In other words, I do not consider it a sophisticated philosophy that maintains that integrating truth and falsehood somehow leads to a higher synthesis. This is not integralism, it is merely incoherence. Here's how one new-ageist describes me, and it is typical:
"Godwin is a neocon of a particular nasty variety, his blog basically a place where he spurts acid at the much-demonized 'Leftists,' who are at the root of all of the world's problems.... Godwin's vitriolic hatred is to the point that he seems a borderline personality."
Since the writer puts "leftists" in scare quotes, one can only assume that he does not believe they actually exist. On the other hand, he calls me a "neocon" (without the scare quotes) while never defining the term. I personally do not believe it means anything. Rather, it truly has become a term of abuse for anything leftists don't like -- like the word "fascist." Do you see the writer's projection? I precisely define the term "leftist" and describe why I think it is a dangerous and destructive philosophy, while he simply tars me with the meaningless term "neocon" in order to demonize and dismiss the substance of my ideas. And I can only assume that the writer is innocent of any psychological knowledge to recklessly hurl around the diagnosis of "borderline personality." Elsewhere, the writer suggests that my "war against Leftism" is simply a "shadow project" representing an unconscious "hatred of where [I] once came from." Not only that, but my ego is "too densely opaque" to consider other points of view (which contradicts the first charge, since I obviously had to consider other points of view in order to slowly evolve from left to right; likewise, if I were to believe the same things I did 25 years ago, it would indeed constitute a kind of dense opacity).
Amazingly, the writer then suggests that our philosophy is "not that different from radical Islam, actually, where non-believers are infidels." So now I am a genocidal maniac who wants to murder people with whom I disagree. Again, who is doing the demonizing? Who is filled with hatred? Who is "spurting acid?" Come to think of it, who is taking acid? And can I buy some? Er, not for me.... it's for Dupree.
Finally, there is the ultimate incoherence, the inevitable passive-aggressive "namaste" that always follows the "fuck you": "Anyways, thanks for the engagement. Even if we disagree on many things, and in spite of some seemingly harsh words, I appreciate many of your views and your overall offering.""Seemingly" harsh words? Yes, I appreciate your hateful, egomaniacal, acid-spewing, demonic, psychopathological, and genocidal offering! Namaste, dude!
I don't get it. If I am what he says I am, there is nothing to appreciate, and it's pretty weird to call it an "offering." He would be entirely justified to run away from me in the opposite, er, complementary direction. The sloppiness and incoherence of this writer's mind is somewhat breathtaking, but again, from what I have seen, this is "par for the course" among so-called integralists. I have never read one integralist who is as angry at any leftist as they are at me. One would think that if they were truly integral, then they would either embrace my philosophy and integrate into theirs, or their anger would be split 50-50 toward leftists and classical liberals, but clearly it isn't. Show me the integralist who rages at Al Gore, or Al Sharpton, or Hillary Clinton, or Ralph Nader, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the U.N., or radical feminists, or the liberal media -- who truly demonizes them in the way they demonize me, and I will eat my $95 genuine coonskin cap, even though it will break my heart to do so and will deprive me of certain mystical powers.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled pogrom. When I use the word "left" or "leftist," I mean something very precise. If it does not apply to you, then you needn't get angry. Rather, just silently say to yourself, "I don't believe those things. The B'ob is not talking about me. Therefore, I'm in the clear. I am not being demonized."Here is what a classical liberal believes, and it is very different from what the secular leftist believes: knowledge of absolute truth constitutes the mind's freedom. Therefore, if you adhere to any philosophy that maintains at the outset that transcendent truth does not exist or that man cannot know it, then freedom also cannot exist or it is meaningless. There are people who believe this. I call them leftists because that is what they call themselves. It is fashionable for a certain kind of shallow thinker to say that they reject labels, and that their philosophy cannot be reduced to left vs. right. Oh yes it can. The spatial image of left vs. right is actually helpful, for if you survey the history of philosophy, it can be seen as a sort of stream that split in half with modernity, each side going its separate way. You can conceptualize the split in many ways, but it ultimately comes down to realism vs. materialism, or transcendence vs. immanence, or absolute truth vs. absolute relativism. And you cannot -- you cannot, for it is strictly impossible -- integrate absolute truth with absolute relativism. Therefore, you cannot integrate the philosophy of deconstruction (which the above writer calls the "good news" of postmodernity) with absolute truth.
On the other hand, you can do what intelligent minds have always done, which is to integrate partial, relative truths into the whole, in light of the transcendent absolute. But what you cannot do is throw these relative truths together and imagine that you have integrated anything, or that their sum constitutes the total truth. No one engaged in "deconstruction" more than a Moses Maimonides, or Meister Eckhart, or even Saint Augustine, but they always did so under the presumption that it is simply a tool for arriving at a deeper truth, not a thing in itself -- not the ultimate reality. Once it is forgotten that knowledge of truth constitutes the mind's freedom, then we will no longer know what either word means, for freedom in the absence of truth is absurdity, while truth in the absence of freedom is hell.To be continued. posted by Gagdad Bob at 4/29/2007 07:29:00 AM 101 comments links to this post

The subjective life of mankind is in an extremely unprepared state as present

Re: 09: Her Mortal Birth by Debashish
on Sun 29 Apr 2007 11:17 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Yes, truths of a spiritual-occult empiricism (as you put it) can certainly (and should) be put forward as experiences/sightings in a language as accurate as possible to the phenomenology of the experience and left thus for the universal validation of a science of the (objective) subjective. If one human being sights a white crow the universal theory of all crows being black stands in danger of being overthrown and invites the inquiry of all inquiring consciousnesses - particularly if the one doing the sighting expresses it with a rigor and internal coherence which cannot be dismissed as being the ranting of a madman. But such a sighting becomes only a matter of universal validation within internal discourse, not of a cult of believers in white crows. Once a sufficient ground of human experience is prepared where a subjective state can be recognized such experience automatically finds the language to enter public discourse.
The subjective life of mankind is in an extremely unprepared state as present and there is a cultural inequality to it, which itself is a matter of hermeneutic negotiation. For example, the preoccupation of western discourse with whether god exists or not (theism/atheism) was not a cultural reality in any substantial sense in pre-modern Indic discourse because the experience and realization of the divine was sufficiently established as a reality and realizable objective in the public discourse. So for the notion of the avatar. These notions in a culture may only be assumed beliefs (doxa) or ontological realities/universal truths of experience. The avatar, like the divine, is not a matter of belief as of experience. So long as the field of experience and its validation is not sufficiently developed or established in any cultural discourse, it runs the danger of being turned into a religious orthodoxy, a matter of belief. It is the co-existence of domains of belief and experience in a public discourse, with the latter prioritized, which mitigates the danger of a war of words. That Krishna is an avatar is not so important as the fact that there exists a common objective (nomos) in a discursive field to realize this truth in experience based on the establishment of such an objective through the repeated internal validation and phenomenological verification within the discourse.
Now, part of the thesis of a post-human future is the necessity and desirability of a public and global (transcultural) field of subjective transpersonal validation. But we are still in the process of establishing the foundations of such a field, it has hardly been laid out. I believe to introduce an openness to avatarhood in such a field must go hand in hand with the establishment of the discursive limits and boundaries of this field - that of the objective of experience and its phenomenological validation and an awareness and rejection of its slippage into the discourse of religious orthodoxy. DB
by rakesh on Sun 29 Apr 2007 06:45 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
An avatar is one who brings into earth’s atmosphere a greater nature for the evolution of man. While reading the Gospel of Ramakrishna I stumbled into a discussion between Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples about Ramayana. He says that only 7 rishis knew that Rama was an avatar. Other ascetic yogi’s that Rama met in the forest could not understand that he was an avatar. They were after the realization of Nirguna Brahman. So even for yogi’s who had considerable experience in spiritual knowledge it was difficult to understand the Dynamic divine on earth.
But in India where disciple believes that Guru is the divine it is not all difficult for him to believe his Guru’s words. When the disciple realizes God’s presence in himself like the descent of peace, psychic being and the preliminary teachings of his Guru through experience than his faith in Gurus words becomes a realization. Until one does not have the experience one believes in Guru’s words. If the basic realizations can be true why not believe in Guru’s other higher experiences and follow his teachings?
Another way of arguing I think would be like this. If there exists God’s presence in us as psychic being why cannot God come onto earth in his fuller divine nature if he needs to? Sri Aurobindo says somewhere that even if an Avatar is born on earth He may not be known to anybody. He may just come to do the desired purpose of his birth and leave.
by Debashish on Sun 29 Apr 2007 12:23 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Yes, the problematic is one of Speech and of those who wield and are prefigured by Speech. Language is the House of Being in Heidegger, which means Being discloses itself in and as Language. As humans, we are prefigured by Language. But to say this is also to recognize that Language is an act of Being, an ontology of concealment/disclosure. It is chit-tapas in its specific concentration that creates the ontology which we find ourselves prefigured in as the house of Being and it is chit-tapas which in other concentrations discloses Being in other Houses. Human speech at any time and in any culture is not absolute and even in its boundedness by the regime of objectification, houses and conceals/discloses Being as per collective experience, habitus. It is culture that inscribes paradox or literalness to the name of Being, not language in or by itself, which is a product of consciousness.
Of course, that said, the clearance of horizon for the disclosure of the Other is undoubtedly necessary but the dawning of the Other is also subject to rejection unless allowed as a possibility and objective of impossible expectation within the clearing of Being.
In Derrida's "simulated affirmation of differance," the name of Being is equally absent/present in every element of the House of Being and this "equal extension" is the field of ontic practice rather than the prioritization of a single name for Being. There is of course a profound truth but a truth that co-exists with the inequal distribution of Being in Supermind. The recasting of Language or the House of Being is preceded by a new experience of Being through the rupture. DB

High theory seldom leads to any genuine action, and is often remote from the living struggles of its day

Yet Another Annoying Discussion of Religion: Updated Adam Kotsko has written an interesting post about hostility towards high theory over at An und fur sich.
I have noticed a phenomenon that seems to be particularly intense at CTS, but I’m sure happens elsewhere. This is the phenomenon of being impatient with scholarship and theoretical work that does not appear to have an immediate practical application or to be immediately communicable to “common people.” Today this did not come up in class, since we were talking about a very topical book of Judith Butler’s (Precarious Life), but when discussing the idea of how an identitarian “we” very often ends up excluding some of those that it by all rights should include, this issue came to mind.
It seems to me that various types of activist movements, identitarian or not, and also religious movements tend to marginalize or exclude their more “intellectual” members. Hence when we get the impatient question, “But how does this play to the people on the streets/in the pews?,” it may represent a certain defensiveness among people who are seeking to be intellectuals who are faithful to the movements with which they identify. In rhetorically identifying with the “common person” — which the speaker, who is in this case enrolled in an advanced degree program, simply no longer is, whether they want to admit it or not — the speaker can make a double assertion:
1. The common people are right to be suspicious of some intellectual work, which really is useless at best or counterproductive at worst.
2. I, however, do not do that kind of intellectual work and am very suspicious of it myself.
This identification and distancing, then, can be a means of expiating a certain type of guilt for enjoying “useless” intellectual pursuits for their own sake. It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone would enter a PhD program without enjoying intellectual work for its own sake, even if the primary goal is, for instance, to document a neglected aspect of one’s cultural heritage or history, or to develop specific programs to help people, etc., etc. Even if one really is a “movement intellectual” in sincere solidarity with an activist or religious group, one is still an intellectual, which is always going to include at least some minimal slippage between one’s intellectual pursuits and the immediate needs (strategic of propagandistic) of the movement. One may take theological stances that one’s church body takes as disruptive of the training of ministers, or one may ask questions about sexuality that are experienced as attacking the unity of one’s identitarian movement — in any case, one’s identification is not complete. Even if that must necessarily be true for every member of a movement, it is much more of a “public” issue for the intellectual, whose role makes it much less easy to hide misgivings than is the case for a “private individual” in the rank and file.
I confess that I’m increasingly guilty of this. In the realm of political theory I increasingly find myself feeling that high theory seldom leads to any genuine action, and is often remote from the living struggles of its day. As such, it finds itself in a sort of performative contradiction. At the level of its content it espouses a radical agenda of change, yet the form of its discourse and the way it is addressed to other academics ends up withdrawing it from the social sphere and allowing the very things it claims to struggle against to persist. The academy can be thought as a way of containing more public forms of engagement and cutting them off in advance.
With regard to theology my suspicion is that high theology is often a rationalization of much more basic religious phenomena. Here the situation is not unlike the Heidegger affair. Heidegger comes up with all sorts of nuanced and sophisticated grounds to explain the world-historical significance of the Nazi party, but at the end of the day the Nazi party is a very stupid, very vulgar, very ugly social phenomenon that possesses none of the saving power he suggests at the level of its concrete practice. Heidegger ends up supporting the very thing promoting the forgetfullness of being he decries. The theologian ends up supporting, in action, the very things they decry by virtue of how religious politics objectively functions. At any rate, I’m continuously being told that I don’t recognize the diversity of religious belief...You can imagine the response from Adam:
Show me an atheist Mother Theresa and we’ll talk. Show me that doctrinaire atheism promotes anything other than stupid pride and other than that just totally going along with the capitalist system, and we’ll talk. Until then, just fucking shut the fuck up.
It’s interesting that Adam believes there haven’t been any atheist benefactors of mankind. It’s even more interesting that he so readily accepts the stories about Mother Teresa and doesn’t look into her own relationship with capitalism (i.e., the way she was perhaps making the condition of the lepers worse due to a religious mission). But the most astonishing claim is the idea that atheists are somehow alone in going along with the capitalist system. If anything, religion in the United States seems to systematically function as one of the central promotors of capitalism. In the end, however, I think Adam’s call to shut up says it all and reveals his true nature. This is the whole problem...~ by larvalsubjects on April 29, 2007.

Every remark subsequent to my original one either insulted, attacked, or sought to shut down any discussion

40 Responses to “Yet Another Annoying Discussion of Religion: Updated”
YET AGAIN you are simply begging the question and assuming that Christianity is absolutely nothing but fundamentalism — and implicitly calling us all Nazis in the process. I’m so, so sorry I offended your delicate sensibilities by telling you to “shut the fuck up.” You’re obviously interested in open discussion. Adam Kotsko said this on April 29th, 2007 at 4:57 pm
Adam, you really should examine your own use of language and review the posts over at An und fur sich. Every remark subsequent to my original one either insulted, attacked, or sought to shut down any discussion. I do believe that we can often end up supporting the very opposite of what we advocate, hence the comparison to Heidegger. I made the same observation regarding high political theory. larvalsubjects said this on April 29th, 2007 at 5:00 pm
... If you can’t accept that calling us Nazi’s and all the other vitrol that your are writig constitutes a form of the ad hom, then I don’t see what the point in talking with you ever again is. It’s rude and telling. Anthony Paul Smith said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:33 pm
When the fucking hell did I deny the existence of the religious right?! I was raised in a conservative evangelical church. My own father is pretty much on the religious right!
Talking to you is a waste of time. Anthony is free to unblock you if he wants, but I’ll delete anything you write on my posts. Adam Kotsko said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:33 pm
And you are not banned at AUFS. I will ask you, as you do from time to time here, to stop participating in threads if I think you are being unhelpful and willfully stubborn. Since you rarely comment there, I don’t think this will be the case. Anthony Paul Smith said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:36 pm
Anthony, thank you for the explanation. Let’s be very clear here. I did not call you or anyone else a Nazi and I’d appreciate it if you stopped suggesting that I did. I drew an analogy. I said that Heidegger got caught up in sophisticated reasoning that allowed him to endorse the Nazi party as something more than it was. The analogy would be that a theologian can get caught up in sophisticated reasoning that allows them to endorse religious movements that aren’t in line with what they believe. I think the status of this remark as an analogy should be obvious as I also said that political theorists, myself included, can get caught up in very nuanced reasoning and can become so caught up in academic debates that they’re not doing anything at all, thereby allowing the very things they wish to change to persist in the public sphere. This would include me as well. larvalsubjects said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:38 pm
Adam, whenever we discuss these issues you speak about the religious right as being a fringe minority that has no real power and change the topic of conversation. That’s all I mean. Perhaps some residual affection for your upbringing explains why you respond so forcefully whenever those movements are criticized and why you confuse criticism and concern with these movements with criticism and concern over religion tout court. larvalsubjects said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:41 pm
Let’s return to the very first post that started a lot of these discussions:
http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2006/12/16/why-i-get-frustrated-with-the-religious-turn-in-theory/
In that post I was criticizing a strain of Christianity that is supportive of rampant militarism, tribalism, and very often outrightly hostile to other ethnic groups and different sexual orientations. Anthony, Adam, neither of you advocate any of this do you? At least, I haven’t seen you write anything that would lead me to think you do. Yet in the discussion that ensued I was told that these groups are a fringe minority that doesn’t really exist or have any power and that I’m painting all religion with the brush of these types of groups. Given the article the post links to, why would you assume that I think all Christianity is this way? For the most part I have no beef with other Christian groups. I’m glad to have them as my neighbors and friends. It is these groups that worry and terrify me. How many times can I say that? How many times must I repeat it? When I suggest, Adam, that you’re an enabler, it’s not because I believe you endorse these things, but because you get so worked up whenever I talk about them as if you think I shouldn’t talk about them at all. Stop doing that and I think we’d have very little to disagree about at all. I’m not even sure we’d have much to talk about. I have no problem with you pursuing your theology, even if I don’t share those ontological and metaphysical positions. I’m perpetually baffled by the way in which the two of you respond when rightwing Christian groups are criticized. It’s as if you are looking to be insulted or attacked. Chances are I’m not going to agree with your metaphysics, but the fact that you have a different metaphysics doesn’t entail that I somehow despise you or wish to destroy you. That’s par for the course in philosophy. I really don’t understand why you seem to feel the need to defend anything at all in response to these issues. You and those you love are not the target. larvalsubjects said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:51 pm
Again, this is just dishonest. You are acting as if that first discussion hasn’t been, you know, discussed. Seriously, I’m done here. You’re not banned, but you are so supremely unhelpful that I just don’t see the point in spending any time trying to talk to you. I don’t even want to do this, because I think you’ll just use it to further insulate yourself from anything different from your views, but I want to be honest about how I feel and what I see. Anthony Paul Smith said this on April 29th, 2007 at 6:59 pm
Dr. Sinthome, although you know my opinion about rigid atheism and American Democratism as well, not to mention your opportunistic love of dr. Zizek, I refuse to ever talk to either Kotsko or Paul Smith if they don’t lift the ban. I’m enough of a libertarian to view this as a really repressive and unnecessary technique. parodycenter said this on April 29th, 2007 at 7:05 pm
Again, you misunderstand. I agree that the religious right exists. I agree that it’s bad. I think that its actual impact has come more in terms of voter mobilization to do things that the Republicans would have done anyway. After almost 30 years of religious-right activism, we finally have the Supreme Court outlawing a single, extremely rare form of abortion — I strongly disagree with the Court’s decision, but this is basically all the “progress” that the religious right has seen on this front. For example.
I’m much more concerned with Wolfowitz, with Cheney, with Rumsfeld, with Yoo — none of whom identify with the religious right that I know of. It’s not as though Bush/Cheney decided to implement torture because they thought that was the best way to live out their faith or something. All of these policies, with the exception of the occasional token gesture toward “social issues,” are fully grounded in secular reasoning. The Project for a New American Century is not a religious group.
Yes, the religious right came up with religious reasons to support this stuff later on, but that’s just a matter of being loyal to the Republican Party. Figuring out ways to maintain that loyalty is important to the (now apparently failed) attempt to maintain Republican hegemony, but apparently the religious right does not ask for a lot of concrete payoff in exchange for their fanatical devotion to the Republican party. And so instead of pretending that the religious right is somehow the center or the origin of the major problems in American foreign and domestic policy, I figured that maybe it would be a good idea to ground our analysis in reality and realize that (a) the religious right is stupid and/or insane and (b) apparently hasn’t noticed that they almost never get what they want.
The real goal of Republican policies is to satisfy a certain portion of the capitalist class. That’s the root of the problem, not the religious right. This is not to say that the religious right doesn’t believe and promote terrible things — they do. Certainly it’s not to suggest that they don’t exist. It’s just my attempt to address the actual facts, and this hysteria over the religious right — which you have maintained even as the Republican Party seems to be totally collapsing in on itself — strikes me as misguided and disproportionate. Adam Kotsko said this on April 29th, 2007 at 7:14 pm
“Instead of being able to think belief structures as historical, the theologians here have proven yet again how religious belief must, at some point, stop the open exchange of ideas in order to cling anxiously to the discourse of righteous faith.”
Dude, this is blog land. I find the proposition that APS and Adam are attempting to stop open exchange on any subject, they are not of the religious right and again these are the blogs. You come across like they are oppressing you, preventing your freedoms.
Lets make it clear what has occured here. In an obscure corner of the internet academic A has temporarily suspended academic B from his - wait for it - blog. A is still talking and discussing stuff with him and everything and has explained his reasons quite cogently. But what is important here is that in an obscure corner of the internet academic A has temporarily suspended academic B from his blog. Its a blog-fight. Nothing more. No one has shut down anyones open exchange. If you want to fight the battle against those who really shut down open exchange, then sort China out. Alex said this on April 29th, 2007 at 8:49 pm
“sensing the anger in these posts, I have no idea what might be posted here in my absence.”
You see thats what makes me mad. I know Anthony pretty well in real life, and Adam fairly well through his blogs and via Anthony. The idea that even when angry about intellectual issues they will flip out and do something crazy. They will go nuts or something. The idea that they would say anything regarding deletion is absurd and you know it. Regarding the whole Rich thing, I said my piece at Scott’s blog.
Its in these debates that I seem to always pop up and like a stupid Fark.com poster remind everyone that it is just the internet. Well it is, but because we are all academics we all take it (often) far too seriously. When someone on Fark.com has a 2000 page discussion on religion no one is going to say anyone is policing the discourse or shutting down open debate. This all the more adds to my thesis that real academic debate rarely happens on the internet, and hardly ever happens on comment threads, no matter how high brow the blog is. Alex said this on April 29th, 2007 at 8:56 pm
Case in point “It’s not because I believe you endorse these things, but because you get so worked up whenever I talk about them as if you think I shouldn’t talk about them at all.” Its like you think that Adam etc are the SS or something, preventing your free speech. They aren’t, they just plainly think you are ill advised in many of your statements regarding religion. And they react as scholars react, harshly, but also when your statements are so wide-ranging.
Dude, you need to actually be under a fundamentalist as Adam has and I have experienced to understand what preventing open discussion really is. And I can tell you, it certainly is nothing like someone banning you from a blog or saying something snarky. Alex said this on April 29th, 2007 at 8:59 pm
Seriously, if the Internet was a car, right now I’d be driving it off the cliff. Except Joseph Kuglemass apparently won’t let me have the keys. And the Internet isn’t a car. My whole plan just fell apart. Adam Kotsko said this on April 30th, 2007 at 3:19 am
But honestly, I wish that my repressive fundamentalist Sunday School teachers had told me to “shut the fuck up” instead of the manipulative passive-aggressive “kill him with kindness” idiocy that was so endemic at my church. Or confronted me directly instead of sending the new cool youth pastor to go drink coffee with me and try to straighten me out. Etc., etc. Adam Kotsko said this on April 30th, 2007 at 3:22 am
Adam, I with a good deal of what you in your most recent post. I would quibble with the thesis that PNAC is entirely secular. I tend to think that some of PNAC’s aims are bound up with a certain understanding of Revelations and apocalypse for some of the members. However, when you write the following, it’s difficult for me to agree.
Yes, the religious right came up with religious reasons to support this stuff later on, but that’s just a matter of being loyal to the Republican Party. Figuring out ways to maintain that loyalty is important to the (now apparently failed) attempt to maintain Republican hegemony, but apparently the religious right does not ask for a lot of concrete payoff in exchange for their fanatical devotion to the Republican party. And so instead of pretending that the religious right is somehow the center or the origin of the major problems in American foreign and domestic policy, I figured that maybe it would be a good idea to ground our analysis in reality and realize that (a) the religious right is stupid and/or insane and (b) apparently hasn’t noticed that they almost never get what they want.
First an obvious point: Nothing is the one cause. Were you taking me to suggest that it was the only cause? I talk about a number of things on this blog. The religious right is one that comes up from time to time. They have been a contributing factor but not the only one. I believe we should talk about all these contributing factors insofar as we can.
Second, when you talk about coming up with reasons after the fact, I’m just not sure how to respond. I believe that movements and persons are what they do, and do not make a distinction between some sublime inner essence and an outward appearance. Unlike some who believe that they can see the true nature of a person beyond their actions like the Bush supporter that says “he’s a good man” despite his actions, I can’t see into the hearts of men nor into the true inner essence of a movement. All I can do is attend to what people and groups actually say. It sounds like you believe yourself to have some inner insight into these movements and their motives.
The real goal of Republican policies is to satisfy a certain portion of the capitalist class. That’s the root of the problem, not the religious right. This is not to say that the religious right doesn’t believe and promote terrible things — they do. Certainly it’s not to suggest that they don’t exist. It’s just my attempt to address the actual facts, and this hysteria over the religious right — which you have maintained even as the Republican Party seems to be totally collapsing in on itself — strikes me as misguided and disproportionate.
In my view the religious right has become tightly bound up with what you call the capitalist class in both its own theology and its actual political involvement. This is not new. A number of religious movements have functioned as apologetics for economic and political conditions throughout history. In our current context I don’t think it’s a surprise that we’ve seen so many fundamentalist movements emerge in the United States following the decline of the great labor movements and anything like a viable and genuine emancipatory politics in the States. We might, for instance, think of the tremendous success of Rick Warren’s ministry and the so-called prosperity prayer. What I find curious in your remarks, as always, is your allusion to hysteria, the facts, and being misguided and disproportionate at the end of your post. The neocons wouldn’t be where they are today without voters. The religious right makes up a significant voting block that has enabled this to take place. Other things besides the religious right have contributed as well. One can both discuss the issues you bring up with regard to Cheney and Rumsfeld and talk about the role that these religious movements have played. You seem to deny multiple causality and suggest that because other causes are also at work, these causes should be denied and ignored. It is this kind of response that so often leads me to furrow my brow in wonder, experiecing confusion as to what motivates you and how you think about these issues. It seems to me like it’s something that you just wish to sweep under the rug or feel shouldn’t be talked about at all. If I am a hysterical alarmist that gets overly worked up by the religious right I’m also unclear why you spend so much time responding to me both now and in the past. I admit that these issues are fairly personal for me and that this might motivate a good deal of my own particular interest in them.
As I’ve intimated in the past, I saw one such movement sweep through my hometown and turn everything upside down when I was younger. They banned Orwell’s 1984 from the highschool English classes and actually burned them in a rally in front of the school, overturned safe sex education in favor of abstinance only education, and strongly pushed creationism in the biology classes. In addition to this, families were pitted against families. Similar things take place across the country, sometimes even worse such that jewish or atheist families that protest the presence of religious observances at their school are driven out of town. As a result I have a pretty vested interest in these movements. It is possible, then, that my belief that these groups have disproportionate influence and that these things are only isolated, but the data doesn’t suggest this to me. larvalsubjects said this on April 30th, 2007 at 3:24 am

He refers to me as a doctrinaire, fundamentalist atheist

UPDATE: Apparently I’ve been banned from the Weblog and An und fur sich for my remarks. It is good to see Christlike behavior alive and well. I think a not so careful examination of Adam’s mode of speaking to others reveals the true nature of how he feels about discussion concerning religious belief. He’s completely open to such discussion so long as no one disagrees or criticizes the religious. It’s interesting how this company immediately resorts to invectives and attacks the moment they feel questioned. Who knows what else they might do (they certainly did some unkind things to Rich Pulasky over at the Weblog).
In his response to this post he refers to me as a doctrinaire, fundamentalist atheist. I wonder if Adam understands that I, and most other atheists, would never speak up about their atheism at all if it weren’t for folk like Adam brutalizing our positions and religious zealots enacting legislation in the United States. We’d much rather discuss ways of solving political problems, social problems, engage in philosophy and science, and discuss an interesting novel or film. At any rate, Adam’s banning performatively re-enacts the history of the church with regard to dialogue. I’m just glad he doesn’t have the institutional power to burn me at the stake or torture me like Galileo. ~ by larvalsubjects on April 29, 2007.

A quantum leap into a new spiritual dimension

Inter faith Harmony In A Globalised Society Karan Singh TOI 30 Apr, 2007
Religion has always been a major factor in the growth of human civilisation. In art, architecture, music, literature, philosophy, law, moral codes and spiritual texts, many achievements can be traced back to its tremendous influence. Admittedly, there have been negative impacts, too — mass killings, pogroms, inquisitions... perpetrated in the name of religion. And all in the name of a divinity that is believed to be beneficent, merciful and compassionate!
We would do well to keep in mind this dual aspect of religious history, because a choice bet-ween these two paths will be absolutely vital in the decades ahead as we move into the global society. The Divine Will seems to have decreed that no one religion ever has, or ever will, dominate the entire world. And, yet one thing is clear, the religious impulse is far stronger than had been generally realised. India is where four of the world's great faiths — Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism — were born, and four others came to us from West Asia and have flourished for centuries — Judaism, Zoroas- trianism, Christianity and Islam.
The question before us is: Are we going to revert to mediaeval patterns of religious wars and internecine conflict or are we going to eschew conflict and move forward to a new dimension of interfaith dialogue, harmony and understanding? There are several worldwide organisations which propagate inter-religious dialogue, including the Temple of Understand-ing. However, unless inter-religious values are built into the educational system, it will be difficult to expect the younger generation to imbibe them.
Sri Aurobindo wrote "The conflict of religions arises because each one claims the exclusive truth and demands complete adherence to it by the method of dogma, belief, ritual, ceremony and prescribed acts. The solution would be to recognise that the real truth of religion is in the spiritual experience of which it is an outer formation". Instead of clinging to fixed ideas and rigid patterns, what is needed is a rediscovery of some of the insights of various religious and cultural traditions for a decisive breakthrough, a quantum leap into a new spiritual dimension.
The universal values inherent in all the great religious systems of the world need to be clearly articulated in terms of contemporary consciousness and the compulsions of the global society. For this, it is necessary to highlight the golden thread of mysticism that runs through all the great religions of the world. Whether it is the glowing vision of the great Upanishadic seers or the Jain tirthankars, the luminous sayings of the Buddha or the passionate outpourings of the Muslim sufis, or the noble utterances of the Sikh gurus, these and other traditions of ecstatic union with the divine represent an important dimension of religion which is often submerged under the load of ritual and theology. From the writer's foreword at the inauguration of the South Asia Interfaith Harmony Conclave in New Delhi. He is president, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and chairman, Temple of Understanding.

A community of Gnostic Lightworkers

Towards an Integral Gnostic Community m alan kazlev
I'm double posting this on Zaadz as well
Having participated in and checked out a number of "integral" forums and on-line communities, I am intrigued by the fact that there is one thing that seems to be missing. Gnosis. By Gnosis I mean an inner certainty and spiritual knowing that goes beyond the endless futile turnings of rational argument. These words - when divorced from the content of their experience - appear shallow and new agey and thus can be misinterpreted by those who lack Gnosis and coming only from the sceptical rational mind. Because, as with all things, they have meaning through experience. You need to have Gnosis to understand Gnosis. Elitism?
Perhaps. But if that's how it is, that's how it is. You cannot say that the state of gnosis is the same as the state of lacking gnosis. When there is an lack of gnosis, all that understanding has to rely on are endless intellectual theories, abstractions, dogmas, of which one is chosen as the mental truth, and the others denied or subordinated to that. Sure there are degrees of gnosis too; it's not like anyone who has Insight is the same or in agreement or lacks ego. This is only the very first step.
And this, I contend, is where the current Integral movement totally fails. The latter is based on academic and quasi-academic thinking, and heavily influenced by the intellectualising of the Wilberian/Post-Wilberian paradigm, an intellectualising that seeks with great good will to understand. But which cannot understand the transcendent, because the transcendent by its very nature is beyond such intellectualising. All that the best intellectualising can do is point to the infinitely manifold Supreme.
In the words of the old cliche, the map is not the territory. And philosophy and academia fails when it remains fixated on the map, and ignores - or still worse in the case of radical agnosticism, materialism, or religious fundamentalism, denies - the territory. This is not to denigrate the many wonderful people I have met in the Integral community, or to deny the influence Wilber's work has had on my own way of thinking. However for me Wilber's influence has been more along the lines of a catalyst - the immensely inspirational idea of bringing everything and everyone on the cutting edge of human and collective evolution together.
Unfortunately I consider Wilber's own philosophy - his integral theory - an intellectual dead end. His theory, with all its lines and levels and quadrants and stages and states, is much too tiny and much too inflexible for this vision. And his ego, sorry to say this Ken, is much too big. Without humility, nothing can be achieved. This is why I advocate not a mental integral theory, and not egotistic pomposity, but a spiritual gnosis, an integral insight that goes beyond all such limitations.
I have yet to see anyone do a better job at pointing the way than Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. What Wilber fails to do, philosophically, spiritually, esoterically and occultly, they succeed in doing. So okay, if the Wilberian/Postwilberian movement isn't the way (at least not for me; there are many for whom it is the way, and it is good and right that they are there, because they are exactly where they should be), what about the Integral Yoga community? Wouldn't they constitute the sort of thing I am talking about?
Well, much as I am grateful to share this planet with others inspired by the same twin avatars as I, and very glad that they are carrying on the message, there is also a danger here. It is exactly the same danger the Wilberians face; the danger of becoming fixated on a single teaching. And sure in this case it is a genuine teaching, not an intellectual dead end. But there is still the fact that if you follow those two great teachers literally, you'll be stuck yet again in another limited religion. And you'll only be able to approach the Supreme through a limited perspective, that is, through the mental filter of a literal reading of only one set of teachings, rather than an unlimited one through the experience of all teachings and all teachers.
Also, just because someone follows Sri Aurobindo and the Mother doesn't mean they have gnosis! It may simply be an intellectual attraction, or an emotional affiliation, or a combination of factors that have nothing to do with spiritual insight. Now, I'm not saying that following Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to the exclusion of all other teachers is no good.
First, esotericism has always worked that way. You attain enlightenment through a fundamentalist approach to Vedanta, a fundamentalist approach to Sufism, a fundamentalist approach to Kabbalah. The rigid and inflexible Thoughtform leads beyond itself to the Supreme. And those who are fundamentalist Aurobindonians are following the path that is exactly right for them, and honouring that path and that teaching, and I would be the last one to try to dissuade them. Also, there are those Aurobindonians who are aware of the danger of literalism. So I am not saying everyone in Integral Yoga only follows the one thing, absolutely not.
And second, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother truly did bring something new, the Yoga of Descent, the Yoga of the Divinisation of the Body and of Matter, which marks a complete break with old spiritualities and yogas, which were only concerned with the attainment of a nirvana or enlightenment that renounces the world (or in the case of the bodhisattva ideal defers liberation until everyone else has been enlightened and entered nirvana and disappeared from the world). In this regard, Wilber, for all his claims to be the most advanced, the most integral, etc etc, is totally stuck in the old idea of the highest state (what he calls nondual, Spirit, One Taste, etc) as one of transcendence of the world.
But even so, for me, and for many others, there is the need to go beyond the reliance on one teacher or teaching only. Sure you may still honour that teaching, and that teacher. It may be your primary orientation to spirituality and gnosis and the Supreme. For me Sri Aurobindo and the Mother always will be. But it is not the only one. Your spiritual conscious is wide enough to take in many authentic teachings and teachers, and see the Supreme in each.
For example, I see Ramana Maharshi as equal, that's right, equal, to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This is a paradox since mentally I consider Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings superior. And I am always open and receptive to further teachers and teachings, who would likewise be equal in status, because all partake of the Supreme through their complete Enlightenment. You may have similar experiences with different teachers and teachings, or with the same ones, it doesn't matter. What matters is the Gnosis that goes beyond words. And beyond focus on a single external form. Nor does this mean that everyone has the same gnosis, the same experience, and will attain the same enlightenment. We are all different, unique, and so are experiences and our gnosis are too. It is not a bland uniformity. It is the exact opposite.
I do envisage a very new type of spiritual community emerging, a community of gnostics, not bound by religious or philosophical limitations. There have always been such esoteric groups, but in the past they were limited to a particular tradition, no matter how authentic that tradition was or is. The Supreme however encompasses all traditions, and infinitely more besides. And a community of gnostics connected over the Internet would indeed be something new. The work of transformation is still done in one's own self first and foremost. But the synergy of spiritual exchange between gnostics all over the world may lead to a totally new emergent phenomena, new spiritual evolution, quite different to the current mentally-based noosphere. And this would aid in the work of global transformation, a community of Gnostic Lightworkers. Such are my thoughts. I look forward to your feedback on this :-) Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , posted by m alan kazlev at 5:41 PM Sunday, April 29, 2007

The absolute freedom of the Divine Infinite

Sri Aurobindo on Integral Realisation April 29th, 2007 (posted by alan kazlev) Open Integral
The following passage from The Life Divine pretty aptly sums up the distinction between the relative and the divine consciousness:
We, human beings, are phenomenally a particular form of consciousness, subject to Time and Space, and can only be, in our surface consciousness which is all we know of ourselves, one thing at a time, one formation, one poise of being, one aggregate of experience; and that one thing is for us the truth of ourselves which we acknowledge; all the rest is either not true or no longer true, because it has disappeared into the past out of our ken, or not yet true, because it is waiting in the future and not yet in our ken. But the Divine Consciousness is not so particularised, nor so limited; it can be many things at a time and take more than one enduring poise even for all time. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, ch.16, “The Treiple Status of Supermind” p.145
How then can the relative mind and the surface consciousness, which sees and can be only one thing at a time, arrive at an understanding of the Absolute, which is all things at all times? Thus the three schools of Vedanta - Nondualism, Qualified Dualism, and Dualism, can be seen as equally true, but also equally partial and limited, because each is based on a mental interpretation of only one particular spiritual experience:
It is indeed only when our human mentality lays an exclusive emphasis on one side of spiritual experience, affirms that to be the sole eternal truth and states it in the terms of our alldividing mental logic that the necessity for mutually destructive schools of philosophy arises. Thus, emphasising the sole truth of the unitarian consciousness, we observe the play of the divine unity, erroneously rendered by our mentality into the terms of real difference, but, not satisfied with correcting this error of the mind by the truth of a higher principle, we assert that the play itself is an illusion. Or, emphasising the play of the One in the Many, we declare a qualified unity and regard the individual soul as a soul-form of the Supreme, but would assert the eternity of this qualified existence and deny altogether the experience of a pure consciousness in an unqualified oneness. Or, again, emphasising the play of difference, we assert that the Supreme and the human soul are eternally different and reject the validity of an experience which exceeds and seems to abolish that difference. But the position that we have now firmly taken absolves us from the necessity of these negations and exclusions: we see that there is a truth behind all these affirmations, but at the same time an excess which leads to an ill-founded negation. Affirming, as we have done, the absolute absoluteness of That, not limited by our ideas of unity, not limited by our ideas of multiplicity, affirming the unity as a basis for the manifestation of the multiplicity and the multiplicity as the basis for the return to oneness and the enjoyment of unity in the divine manifestation, we need not burden our present statement with these discussions or undertake the vain labour of enslaving to our mental distinctions and definitions the absolute freedom of the Divine Infinite. (ibid p.149)
Similarily, I would assert that Buddhist shunyavada (if this is indeed distinct from Shankaran Advaita) is another partial perspective, and so on again with any philosophy and any spiritual experience that human consciousness can conceive or attain. Nor should we just follow Sri Aurobindo in a literalist sense, saying atht every word and punctuation mark is true for all time. To me, that is bad as following a religion. Rather, the above words - or any other that is inspirational - can be used as the impetus for gnosis, which means going beyond the limited mental perspective to direct appreciation of the Supreme. Posted in Integral Metatheory No Comments »

Sunday, April 29, 2007

To summarise The Life Divine

2 Responses to “Siddhis, scepticism and hard evidence” Open Integral
Tusar N. Mohapatra Says: April 29th, 2007 at 12:08 am Time and again in this forum I have pleaded for reading and discussing the book, The Life Divine. But unfortunately my fervent appeal has been labeled as fanaticism. The points raised in this thread and earlier have been so elaborately dealt with in The Life divine. So, let us take it as a base like the mathematician’s hypothesis, and then proceed to debate as diversely as we can.
ray harris Says: April 29th, 2007 at 12:43 am Why can’t you summarise the issue? I doubt your appeal to read The Life Divine will be followed by many, simply because people are busy. Everyone could recommend a book, in which case our reading list could be quite long. Have some mercy Tusar. Do what Edward does, provide the substance in your posts.

Capitalism creates a suitable context for an emotivist subjectivity

Grundlegung, A philosophy blog. April 29th, 2007
My last post, in which I posit some sort of relation between capitalism and MacIntyre’s ‘emotivist self’, was intended as little more than a placeholder for that indistinct thought. I am indebted to the ever-perceptive N Pepperell who, in the comments to it, correctly locates a certain methodological ambiguity in the analysis. This ambiguity is at the heart of at least one of the reasons why the post is rather unsatisfactory. For, as NP points out, on the one hand I engage in a ‘functionalist’ task, pointing to capital as a beneficiary of a certain emotivist form of subjectivity, while also identifying a more straightforward ’structural’ homology between an emotivist form of subjectivity and the liberal-individualist form of subjectivity that capitalism ideologically posits and practically engenders. I want to take this opportunity to expand on these insightful comments–ones which I will draw on heavily in what follows...Posted in MacIntyre, Liberalism & neo-liberalism, Normativity, Capitalism, Epistemology, Methodology, Ethics 1 Comment

Political philosophy is not art

At the enjoyable, smartly written theory blog Antigram, Daniel has posted a new commentary by Jacques-Alain Miller (one of the executors of Jacques Lacan’s estate) on Google...
For several days now, I’ve been thinking about the fact that contemporary social and political philosophy risks becoming vapid and ineffectual, if it is written from within that erudite dream that makes things effortlessly conform to its own post-Marxist despair. Much contemporary critique has done nothing to affect political rhetoric, organizing tactics, or party politics. It should be that effective: political philosophy is not art, and does not have the same claim to a useful indirection...Published in: Marxism & Culture Pop Culture Philosophy Politics on April 28, 2007 at 3:30 pm Comments (2) From The Kugelmass Episodes

Appetite is natural, and desire is often mimetic

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
Lying, stealing, murdering and adultery all harm others, but envy seems only to affect oneself. True, it is absolutely corrosive to the self, but why should it be among the five horizontal commandments governing man-to-man relations?
Because envy is not just an emotion, or mental state. Rather, it is a relationship. It is a relationship with an other whom one feels possesses something lacking in oneself. It is actually first an internal object relationship, only projected outward. In other words, there is an envious mind parasite in dynamic rapport with a frustrating object it feels is "withholding" that to which it feels entitled -- ultimately it is a frustrated infant imagining a bountiful breast that is selfishly keeping its infinite supply of milk and other goodies to itself. Therefore, it will either seize the breast or attack it so that no one else can have it. At various times leftists can adopt either strategy toward the breast, which they call their "economic policy."
Now importantly, the leftist necessarily operates in an "insight free" zone, so he naturally focuses on the object of envy, and in fact, builds his entire worldview around feeling enviously entitled to the object he lacks. But a mature person realizes that the absence is within, and that it is infinite. Being that it is infinite, it cannot be filled by a finite object. Rather, ipso facto, it can only be filled by an infinite object. We call this object.... Well, let's not call it anything just yet. Let us just say that man is born with an "appetite for the infinite" which the spiritually naive man confuses with an infinite appetite...
Here we discover a certain confluence between Buddhism and the Judeo-Christian tradition, for Buddha is famous for his wise crack about desire being the source of our suffering. But actually, he was trying to make a point about attachment to desire. Desires will come and go, like smoke driven by wind. It is only when we attempt to clutch to them that they become problematic.
But even then, as I pointed out in One Cosmos, I find it useful to draw a distinction between appetite, which is natural, and desire, which is often mimetic, meaning that it is not spontaneous but prompted from the outside. Many people give themselves entirely over to this process, and lead "imitation" lives consisting of wanting what others seem to want. They are pushed and pulled around by fleeting desires, impulses and passions, but when one of them is being gratified, it gives rise to a spurious sense of “freedom,” when in reality this kind of ungoverned desire is the opposite of freedom.
It is very difficult to avoid this dynamic in a consumer-driven culture such as ours. It’s the kind of cliché that Petey detests, but we are constantly bombarded with messages and images that fan the fires of envy and mimesis. Sri Aurobindo referred to this as the “vital mind,” and the fundamental problem is that it cannot really be appeased. In other words, it doesn’t shrink when we acquiesce to it. Instead, it only grows, like an addiction or compulsion.
Importantly, the vital mind does not merely consist of impulses seeking discharge. Rather, it can take over the machinery of the host, and generate its own thoughts and rationalizations. We’ve all seen this happen in ourselves. "Yoga" in its most generic sense involves a reversal of this tendency, so that we may consciously yearn for what we actually want, rather than mindlessly will what we desire. This tends to be a constant battle at the beginning. But only until the end. Once again I am reminded of St. Augustine's insight that you had better be careful what you love, because wrongly ordered love is a spiritual catstrophe. posted by Gagdad Bob at 4/28/2007 07:41:00 AM 19 comments links to this post

Deleuze and Guattari praise Freud for having developed an account of desire

Spinoza Today BOOK THREE, PROP. XIV. If the mind has once been affected by two emotions at the same time, it will, whenever it is afterwards affected by one of the two, be also affected by the other.
BOOK III, PROP. XV. Anything can, accidentally, be the cause of pleasure, pain, or desire.
Corollary. – Simply from the fact that we have regarded a thing with the emotion of pleasure or pain, though that thing be not the efficient cause of the emotion, we can either love or hate it.
Note. – Hence we understand how it may happen, that we love or hate a thing without any cause for our emotion being known to us; merely, as the phrase is, from sympathy or antipathy. We should refer to the same category those objects, which affect us pleasurably or painfully, simply because they resemble other objects which affect us in the same way. This I will show in the next Prop. I am aware that certain authors, who were the first to introduce these terms “sympathy” and “antipathy,” wished to signify thereby some occult qualities in things; nevertheless I think we may be permitted to use the same terms to indicate known or manifest qualities.
* * *
Proposition 15 is a revolution in Western thought concerning the nature of pleasure and desire. Throughout the philosophical tradition there has been a marked tendency to distinguish natural and unnatural forms of pleasure. Take, for example, this representative passage from Epicurus’ Letter to Menoeceus:
We must also reflect that of desires some are natural, others are groundless; and that of the natural some are necessary as well as natural, and some natural only. And of the necessary desires some are necessary if we are to be happy, some if the body is to be rid of uneasiness, some if we are even to live. He who has a clear and certain understanding of these things will direct every preference and aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity of mind, seeing that this is the sum and end of a blessed life. For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained because of the absence of pleasure, then, and then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. Wherefore we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a blessed life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.
The aim is to live only in terms of natural desires or those desires that are inborn. With Spinoza all of this changes. Just as we do not know what a body can do, similarly, we must account for the specific system of affects and desires that characterize a particular body. The most striking examples of this would be masochism and suicide, where a particular form of jouissance and desire is at work, showing just how varied desires and forms of enjoyment can be. Subsequent propositions will show just how well Spinoza is able to account for these sorts of phenomena. We must thus necessarily provide some account of the manner in which this bodies desire is individuated. Deleuze and Guattari praise Freud for having developed an account of desire, of libido, that is no longer shackled to innate objects. This comes out with special clarity in the case of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, where it is argued that we are born “polymorphously perverse”. Such a thesis is already at work in Spinoza’s Ethics. Given his own intense engagement with Spinoza, Deleuze would have been well aware of this.
It is also worthwhile to note the strong affinity between proposition 15 and Hume’s theory of association with respect to the formation of subjectivity. Every social theory requires a conception of the body similar to that of Spinoza’s, Hume’s, and Freud’s to account for the formation of socialized subjects or the formation of socially and historically specific affects, percepts, and desires. For instance,
  • why do we begin approaching the world in an “objectified” fashion in the 17th century, seeing things as objects of quantification and dispassionate scientific investigation?
  • What accounts for this sudden shift in how things are perceived?

Here questions of individuation emerge that are necessarily bound up with questions of changes in production that took place with respect to the emergence of capitalism. The historical explanation, however, is not sufficient as we must presuppose a certain malleability of the body to determine how it is possible for perception to be transformed in this way, shifting from what Heidegger called the “ready-to-hand” of the Feudal world, to the “present-at-hand” of products under capitalistic production. In particular, we would have to focus on what Marx describes as “alienation” from the object of production in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, as a non-phenomenological condition for the possibility of the phenomenology of the scientific gaze or attitude. This separation from the object produced serves as a historical a priori condition of the scientific gaze by rendering us indifferent to the use-value of the object for us qua producer.

One need only think of the difference between our phenomenological attitude towards food that we produce in a restauraunt for customers (for those who have been “fortunate” to work in food service), compared to our attitude towards food we produce for ourselves. In the former case the food becomes an “inert” think, such that our interest in it is subtracted. The object comes to be experienced as “present-at-hand”, just as a doctor or nurse sees a human body as a machine, rather than another person with whom they share interpersonal bonds. This “indifference” towards the object was also reflected in an indifference to subjects, where heirarchical social identities began to disappear and we came to conceive ourselves as individuals pursuing self-interest. Perhaps more on that another time, I’m off to dinner at the anthropologists house. ~ by larvalsubjects on April 28, 2007. One Response to “Spinoza Today”

Proposition 15 does indeed resonate. Care to expand some on how you envision hierarchical social identities dissolving under capitalism? I’m most curious about this line: “This “indifference” towards the object was also reflected in an indifference to subjects, where heirarchical social identities began to disappear and we came to conceive ourselves as individuals pursuing self-interest.” aleatorist said this on April 28th, 2007 10:59 pm