Friday, 17 November 2017

Conservative Consolation

Another class, a week after being told about unconscious learning and training, tried it on the professor. Every time he moved toward the right side of the lecture hall, they paid rapt attention and roared at his jokes. It is reported that they were almost able to train him right out the door, he remaining unaware of anything unusual.
(from Origins.. by Julian Jaynes)
This is just the sort of thing worked by the label ‘conservative’. Move towards that corner and no one laughs at your jokes, your remarks are viewed as dangerous reaction and in general a spiritual halitosis sets in. Move in the direction of the liberal corner and the most trite observation is deemed deep and wise. Is it a consolation to remember that most of the greatest writers and thinkers have been conservative? I find it so.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Not So Greek Julian Jaynes

Or in the many-poemed comparison of love to a rose, it is not the tenuous correspondence of metaphrand and metaphier but the paraphrands that engage us, that love lives in the sun, smells sweet, has thorns when grasped, and blooms for a season only. Or suppose I say less visually and so more profoundly something quite opposite, that my love is like a tinsmith's scoop, sunk past its gleam in the meal-bin.D The immediate correspondence here of metaphrand and metaphier, of being out of casual sight, is trivial. Instead, it is the paraphrands of this metaphor which create what could not possibly be there, the enduring careful shape and hidden shiningness and holdingness of a lasting love deep in the heavy manipulable softnesses of mounding time, the whole simulating (and so paraphranding) sexual intercourse from a male point of view. Love has not such properties except as we generate them by metaphor.
Footnote: From "Mossbawn (for Mary Heaney)" by Scumas Heaney, North (London: Faber, 1974).
(from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind)

Julian Jaynes is here having fun with neologisms and making a serious mistake about the subject of a poem. The ‘Mary’ is Seamus Heaney’s mother. Marie is his wife’s name. Mossbawn is where Heaney grew up. Watching your mother making bread is something that you never forget. My mother had a way of rubbing with the back of a spoon the soda in her hand and moving her palm over the basin of flour.

Mossbawn: Two Poems In Dedication

1. Sunlight

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells

Silas Lapham had to be punished. I wonder why. He’s an essentially decent vulgarian as banausic as they come but not an evil man. The garish colours that emerge from his paint mine are at least cheerful unlike the magnolia of the class that is set up against him. They are represented by the Corey’s whose son is interested in a career with Silas. Thomas Corey is reverting to the mercantile roots of his family. Grandfather had laid down the gold of yore in import export. The middle generation was engaged in decorous spending, no showing off, smooth Harvard pieties of Beacon Street rule. Are there any Latin tags, there should be. I forget. There’s a pale aesthetic aspect to the Corey’s.

William Dean Howells sends his doppleganger Bartley Hubbard, also a newspaperman, to interview Lapham in the opening pages of the novel and gives us hints that are never followed up on that there might be a mediating voice in the novel. Alas ‘tis only a devise to fill us in on the rise of Lapham to where he now hangs like that ball in the sky. Leave it to me, I’ve got it, this is mine says Howells. Does it fall between ‘this reporter’s hands’? No it doesn’t. He fields it nicely and keeps the story moving along. There is no high gloss finish (note to self, keep up the paint metaphors) nor is there the muted eggshell only primary durability painted on the rocks and barnsides of America. Good stuff representing the continuing deploring tradition of the scribal class. He ‘helmed’ The Atlantic Monthly in its early days. We are told this:

Of all the men of letters who took the helm at The Atlantic Monthly in its first fifty years, perhaps its most prolific and well-known was William Dean Howells—at least in his day. In our time, however, Howells is relatively unknown, especially when compared with the writers he helped bring to national prominence—Mark Twain and Henry James, among others. But a new Howells biography by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, published this year, has returned this author of some forty novels to the literary spotlight. 
(from: atlantic)
That ‘helm’ in the first sentence, is it a deliberately crass echo of a imdb review or The Atlantic Monthly turning its megaphone into an ear trumpet? I am aweary. The electric blanket has been on awhile. I to bed.

Another American classic.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Quasi-Formless Meditation

Augustine distinguishes between praying with the mind and praying with the spirit. I feel the distinction here is between the use of images, the reflection on the lives of the saints, aspirations, mantra and other ‘fixities and definites’ as against the formless meditation which is a total turning of the mind and heart that can alter your world. It allows the fullness of the being of consciousness to manifest as an objectless orientation. Unrestriction by an object allows expansion beyond the formal.

Is this way of thinking about Dhyana/meditation accurate when as the Kena Up. Says the Self is known with every state of consciousness. True but for the practice of seekers on their way an empty open approach may be a better way to avoid distraction. Being formless is difficult and a bare focus on the Heart centre on the right hand side of the chest may be useful. To sink into the Heart or fall into it has been practiced by the devotees of Ramana Maharshi though in strict non-dual terms it is metaphorical.

Bhagavan: No. Only the quest ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. What remains all through deep sleep and waking is the same. But in waking there is unhappiness and the effort to remove it. Asked who wakes up from sleep you say ‘I’. Now you are told to hold fast to this ‘I’. If it is done the eternal being will reveal itself. Investigation of ‘I’ is the point and not meditation on the Heart-centre. There is nothing like within or without. Both mean either the same thing or nothing. Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the Heart-centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the Heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still, whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active. In whatever place in the body one thinks Self to be residing, due to the power of that thinking it will appear to the one who thinks thus as if Self is residing in that place. However, the beloved Heart alone is the refuge for the rising and subsiding of that ‘I’. Know that though it is said that the Heart exists both inside and outside, in absolute truth it does not exist both inside and outside, because the body, which appears as the base of the differences ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, is an imagination of the thinking mind. Heart, the source, is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. Heart, the supreme space, is never a form. It is the light of truth.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Political Reflections

Not having any interest in politics in a systematic doctrinaire way is a conservative stance. Present. Being encouraged that Belgium avoided austerity through not having a government at the time when it was the article of faith Eurowide, and moreover that their economy grew at that time makes one sigh and shrug and continue to vote with a measure of irony. It is interesting that there is a general political logjam in both majoritarian (first past the post) and proportional (preference0 electoral systems. The hive mind has decided that stasis is the best plan lest too much power lead to decerebrate flailing. The public seems to be saying – for God’s sake take those shovels out of their hands, the hole is quite deep enough. America del Norte has gone in for shock and guffah.. I’m enjoying it but your smileage may vary.

What influence does politics have on culture? Does it reflect or distort it? Do we get what we deserve in those thrusting ambitious ones that have a plan? In our time a great many politicians start young without a measure of citizen experience (idiotes Gk.). Those layers of spinners, advisors, experts dancing like bees to indicate honey trove.

I think I’ll abdicate.

Friday, 27 October 2017


It is undoubtedly true that in the minds of many, in recent times, a shadow has been cast over this aspect of our lives. The cause of this is to be sought for in the fact which explains so much of the mental unrest of the present time,— namely, that we live in an age of transition. In the field of which I am speaking the last two or three generations have witnessed a species of disenchantment. In the less sophisticated ages of 
the world, which are sometimes called the " ages of faith," the relations of man to the order of nature and the government of the world were depicted in forms which M. Arnold called " fairy-tales." Feeling was permitted to grow and entwine itself round a picturesque view of the origin and history of the cosmos. 
(from The Inner Life in Relation to Morality by John Henry Muirhead)

Monday, 23 October 2017

Advaita not a Monism

I have lately seen Advaita described as a monism even though a-dvaita means non-dual. Clearly the view is that the philosophy is flying under false colours and is in fact a monism. There are then two and two only ontological flavours; Monism and Pluralism. Let me now in this back of an envelope sketch try to limn the advaitins’ justification for their claim and bring to the fore the concept of adhyasa or superimposition.

I have toddled down the path of the preamble to the Brahma Sutra Bhasya (Commentary on the B.Sutras) by Sankara before. Skipping o’er the puddles:

1: We have subject/object awareness
2: But how can that be? How can the inert/unconscious object become an object in my consciousness. Implicit in this is the realist assumption that we are aware of the object as it is, we as it were see through the mental modification to the object. Without straining the analogy there is an element of transparency and instrumentality in this ‘through’.
3: The famous analogy of the coiled rope that is taken to be a snake comes into play now. We experience a false image superimposed on the mind. (( This has proven to be a dangerous analogy bringing in notions of the argument from illusion. It is not that.))

Similarly the true object is superimposed on the mind. But how? It can only be that though they seem to be utterly different i.e. dual, they are in fact non-dual. They share the same substantial identity. At this point the theory of upadhi (form of limitation of absolute consciousness) and the vritti (mental modification of personal consciousness) is proffered. The personal mind as much as the object is conceived as a modification of absolute consciousness.

What then of the ultimate reality of the world? The teaching on this is that the world/creation is real as a manifestation. It does not have a free standing reality. It is contingent. Reality including the creation is non-dual.