Sunday, 10 December 2017

Appearance in Advaita

What indeed is here is there; what is there is here likewise. He who sees as though there is difference here, goes from death to death.

This is to attained through the mind. There is no diversity whatsoever. He who sees as though there is difference here goes from death to death.
(Katha Up. II.i.10, 11)

This is similar in intent to the Tantric: 'What is here is there, what is not here is not anywhere'. The idea being proposed is that the object which appears is a limiting adjunct of the absolute. Appearance is their reality. Looking for greater ontological depth on the plane of appearance in a quasi Kantian noumenon, in the appearance itself so to speak, is a mistake. In a failing light my car appears to be grey but it is in fact blue. There is a real thing that appears to have a certain quality. 'Appearance' as used in Advaita is analogical. Advaitic appearance is not tied to the reality of an object that appears but to the creative power of the absolute.

To further the difficulty, ordinary everyday appearance is used in the snake/rope confusion story to explain the nature of superimposition/adhyasa.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Fr. O'Flynn by Alfred Perceval Graves

While we're on the Graves' we mustn't forget Graves Pere, Alfred Perceval, who is famous for parlour ballads such as Trottin to the Fair and Fr. O'Flynn

Of priests we can offer a charmin variety,
Far renownd for learnin and piety;
Still, Id advance ye widout impropriety,
Father OFlynn as the flowr of them all.

cho: Heres a health to you, Father OFlynn,
Slainte and slainte and slainte agin;
Powrfulest preacher, and tenderest teacher,
And kindliest creature in ould Donegal.

Dont talk of your Provost and Fellows of Trinity,
Famous forever at Greek and Latinity,
Dad and the divils and all at Divinity
Father OFlynn d make hares of them all!

Come, I venture to give ye my word,
Never the likes of his logic was heard,
Down from mythology into thayology,
Truth! and conchology if hed the call.

Och Father OFlynn, youve a wonderful way wid you,
All ould sinners are wishful to pray wid you,
All the young childer are wild for to play wid you,
Youve such a way wid you, Father avick.

Still for all youve so gentle a soul,
Gad, youve your flock in the grandest control,
Checking the crazy ones, coaxin onaisy ones,
Lifting the lazy ones on wid the stick.

And tho quite avoidin all foolish frivolity;
Still at all seasons of innocent jollity,
Where was the playboy could claim an equality,
At comicality, Father, wid you?

Once the Bishop looked grave at your jest,
Till this remark set him off wid the rest:
"Is it lave gaiety all to the laity?
Cannot the clergy be Irishmen, too?


There exists a Latin translation:found at session site
supplied by j.F. Murphy

Pater O’Flynn

[Latin translation of A.P.Graves famous song "Father O’Flynn".
The translation was done by Father Alexius Quinlan of Mount Melleray, Co.Waterford. It is worthy of "Prout" and deserves a place in any good collection of Irish songs, as the work, well done, of an Irish monk.]

O clerici adsunt diversis littoribus,
Omnes qui semper insignes sunt moribus,
Quisque verrissimus suis coloribus?
FLYNNIUS ombibus verior stat:
Radice Hibernica gaudet O’FLYNN,
Ut ombibus patet per suum nomen,
Ex quo in minoribus parochiabilus
Antiquioribus praestiterat.

Multos ad annos carissime FLYNN,
Omni virtute doctissime in
Orator optime, doctor mitissime,
Donegalissime, PATER O’FLYNN.

Trinitat’s Collegii sapientissimi,
Latinam, Graecamque loquuntur satissime,
Locquaculi omnes, sed omnes citissime
In infimum saccum detrudit O’FLYNN.
Dei immortales mirantes laudant
Logicam FLYNNICAM et aestimant.
Res mythologicas et concholigicas
Victas omnino a PATER O’FLYNN.

O PATER O’FLYNN habes baculum magicum,
Quo opus facis omnino mirificum,
Ebriis pigris, superbus remedium
Dabitur optimum hoc baculo.
Quare in tota parochia FLYNN,
Ne unus quidem pecator est in;:
Nec feminae garriunt, viri nec titubant,
Obtiner timor in hoc loculo.

Olim Episcopus valde turbatus est,
In verba FLYNNICA multum mirantus est,
Magna molestia ipse captatus est
Donec hoc modo respondit O’FLYNN,
"Num soli laici hilares sint,
Clericine perlaeti videri debent?"
Oportet clericum esse Hibernicum
Tum in dolore, tum gaudis in.


The original jig tune is generally played at breakneck speed quite unsuitable for dancing lest the Gaelic maiden be a maenad. Quite. I have often heard versions of it sung on old 78's.
Here's one:

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Shout by Robert Graves

Any short story which begins after this fashion will give that settling in feeling in the hara - this is going to be good. I would say to the prospective student of a master’s degree in writing - please don’t, just read this story once a day for a month, once a month for a year and once a year for the rest of your life just as you would oil a prized piece of furniture.

cricket ground, the chief medical officer, whom I had met at the house where I was staying, came up to shake hands. I told him that I was only scoring for the Lamp-ton team today (I had broken a finger the week before, keeping wicket on a bumpy pitch). He said: "Oh, then you'll have an interesting companion."
"The other scoresman?" I asked.
"Crossley is the most intelligent man in the asylum," answered the doctor, "a wide reader, a first-class chessplayer, and so on. He seems to have travelled all over the world. He's been sent here for delusions. His most serious delusion is that he's a murderer, and his story is that he killed two men and a woman at Sydney, Australia. The other delusion, which is more humorous, is that his soul is split in pieces—whatever that means. He edits our monthly magazine, he stage manages our Christmas theatricals, and he gave a most original conjuring performance the other day. You'll like him."

I found this story in a collection Great English Short Stories put together by Christopher Isherwood (pub. 1957). In a mischievous way this British collection has four outright foreigners. (Conrad, George Moore, K. Mansfield, Ethel Colburn Mayne) A very good selection.

Though I could say many clever things about The Shout I will for once in my life refrain. Scour the internet, find it, read it. I’ve returned it to so if you want to read it online it’s there.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Necessity of Naming

(((Here are some posts on the subject blended together)))

Rumi refers to the myth of the naming of the animals as the type of the primal co-creation in which the world is blessed and accepted and inner and outer truth are made one:

When Adam became the theater of Divine inspiration and love,
his rational soul revealed to him the knowledge of the Names.
His tongue, reading from the page of his heart,
recited the name of everything that is.
Through his inward vision his tongue divulged the qualities of each;

This is the basis of what is called 'abjid' (arabic) or 'gematria' in Greek in which names are given a numerical value. The Hebrew Kaballah has this science also Aleph (1), Beth (2), Gimel (3) and so on.

In the Zohar it is written

"Had the brightness of the glory of the Holy One, blessed be his name, not been shed over the whole of his creation how could he have been perceived even by the wise? He would have remained (totally) unapprehensible, and the words "The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isaiah 6:3)could never be spoken with truth. But the closer man comes to his pure and divine essence, the more he experiences the intrinsic unity in all the emanations of the Sefiroth; for this unity is none other than the essence of man, the supreme 'self'"
((from 'The Universal Meaning of the Kabballah by Leo Schaya pg.28))

Vedic Words

There may be a truth in the mythic idea that the word itself is a real thing. I mean that it is more than just articulated air. We have this thought in the ancient theories of magic, the name and that which it names are connected non-adventitiously. We find this in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic and the theory of the Vedic word is treated most seriously by the Advaitic philosopher Shankara.

It's curious that this should be so when you consider that Sanskrit is a declined language like Latin, Turkish or Gaelic etc and the body of the word can change its shape quite radically in the various cases. So then it is not the shape of the word that is significant it is the meaning of the word, what it signifies, connotes, denotes, its extension, intension, take your pick. The word as articulated air has a nimbus about it. The word 'scian' has a sharpness about it, it has a piercing nature, 'couteau is blunt, (to me) In ancient taboos some words are forbidden, they call up that which they mention or refer to. Fairies (air spirits) are not called such but are known as 'the good people', the Furies are the Euminides (well wishers), certain activities which further the continuance of tie species are known as 'this thing'. Euphemism is commonplace and surely has its origins in the idea that to mention something is to call it up.

There is a difference between saying that there is a relationship between the word and the 'thing’ and the word as the 'thing’. What does Shankara have to say on this point? What in short are Vedic words?

"It is on the basis of the inborn, relationship between words and their meanings from the very beginning that the validity of the Vedas has been established by saying...."
The Vedantin holds that "because the universe, consisting of the gods and others, originates verily from the Vedic words."

The objection to this seems cogent at first sight. If something has an origin then it is non-eternal. So are we to take it that the gods are non-eternal? No, says Shankara, it is the relationship that is eternal and not the event of the word giving rise to the existence of the thing.

Is this an acceptable answer? Let us go on to consider the rest of his thoughts on the subject. He makes the obvious point that there cannot be a connection between each instance referred to by a word and the vedic word. It is the generic word that is eternal, a notion, very similar to that of the 'ideas' of Plato. There is besides no imputation of a birth from words in the samesense as birth from a material cause.
Is this theory subject to the same difficulties as that of Plato’s? Can generality precede instantiation? Can the meaning exist separately from the instantiation of the meaning? This puts us in mind of the Cheshire Cat and its smile. Can there be equivalence without things we discover to be equivalent. Can there be identity which precedes things which are identical or exactly similar? This seems to be a paradoxical doctrine. How, again, is it known that the universe originates from words? "From direct revelation and inference".

Essentially he means from the Vedas and Smriti. He offers Quotations. An intuitive rationale of Shankara's is. "Besides it is a matter of experience to us all that when one has to accomplish some desired thing, one remembers first the word denoting it and then accomplishes it." He uttered the syllable bhuh, He created the earth. Tai.Br. II.ii.4.2

How is this meant to happen?
Sphota is the answer of the grammarians. There is an impression created by the words which are themselves created by the letters which constitute them. Shankara is capable of activating his critical intelligence on this notion which had been in abeyance due to his acceptance of a literal understanding of the vedas. His judgment is that the unit of intelligibility, to coin a phrase, is the word. "And. this sphota has no beginning, since its identity is recognisable at every utterance (of the word)." This then is the intuitive core of the Vedic word. It corresponds to the problem of the origin of universals. How can you find them unless you have them already?

His final considered opinion is that the single concept ‘cow’ emerges on the basis of the letters as a whole and not any other thing (called sphota).

Page 111 V.P.(Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra a medieval scholar, pub.Advaita Ashrama)
" Of these, secular sentences are of the nature of restatements, since their meanings are primarily apprehended through other means of knowledge; but with regard to the Vedas, since the meaning of Vedic sentences are known at first hand, they are not of the nature of restatements."

More on Vedic Words

The topic of Vedic words or universals if you will is one that I have considered in various posts.vedic words
bijas Here I will attempt to get at the truth that the myth embodies while admitting that any interpretation does not exhaust that path to understanding. A myth is never eviscerated by explication but remains a living path.

In his discussion of ‘eternal words’ in B.S.B. I.iii.28 Shankara deals with the standard objection. That contra-vedantin contrarian, the opponent, (purvapakshin) states the obvious – First the son is born and then the son is named. You experience the object and then you name it. Somehow the universal is extracted out of this raw ore.

No, since the relationship between such generic words and their meanings, as for instance cowhood and cows, is seen to be eternal (i.e. beginingless). Not that the distinguishing characteristics (i.e. genus)of the cows etc. are created afresh each time these cows etc. are born; for the individual forms of substance qualities and actions alone can have origin, but not so their distinguishing (general) characteristics (i.e. genus). And words are connected with the general characteristics and not with the individuals; for the individuals are infinite, and it is impossible to comprehend the relation of a word (with all of them).

The paradoxical result of this doctrine is that we do not meet particulars except in the form of characteristics or accidents in the scholastic terminology but we know their aggregation in the form of universals, substantially embodied as it were. Does he mean by non-original characteristics those that can only exist as embodied i.e. colour, weight, size etc. So ‘elephant’ is an eternal word but not its weightiness, greyness, velocity, and call.

Calling the universals vedic words or eternal words arises from the belief that the Vedas arrive in the same form at each new creation.

Brahma created the gods by (thinking of) the word etc.; He created men and others by the word asrgram; by the word indavah the manes by the word tirabpavitram the planets; by the word asavah the hymns……

As an analogical point Shankara remarks:

Besides, it is a matter of experience to us all that when one has to accomplish some desired thing, one remembers first the word denoting it and then accomplishes it. Similarly it is understood that in the case of Prajapati (Brahman) also, when he was intent on creation, the Vedic words flashed in His mind before creation and then He created the things according to these.

A myth is greater than any interpretation and so to speculate about the meaning behind it or to see in it the personal genesis of a world is not reductionist. Out of the ‘blooming buzzing confusion’ which is a solidary particular comes the differentiated cosmos initially created by pure perception as Bergson held (cf. Matter and Memory chap. 1). Later comes the mature, memory inflected, perception which we adopt for the purpose of speed in the navigation of a dangerous world. We shot our uncle in the hunting season not because he looked like a moose for even with his glasses on he doesn’t look like a moose, but because of a blundering movement on his part that was the movement of a startled moose.

Out of the formless chaos comes names. One of the experiences which is cultivated by Yogis is the return to the undifferentiated which occurs when mind waves are eliminated – citta vritti nirodha. Coming back out of that state and re-making your world brings with it the possibility of a different vision or a creative re-organisation. It is a ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.


Cher Maitre Cormac writes:

As Pantugrel is walking through a cold patch he is hit by a particularly bad hail storm. Frozen words falling from the sky. Rabelais explains these are words that weren't heard.

Listening to a sanskrit scholar on the radio the other day he mentioned that all mathematical theory was written in verse, and that the Indians were the leading mathematicians until th 14 or 15 century.
The extant sanskrit classical library is apparently enormous.
And phenomenology in all this? Is it a realism? The word is an integral part of the phenomenon, is it not? And it would seem to be non dual.

I have always loved being in a new place where I don't understand the language and have to imagine and surmise what people are saying. Its a condition which doesn't last very long, little by little we begin to distinguish sounds and eventually meaning. It is always a dissapointment to find that the meaning is not very dissimilar to ones own.(I've never been to Amazonia for example.But the Vodoo priests in Benin can tell by the sound of the sea if there are fish to catch.)Eventually the language becomes transparent and it is the meaning that becomes dominant.

The Zaroastrian priests had very small chapels, big enough for only one person, sometimes two.They would bring about the world by their liturgical description of it,each thing in its proper place and proportion.Then if the world was summoned up fittingly, the sacrifice could take place.They too came from the Aryan invasion and share a common root with the Vedas.

I think all liturgies are a conjuring up of a world,or a god.And the worlds exist and the gods come if the words are right.

I ask:

But could those psychopomps do 'explication de texte'?

Those adepts of what might be unfolded had ways of achieving stastis in the concrete actuality of the statements themselves. Eternality reflected in an unchanging text could be checked by rhymes and quantities. Not only that but from the mantras they extracted like the meat from a nut the bijas and if you dared follow them go back to the sounding void of the 'nirbija'.

All the more reason that the group of seeds (bijas) which, because they are independent of the constraints of convention, cause consciousness to vibrate thus constitute a valid means for the attainment of consciousness. Because of the nonexistence of meaning to be expressed, because they vibrate in consciousness in a way that is totally indifferent to the external reality, because they are self-illuminating, because they cause the extinction of the movement of the vital breath - for these reasons the group of seeds are completely full and self-sufficient.

(Abhivinagupta on Bijas/ from The Triadic Heart of Siva by Muller-Ortega pub. Suny '89)

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ride upon the Storm

A new show I'm watching and enjoying is the Danish Ride upon the Storm (R.T.E.) with the central focus on a clerical family of the National Church i.e. Danish Lutheran. Excellent acting and writing. Is that title a reference to the Book of Job? Anyway they have their problems the sort that come with being sinners. What intrigues me is a plot point which is so odd that it must be true. One son is a padre in the Danish Army on a tour in Iraq. At first he refuses to bless the weapons of the men which alienates them as they are in a hot zone and need all the juju they can get. R.C.s bless the weapons of war I am informed, in the best of Latin. Why ever not ? It's a just war. We only ever fight just wars. Later on he relents and does bless the weapons and to rebuild his relationship with the men goes out on patrol with them. They get in a firefight in which the padre participates they are pinned down and a bomber who is in the area going about disguised in a niquab is shot dead by August (padre).Uh, uh. Did anyone make sure that the Holy Warriors got the memo about the Geneva Convention? No. Heads will roll over that. Back home August covers up his part in a civilian shooting. The word gets out that August has blessed weapons and the media get on it. You can bless same sex couples but blessing weapons is a 'blasphemous fable'. That whirring noise from the tomb of Luther at Wittenberg?

Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance. K.J.V.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Augustine on Self-Awareness and Advaitin starting point

Book XI:26. Of the image of the supreme Trinity, which we find in some sort in human nature even in its present state.
And we indeed recognise in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity, an image which, though it be not equal to God, or rather, though it be very far removed from Him,—being neither co-eternal, nor, to say all in a word, consubstantial with Him,—is yet nearer to Him in nature than any other of His works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us; for we do not come into contact with these by some bodily sense, as we perceive the things outside of us,—colours, e.g., by seeing, sounds by hearing, smells by smelling, tastes by tasting, hard and soft objects by touching,—of all which sensible objects it is the images resembling them, but not themselves which we perceive in the mind and hold in the memory, and which excite us to desire the objects. But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am.[493] For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? for it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know. And when I love these two things, I add to them a certain third thing, namely, my love, which is of equal moment. For neither am I deceived in this, that I love, since in those things which I love I am not deceived; though even if these were false, it would still be true that I loved false things. For how could I justly be blamed and prohibited from loving false things, if it were false that I loved them? But, since they are true and real, who doubts that when they are loved, the love of them is itself true and real? Further, as there is no one who does not wish to be happy, so there is no one who does not wish to be. For how can he be happy, if he is nothing?
(Ffrom City of God by Augustine

Yet though different in fundamental doctrine there is some striking likeness to the advaitic starting point of atma vichara or inquiry into the self - For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Residing in that sense of self and being detached from the particular content of the conscious state is delight/ananda. Likewise consciousness as such is unsublated in all modes of consciousness; waking, dreaming and deep sleep. This last is paradoxical and is unique to Advaita. How do we know that we have been in a state of deep dreamless sleep? Is it an inference, a memory or immediate knowledge? I have written about this before so I won’ repeat it here.
Cf: deep sleep as protophaenomenon

Friday, 24 November 2017

Carlyle and Mill on Forced Labour and Indian Indentured Labour

I’ve written before on Carlyle’s Negro Question that ranting rantipole document in which various rebarbative remedies are proffered to solve the plight of the sugar plantations in the West Indies. The former slaves you see had taken to growing pumpkins, his metaphor for subsistence farming, on the uplands. Sure beats cuttin’ cane. No, wrote T.C. they should be pressed to really work the land for high value crops because if they don’t they forfeit the right to occupy it. They are not taking out of it the good that God put into it. (One notes that similar dispossession was justified in South Africa and Israel etc. We made something of this land which was being wasted by ..... T.C. was a supporter of mass immigration.) If they don’t then the West Indies will become another Ireland unable to sustain a growing population. The dismal science, his name for the political economy of the day, held that there should be no interference with the market or classic laissez faire. In the end things would sort themselves out. Both at home and abroad Carlyle was for active intervention when things became stagnant.

His pressed labour was not a novel proposition. In Africa all the colonial powers used it. The French corvee system in Algeria is well known, railways and roads were built with it. The British used it. Workfare is a form of it if you look at from a certain angle i.e. as a cure for laziness especially that of blacks. Compulsory training or withdrawal of social welfare is another strategy which does not compete with paid labour. The idea mutates like a virus.

Naturally the anti-slavery groups were incensed by this return to quasi slavery. John Stuart Mill was one of their spokesmen. He wrote a counter pamphlet against The Negro Question. I have always felt that Mill was a hypocrite considering his high position in the East India Company. He retired from it in 1858. I have been reading about Indian indentured labour during his period at India House. What is remarkable is that no one asks how Mill justified this transfer of Indians to the West Indies to work the sugar plantationd using a pittance which to a poverty stricken populace might be a lure. How did Mill square that circle? (Note the irony of the replacement of pure chattel slavery with bond slavery, that ongoing Indian running sore.)

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.
(from Liberty by John Stuart Mill)

His mind was clouded by imperialist racist colonial presumptions which are still current. That they were obvious in the case of Carlyle whose demand that something, anything, be done amounted to decerebrate flailing makes Mill a smoother fraud but not I suggest a better man.

some links:indian indentured labour

impeialist Mill

Mill on Liberty

Mill and Carlyle debate and articles

documentary movie on how britain reinvented slavery