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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Letter and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle

Mrs.C: - Bout’ ye Mr.C
Mr.C: - Can’t complain Mrs.C.
Mrs.C: - Try harder Mr. C.
Mr.C: - Now is desolation made more desolate and the treacherous phare of mine enemy has brought me to the rocks and ruin.
Mrs.C: - How so Mr.C?
Mr.C: - This toast stinks of smoking sea coal. Can they not light the fire in the range earlier to get good hot embers before the toast is plied to it. This is Stygian. Besides I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. There was a cat running up and down the garden wall. And the porridge. Have we run out of good East Lothian oats?
Mrs.C: - The history of Frederick the Great of Prussia has laid waste to this house. Twelve years on it and only 5 books written. One more will complete it and finish me.

That last sentence nor any like it was never uttered before Mr. C(arlyle). She, Jean Welsh Carlyle, always referred to him as such in her many letters in which the complexity of ministration to her husband was mentioned. As Frederick waxed she waned. In the end he had a posthumous victory and Thomas Carlyle only became aware of her suffering after she died. This knowledge came to him through the reading of her journal. However others realized this and made sure that she had regular spells of time away from him to recover. John Stewart Collis in his book on their marriage The Carlyles maintains that fond absence was the glue that kept them together. So she married a genius and that is what she got dyspepsia, insomnia, moaning in the gloaming with a lassie by my side and all. Her letters were not a valve for venting but genuine warm communication with her friends and family.

In the opening letter of Vol.3 J.W.C.

My dear Miss Barnes,—How nice of you to have written me a letter,' all out of your own head' (as the children say), and,'how very nice of you to have remarked the forget-me-not, and read a meaning in it! It was certainly with intention I tied up some forget-me-nots along with my farewell roses ; but I was far from sure of your recognising the intention, and at the same time not young enough to make it plainer. Sentiment, you see, is not well looked on by the present generation of women; there is a growing taste for fastness, or, still worse, for strong-mindedness ! so a discreet woman (like me) will beware always of putting her sentiment (when she has any) in evidence—will rather leave it—as in the forget-me-not case—to be divined through sympathy; and failing the sympathy, to escape notice.
And you are actually going to get married! you ! already ! And you expect me to congratulate you ! or ' perhaps not.' I admire the judiciousness of that 'perhaps not.' Frankly, my dear, I wish you all happiness in the new life that is opening to you ; and you are marrying under good auspices, since your father approves of the marriage. But congratulation on such occasions seems to me a tempting of Providence. The triumphal-procession-air which, in our manners and customs, is given to marriage at the outset—that singing of Te Deum before the battle has begun—has, ever since I could reflect, struck me as somewhat senseless and somewhat impious. If ever one is to pray—if ever one is to feel grave and anxious—if ever one is to shrink from vain show and vain babble—surely it is just on the occasion of two human beings binding themselves to one another, for better and for worse, till death part them; just on that occasion which it is customary to celebrate only with rejoicings, and congratulations, and trousseaux, and white ribbon! Good God !

Frederick the Great was casting his curse on her marriage. Thomas Carlyle in a note to Letter 214 writes:

In October, after getting home, there was a determined" onslaught made on ' Frederick,' an attempt (still in the way of youth—16 rather than 60!) to vanquish by sheer force the immense masses of incondite or semi-condite rubbish which had "accumulated on ' Frederick,' that is, to let the printer straightway drive me through it!—a most fond and foolish notion, which indeed I myself partly knew, durst I have confessed it, to be foolish and even impossible! But this was the case all along; I never once said to myself, 4 All those chaotic mountains, wide as the world, high as the stars, dismal as Lethe, Styx, and Phlegethon, did mortal ever see the like of it for size and for quality in the rubbish way? All this thou wilt have to take into thee, to roast and smelt in the furnace of thy own poor soul till thou fairly smelt the grains of gold out of it!' No, though dimly knowing all this, I durst not openly know it (indeed, how could I otherwise ever have undertaken such a subject ?) ; and I had got far on with the unutterable enterprise, before I did clearly admit that such was verily proving, and would, on to the finis, prove to have been the terrible part of this affair, affair which I must now conquer tale quale, or else perish! This first attempt of October-February, 1859 —-1860 (after dreadful tugging at the straps), was given up by her serious advices, which I could not but admit to be true as well as painful and humiliating! November 1860 had arrived before there was any further printing: nothing thenceforth but silent pulling at a dead lift, which lasted four or five years more.
My darling must have suffered much in all this; how much! I sometimes thought how cruel it was on her, to whom ‘Frederick' was literally nothing except through me, so cruel, alas, alas, and yet inevitable ! Never once in her deepest misery did she hint, by word or sign, what she too was suffering under that score ; me only did she ever seem to pity in it, the heroic, the thrice noble, and wholly loving soul!

It is a curious fact that three Victorian sage writers, Ruskin, Mill and Carlyle, with more remedies than Boots the Chemist, had serious trouble in the trousers department. All the rest of us have to do is hang them up on a convenient nail. Meanwhile back in Vienna.....

Find Vol.3 at letters J.W.C.

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.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Collingwood's Kant

For this reason we cannot look to Kant for a satisfactory theory of philosophical method. What he has to teach us on that subject will fall into two parts which he tries, but without success, to keep in two watertight compartments: one relating to the principles and methods of transcendental philosophy and taught chiefly by example, the other to those of metaphysics, taught by precept in the concluding chapters of the Critique.

Bearing this in mind, we may turn to these chapters in order to see how Kant, at the end of his critical inquiry, sums up his conclusions as to the
method of metaphysics. At once we see that his aim is not so much to controvert but rather to correct Descartes, by a careful distinction between philosophical and mathematical thinking. He argues in detail that, of the special marks of mathematical science, not one is to be found in philosophy, and that the adoption of mathematical methods there
can do nothing but harm.1 Philosophy knows no definitions: or rather, their place in philosophy is not at the beginning of an inquiry but at the end; for we can philosophize without them, and if this were not so we could not philosophize at all.2 Philosophy knows no axioms: no truths, there, are self-evident, any two concepts must be discursively connected by means of a third.3 Philosophy knows no demonstrations : its proofs are not demonstrative but acroamatic; in other words, the difference between mathematical proof and philosophical is that in the former you proceed from point to point in a chain of grounds and consequents, in the latter you must always be ready to go back and revise your premises
when errors, undetected in them, reveal themselves in the conclusion.
(from intro. to An Essy on Philosophical Method by R.G. Collingwood )

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Eudaemonism and Virtue

Neo-Stoicism as eudaemonistic is questionable certainly but ought eudaemonism be causally linked to virtue at all?

Relating eudaemonia to being a virtuous person may have arisen as the result of equivocation. It seems to be so for Aristotle where being good and doing good are linked as perhaps they should be. However he warps the connection by suggesting that the more good you can do the better person you will be. Ethics are propaduetic to Politics in his mind because in Politics the possibility to do great public good is enhanced. Doing more good means that you are more virtuous. The good life i.e. being successful is an indication that you are virtuous. Rhetorically it is because your Ethos is ample that you are trusted in the Polis. In Athens the concept of being a private citizen was tangential to your role as member of the polis with recurring public duties. In our time the family is the basic unit of society and we can regard the person who is of no public importance as having the same value ethically speaking as the politician. The struggling, debt ridden individual may be a good father or mother or friend and so forth.

For me there’s a whiff of success gospel about eudaemonism that repels.

Coleridge and Newman on Conscience

Of course it was not Voltaire’s intention to sneer at God as an invention that was required to frighten miscreants with the prospect of eternal punishment. That was a useful side effect of God’s actual existence. Coleridge finds his way to the moral order via man’s actual existence.

In The Friend cf: coleridge on metaphysics
he by what Ramana Maharshi would have called atma vichara self-inquiry turned his attention to the nature of consciousness itself:

But what are my metaphysics ? merely the referring of the mind to its own consciousness for truths indispensable to its own happiness! To what purpose do I, or am I about to, employ them? To perplex our clearest notions and living moral instincts ? To deaden the feelings of will and free power, to extinguish the light of love and of conscience, to make myself and others worthless, soulless, God-less ?

He finds in the immediacy of consciousness the clarity of its truth seeking nature. As the upanishad tag has it : satyam vada, dharmam chara Speak the truth, follow dharma.

In the concluding section of Essay XV Coleridge declares:

God created man in his own image. To be the image of his own eternity created he man! Of eternity and self-existence what other likeness is possible, but immortality and moral self-determination ? In addition to sensation, perception, and practical judgment — instinctive or acquirable — concerning the notices furnished by the organs of perception, all which in kind at least, the dog possesses in common with his master; in addition to these, God gave us REASON, and with reason he gave us reflective SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS; gave us PRINCIPLES, distinguished from the maxims and generalizations of outward experience by their absolute and essential universality and necessity; and above all, by superadding to reason the mysterious faculty of free-will and consequent personal amenability, he gave us CONSCIENCE—that law of conscience, which in the power, and as the indwelling WORD, of a holy and omnipotent legislator commands us —from among the numerous ideas mathematical and philosophical, which the reason by the necessity of its own excellence creates for itself,—unconditionally commands us to attribute reality, and actual existence, to those ideas and to those only, without which the conscience itself would be baseless and contradictory, to the ideas of soul, of free-will, of immortality, and of God.

In contrast to the rolling thunder and fulminations of S.T.C. we have the quiet wisdom of Cardinal Newman:

An ethical system may supply laws, general rules, guiding principles, a number of examples, suggestions, landmarks, limitations, cautions, distinctions, solutions of critical or anxious difficulties; but who is to apply them to a particular case? whither can we go, except to the living intellect, our own, or another's? What is written is too vague, too negative for our need. It bids us avoid extremes; but it cannot ascertain for us, according to our personal need, the golden mean. The authoritative oracle, which is to decide our path, is something more searching and manifold than such jejune generalizations as treatises can give, which are most distinct and clear when we least need them. It is seated in the mind of the individual, who is thus his own law, his own teacher, and his own judge in those special cases of duty which are personal to him.
(from An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, Chapter 9)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Coleridge on Metaphysics

I AM fully aware, that what I am writing and have written (in these latter essays at least) will expose me to the censure of some, as bewildering myself and readers with metaphysics; to the ridicule of others as a schoolboy declaimer on old and worn-out truisms or exploded fancies; and to the objection of most as obscure. The last real or supposed defect has already received an answer both in the preceding essays, and in the appendix to my first Lay-Sermon, entitled The Statesman's Manual. Of the former two, I shall take the present opportunity of declaring my sentiments ; especially as I have already received a hint that my idol, Milton, has represented metaphysics as the subject which the bad spirits in hell delight in discussing. And truly, if I had exerted my subtlety and invention in persuading myself and others that we are but living machines, and that, as one of the late followers of Hobbes and Hartley has expressed the system, the assassin and his dagger are equally fit objects of moral esteem and abhorrence; or if with a writer of wider influence and higher authority, I had reduced all virtue to a selfish prudence eked out by superstition,— for, assuredly, a creed which takes its central point in conscious selfishness, whatever be the forms or names that act on the selfish passion, a ghost or a constable, can have but a distant relationship to that religion, which places its essence in our loving our neighbour as ourselves, and God above all,—I know not, by what arguments I could repel the sarcasm. But what are my metaphysics ? merely the referring of the mind to its own consciousness for truths indispensable to its own happiness! To what purpose do I, or am I about to, employ them? To perplex our clearest notions and living moral instincts ? To deaden the feelings of will and free power, to extinguish the light of love and of conscience, to make myself and others worthless, soulless, God-less ? No! to expose the folly and the legerdemain of those who have thus abused the blessed machine of language; to support all old and venerable truths; and by them to support, to kindle, to project the spirit; to make the reason spread light over our feelings, to make our feelings, with their vital warmth, actualize our reason:—these are my objects, these are my subjects; and are these the metaphysics which the bad spirits in hell delight in ?
(from The Friend Essay XV by S.T.C.)

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Poetry and Reason

When you shave with a straight razor you need to focus on the job in hand; cold, clear, clinical; and palping and stretching the skin against the grain mutter your implacable enemy’s name to make the hairs stand out. Whisk them away before they have time to retreat. Ply the emollient lotion of emotion recollected in tranquillity. Very close, very Brooks of Sheffield.

Emotion but not only emotion. In classical times verse was used to write philosophical texts. I think that the demands of prosody made the writer avoid the pitfalls of cliché or those mental grooves that we normally run it. They were forced to think past the habitual, ‘I suspect’, ‘I worry’, ‘this muddle’ and work into a new clarity. The Four Quartets of T.S. Eliot achieve this.

Deep thinking is attainable only by a man of deep feeling, and all truth is a species of revelation

To make the reason spread light over our feeling, to make our feelings, with their vital warmth, actualize our reason
(from S.T. Coleridge Aids to Reflection and The Friend)

Friday, 13 October 2017

Nichomachean Ethics

Simple and naive questions about the Nichomachean Ethics: dare to be stupid o.k. Who was Ari, who did he lecture to and what were, in the immortal terms of the teacher’s lesson plan, his Aims & Objectives?

A: He was well connected, lectured to the elite well connected and prepared them to connect to the well connected. His virtues had a strong instrumental cast to them, essentially those that were likely to win friends and influence people. My instinctive reaction to the N.E. is distaste and repulsion. I realize that I am irrational in this but there it is.

Stoicism and achievement

Can Stoicism which is unconcerned with mere externals be eudaemonistic when actual achievement is surely a mark of a flourishing life? That is unquestionably a false dichotomy for the stoic practice of focusing on the present moment does not eliminate results. It could be said that it is a much more effective way of achieving a good outcome as one’s attentions are altogether gathered and not divided. Moreover being overly concerned with results or how your actions will contribute to your posthumous fame is a distorting factor:

If therefore it be a thing external that causes thy grief, know, that it is not that properly that doth cause it, but thine own conceit and opinion regarding the thing; which thou mayest rid thyself of , when thou wilt.
(from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

F.H. Bradley on Matthew Arnold's Religion

I have written of that high toned vivacity which was a mark of the Victorian grand style as practiced by Arnold, Newman and in the following extract from Bradley. (Taken from Francis Herbert Bradley by T.S. Eliot)

Eliot:Here is the identical weapon of Arnold, sharpened to a razor edge and turned against Arnold. ((the following is from Bradley's Ethical Essays))

‘But the “stream” and the “tendency” having served their turn, like last week’s placards, now fall into the background, and we learn at last that “the Eternal” is not eternal at all, unless we give that name to whatever a generation sees happen, and believes both has happened and will happen — just as the habit of washing ourselves might be termed “the Eternal not ourselves that makes for cleanliness”, or “Early to bed and early to rise” the “Eternal not ourselves that makes for longevity”, and so on — that “the Eternal”, m short, is nothing in the world but a piece ofliterary clap-trap. The consequence is that all we are left with isthe assertion that “righteousness” is “ salvation” or welfare, and that there is a “law” and a “Power” which has something to do with this fact; and here again we must not be ashamed to say that we fail to understand what any one of these phrases means, and suspect ourselves once more to be on the scent of clap-trap.’

A footnote conunues the Arnold-baiting in a livelier style:(Eliot)

‘“Is there a God?” asks the reader. “Oh yes,” repkue Mr. Arnold, “and I can verify him in experience.” “And what is he then?” cries the reader. “Be virtuous, and as a rule you will be happy,” is the answer. “Well, and God?” “That is God”, says Mr. Arnold; “there is no deception, and what more do you want?” I suppose we do want a good deal more. Most of us, certainly the public which Mr. Arnold addresses, want something they can worship; and they will not find that in an hypostasized copy-book heading, which is not much more adorable than “Honesty is the best policy”, or “Handsome is that handsome does”, or various other edifying maxims, which have not yet come to an apotheosis.’

How prescient of Mr. Eliot

I must introduce a parenthetical protest against the abuse of the current term ‘social justice’. From meaning ‘justice in relations between groups or classes’ it may slip into meaning a particular assumption as to what these relations should be; and a course of action might be supported because it represented the aim of ‘social justice’, which from the point of view of ‘justice’ was not just. The term ‘social justice’ is in danger of losing its rational content which would he replaced by a powerful emotional charge. I believe that I have used the term myself: it should never be employed unless the user is prepared to define clearly what social justice means to him, and why he thinks it just.
(from Notes Towards the Definition of Culture)

Social Justice Warrior:
- You Mr. Eliot are an elitist fascist and I can point that out without having to explain myself or my position which is very complicated and anyway all my FB friends don’t like you. I’m upset.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Happy Medium

What the good person takes to be good is good according to Aristotle. What the good person does often happens to coincide with a mean, the aurea mediocritas, but not always. A good person may take extreme positions on slavery, on abortion, on rack renting, on social protection etc. The happy medium might be ‘these things will always be with us, we cannot eliminate them so let us try to regulate them in a humane a way as possible’. Correction by History or fatuous meliorism won’t suffice. The good person is, in that over used metaphor, an icon. An icon’s mysterious powers are attained by the artists work on himself via ‘prayer and fasting’. Being perfect from the Latin ‘perfectus’, finished, is not a state that the good person has attained, his work on himself is continuous, never ending.

To focus on actions as the absolute base of our moral assessment of a person is wrong when we don’t know what is in their heart. A tree growing in the shade of another one grows crooked trying to maximise
access to light.

Half right and wholly wrong the Utilitarian is open to evil remedies because results are what count.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Hamlet and Private Judgment (A Protestant to be or not to be)

Stripped of its euphony:

Non existence is a hard one. Some suss really. Some people have very bad luck and you wouldn’t blame them for doing away with themselves. It’s like being asleep only you won’t wake up. But the dreams might not be good. So we stick it out and put up with the boss and legal hassles and all the rest of it in our miserable lives. We just don’t know what’s after life if there is. Thinking and second thoughts paralyze us.

But hey, Ophelia will pray for me.

I think you will agree, that is philosophically trite but there may be a reason for it. In the month of the 500th. anniversary of the nailing of the Articles to the Church Door in Wittenberg where Hamlet went to University I suggest that he in that famous soliloquy is suffering from a bad case of private judgment. Why did old Catholic Hamlet send young Hamlet to that center of Lutheran thought? To become a new man with a new subjectively informed conscience, to get with the program.
((Have a look at, I prithee:
Newman on Private Judgment
Disagree with it but enjoy his ‘supple, periodic prose (Joyce) and his high toned ironic vivacities))

Not far away in time or place Rene Descartes was retiring into an airing room to consult his personal certainty and get it all quite clear. ‘I doubt said the Carpenter and shed a bitter tear’.

Shakespeare had recusant sympathies, that is clear but within the rules of what was permitted on the stage had to hold back on religious controversy. Magic, witchcraft, the Ides of March, love potions and the like were the nearest he could come to discussing spiritual matters. Yet it comes out In Hamlet with mentions of purgatory, auricular confession, remission of sins, the intercession of the dead and the life of the world to come. Above all it is the violent chaos that issues from the Wittenbergerish private judgment that is the central theme. Shakespeare’s father was involved in the Talibanism of the destruction of rood screens and statues, the painting over of murals, and the smashing of stained glass windows of the churches that were under new management. That such atrocity would never surface in the myriad minded man Shakespeare is not credible. At the end of it all the stage of Europe is littered with bodies and Tyburn is ‘a place of much commerce’.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Fail Again, Fail Better with Costica Braditan

Costica Bradatan, those tripping dactyls,has written another hymn to failure in the Los Angeles Review of Books. It’s a special subject of his to which one as a person of no importance is liable to retort ‘Bah humbug’. Read it:
In the course of it he hands out what in Carmelite monasteries were called disciplines, short whips of knotted cords, to keep down brother ass. You are too comfortable, too cosy with your precious confraternities and conferences at which the latest daft ‘ism’ is listened to with respectful nods.

As long as we are part of the group, and play by its rules, we can expect to survive. In exchange, we surrender some of our freedom, our individualism and autonomy, but that is more often than not a good deal. Atavistic as it may be — we can survive alone, now — we still find nothing worse than to be left out, all alone, the one in the corner no one talks to. 

And who is in a corner:

If she now surrenders to the power of the group, the philosopher fails twice. First, she fails because in the eyes of the others she is already a failure — a weakling, an outcast. Then she fails because she doesn’t know how to be a failure: how to use the outsider’s privileged position for philosophical purposes. For, philosophically, to be a failure is a very important thing to be — almost a blessing. Far from being crushed by her social failure, the philosopher could put it to excellent use: to gain insight into the workings of the mind, into the affairs of the human society, the abyss of the human soul. Provided that she knows how to exploit it, the philosopher’s social failure could make her a richer, more penetrating and original thinker.

Is this Jacqueline Horner in the corner? Not at all. It is just any philosopher whatever, one of that anonymous multitude. ‘She’ has replaced ‘he’ as the unmarked pronoun. I have written about this in the past:
golden cobra
no intuitions

Bradatan as an editor of LARB has chosen this otiose hieratic usage. Women who read philosophical papers and essays are in the park already and do not need patronising encouragement. It’s like Huddon of Huddon & Duddon coming downstairs and then going upstairs again to bring down his boots.

He deplores networking but a peek at his C.V. shows that he puts himself about with an international reach. Five editorial appointments, lecturing in Texas and Brisbane, a grant evaluator in the Czech Republic, Cyprus and in Italy. ‘Ah yes’, he might reply, ‘the more I succeed the more I fail, I am rising without a trace’

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Mental Muscles

There are a lot of subjects which find us out when they come aknockin’. Ethics is like that for me, for others its Ontology or Natural Theology or topics like mereology. If I wished to be portentous I could claim that the shadow of the inconscient and its occlusive force falls on us and ought to be resisted. Indeed! Natural Theology and Theodicy introduce the concepts of possibility, necessity, contingency, and causality which are worth any thinking man’s consideration. Missing a highly energised discussion that doesn’t find you in is a mistake.

To offer a silly metaphor: mental muscles are built by resistance. Back then to the Ethics mine and the shambling line of shackled Utilitarians.
cadence shuffle

Broken BBC drama screenplay by Jimmy McGovern

Jimmy McGovern's Broken starring Sean Bean acting the part of a priest in a Liverpool poor working class parish is a return to the tradition of serious drama on the BBC. Did you know that Bean could act without hair extensions or a gelid Viking stare if given the chance. It's a complex six episode series that I won't go into in detail but if you like real dialogue and credible dilemmas you should catch it on your favourite streamer.

What interested me is the power of a reserved knowledge that should maybe have been revealed. Should you tell or not? You don't want to add to a person's suffering. Nothing can be changed by their knowing and they have enough to cope with. They would hate you if they knew. This withholding becomes like a logjam for the total truth of the situation. The truth is pent up behind the various rationalisations of the characters in the drama.

The Ballad of Father Gilligan

By William Butler Yeats

THE old priest, Peter Gilligan,
Was weary night and day;
For half his flock were in their beds,
Or under green sods lay.

Once, while he nodded on a chair,
At the moth-hour of eve,
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.

“I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die”;
And after cried he, “God forgive!
My body spake, not I!”

He knelt, and leaning on the chair
He prayed and fell asleep,
And the moth-hour went from the fields,
And stars began to peep.

They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind,
And God covered the world with shade,
And whispered to mankind.

Upon the time of sparrow chirp
When the moths come once more,
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
Stood upright on the floor.

“Mavrone, mavrone! the man has died,
While I slept on the chair.”
He roused his horse out of its sleep,
And rode with little care.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
“Father! you come again.”

“And is the poor man dead?” he cried.
“He died an hour ago.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
In grief swayed to and fro.

“When you were gone, he turned and died
As merry as a bird.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
He knelt him at that word.

“He who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.

“He who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.”

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Post Mortem Life and the Inconscient

What is it that causes the mind to entertain post mortem survival even if full knowledge will only be possible if there is such a state. My intuition is that the development of consciousness in a person has an open ended quality to it. As we go on there is the enlarging of vistas as though consciousness as such had an unrestricted nature that was only limited by a personal inconscience. That strange word is used by Aurobindo and he defines it:

Inconscient is a status and power of involved consciousness in which being is plunged into another and opposite state of non-manifestation resembling non-existence so that out of it all in the material universe may be manifested. It is a bed-rock for all resistance in the individual and the world to the victory of the Spirit and the Divine Work. Man in spite of its mental power is often impotent before the inconscient and subconscient which obscure its clarity and carry it away on the tide of instinct or impulse; in spite of its clarity it is fooled by vital and emotional suggestions into giving sanction to ignorance and error, to wrong thought and wrong action, or it is obliged to look on while the nature follows what it knows to be wrong, dangerous or evil.

A person can have a sudden access of consciousness beyond their usual state and while it lasts it is natural. It is the inconscient that is a self imposed alienation.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Meditation Note

Can we stop being being conscious of being conscious and still be conscious?
Yes. In Deep Sleep which is the Dark Samadhi.

What then is non-dual meditation?
Being conscious without introspection, without retrospection, without qualia. We move away from the feeling of the feeling of an object.

Does this not precipitate infinite regress?
That is a philosophical question. The answer would be no because of the innate fascination of qualia. Also it is non-adaptive to do so. You will walk into the furniture.

Anyway it’s all consciousness (man).
True but not usefully so at this level of the spiral. Raja yoga employs the techniques of originating consciousness from different chakras i.e. yantra, mantra, asana, pranayama. Experiences are evoked which induce connaturality. That copper beech!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Katha Upanishad - Death Answers

This doubt that arises, consequent on the death of a man - some saying, “It exists” and others saying, “It does not exist” - I would know this, under your instruction. Of all the boons, this one is the third boon.
(Ka. Up. 1.i.20)

Naciketa, in the crisis evoked by the curse of his father, asks Death (Yama) whether our post mortem fate is continuance or annihilation? Being born is being given to death. Is that all there is?

The answer he receives is that it is better not to ask that question. Only the renounced individual is fit to pursue this, it being far easier to gain wealth and delightful nymphs. Knowledge such as this can only be imparted by a realised teacher and not through philosophic lucubrations.

The Self is not certainly adequately known when spoken of by an inferior person; for It is thought of variously. When taught by one who has become identified with It, there is no further cogitation with regard to It. For It is beyond argumentation, being subtler even than the atomic quantity.

The wisdom that you have, O dearest one, which leads to sound knowledge when imparted only by someone else (other than the logician) is not to be attained through argumentation. You are, O compassionable one, endowed with true resolution. May our questioner be like you, O Naciketa
(Ka. 1.ii.8, 9)

A large powerful magnet will magnetize a small piece of iron. Vedantic tradition emphasizes the ideal of a living Master.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Matthew Arnold on Literature

Now, in literature,—I will limit myself to literature, for it is about literature that the question arises,—the elements with which the creative power works are ideas; the best ideas on every matter which literature touches, current at the time; at any rate we may lay it down as certain that in modern literature no manifestation of the creative power not working with these can be very important or fruitful. And I say current at the time, not merely accessible at the time; for creative literary genius does not principally show itself in discovering new ideas, that is rather the business of the philosopher; the grand work of literary genius is a work of synthesis and exposition, not of analysis and discovery; its gift lies in the faculty of being happily inspired by a certain intellectual and spiritual atmosphere, by a certain order of ideas, when it finds itself in them; of dealing divinely with these ideas, presenting them in the most effective and attractive combinations, making beautiful works with them, in short. But it must have the atmosphere, it must find itself amidst the order of ideas, in order to work freely ; and these it is not so easy to command. This is why great creative epochs in literature are so rare; this is why there is so much that is unsatisfactory in the productions of many men of real genius; because, for the creation of a master-work of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment; the creative power has, for its happy exercise, appointed elements, and those elements are not in its own control.
(fromThe Function of Criticism (Essays Literary and Critical by Matthew Arnold))
Stimulating but is it true? In an era of bad, false, meretricious and vacant of sense ideas can there be great literature? Is there out there now some great book that floats above ‘ the filthy post-modern tide’?

The Lost Stradivarius by John Meade Falkner

The preamble of this story is that it is being told to the son of John Maltravers by his aunt the sister of his father. It is told in a stolid, laboured way that assures us that what she is telling us is true for she would not have the imagination to concoct a florid lie. This is a stroke of craftsmanship that when I come to think of it is often used and moreover can disguise limitations in the prose style of the author.

It all began in his rooms at Magdalen College Oxford where the manuscripts of 17th.century music that his friend Gaskell had brought back from Italy lay on a table.

Perhaps by accident, or perhaps by some mysterious direction which our minds are incapable of appreciating, his eye was arrested by a suite of four movements with a basso continuo, or figured bass, for the harpsichord. The other suites in the book were only distinguished by numbers, but this one the composer had dignified with the name of "l'Areopagita." Almost mechanically John put the book on his music-stand, took his violin from its case, and after a moment's tuning stood up and played the first movement, a lively Coranto. The light of the single candle burning on the table was scarcely sufficient to illumine the page; the shadows hung in the creases of the leaves, which had grown into those wavy folds sometimes observable in books made of thick paper and remaining long shut; and it was with difficulty that he could read what he was playing. But he felt the strange impulse of the old-world music urging him forward, and did not even pause to light the candles which stood ready in their sconces on either side of the desk. The Coranto was followed by a Sarabanda, and the Sarabanda by a Gagliarda. My brother stood playing, with his face turned to the window, with the room and the large wicker chair of which I have spoken behind him. The Gagliarda began with a bold and lively air, and as he played the opening bars, he heard behind him a creaking of the wicker chair. The sound was a perfectly familiar one—as of some person placing a hand on either arm of the chair preparatory to lowering himself into it, followed by another as of the same person being leisurely seated. But for the tones of the violin, all was silent, and the creaking of the chair was strangely distinct. The illusion was so complete that my brother stopped playing suddenly, and turned round expecting that some late friend of his had slipped in unawares, being attracted by the sound of the violin, or that Mr. Gaskell himself had returned.

This is the beginning of his oppression by the spirit of Adrian Temple who once had these rooms. The primary vehicle of his reach is the Stradivarius that he left after him in a secret cupboard built into the wainscoting but obscured by a century of overpainting. Playing the Gagliarda becomes obsessive, at first on his own violin but then on the instrument owned by Temple. This misprision or larceny by finding Maltravers hides from his friend Gaskell who has been accompanying him on the piano. They both hear the creaking of the cane armchair but see nothing. After the completion of the gagliarda the reverse manouver of a person leaving the chair is heard. The guilt that he feels at the retention of this valuable instrument begins his alienation from the world at large and it creates the void that is filled by the malign spirit. Naturally as an Englishman and a Protestant one looks for a rational explanation:

I shall not weary you, my dear Edward, by recounting similar experiences which occurred on nearly every occasion that the young men met in the evenings for music. The repetition of the phenomenon had accustomed them to expect it. Both professed to be quite satisfied that it was to be attributed to acoustical affinities of vibration between the wicker-work and certain of the piano wires, and indeed this seemed the only explanation possible. 

The tragic events that unfold utterly belie the rationalism that tries to comprehend the evil that reaches them from the past. Its path is enhanced by the connection that Temple has with the wife to be of Maltravers. He is an ancestor of hers and the portrait in the gallery of her home has always unsettled. Coincidence? With a fate many paths cross.

A good read find it on Gutenberg project:the lost stradivarius

Monday, 18 September 2017


I’ve been reading here and there about panpsychism, panexperientalism, protopanpsychism and whatever you’re having yourself. It’s various and varied and those deeply read in the literature of the topic such as David Skrbina, (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy), would claim that many thinkers hold it. Among them would be Henri Bergson. His ideas on memory and duration fit with only light trimming into the information based intuitions of David Chalmers. The concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘memory’ are analogical applied to inanimate nature. We feel that they are present in some rudimentary form. The canyon holds the memory of many floods, the pitting of the rock is the memory of rain. Their history is written on them, they are informed and their nature is made manifest. Inanimate matter is submissive to events. Simple cells and bacteria can ‘select’ their experience and move to a better part of the petri dish of life. This is all metaphorical and that is just the point.

In the concrete object memory and experience are layered as information. They are embedded. In the sentient creature they can be separated out and considered in a an abstract way as well as interact. The greater the separation the more consciousness their is. In the human we have memories, dreams, and reflections all inter- penetrating yet Bergson would say that our soul reality is duration. All these elements which are conscious are compacted in a sold ‘I AM’.

The IMAGINATION then, I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealise and unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.
(from Biographia Litteraria by Coleridge)

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (pub.1967)

The story is told with the yarning tone of a cowboy God hopping from mind to mind. Pay attention; everything is significant, anything that is left out would have impeded the story that you the listener can plait in yourself. Phil is the older brother of the two that run a big cattle spread in Montana. They trail a thousand head in the fall down to the railhead at Beech a dismal little town that has the amenities that a cowboy might require, whiskey and sporting women. The time is 1925 as near as I can make out. Phil is the smart one that affects yokelosity. There’s a sneer in that and surely must have been part of the profound contempt that drove his parents to a retirement in Salt Lake City. They originally came from Boston, Mass. and they brought their gentility with them even unto fingerbowls which the invited rich ranchers and distinguished locals never knew what to do with. The other brother is George a stocky, slow, reliable sort of sound man. Between them they run the ranch and share the tasks. Phil does the castration of the bull calves and George ropes them. My stockman pocket knife has a round ended blade for popping out the testicles, Phil tears them out. Is that a signal one asks oneself? Is Phil a self-emasculating man whose need to control everything has eliminated a point of weakness. I guess.

After an embarrassing visit to the bunkhouse a callow hand asks:

When he had gone, one of the new loudmouthed young cowhands spoke right up. "Hey — he's sort of a lonely cuss, ain't he? Like about what we was saying before he come in, do you guess anybody ever loved him? Or maybe he ever loved anybody?" The oldest man in the bunkhouse stared at the young fellow. What the young fellow had said was unsuitable, even ugly. What had love to do with Phil? The oldest man in the bunkhouse reached down and patted the head of a little brown bitch that slept close. "I wouldn't want to be saying nothing about him and love. And if I was you, I wouldn't call him a cuss. It don't show respect."
"Well, hell," the young fellow said, blushing.
"You got to learn to show respect. You got an awful lot to learn about love."

Phil is a puzzle to all. He can do anything he sets his mind and hands to, woodwork from the little to the large, inch high Sheraton chairs carved with a scalpel and giant derricks for stacking the hay bales adze dubbed and hand planed. He’s a first class blacksmith and taxidermist and a banjo player. This last may have been part of his rube persona to annoy the aesthete parents and their Victrola charged with classical music. Little Red Wing, heh, heh. He likes too to talk about the old times, he’s 40, which is a touch premature. Anyway Bronco Henry was his mentor when he was a young feller who taught him how to fashion a hide lariat. Modern man gets to wondering about this relationship and Annie Proulx in her afterword comes right out with it. Was Phil a repressed homosexual? Plait that in if you wish but it’s a frail strand. Phil has a good college degree from a California university (where George failed), he keeps up with things and if there were the slightest impulse towards homosexuality he would not talk about Bronco. Phil is too guarded to give anything like that away. Bronco was a loved mentor and he died, stomped to death in a corral. Sometimes a lariat is just a lariat.

George is the antithesis of Phil in being not very smart but very kind and he springs a surprise by a secret marriage to Rose the widow of a doctor who committed suicide. The suggestion is that it was the result of a humiliating incident with Phil. Young Peter the son knows this. The interesting element in the characterization is the contrast between clever Phil and clever Peter who according to the code of the cowboy is a certified sissy.

Phil resents the intrusion of a woman into the life of the family, a cheap schemer after the money . He sets out to break her and sets about it methodically.

After supper Phil read for a time close by the lamp; then he rose abruptly and marched down the hall to the bedroom, closed the door behind him and got out his banjo and tuned up. He had to smile, had to smile thinking of George coming into that house with this woman, trying to make things smooth. How had he said? You remember Rose? That was it. What kind of a name was Rose. The name of somebody's cook. He had to smile, had to smile thinking of George down on one knee before the unlighted fire — a little disappointed that Phil had not lighted it before their arrival, that the room might be all comfortable and welcoming. Ha-ha-ha. George should have known Phil better than to think he would do something he didn't feel. Phil had to smile thinking of the sidelong glance Rose gave him at the supper table. He knew how he looked, knew it would get her goat. It used to get the Old Lady's goat, the rumpled shirt, the uncombed hair, the stubble of beard, the unwashed hands. She might just as well get smart to the fact that he didn't do things like other people because he wasn't like other people, that he left his napkin pointedly untouched, reached for food rather than asked for it, and if he had to snuffle his nose, he snuffled. If the fancy relatives back East could stomach it, God knew this woman could, and if she was unused to a man's leaving the table without first bowing and scraping and saying ''Excuse me," she might just as well catch on now. Oh yes (he had to smile) she was in for a few surprises.

I’ll say no more about this book which though it was well received critically in 1967 didn’t sell much and then disappeared. The many strands in it are twisted together smoothly and there is no makeweight filler. Quite simply, this is an American classic.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Unattached Self

Besides, one has to imagine that the Self can have the attribute of coming into contact with others, which idea is repugnant to the Vedas and Smirtis; for such are the Vedic and Smirti texts: “Unattached, for It is never attached” (Brh.III.ix.26) “It is unconnected, and is the supporter of all” (B.G. XIII.14) Moreover, since logic demands that a thing that has attributes, and is not of a different category, can come into contact with another having attributes, therefore it is illogical to hold that the Self which is attributeless, undifferentiated, and distinct from everything else, can come into contact with anything whatsoever that does not belong to the same category. Hence if the Self is the witness of all cognitions, then and not otherwise is established the idea that the Self, which is an effulgence that is in reality eternal and undecaying knowledge, is Brahman. Therefore the expression pratibodha videtam (known with every state of awareness) has the meaning as explained by us.
(from Shankara’s commetary on Kena Up. II.4)
Here we have presented an idea similar to that of Aristotle in De Anima namely that only things of the same sort can interact. That book is not to hand at the moment so I will search out that citation later. Unchanging and present in all states of awareness means that it is identified with pure consciousness or Brahman and therefore the highest state of consciousness is spoken of as sahaj samadhi or natural samadhi.
Ramana Maharshi defined it as:
Sahaja samadhi is a state in which the silent awareness of the subject is operant along with (simultaneously with) the full use of the human faculties.
Ramana in the meditation hall sitting on his couch reading the newspaper, chatting with the devotees, ‘it says here’, never loses contact with the Self.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Gulliver's Plea Bargain

It was a custom introduced by this prince and his ministry (very different, as I have been assured, from the practice of former times,) that after the court had decreed any cruel execution, either to gratify the monarch’s resentment, or the malice of a favourite, the emperor always made a speech to his whole council, expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known and confessed by all the world.  This speech was immediately published throughout the kingdom; nor did any thing terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his majesty’s mercy; because it was observed, that the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent. Yet, as to myself, I must confess, having never been designed for a courtier, either by my birth or education, I was so ill a judge of things, that I could not discover the lenity and favour of this sentence, but conceived it (perhaps erroneously) rather to be rigorous than gentle.  I sometimes thought of standing my trial, for, although I could not deny the facts alleged in the several articles, yet I hoped they would admit of some extenuation.  But having in my life perused many state-trials, which I ever observed to terminate as the judges thought fit to direct, I durst not rely on so dangerous a decision, in so critical a juncture, and against such powerful enemies.