donsalmon wrote: ↑Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:48 am
Let me preface this by saying when it comes to intellectual discussion (I know there's a lot of intuition involved here but there's a lot of surface intellect as well; not a criticism or judgment just an observation) my interest is almost entirely in challenging the materialist view - which, as you know, as I've been saying this since I first came across BK's work in 2013, I think he should have confined himself to and not attempted to come up with an alternative for which - I'm going to get a lot of flak for this - I didnt' think he was qualified for then and still don't think he is now. I hasten to add - he's just about the best out there these days in terms of criticizing materialism, but the alternative, not so much.
Quick point - Ashvin, not sure where you got the idea I object to the idea of spiritual hierarchies in general; as far as I know that's universal in genuine spiritual texts. Regarding Krishna or Christ (both avatars) or, mythical or not, Rama for that matter, I just can't go into intellectual detail here. - admittedly again, probably too strong an emotional bias - I'll demonstrate: "Steiner's view on Krishna is really hardly a level beyond Qanon.". That may end that part of the conversation (I of course implicitly assume we don't have Quanon supporters here; I think I'm misspelling it too but I don't have the energy to check; hmm, maybe Don is Q!)
As far as detail, have you read much of Sri Aurobindo? In 2000, I began plowing through over 2000 documents (I'm not exaggerating; I counted to make sure; lost them ALL when, on the moving day out of New York City, I THOUGHT I had copied everything on one of those 1990s zip drives; left the computer in our 2nd Avenue lobby for literally 30 seconds, and it, of course, was stolen)
Anyway, among those documents were numerous ones on Steiner (and directly from PoF) that I had collected. By then I had spent a summer studying Henri Bortoft, a physicist/anthroposophist, had extensively studied Arthur Zajonc (and talked with him), former Anthroposophical society president) browsed hundreds of books at the Steiner book store on, I think, 15th street? and attended numerous discussion groups at that store.
Not impressed. Sorry. And I know, that's not helpful, but I already warned you, it's been some years since I've been drawn to having intellectual conversations about these things; just seems pointless. Either you see or you dont. Sorry to be so dramatic.
Boy I'm really rambling (this is reflective of my resistance of getting the analytic mind involved)
Ok, I'll get to the point.
If you want to know where to find the goods in Sri Aurobindo, look in the old version of Letters on Yoga (I think it's from the 1970s - in any case, it's available free online at www.aurobindo.ru
(sorry, I should provide a link, but you know, just reading it isn't going to do anything; you can find all this out by, sorry, looking within - or really, all around)
The section, starting on page 243 or 238 or therabouts - is "Planes and Parts of of the Being.". Actually, there's an opening 4 or 5 pages where he explains the fundamentals of consciousness. I read that in 1976 (after haing studied Steiner for some 4 years) and immediately realized, "That's it. The whole universe is there and you really don't need to read anything else if you get it.". Still feel the same way 45 years later.
which brings to mind one more thing that might make my perspective clear. I read Adventure of Consciousness by Satprem - a biography of Sri Aurobindo that goes through the whole sadhana and philosophy of Integral Yoga. I had had a vision of the work I was to do in this lifetime in my late teens, and it involed some kind of spiritual psychology. 6 years later, somewhere in the chapter on Consciousness, I recognzied this as something I had worked with when living in India in the 1930s and 40s (yes, another incarnation).
And I immediately thought, "well, it's been done. I guess I'll have to find something else to do in this life.". And for. years, really, years, I would show people this book = even people who had been associated with Sri Aurobindo for years, even people WHO WERE WELLKNOWN FOR WRITING ABOUT INTEGRAL YOGA - and I could see they really had no idea what it was really about.
In 1998, I made contact wtih a psychiatrist who lived at the Aurobindo Ashram since the mid 1970s. He was the most brilliant, intuitive writer on Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga psychology I'd ever met or read. I wrote him one day and said, "Finally, someone I can talk to who really understands this stuff.". He wrote back and said the same thing." BUT BUT I wrote, you've been there, in the Ashram, in touch with all those writer sin Auroville?"
no, very very few really had any idea what Sri AUrobindo was really pointing to.
So I confine mmy talking to deconstructing materialism. I prefer to do it at a middle school level. Talk about basic neuroscience - forget quantum physics. Talk about the insane idea that neuroscientists have had for nearly 200 years that color, soudns, aren't real and are created in some thing they've cooked up called a "physical" brain. The funny thing is nobody believes this when they hear about it - I've talked to commited atheists, physicalists who hae never thought it through, and when they first hear about it they don't believe it. All you have to do is lead them step by step to see they are right and the neuroscientsits are wrong, and that's it.
Beyond that, look within.
So I talk about practice instead of philosophy (www.RememberToBe.Life
). A simple sort of dualist start (like the Buddhists, skillful means and all that.
To close wtih steiner, I had several conversations with Robert McDermott over the years. I met him in 1980 when he was still involved with Sri Aurobindo.
I ran into him again when he gave the very first talk at the New. York Open Center. I said to him, "Steiner, are you kidding?". He replied, "I'm an intellectual. I like details and I pretty much absorbed all Sri Aurobindo had to say.'
wow. It's been 46 years and I think there may be a sentence or two somewhere in the 30 volumes of Sri Aurobindo and 17 volumes of the Mother (plus the other 13 volumes of Mother's Agenda) that I actually understand. Then I write to my other friend who actually understands Sri Aurobindo, and he explains to me why I'm wrong. This is why I have abandoned intellectual converations about these things.
I hope my ramblings didn't drive you all crazy. Meanwhile, I'm maybe less than a week from finishing our sleep course and I'm thinking the music may be the. key to lucid dreaming. So if anybody wants to try a parapsychology experiment, get our sleep coure, learn to lucid dream, and we can all agree to meet up somewhere and later compare notes.
That should be fun!
Sri Aurobindo is surely one of the most progressive examples of elevation of the yogic tradition beyond the flat mystical dogma.
There's no point getting in a vs. debate. It's not even needed for one to have read all the volumes of Aurobindo or all the volumes of Steiner (which are ~350 by the way). The important thing is to enter into the essentials. And we live in the essential all the time, so we're not speculating about things beyond our light cone.
Let's look at something which doesn't require anything more than our healthy cognition. For example in the Letters we read:
Sri Aurobindo wrote:Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence – it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it – not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently “unconscious” energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form.
All of this is beautiful and deeply true - no question about it. Yet it is still an expression of thinking (not abstract intellect but spiritual activity that we find in consciousness). Thinking in concepts is in it's very nature of dual character. For example, when we think with our inner voice "Consciousness is a fundamental thing", what is it really that thinking points to? When we speak about "dog", "table" and so on, thinking focuses on concrete perceptions. This feels natural - we focus on the visual image of a dog and we experience the concept, the meaning of the animal dog. But what is it that thinking speaks of when it says 'consciousness'? Usually it is the totality of phenomena. For example, we focus on the device screen that we look at the moment. Then we expand our attention to encompass the visual perception of the whole room. Then we expand to include also what we hear, what we smell, taste. Then we expand to include also our feelings, then also the image of the very activity that we perform - the expanding the perimeter of attention. Once we have expanded in this way we say "Now these are the contents of consciousness. This is the World Content". Yet we know that this content is only a momentary peek through the tiny aperture of our human consciousness. Even our ordinary psyche is immeasurably vaster than what we experience in any moment. Just think how much time it would take us if we are to think one by one about everything that we know, every memory, every fact, every piece of knowledge. It's clear that at any point we experience only the tiniest tip of the iceberg of all this. So we must include this also in Consciousness. Yet here's the thing - we can do that only in a different
way compared to the expansion of attention. When we expand attention we encompass concrete
perceptions. If we want to expand further, beyond our current aperture, we no longer perceive concretely
. Instead we live in the idea
of infinite potential beyond the aperture. It is of key
importance that we grasp this. The inability to have crystal clear cognition of this fact is the main reason for the most confused ... I can't call them even conceptions, about what consciousness is. And don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing that consciousness should be reduced to intellectual conceptions. This can only occur if we have completely prejudiced notion on the nature of idea - that is, if we imagine ideas only as local to the mind phenomena.
The whole enigma lies in inner utterances of the kind "... nothing but consciousness arranging itself". It is quite clear that as long as we speak this thought in our mind, it is inevitable the we objectify
consciousness - we're creating thought-image of consciousness
that thinking contemplates. Usually this thought-image is simply the mental verbal word "consciousness" but it's still an image, a symbol for meaning. The great mystery is what is the place of this thinking activity in the whole picture, this conscious activity which objectifies its totality into a thought-image. And herein lies also the difference if one will find their way to the deeper strata of reality or will continue to lay down more and more majestic images of the infinite consciousness, where thinking is considered only one of those images.
But what happens when we decide to investigate up close the nature of these bubbling up thought-images? Here we have a division of opinions. The mystically inclined will say "It is nonsense to investigate the nature of thinking. This can only lead to recursion, to ever deeper convolution in thoughts. It is not possible to seek deeper strata behind thoughts - thinking is simply an arrangement of phenomena within consciousness." It is perfectly true that thoughts present
themselves within consciousness as arrangement of phenomena but is it really the case that there's no structure to them? These thoughts don't exist in isolation. They are expressions of the whole iceberg that lies outside the aperture. Would it be possible to speak the quoted sentence if we hadn't already spent countless hours thinking, reflecting, meditating on these things? Would it be possible, if we didn't have the words and grammar of language that may translate the hidden meaning into arrangements of sounds? Aurobindo rightly says:
Sri Aurobindo wrote:Men do not know themselves and have not learned to distinguish the different parts of their being; for these are usually lumped together by them as mind, because it is through a mentalised perception and understanding that they know or feel them; therefore they do not understand their own states and actions, or, if at all, then only on the surface. It is part of the foundation of yoga to become conscious of the great complexity of our nature, see the different forces that move it and get over it a control of directing knowledge.
It is indeed that especially thinking is the thing that most readily flattens out on the surface. We flow through invisible landscape of meaning and see arrangements of words. We use these words to differentiate ever more the complexity of inner and outer nature. Yet as long as we are engaged in this activity, we're unconscious of the forces that structure thinking itself. This is the fatal blind spot that is so easy to fall in for.
It is not that difficult to convince ourselves that our thinking operates only on the surface of a deep structure lying entirely in the blind spot. Don says "... emotional bias". What is this if not a deeper layer of forces that unknowingly steer the conceptual landscape that we see in thinking. In the sensory world we more or less have agreement on the spatial environment but we're far from agreeing on the ideal landscape. The reason is that most of us are literally on different ideal continents (domains of consciousness). Then one speaks of something while the other says "You're crazy. I see absolutely nothing of what you describe." Our sympathies and antipathies are the main driving forces that unknowingly lead us (and usually anchor us) within given ideal continent. Then anything we think on the surface is nothing but intuitive descriptions of our ideal environment. One speaks of green meadows, of sparkling rivers, fragrant gardens, while another speaks of deserts, tundras, swamps, etc.
This is the first thing to take into account. We're really deluding ourselves if we imagine that just because we have equipped ourselves with the general idea of "consciousness within which all phenomena reside", we have in fact attained to some top-level vantage point. We simply have no right to speak about the One perspective if we don't perceive how the ideal landscapes, the forces of sympathy and antipathy, the linguistic etheric structures, transduce meaning into thoughts.
Let's do an experiment - add 89 and 144 in our mind. After we're done we can try that again but this time while trying to observe what we are actually doing in thinking
while doing the math. Everyone may have somewhat different methods, someone may be using imaginary fingers or abacus. Others - visual symbols. In most cases neither of these are experienced vividly but only the meaning of what is being done. In any case, if we observe closely we can't fail but notice that we're performing something, we're doing something which we can call 'thinking gestures'. Our spirit assumes shapes, relates them together, fits them as pieces of puzzle, feels if the fitting makes sense or not. It's clear that these gestures are not arbitrary but are part of a much more encompassing landscape of meaning. What one imagines this landscape to be, is irrelevant. The simple fact is that our spiritual activity metamorphoses while interacting with some environment that restricts it, gives it form.
When we make calculations in everyday life we're wholly focused on the task at hand. We don't investigate the thinking gestures that we perform in order to do the math. Yet who can deny that these gestures are always there, even when we're fully engulfed in the meaning of the numbers? These are things that people generally don't pay attention to and rightly so, because we can't do both at the same time. We either calculate or we observe the thinking gestures which interrupts the calculation process. So in our intellectual life it is completely natural that we live in the meaning
of what we do, while being oblivious of what
we do as spiritual activity. While this is natural for our life in the sensory world, if we don't pay attention to these things when we delve into spiritual matters, we're paving the way for great illusions caused by blindness
As said, Aurobindo's writings are majestic. Yet things always moves forward (Aurobindo speaks of involution and evolution which sets him apart from many other traditions). It remains to understand - evolution of what? The immediate answer will be "of consciousness, of course". OK, then let's see what this implies.
When we speak about the One and the Many, involution, evolution, consciousness, we're living in ideas, in meaning. The more clearly we understand these grand ideas, the more we see their image everywhere in the contents of consciousness (which includes the perceptions of the sensory world). But what are we innerly doing when we think about these grand ideas? We're being spiritually active, we're performing certain thinking gestures, similar to the gestures behind adding numbers, but of much more expanded, fluidic, majestic character. We're performing these gestures and experiencing their reflections everywhere. We think "There's only Brahman and everything exists in his consciousness". We fill the unbounded sea of consciousness with the meaning
of these words and the whole contents of consciousness becomes as living testimony for this idea. We encompass the totality and say "It's true - everything exists in Brahman. I'm a perspective of Brahman".
This is all very magnificent but we easily forget that after all it's still a gesture of our thinking spirit. It's not difficult to see that this is the case. If we were the Absolute perspective of Brahman, then the whole Cosmos would have to be the contents of our consciousness. We would will the existence of stars and planets, instead of verbal thoughts. So there's no denying that we live in a microcosmic perspective of the One. We experience only a limited aperture. When we experience a grand idea, such as the deep meaning of Brahman, we are performing a thinking gesture - we imitate
Brahman, with our spirit we expand in the infinity of space and imagine that what we experience is all there is. This is all very well and necessary but we shouldn't forget that we're experiencing only an microcosmic imitation of Brahman, not yet the Cosmic perspective of Brahman.
There's a point in evolution where something new must take place. If a baby is not born out of the womb, it will continue to grow inside it and its situation will become less and less comfortable. Similarly, when filling our souls with images such as the presented by Aurobindo, we're growing in the womb. We're erecting these images through thinking gestures of our spirit. Our birth begins when these gestures begin to enter the field of consciousness. Now the images do not reflect simply our grandiose Cosmic ideas filling our soul but also
the gestures of our thinking through which we erect the majestic images in the first place.
This is the place where paths split for many. When we being to enter the spiritual realms we begin to discover many new processes there. Imagine two persons adding numbers. One is aware only of the numbers and the end result - he is fully engulfed in the meaning of the numbers. The other turns attention inwards and describes the thinking gestures. He says things like "When I add the numbers I see how my spiritual activity takes the form similar to abacus beads, they move around, change configurations. This is something that I do subconsciously every time I add numbers but it becomes conscious only when I explicitly turn my attention to it." The other blinks in confusion and says: "Man, you're consumed with the 10,000 things. You are overintellectualizing. All that exists is conscious phenomena. The numbers enter and leave consciousness. They add themselves. When you try to look in greater details you're only fantasizing intellectual details."
Alas, this is exactly the situation with spiritual matters. One party is completely satisfied with living in magnificent images that simply come and go. There's no structure, no logic, no patterns - it's only consciousness dreaming phenomena. Thinking is seen as just one such dreamed up phenomena. Focusing on thinking seems as a distraction that leads us away from the totality and plunges us into fragmentary details.
The above objection can be made only by someone who has never made any attempt to experience the thinking gestures behind adding numbers or any other form of thinking spiritual activity. The one who doesn't forbid
himself to enter into this experience, will immediately know "I'm now living in a more fundamental stratum of my being. I'm living as one with the processes that precede the thoughts and image formation on the surface of consciousness."
Here we witness the difference between being born in the spiritual world or continuing to live with generalized images in the womb. Those who keep piling up images in the womb by necessity will feel antipathy for those who share observations of the spiritual gestures and environment. They have no choice but view these as intellect succumbed into fantasy. Yet these same persons should simply keep in mind that there's always a direction of investigation that they avoid - it's the "What I'm really doing with my spiritual activity when I fill my soul with the images of Brahman, consciousness, oneness, etc."
Sadly, this observation is not easy to make for many. There's great resistance to even think about the possibility of such observation. There's something which whispers "No, this can't be true. I'm observing the objective phenomena of consciousness. Thoughts just come and go, they are simply creations of consciousness just like any other."
And this leads to a kind of vicious recursive cycle. Because if we ask "OK, but where do the thoughts that I just thought (the previous sentences in the quotes) come from? The thoughts with which I think about the thoughts?"
the answer will be the same "They are just creations of consciousness."
Do we spot the pattern? Consciousness, which allegedly is the creator of the thoughts, must continually think of itself as something external to itself
, which is responsible for thinking. There's an inner conflict. On one hand consciousness believes itself to be the creator of the thoughts, on the other, if it tries to experience itself in the act of that creation
it says to itself "Oh, no, this is just wrong, I'm identifying with the mind"
. It's not about identifying with the mind but about being one
with the creative process that thinks the thoughts. This is the only logical thing to do if we really maintain that "consciousness creates the thoughts"
. Yet note again how the moment thinking pronounces these latter words, it places itself outside consciousness, as if from a third-person perspective. The mind conceives consciousness as a grandiose image of a totality and further pictures how from the image of consciousness, thoughts bubble up. If we really stand by the idea "consciousness creates the thoughts"
the only logical thing would be to experience ourselves as the creative force of thinking (since we are
the consciousness). Otherwise we speak one thing but at the moment we need to experience the reality of what we speak of, we quickly dissociate and pretend to be an illusionary, non-existent, third-person mind. This conflict is resolved only when consciousness finds its creative activity in the act of thinking. Only when we can say in full consciousness "I think the words that I'm now uttering"
, we have an actual experience where consciousness creates the thoughts. Not as seen from imaginary third-person perspective but from the actual first person perspective of consciousness. Every attempt to see thoughts as emerging in any other way than this, produces the split - consciousness unknowingly pretends to be the illusionary and non-existent mind, while it objectifies itself and imagines that the objectified image is responsible for the thoughts.
Such are the traps that lie ahead of anyone who seeks reality. Yet there are also the means to recognize and avoid the traps, and go ever further. The question is does one has the inner desire to do so? Do we want to awaken to the deeper strata where the spirit is creatively active or we want to continue piling up images in the womb and continue speaking about "consciousness creating thoughts"
, but hanging this only as an icon on the womb's wall, that inspires us and gives us comfort. We can never know how Brahman creates Worlds if we don't allow ourselves to experience how Brahman thinks thoughts in our microcosmic aperture. The thinking gestures that we perform when we think the words are only the entrance into the depths of the Spiritual World, where the Thinking gestures of the hierarchies are to be found. If we imagine the hierarchies only as majestic images in the womb we can have at best only that - pictures, at worst - hallucinations (which are pictures confused for reality). Just as we know our thinking only as images until we awaken for the spiritual gestures that we perform and of which the images are only reflections, so we enter the Spiritual World when this process continues further and we live together (in the same first-person perspective) with the Thinking gestures of Cosmic Beings, creating and supporting reality.