Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

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AshvinP
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

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Soul_of_Shu wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:33 am
AshvinP wrote: Wed Oct 13, 2021 11:13 pm Dana,

It could be helpful if you pointed to a specific timestamp in the video where this idea is discussed.
Well the excerpt from The Life Divine is about the threefold process by which the soul completely emerges in its human expression, to which the entire passage is pertinent. So an excerpt of the excerpt would not have covered it all.

I see. Well, related to my last comment, fundamental threefold relations of spiritual evolution simply cannot be missed by sound reasoning. They will inevitably emerge from any such analysis. Just one of practically endless examples from Steiner:

Steiner wrote:The above conceptions may easily be misunderstood as an attempt to identify the "I" with God. But it has not been stated that the "I" is God, but only that it is of the same nature and essence as the Divine. Would anyone contend that a drop of water is the sea when he says that the drop is of the same essence or substance as the sea? If we wish to use a comparison, we may say that the drop of water has the same relationship to the sea that the "I" has to the Divine. Man can find the Divine within himself because his innermost being is drawn from the Divine. Thus he acquires, through this, the third member of his soul, an inner knowledge of himself, just as he gains through his astral body a knowledge of the outer world. Therefore, occult science can call this third member of the soul the consciousness soul; and, in this sense, the soul consists of three members: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul, and the consciousness soul, just as the corporeal part of man consists of three members — the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body.

Barfield captures some of the threefold dynamics very well with this diagram:


Image
Last edited by AshvinP on Thu Oct 14, 2021 3:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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donsalmon
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by donsalmon »

well, this is very funny.

Not long after sending the above comment, I started reading Canto 4 from Book 1 of Sri Aurobindo's Savitri.

And what do you know? lines about spiritual hierarchies!

(you can read the whole poem if you go to www.savitrithepoem.com)

Only the Immortals on their deathless heights
Dwelling beyond the walls of Time and Space,
Masters of living, free from the bonds of Thought,
Who are overseers of Fate and Chance and Will
And experts of the theorem of world-need,
Can see the Idea, the Might that change Time’s course,
Come maned with light from undiscovered worlds,
Hear, while the world toils on with its deep blind heart
, The galloping hooves of the unforeseen event
, Bearing the superhuman Rider, near
And, impassive to earth’s din and startled cry,
Return to the silence of the hills of God;
As lightning leaps, as thunder sweeps, they pass
And leave their mark on the trampled breast of Life
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

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donsalmon wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:48 am Hi guys:

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.

Don,

I think this comment makes your position pretty clear - you feel spiritual matters are beyond the orbit of any sort of intellectual reasoning. Either that, or you just don't have patience for that intellectual discussion, which I think is unlikely given you are an accomplished professor and have no problem using it in challenging materialism. On that last point, by the way, I really disagree that it's most important to challenge materialism, unless we are defining "materialism" as abstract non-thinking reductionism of any sort. Metaphysical materialism, I think, is on the way out of its own accord. I am sure there was a time when focusing on challenging it was pretty important, but I feel that time has already passed. And, I find it nearly useless to challenge materialism without also proposing what should replace it. So I have no problem with BK trying to do that, although I also disagree with his replacement.

Anyway, someone who feels the way you do about spiritual matters cannot help but dislike Steiner and his entire spiritual approach. His writings are not only chock full of highly logical and reasoned arguments, but he also places Thinking front and center of the entire spiritual framework. Although he proposes that we should transfigure mere intellect into higher cognition, he also thinks the intellectual conceptual foundation, carefully reasoned through, is of utmost importance in the beginning of our spiritual journey. So anyway, there's no need to apologize... if that's how you feel about it, then that's how you feel, and I have no interest in convincing someone to have an intellectual discussion if they really have no interest in any such discussions.

I am not too familiar with Aurobindo's writings, but so far I find them to be immanently logical and well-reasoned. I don't really buy into the notion that, when we feel we have reached a solid understanding of something only to then find out there is a better understanding, this means we should abandon the intellectual pursuit altogether. This is also what happens in law school when reading a bunch of case opinions, majority, concurring, and dissenting. Each opinions feels like its the most logical until you get to the next one, and then that one feels the most logical. I actually think Steiner's spiritual science makes sense of why this happens in the first place, but maybe I can save that argument for another time. Suffice to say, I view these never-ending flirtations with apparently conflicting arguments and interpretations as a function of our own limited intellect when dealing with deep matters of living essence, rather than inherent to Reality itself, and therefore something we can and should overcome.
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by Cleric K »

donsalmon wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:48 am Hi guys:

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.

Sorry!

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.
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by AshvinP »

Cleric K wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:01 pm 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.

Great post, very helpful!

And it may help here to remember what critical idealism generally recognizes when critiquing materialism, but always fails to apply to itself - naive realism. It is assumed how we perceive and think, right this moment, is the totality of what we are calling "Thinking" and "Idea". This is especially a strange assumption for idealist understanding in the tradition of Western thought (prior to Kant). There is really no other way to put it... this is born of egoism and arrogance. I am not excluding myself from this modern mental habit - it takes a lot of sustained effort and discplined thinking to continue reminding oneself of these egoic shortcomings. But there is no logical warrant for this basic error of naive realism. I have thought about it very carefully - where is the error in the logic, the chink in the armor? There is none. Really the only question becomes, when we discover this aspect of logical certainty about our Thinking experience, as close to certainty about something in our experience that we can possibly get, are we going to ignore it or follow up on it and see where else it may lead?

Cleric's post also reminded me of this from Emerson:

Emerson wrote:But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence... And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER. It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature.

What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories. This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf; “Can these things be, And overcome us like a summer’s cloud, Without our special wonder?” for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
ParadoxZone
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by ParadoxZone »

Hi all,

This post contains some "personal" experiences though it's very related to this thread. Consider this a trigger warning although many posts here might usefully begin with that. It's quite long, though structured enough (by my standards anyway). It may be of interest to regular forum contributors as well as to lurkers who might find it interesting, helpful or both. It's mainly about metaphors, mixing metaphors and those things we sometimes call inklings - those notions we are exposed to and that hang around although we're never sure why. It's also about interpretations.

I listened (a few times) to the video Shu posted from "The Life Divine". It's very beautiful and the narrator's voice helps. I also read most of the letters that were posted by Ben (since deleted). I can only say that I've seen nothing that conflicts with anything I've read from Steiner. I've read PoF (quite slowly, I had to work at it), Knowledge of Higher Worlds (quickly, being already familiar with most of the concepts discussed) and will probably fly through Theosophy when I get round to it. Clerivin (joke) has already written about the most important points.

From my limited readings, my impression of Steiner's writing style is that it's very direct, concrete, to the point. This works particularly well for PoF which really has to be this way for maximum effectiveness. For the other books, there are places where the style could easily grate with a reader. He speaks of a "man" and his "working life" and his worldly "duties" quite a lot. This is easy to get past though, considering when these books were written and lifestyles at the time. A City-dweller (like me) just needs to note how different lifestyles are now ( even for a "man"), with work, commuting to work, family life (including childcare), sometimes travel for work, elder care, trying to find some downtime, etc. Delineations are nowhere as clearcut now.

As for Aurobindo, from what I've seen, his patience shines through. I needed to look up some terms and re-familiarise myself with others. A difficulty might be that there are so many bits to the planes that it might be difficult to hold all of them in awareness at the same time. Clearly, training is part of this and his writings were also at a particular time and primarily for a particular culture. This might not be an issue for those who have undergone the particular training over a long enough period. It's OK for Don to say that you either get it or you don't. A pointer to what's not being got might be helpful. (This is not a criticism - I'm sure Don provides this in his business and practice.) Again, from my reading, what I can establish to be factual is quite elegantly and accurately described (and I have no reason to suppose that the rest isn't accurate). I do wonder though about the descriptions of the pieces of the "planes" and whether they are useful to a western reader not totally familiar with the metaphors employed and particularly for someone working with a different set (even though they might actually be pointing to the exact same underling truth).

My own first main show-stopping willing and thinking experience (after a long phase of reading esoteric stuff, Tolle, Seth, Caroline Myss, stuff from Kabbalah and too many more to mention) came over 15 years ago while driving locally. I came across one of the many temporary monuments to someone killed on the roads - lots of flowers. I had thoughts of those misfortunate people and thoughts of love and compassion arose. I (oddly, for that time) decided to concentrate and send love to those affected. Then came the feeling. Tingling in the spine, intensifying and spreading to the whole middle body, to such an overwhelming degree that I needed to stop and wander around for a while to let it all subside. When I plucked up the courage to ask one who might know, there was talk of Kundalini and another book recommendation, duly bought and read. So here was another set of explanations, more metaphors for the intellect to be confused about. This might all be very accurate and true, I just don't know. (Actually, as I write this, I am now not sure what came first - was there an intuition, an inkling, a small feeling that set it off? If it happened now, I would pay attention to that, still in the knowledge that I might get the ordering wrong. When things got very tough (though still functioning) this experience, together with all the reading, led me to seek out energy therapists and "healers" (more in a following paragraph) and an integrative counsellor.

Ashvin has got a lot of pushback for the prolific nature of his posts. I felt the need to push back as well, not too long ago (although there was a definite curiosity too). I think he may have mentioned the ego once or twice. This 'I' here was still (temporarily, it came and went) largely merged with that ego, hence the urge to push back. He was also trashing some convictions I have/had of a political nature which, at the time I considered in need of pushback (this is not an invitation to discuss any of this). He also mentioned later that he was attributing his prodigious output to spiritual energy and I don't doubt that at all. I too had an extraordinarily productive period, particularly at work. (I described this previously as an ascent phase, though that's not a good enough word. It's all I have for now.) Concepts and situations that I had been butting my head against became effortlessly clear, as well as what needed to be done. There were hugely tangible benefits, though not everyone appreciated that. Two of those people (peace be upon them, I still forget that part sometimes) were the only two who had some power over me at work. Resentment and increased hostility are the two best words here. Ego "I" didn't like this one bit and reacted. Cue much chaos and turbulence (for me, not them). Even then, I didn't want special recognition in any way, though I did need simple acknowledgement. So I hope Ashvin is getting enough acknowledgement for the volume and comprehensiveness of his posts and essays (he may be more advance than I was and it's not even needed, which I suspect is more the way of things). But I wanted to say that anyway. All of what's in this paragraph is treated very skillfully in the Aurobindo video above.

This paragraph is a digression, though tangentially related to the above. It's a clarification of a previous post about the "schizophrenics" and "Bipolars". There's a danger (to me, as well as others) of lumping categories together, simply because there's a label. This is a big mistake and I'll just treat it here in terms of "the Bipolars", which I do know something about. There is a huge variety in presentation (I'm speaking here as observation from a patient perspective, not as a practitioner of anything). There are the "classic" presentations, which is almost exclusively what is referred to in popular media. That is, consistent and frequent ups and downs. There is the (rarer, from observation) presentation - the likes of me with a small number of fairly uncomfortable ups together with very severe, lengthy and agitated downs. (To be clear, I don't regard myself as a surfer on these phases anymore.) Then there's an even more interesting "type" and maybe very rare too, best personified by a lovely lady who never felt bad about anything at all. She used carry on in normal life for a year or two and then check in to hospital, basically to sleep for days on end, to be woken up every now and then to drink and eat something and to use the loo. After a couple of weeks of this she would be ready to go and off she'd happily flit. All of the above "types" and more have the same label. There was a time when I used to care about the genetic component, hereditary factors, environment and how these contributed together, though not anymore. "Patterned experience" is really the most useful phrase. Whether these patterns, and to what extent they do "come from" trauma in (this) life or other karmic entanglement is largely irrelevant to this point. That's not to say that some don't need to identify the trauma to provide some footing to move on - I'm sure they do. Also, once identified (accurately or not) the trauma can be worn like a badge for a time. And some of those wounded might go on to become healers. The danger with the latter is that some might consider that what happened to them (accurately described or not) must be what's wrong with a client/patient too. I do detect quite a bit of that in general, with many dangerous assumptions being made in the population at large about what "must be going on with people". That's enough about that for now. Although the more I don't even think about it, the more I believe current characterisations of mental illness and, latterly, mental health are outrageously missing the whole point.

And just to drive home a point - taking certain, seemingly true-sounding injunctions seriously and literally is also fraught with peril. For instance "Love your neighbour as yourself". If I had taken that as the golden rule to live by, a couple of former work colleagues would be dead or maimed by now. Does the "self" deserve this love? From a perspective, most certainly. From a "self" dominated by ego, often not so much. (And what is this love that everyone bangs on about?) Similarly the new age phrase , "You create your own reality". Fine, but what's this "you" thing? Also what's reality?

Some more on the metaphors and their mixing. The energy therapists, healers and "seers" were a mixed bunch. Acupuncture was great for a while to help with severe agitation (more metaphors though). A rare type of energy therapist, who I had to work hard to attend, was much more holistic. There were points during this whereby choices or intentions were set, which came intuitively for me and were of an integral nature. The non-touching therapy was accompanied by bodily effects (simultaneously and hilariously at times to both of us). On being invited into the therapist's main home, I was surprised to see lots of Christian iconography, though this had nothing to do with the therapy, which upon inquiry seemed to come from a channeled source. Of course there was a book "explaining" it all, which I bought and devoured. As well as new meaningful metaphors, it had contributions from quantum physicists. I can't tell if these interpretations are good or not, though by now I don't care too much about that. Another helper of note was a very nice visiting American lady who those days described herself as a seer, a visionary and a molecular healer. She certainly saw plenty, enough for me to rule out cold reading. She, of course, had her own metaphors and worse, interpretations. She was helpful though. I recently looked up all of the above, to see what they were up to and to try to get a sense if they were all coming from a good place. I'm convinced they are/were. The American lady though, has started another new business and assumed some new labels. I watched a short recent video from her last night and later this month she's teaming up with some others to reset some matrix or other and we'll all feel the effects. Good on her if it works, though, hmm. Anyone following her all these years must be exhausted by the new metaphors constantly being introduced as well as the shifting interpretations. Around the same time, there was another eastern mystic/gnosis type, Sai Maa, who has a world-wide presence now and has become a Saint in an Indian tradition. For me, when I came across her in one of those coincidences, there were very intense bodily sensations, to a paralysing extent for a few hours. She has her own (branded) blessings now, and has added more to the lexicon. I don't mean this cynically, though there are of course more metaphors. And when she sleeps, apparently talks to the "ascended masters". Having said all that, I think she's legit although there are the customary tales of sexual improprieties, which may be not so bad depending on your interpretation of what's proper (only adults reportedly involved). The only person that I would actively avoid is the "weird shop" lady, who's tales of sending harm to her family and them sending it "right back at you" should probably have set alarm bells ringing earlier. (The whole extended family is at it.) At least I have Cleric's characterization to work with - projecting the ego on to the astral. She was the lady, from another post who later barred me from her shop because, allegedly, I caused an unspecified energetic event on the previous visit. She was also the one who performed the "exorcism" on my friend. (Yikes!) At least she had no metaphors to add, only interpretations.

This is getting too long now. I had more in mind on inklings that happen, seem very meaningful even at the time, without knowing exactly why and that later coalesce into "aha" moments. It mainly involves the integral counsellor. If anyone wants to know about these, I'll write about them another time, more briefly. There were a few other things too, relating to other threads (solipsism and the one about the experience of time).

Two last things, very briefly. Those hierarchies. There isn't objection on this thread and I'm wondering what the objection might be at all, given that it has been repeatedly emphasised that those hierarchies are always present, all the time, in all of us. The parts to the fore of the "I" is where there's variation. I know that Peterson talks a lot about hierarchies and perhaps some hostility comes from there. He often talks of merit in the same breath and in my view, conflates a lot of stuff and makes a bit of a hames of it all. Perhaps, like Bernardo, he has set some limits on what he's prepared to talk about in public?

Don, if you're reading this, have you seen Cleric's posts about sleep on the "What causes bad trips" thread, and his response to me in particular about sleep? I mention this because of your reference to lucid dreaming.

To sum up for any lurkers out there - although my experience might be extreme, I'd doubt there are many out there who haven't been exposed to baffling mixed "meaningful" metaphors. A suggestion might be to pull back, find one or two that you are comfortable with and that you are convinced are accurate and true. This is a foundation to build outwards from. It's not a case of building from scratch, because once the foundation is solid, other solid metaphors and "sticky" inklings might begin to make sense quickly enough. For me, the foundation was relaid by reading PoF, after prompting by Clerivin. I'm going to continue for now with Steiner, dipping into a bit of Aurobindo out of curiosity when the mood takes me there, using the link to the YouTube channel provided by Shu. If any of the more definite pronouncements of Steiner jar a bit, well so what. As long as there aren't too many more fundamental concepts to be grasped and wrestled with, I'll be content. (And by now, I don't see how there could be.) And I do suppose that any lurkers probably well understand intellectually the need to build from good foundations (whether assumptions or verifiable (inwardly) truths.) Because no matter how bad things can get on the basis of a faulty foundation, they can always get worse.

That's enough for now. I trust by writing this there won't be any talk of Clerivinzone. Firstly, because it's obviously silly and secondly, even more obviously, this "I" in its current expressed component state is not even remotely worthy.
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Soul_of_Shu
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by Soul_of_Shu »

ParadoxZone wrote: Sat Oct 16, 2021 5:28 am I trust by writing this there won't be any talk of Clerivinzone.
Clerivinzone?! Where can I get some of that? Seems very energizing. Do I need a prescription? A pusher?
Here out of instinct or grace we seek
soulmates in these galleries of hieroglyph and glass,
where mutual longings and sufferings of love
are laid bare in transfigured exhibition of our hearts,
we who crave deep secrets and mysteries,
as elusive as the avatars of our dreams.
Ben Iscatus
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by Ben Iscatus »

Paradoxzone, thank you for so many details of your most interesting personal journey.
Those hierarchies. There isn't objection on this thread and I'm wondering what the objection might be at all, given that it has been repeatedly emphasised that those hierarchies are always present, all the time, in all of us.
In my case, the objection is as follows: levels of being are described and listed differently by everyone - so to concretize them is unreliable. I mean, why would you believe Steiner's version when he has so obviously got it wrong about Lemuria and Atlantis? The other thing I dislike about hierarchies is that it lends itself strongly to elitism (i.e. exclusion). The notion that bliss and joy are only available to the elect I find unpleasant (often racism is part of this). A spiritual hierarchy also tends inevitably towards making moral judgements - (Cleric referred to Purity and Sewage for instance). But in my belief and experience, we all have our shadow side and (as BK says) need to respect it.
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Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by Soul_of_Shu »

Ben Iscatus wrote: Sat Oct 16, 2021 10:33 am Paradoxzone, thank you for so many details of your most interesting personal journey.
Those hierarchies. There isn't objection on this thread and I'm wondering what the objection might be at all, given that it has been repeatedly emphasised that those hierarchies are always present, all the time, in all of us.
In my case, the objection is as follows: levels of being are described and listed differently by everyone - so to concretize them is unreliable. I mean, why would you believe Steiner's version when he has so obviously got it wrong about Lemuria and Atlantis? The other thing I dislike about hierarchies is that it lends itself strongly to elitism (i.e. exclusion). The notion that bliss and joy are only available to the elect I find unpleasant (often racism is part of this). A spiritual hierarchy also tends inevitably towards making moral judgements - (Cleric referred to Purity and Sewage for instance). But in my belief and experience, we all have our shadow side and (as BK says) need to respect it.
In this psyche's encounters with hyperspatial 'hierarchies', the terms 'lower' vis-a-vis 'higher' just don't work, being far too 3D bound. And any projection upon them of our cultural and moral trappings and conditionings, with all the exclusionary, elitist implications, i.e. references to controlling the 'unwashed masses', like those depictions by the 'Mother' Mirra Alfassa in the passage provided above, just feel like crude, even laughable personifications and bastardizations of those realms. But I suppose that is how they would appear through the filters of the corporeal construct. In this experience, what is actually going on there within the purview of the entities therein is so far removed from what we imagine that any wordbound depictions of it are hopelessly inadequate. I've given up waiting on some definitive noetic rendering of it, but prefer just to visit now, however much an awestruck tourist one may be at this stage.
Here out of instinct or grace we seek
soulmates in these galleries of hieroglyph and glass,
where mutual longings and sufferings of love
are laid bare in transfigured exhibition of our hearts,
we who crave deep secrets and mysteries,
as elusive as the avatars of our dreams.
Ben Iscatus
Posts: 308
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2021 6:15 pm

Re: Steiner and Aurobindo: Comments and Criticisms

Post by Ben Iscatus »

references to controlling the 'unwashed masses', like those depictions by the 'Mother' Mirra Alfassa in the passage provided above
Ah, but the masses mostly now have one or two showers a day, so maybe she found a way of projecting her influence from the supermind plane ;-)
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