Monday, 29 September 2014

A.E. Taylor leading the meditation

The self implies, and has no existence apart from, a not-self, and it is only in the contrast with the not-self that it is aware of itself as a self. This seems to me clear, as a matter of principle, though the consequences of the principle are in much current speculation partly misconceived, partly neglected. The most important among them, for our purposes, are the following. The feeling of self is certainly not an inseparable concomitant of all our experience. For it only arises—and here nothing but direct experimentation can be appealed to as evidence—as a contrast-effect in connection with our awareness of a not-self, whether as imposing restraints upon the expression of the self, or as undergoing modification by the self. Hence experiences from which this contrast is absent seem to exhibit no trace of genuine " self-consciousness." Feeling, where you can get it in its simple form, seems to be universally allowed to be an instance in point. Much of our perception appears to me, though I know the view is not widely current among psychologists, to be in the same position. E.g., normally when I am looking at an object, say for instance, a white-washed wall, I do not find that I am in any real sense "conscious of self." The content of my awareness seems, to me at least, to be just the wall in a setting of a mass of unanalysed feeling, organic and other, which you may, if you please, from your standpoint as an external observer, call my perceiving self, but of which I am only aware as the setting of the perceived wall.
It is only when attention to the content of the perception becomes difficult (as, e.g., through fatigue of the organs of sense, or conflict with some incompatible purpose) that I am normally aware of the perceived object as a not-self opposed to and restricting my self. The same is, I think, true of much of our life of conscious purposive action.
(from Elements of Metaphysics by A.E. Taylor)

This is the basic metaphysical stance that can be taken in meditation practice. The ‘white-washed wall’ is now the particular chakra that we have fallen through, so to speak, and we immerse ourselves in the mood that is evoked in as formless a manner as we can manage. When not formally meditating this feeling can frame events. Gregory Bateson has called this learning III. I see from a search that I haven’t mentioned him before. To do.

Friday, 26 September 2014

John Brown's Body by Stephen Vincent Benet

Down the back of Charlie’s yesterday I got 4 books for ein euro each. “They’re a euro each and well worth it” I said to the assistant. That one bounced of every wall, then he laughed. For the record they were:
The Renaissance by George Clarke Sellery
Modern English Short Stories selected by E.J. O’Brien (pub.1930)
Selected Essays by Samuel Butler
John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet

That last is the most interesting of the four. I came across the name some days ago somewhere in the vastness of the internet as one who used to be extremely popular and now has faded even from the anthologies. It is clear that this is an undeserved fate. He is a master of the long impassioned line, the dithyrambic, favoured of Blake, Whitman, and Robinson Jeffers. It rises and falls in a chant that his own reading brings out:
The Opening of the Battle of Gettysburg


They came on to fish-hook Gettysburg in this way, after this fashion.
Over hot pikes heavy with pollen, past fields where the wheat was
Peaches grew in the orchards; it was a fertile country,
Full of red barns and fresh springs and dun, deep-uddered kine.

A farmer lived with a clear stream that ran through his very
They cooled the butter in it and the milk, in their wide, stone jars;
A dusty Georgian came there, to eat and go on to battle;
They dipped the milk from the jars, it was cold and sweet in his

He heard the clear stream's music as the German housewife served him,
Remembering the Shenandoah and a stream poured from a rock;
He ate and drank and went on to the gunwheels crushing the harvest.
It was a thing he remembered as long as any guns.

Country of broad-backed horses, stone houses and long, green meadows,
Where Getty came with his ox-team to found a steady town
And the little trains of my boyhood puffed solemnly up the Valley
Past the market-squares and the lindens and the Quaker meeting-house.

Penn stood under his oak with a painted sachem beside him,
The market-women sold scrapple when the first red maples turned;
When the buckeyes slipped from their sheaths, you could gather a pile
of buckeyes,
Red-brown as old polished boots, good to touch and hold in the hand.

The ice-cream parlor was papered with scenes from _Paul and
The pigs were fat all year, you could stand a spoon in the cream.
--Penn stood under his oak with a feathered pipe in his fingers,
His eyes were quiet with God, but his wits and his bargain sharp.

So I remember it all, and the light sound of buckeyes falling
On the worn rose-bricks of the pavement, herring-boned, trodden for
The great yellow shocks of wheat and the dust-white road through
And, in Fall, the green walnut shells, and the stain they left for a

So I remember you, ripe country of broad-backed horses,
Valley of cold, sweet springs and dairies with limestone-floors;
And so they found you that year, when they scared your cows with
their cannon,
And the strange South moved against you, lean marchers lost in the

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

F.R. Leavis on Santayana

For Johnson, I said, expression was necessarily statement; critically, he couldn't come to terms with the use of language, not as a medium in which to put 'previously definite' ideas, but for exploratory creation. Poetry as creating what it presents, and as presenting something that stands there to speak for itself, or, rather, that isn't a matter of saying, but of being and enacting,he couldn't properly understand.
(from Tragedy and the ‘medium’ essay in The Common Pursuit by F.R. Leavis)

Leavis is deprecating Santayana’s philosopher’s view that Shakespeare is expressing his own sense of the futility of life that he puts into the mouth of Macbeth, “Tomorrow and tomorrow etc.” No, no, no it is the play that is speaking. As I have expressed it in relation to Flannery O’Connor, the work gets away on its creator. ‘I didn’t know he was going to say that’ she says of a character. If you’re a reader you can feel this and it may be that writers who can’t read fail to ever pass into the active imagination
active imagination
by which a world is mediated.
cf.getting away on Flannery

The Last Puritan by Santayana and The Late George Apley by John Marquand are both exemplars of Beacon Hill Brahminism but the former stays within the program withal beautifully written while Marquand’s work may have surprised himself.
The Last Puritan
The Late George Apley

George is fatuous, blinkered but strangely noble and lovable. Oliver has to die to make his point but it seems unsatisfactory that he was not given more of a chance to meet himself, to catch himself on as the saying was. That is the tragedy of dying young never having been able for happiness.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Be Here Now

‘I am tired of the eternal round of transmigration’ is the reason given for seeking the knowledge that will free the seeker. Seeking to become free from seeking is subject to the retort - put down that shovel, the hole is quite deep enough already. Yet it seems unavoidable, there must be that divine discontent even if it issues in a position that is paradoxical and an aim that is senseless. A.E. Taylor puts it well in his Elements of Metaphysics:

 It is manifest, to begin with, that" self" is a teleological concept. The self whose quality is revealed in Biography and History, and judged in Ethics, has for its exclusive material our emotional interests and purposive attitudes towards the various constituents of our surroundings; of these, and of nothing else, our self is made. And the self, again, is one and individual, just in so far as these interests and purposes can be thought of as forming the expression, in the detail of succession, of a central coherent interest or purpose. Where this central interest appears not to exist at all, we have no logical right to speak of a succession of purposive acts as the expression of a single self.

Taylor holds to the primacy of the teleological and psychical over the physical in his discussion of the possibility of an afterlife.  As a Christian he would have believed in the resurrection of the body and that would have established a single fate enjoying or not its deserts. There’s a neat rounded off sense to that doctrine when you compare it to reincarnation. The difficulty there is that the general intention of the person, their aims and objectives without the physical grounding of a body, continues on without them. Therefore it seems metaphysically grumpy to complain of a condition that you can only have a doctrinal sense of. On the other hand my punya and papa (deserts) ar on the same plane of existence as their generation.

Alternatively and inescapably you can BE HERE NOW, if you can remember.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Aids to Reflection by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


IN philosophy equally as in poetry, it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission. Extremes meet. Truths, of all others the most awful and interesting, are too often considered as so true, that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.


There is one sure way of giving freshness and importance to the most common-place maxims—that of reflecting on them in direct reference to our own state and conduct, to our own past and future being.


To restore a common-place truth to its first uncommon  lustre, you need only translate it into action. But to do this, you must have reflected on its truth.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scots Vote

Around our tea table the feeling was that the result of the independence referendum was pathetic. 'What a panic in thy breekie'. Fear works and the Devo Max will become Devo Mini. Perfidious Albion as ever was. In the no campaign as promoted by Ian Jack and William Dalrymple there was an element of Empire Loyalism which I found repellent.
end of britishness


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Leaving out Sankara and Aquinas justified.

(from B.S.B. II,i.11)
For this further reason, one should not on the strength of mere logic challenge something that has to be known from the Vedas. For reasoning that has no Vedic foundation and springs from the mere imagination of persons, lacks conclusiveness. For man’s conjecture has no limits. Thus it is seen that an argument discovered by adepts with great effort is falsified by other adepts; and an argument hit upon by the latter is proved to be hollow by still others. So nobody can rely on any argument as conclusive, for human intellect differs.

What are the things that have to be learned from the Vedas according to Sankara?

Although reasoning may be noticed to have finality in some contexts, still in the present context it cannot possibly get any immunity from the charge of being inconclusive; for this extremely sublime subject-matter, concerned with the reality of the cause of the Universe and leading to the goal of liberation, cannot even be guessed without the help of the Vedas. And we have said that It cannot be known either through perception, being devoid of form, etc, or through inference etc., being devoid of the grounds of inference etc.

Now the question arises: is the non-demonstrability of the existence of God/Brahman a matter for rational discourse or not? Sankara continues with his depreciation of reason as a means to firm knowledge in this regard.

For it is a patent fact of experience, that when a logician asserts, “This indeed is the true knowledge”, it is upset by someone else. And what is established by the latter is disproved by still another. How can any knowledge, arising from reasoning, be correct when its content has no fixity of form?

Real adepts will have noticed that I have by careful selection established a specious argument for leaving out Sankara from philosophical study much as Bertrand Russel got away with giving a mere 13 pages to Thomas Aquinas in what has been called ‘a monument to one man’s prejudice, his History of Western Philosophy. You can extract a rationale for this by the following from his work: (from Aquinas on Faith: faith)

Insofar as it conveys vision, cognition is distinguished from faith. This is why Gregory says that things that are seen have cognition rather than faith. According to Augustine in On Seeing God, those things are said to be seen which are present to the senses or to the intellect. But things that are said to be present to the intellect do not exceed its capacity.
However, as far as the certitude of the assent is concerned, faith is a cognition, a cognition by virtue of which it can be called a knowledge and a vision, according to 1 Corinthians 13:12: "We see now darkly through a mirror." And this is what Augustine says in On Seeing God: "If it is not improper to say that we know that which we believe most certainly, then from this it follows that we are rightly said to see with the mind the things that are believed, even though they are not present to our senses."

Selective extracts of both Sankara and Aquinas can cause both to be relegated to exterior darkness when in fact a comprehensive study reveals close reasoning of the highest order.