Saturday, 6 August 2022

The non-grasbable Self in Kena Up., Meister Eckhart and Markus Gabriel


According to Meister Eckhart, then, we thinkers of thoughts are categorically distinct from any object we could ever perceive or think of.  With this basic line of thought, which I have here extended to the topic of the brain, Meister Eckhart discovered the topic of the radical non-objectivity of the self......

What Meister Eckhart is saying amounts to the claim that the self cannot be strictly identical with any object that it perceives. The self only falls under laws it gives to itself; it cannot be strictly determined by the objects it perceives.

(from ‘I am not a Brain’ by Markus Gabriel)

Browsing in the book I came across that observation.  My last post note on the Kena Upanishad would be a demurral. 

Self Knowledge 

  Kena is tentatively 500 B.C.  and Shankara 8th.Cent. A.D.  Professor Gabriel of Bonn University takes, as his book title suggests, a non-naturalist stance or at least not a linear functionalist one.  An interesting book written I surmise for the intelligent general reader, the igger as distinct from the iggerent (Mayo pronunciation)  My father was told the story of the man whose son was a student priest in Maynooth.  The son would not eat at the same table as his father and ‘I wouldn’t blame him’ says your man, ‘he was the iggernest man in Kilasser’.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Kena Upanishad on 'Can Brahman be Known'?


3: The eye does not go there, nor speech, nor mind.  We do not know (Brahman to be such and such), hence we are not aware of any process of instructing about it.

4: “That (Brahman) is surely different from the known; and again, It is above the unknown” - such was (the utterance) we heard of the the ancient (teachers) who explained it to us.

(Kena Upanisad I.3, 4 )

There  is what seems a straightforward admission that the logico-empirical method cannot establish the existence of Brahman.  Why might that be so?  If Brahman is the Self then the Self cannot be grasped in the way that any object might be.   The consciousness that is being grasped would have to grasp itself being grasped and that grasping of etc.  Bertrand Russell noted this in a letter to Frege.  There is inevitable infinite regress.  Shankara in his commentary :

Though the mind thinks and determines other things, it does not think or determine itself; for of it, too, Brahman is the Self.  A thing is cognised only by the mind and the senses.  As Brahman is not an object of perception to these, therefore,na vidmah,we do not know.

How then is Brahman to be communicated or taught to a disciple?  Brahman escapes all categories but there is deep wisdom embedded in the realised masters of traditional authority.  Put the disciple in the vicinity of a realised sage and he will begin to resonate with the knowledge of “the Brahman that is immediate and direct - the Self that is within all” (Brhadaranyaka Up. III.iv.1)

In this way, the text, “Thus we heard” etc., states how through a succession of preceptors and disciples was derived the purport of the sentence which establishes Brahman that Self of all which is devoid of distinguishing features, and is the light of pure consciousness.  Moreover, Brahman can only be known through such a traditional instruction of preceptors and not through argumentation, nor by study (or exposition), intelligence, great learning, austerity, sacrifices, etc.....

Monday, 1 August 2022

'The Psychology of Totalitarianism' by Mattias Desmet

The thesis of Desmet’s (Prof. of Psychology at Ghent University) book is very simple and easily stated.  The general official  reaction to Covid was an instance of what he calls mass formation.  Given the right social conditions which he points out are manifestly available in modern society namely alienation, high levels of anxiety, anomie, meaningless jobs, lack of a firm moral scaffolding, and the numberless worries generated by the agitations of social media, a significant proportion of the populace are ready to become ensorcelled by a single threat and form a crowd, an aggregation of headless chickens that devolves to the intelligence of the most stupid in the mob.  Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 book ‘The Crowd’ and Hannah Arendt’s ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ are precursors to this line of analysis which M.D. lays out with splendid clarity.  Of the two earlier books Le Bon’s is the more readable, Arendt’s is turgid with footnotes flourishing like scholastic weeds.

To get a good resume of the book’s main thesis your best resource is to view one of the many youtube videos in which Mattias Desmet appears.  There is much more detail in the book particularly about how the logico-empirical vision of science enables technocratic authoritarianism.  In the end chapters of his book he maintains that even this version of scienctific method is wrong, science is as much an intuitive process as an empirical one.  To discover the protophaenomenon (cf. Coleridge) 

Coleridge on Method 

is not a matter of diligent searching but alertness to its presentation or knowing where to look.  To alter Pater’s dictum about art, all science aspires to the condition of music.  Desmet uses examples from Chaos theory to illustrate the inevitable harmony and beauty that underlies any apparent disorder.

Some readers may find this philosophical coda to be an add on and unnecessarily elevated compared to the practical aspects of the earlier chapters, hovering as it does in the thin

air of panpsychism.  I think that it is a demonstration of the general need for a metaphysical superstructure that is resistant to the frenzies of popular agitation.  Everyone needs something like this though it may be unlike the speculations of Desmet.

This is an excellent book.  The central idiocy of Covidology is still going on and in one of his videos Desmet remarks that Totalitarianism always ends badly and worse may be on the way.  The German health ministry reports that serious adverse reactions may have occurred in 1 in 5,000 injections (note not people, injections):

adverse reactions to innoculation

Dr. Doshi in a study conducted by the British Medical Journal found that the adverse reactions exceeded the reduction in numbers requiring hospitalization due to Covid.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Climate Emergency?

What makes me sceptical about the ‘climate emergency’?  Part of it is the catastrophisation that follows every extreme weather event.  Climate cannot be assessed by single events.  It takes 30 years or more before a trend is evident.  Given the mess of Covid where all the variables were well known and absolutely simple compared to the complexity of weather and climate one cannot be sanguine about the certainly that there is an emergency.  Also there is the deep stupidity of the solutions offered, wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles each of which cause massive spoliation of the environment and do not work.  If those scientists are so clever!

Saturday, 23 July 2022

'Who was Changed and Who was Dead' by Barbara Comyns


They  had it all in Bidford-on-Avon in 1911, first flooding and later the heat wave that lasted from July to September all over the U.K.

1911 u.k. heatwave

The manor house on the banks of the Avon at Bidford that Barbara Comyns was living in at the time was of course flooded up the stairs.  She begins the novel:

THE DUCKS swam through the drawing-room windows. The weight of the water had forced the windows open; so the ducks swam in. Round the room they sailed quacking their approval; then they sailed out again to explore the wonderful new world that had come in the night. Old Ives stood on the verandah steps beating his red bucket with a stick while he called to them, but today they ignored him and floated away white and shining towards the tennis court. Swans were there, their long necks excavating under the dark, muddy water. All around there was a wheezy creaking noise as the water soaked into unaccustomed places, and in the distance a roar and above it the shouts of men trying to rescue animals from the low-lying fields. A passing pig squealing, its short legs madly beating the water and tearing at its throat, which was red and bleeding, and a large flat-bottomed boat followed with men inside. The boat whirled round and round in the fierce current; but eventually the pig was saved, and squealed even louder.

Deny that climate if you like.

Barbara Comyns makes the grotesque normal and the bizarre mundane.  All the adults are a whisker short of sectioning, Grandmother especially who owns three farms and the souls of the family and servants whom she terrorizes like a demented Tsarina.  She is in mortality competition with the duck caller Old Ives whose foible is making wreaths for the departed of the parish using the symbolism of flowers.  For Nana:

OLD IVES sat in the potting shed weaving a wreath of roses and thyme for Mrs. Hatt’s grave—full bloom roses because she was a full blown woman, although she had never had a child. Ives liked to choose suitable flowers for his wreathes. He often planned the one he would make for Grandmother Willoweed:—thistles and hogswart and grey-green holly—sometimes he would grant her one yellow dandelion. Ebin was to have one of bindweed and tobacco plants. Quite often people would die when the flowers already chosen for them were not in season. Then he made a temporary wreath for them, and months later they received the real one.

Will she die before Old Ives?  It would be a happy release for everyone.   Comyns sketches the family and the villagers setting the scene for the bizarre events that the novel culminates in.  It is Grandmother’s rule never to walk on ground that she does not own.  This makes attending a funeral impossible until she hits on a solution:

Grandmother Willoweed paced to and fro with her determined tread. Impatiently she kicked a tortoise that happened to impede her. She gnawed her horny thumb nail as she concentrated on the problem of attending the funeral without passing over ground that did not belong to her. Then her glance fell on the river shining between the fir trees, and suddenly the problem was solved. She would travel to the Church by boat. It would mean that the weir by the bridge would have to be opened for the occasion; but that was nothing. She strode towards the potting shed to give Ives his funeral orders. The old punt could be draped in black, and Ebin and Ives would attend her. She could see herself sailing in state under the bridge, the great black plumes on her hat gently swaying.

 To say that it was a good novel seems fatuous, odd genius defies appraisal.  Her books are maps of dreamtime irrupting into the waking state, too simple and wonderful.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

The Problem of Religious Diversity and God's Hiddenness


Salience which I have written a note on recently:


has a very interesting etymology.


In other words, what is it that leaps out at you, that impresses by its, to you, obvious prominence.  If you are of a logico-empirical cast of mind then the difficulties presented by those associated problems of the diversity of religions and God's hiddenness will be salient.  This is where the light is and here is the locus of your search though what you seek is in the dark elsewhere.

What do the Marshs miss, what are they not seeing:

diversity paper


not seeing

They are like the Mulla Nusruddin who was searching under the street lamp for his keys even though he had lost them in the house.  His house was not electrified at the time.

There are several luminaries who are not in the least baffled by diversity, of any kind.  God isn’t hidden, merely that the logico-empirical method can’t find Him.  Shankaracarya does not hesitate in his declaration that the Vedas are part of the superimposition on the Absolute and not the truth.  They are an interim position or a metaphorical projection of the Unknowable, Unnameable. The great modern sage Sri Swami Sadchidanandendra writes:

Thus the means of knowledge called the Veda is ultimateley seen to be an illusion.  And its power to effect release through destroying Ignorance is also an illusion.  And on this basis one might wonder whether direct knowledge of the supreme Self was itself also an illusion, or whether it was real.  If it were an illusion, then the liberation it effected would also be  illusory, and in that case what would be the point in the upanishadic discipline?  If, on the other hand, we say that direct knowledge of the Self is real, then how could real direct knowledge arise from illusory upanishadic texts?

Further down Sri S.S.S. answers this doubt:

Know that the supreme reality is self-evident and self-established.  For superimposed fancies could not sustain themselves for an instant without the supreme reality as their substratum.

So by extension all scriptures are of their nature ways of focusing the mind.  Each has its own internal coherence but the final truth is apophatic and lies under ‘the cloud of unknowing’.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Weather Report


Are you doing your bit?  Are you desponding down or up to the correct level?  And if not why not?  The weather forecast is for ‘whew’ or ‘scorchio’ which is accompanied by warning from the met office, the met office, about the danger of a fine day.  You could get sun blotched and the hanky with knots on the corners won’t be enough .  Really.  The country flocks to Spain en masse for temperatures in excess of the 30C. of the forecast.  My father claimed to have heard this conversation at the checkout.

 Did ye go away?

 We went to Spain.


 I don’t know.  It was dark when we landed.

Increasing apprehension and dread is the principle function of the media which is why I never buy a paper but check the main stories on the web page.  Yes, still at it.  Farmers must control farting cows. Dutch farmers spray slurry on government buildings.  The inside is sufficiently bemerded.  I blame populism.

But I sense that you are getting bored.  Have a nice day and don’t forget the sun tan lotion/block.