Thursday, 22 September 2016

Nisargadatta on Samadhi (from I am That)

Matter is Consciousness Itself:
Maharaj: Everything moves according to its nature. ... Every action creates a reaction, which balances and neutraliszes the action. Everything happens, but there is a continuous cancelling out, and in the end it is as if nothing happened.

"Therefore I keep on saying that all happens by itself. There is order in my world too, but it is not imposed from outside. It comes spontaneously and immediately, because of its timelessness. Perfection is not in the future. It is now.

Maharaj is not bound by the maya of identification with a physical body. "I make no distinction between the body and the universe. Each is the cause of the other, each is the other, in truth. But I am out of it all."

"The most difficult are the intellectuals. They talk a lot, but are not serious."

How to go into Samadhi:

"If you are in the right state, whatever you see will put you into samadhi. After all samadhi is nothing unusual. When the mind is intensely interested, it becomes one with the object of interest - the seer and the seen become one in seeing, the hearer and the heard become one in hearing, the lover and the loved become one in loving. Every experience can be the ground for samadhi."
Questioner: Are you always in a state of samadhi?
Maharaj: Of course not. Samadhi is a state of mind, after all. I am beyond all experience, even of samadhi. I am the great devourer and destroyer; whatever I touch dissolves into void (akash).
Q: I need samadhis for self-realisation.
M: You have all the self-realisation you need, but you do not trust it. Have courage, trust yourself, go, talk, act: give it a chance to prove itself. With some realisation comes imperceptibly, but somehow they need convincing. They have changed, but they do not notice it. Such non-spectacular cases are often the most reliable.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

John Banville's review of Canales' book on the Bergson- Einstein debate on the nature of time

But who now reads Bergson apart from a few lonely specialists? He is remembered by Proust scholars - Proust was Bergson's cousin-in-law, and the best man at his wedding - since a la recherche du temps perdu was said to have been influenced by Bergson's theory of time. But very few contemporary philosophers consider him of any importance, and it would be rare schoolboy nowadays who would know his name.
(from John Banville's review (What do clocks have to do with it?)of The Physicist and the Philosopher by Jimena Canales in The London Review of Books pub.24/7/16)

Of course John that would be the case, inasmuch as the best way not to remember the work of any thinker is never to have read his work. That makes forgetting effortless. Bergson was dismissive of Einstein's view of time regarding it as merely the time of timetables. That was not a wise move rhetorically. The time of Bergson was evolutionary and personal. For Einstein a la Bergson it was a series of instants with gaps that could be elongated as in The Twins Paradox.

Banville's review was worth reading. He is interested in philosophy though he never read it in University never having been there which unusual in a major modern writer. He is much more than the average igger (intelligent general reader) but inevitably nudged by the prevailing scientistic ambience which pits vague dreams and speculation against hard measurable facts.

Bergson was seeking above all to assert the human dimension of experience, the validity of our intuitive sense that the world can be measured not only against scientific fact but also by way of our actions, thoughts, emotions. Einstein, more hard-headed, or at least wedded to a hard-headed interpretation of reality, preferred to put his trust in the empirical certainties, as he saw them , that science offered.
(Banville's review)

Yes true, sort of, with the qualification that Duration is the primary lived experience that gives rise to the concept of time and that the mathematization of time and space or space/time is the source of the scientific theory. This is Bergson's real point so to a degree in that debate in 1922 they were talking past each other.

At some point I may have to read Canales' work. Her special interest as a physicist is in time and measurement. Banville writes:

The Physicist and the Philosopher is an extraordinarily rich and wide-ranging work. Canales has rescued from near oblivion a fascinating , highly significant debate that is still relevant in an age which has begun to question the hegemony of science, and its uncontrollable child, technology.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Filial Piety

Consuming Justin Erik Halldor Smith’s philosophical doughnuts when I find them I feel like the twin on earth getting much, much, older. His latest post as a memorial to his father was different.
a life
A picaresque life without the native irascibility that makes you get down to things seems to cover its climate. There are several extracts from his father’s writing written in that breezy diction which is the hallmark of inconsequential journalism but the appalling thing is that as J.E.H. got further down in his piece that same diction began to manifest in his own writing. That dear reader is frightening. Can we slip our ancestral gravity by re-locating to France or Spain or India?

My father never went in for rhetorical questions. We respected each other by observing a decent manly reticence. Mum’s the word, Dad’s the word.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Johnson and Montaigne on Secrets

Samuel Johnson refers to Michel de Montaigne in Essay no 13 of The Rambler. May 1st. 1750. In an aside on the keeping and the telling of the secrets of others entrusted to one he writes:

There have, indeed, been some enthusiastick and irrational zealots for friendship, who have maintained, and perhaps believed, that one friend has a right to all that is in possession of another; and that therefore it is a violation of kindness to exempt any secret from this boundless confidence. Accordingly a late female minister of state has been shameless enough to inform the world, that she used, when she wanted to extract any thing from her sovereign, to remind her of Montaigne's reasoning, who has determined, that to tell a secret to a friend is no breach of fidelity, because the number of persons trusted is not multiplied, a man and his friend being virtually the same.
That such a fallacy could be imposed upon any human understanding, or that an author could have advanced a position so remote from truth and reason, any otherwise than as a declaimer, to shew to what extent he could stretch his imagination, and with what strength he could press his principle, would scarcely have been credible, had not this lady kindly shewn us how far weakness may be deluded, or indolence amused.

I am, with Johnson, against Montaigne's airy man of the world sharing and my own way with the secrets of others is to forget them as quickly as possible. Am I an abyss of discretion? I am not at liberty to disclose but I will say this... No better not. Have you ever met friends of a friend that you haven't met before and sensed the presence of forward intelligence that may not be altogether benign. They being forewarned and forearmed creates a blockade. Is this just paranoia? The common rationalisation that not gossiping is a sign of a lack of interest in people is destructive of friendship and you can be certain that you too will be served as a piquant dip.

The rules therefore that I shall propose concerning secrecy, and from which I think it not safe to deviate, without long and exact deliberation, are—Never to solicit the knowledge of a secret. Not willingly, nor without many limitations, to accept such confidence when it is offered. When a secret is once admitted, to consider the trust as of a very high nature, important as society, and sacred as truth, and therefore not to be violated for any incidental convenience, or slight appearance of contrary fitness.

I am taking two shots of The Rambler every day and besides the grandiloquence of the stately periods, his profound moral sense and seriousness blended with a realisation of personal fallibility does me good.

Addendum: As I suspected the Montaigne essay that Johnson refers to is De L’Amitie or On Friendship or by Screech On Affectionate Relationships

If one (of two friends) entrusted to your silence something which it was useful for the other to know, how would you get out of that? The unique, highest friendship loosens all other bonds. That secret which I have sworn to reveal to no other, I can reveal without perjury to him who is not another: he is me. It is a great enough miracle for oneself to be redoubled: they do not realize how high a one it is when they talk of its being tripled.
(Screech trans.)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sheehan's Apologetics (Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine)

The book generally known as Sheehan’s Apologetics was the standard issue for Catholic Secondary Schools in Ireland for the study of Christian Doctrine. Archbishop Sheehan (Coadjutor Sydney) (1870
-1947) was a noted scholar of the Irish Language and had studied Latin, Greek and Sanskrit in Germany and taken his Phd. at Bonn writing on Isocrates. (in Latin)
Sheehan Wikipedia
Given all that and assuming his acquaintance with historical criticism and other German novelties his treatment of Darwinism and Evolutionism is extremely odd and reading it now one is reminded of the wilder shores of Bible Belt Evangelicalism.

After ten pages with extensive footnotes eg. Has Evolution taken place, remarks on the evidence, alleged causes:
Nor, as we shall see presently, have evolutionists succeeded
in discovering any natural cause which could have produced large scale evolution.
He disputes those alleged causes and offers the bolded heading: Evolution not Proved Scientifically but Useful as a Working Hypothesis.

For his final paragraph he offers 10 lines -(heading) If Evolution has occurred it is the work of God.Fine but why impugn the science which you don’t understand and lead others down an irrelevant cul de sac. There seems a lack of due epistemic modesty. On the charitable interpretation and from a rhetorical point of view which is suggested by his interest in Isocrates , Sheehan knowing that Darwinism as commonly presented has a corrosive effect on the sentiment of religion, would be justified in deflecting an interest in it.

On reflection it is a belief in the literal truth of the bible that guides his opposition to evolution.

The Church teaches that God built up the body of Eve from a portion of matter which he took from the body of Adam. So far, no interpretation of this teaching has been offered which would allow us to ascribe the origin of her body to evolution. And if evolution must be excluded in her case, it must be excluded also in the case of Adam.

At the end of that chapter he remarks:
The age of the human species is a question on which the Church has never given any decision, and may be left to the investigation of scientists.

It may, perhaps, be worth noting that the Church has never condemned the opinion, which was proposed centuries ago, that a race of men lived on the earth, but became extinct, before the creation of Adam.

Sheehan believed that myth can contradict science. Myth as I understand it is a symbolic representation of metaphysical reality. It draws us into relationship with it.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Rambler: Buchhandlung Suggestions

I bought for €15 a 2 vol. edn. 1877 of The Rambler by Samuel Johnson published by William Tegg ,Cheapside; cloth with gilding in the best Victorian gentleman’s library way. (condition good, slight foxing)Tegg was a pal of Dickens in his early days so as a suggestion to Myles’s Buchhandlung Service I would respectfully recommend a steel nib inscription: ‘As a break from ‘little D.’ best Bill - don’t forget lunch on the 30th.’ A Henry Irving play flyer as a book mark would complete the provenance. Expensive but worth it.

Yes, this question of book-handling. The other day I had a word to say about the necessity for the professional book-handler, a person who will maul the books of illiterate, but wealthy, upstarts so that the books will look as if they have been read and re-read by their owners. How many uses of mauling would there be? Without giving the matter much thought, I should say four. Supposing an experienced handler is asked to quote for the handling of one shelf of books four feet in length. He would quote thus under four heads:--
'Popular Handling--Each volume to be well and truly handled, four leaves in each to be dog-eared, and a tram ticket, cloak-room docket or other comparable article inserted in each as a forgotten book-mark. Say, £1 7s 6d. Five per cent discount for civil servants.'
'Premier Handling-Each volume to be thoroughly handled, eight leaves in each to be dog-eared, a suitable passage in not less than 25 volumes to be underlined in red pencil, and a leaflet in French on the works of Victor Hugo to be inserted as a forgotten book-mark in each. Say, £2 17s 6d. Five per cent discount for literary university students, civil servants and lady social workers.'
buchhandlung service

What I am suggesting verges on Le Traitment Superbe meretricious nay vulgar withal but with gilt que voulez-vous?

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Hope on Earth: A Conversation by Paul R. Ehrlich and Michael Charles Tobias

No matter how often history has falsified the predictions that are made by some big brains they still keep repeating them which is why the cover of the free e-book from the University of Chicago Press is appropriate. A certain amount of methane is generated in the conversation between Michael Tobias and Paul Ehrlich, not enough to threaten the planet, but certainly enough to clear a room. The Wikipedia entry on Arch-Doomster Ehrlich sketches his history of being wrong about everything and his vile recipes for avoiding certain disaster. England would no longer be in existence by 1970 possibly being overrun by ravening feral chavs.
cf: Wikipedia on Ehrlich

The University of Chicago recently issued a bulletin impugning the notion of the safe space to protect the delicate sensibilities of students. The cold hard wind of contrary opinion would blow to toughen them up -‘That’s the Chicago Way’ (The Untouchables) And now this book. Is there a conservative mole in the University? The blurb runs after this fashion:

Hope on Earth is the thought-provoking result of a lively and wide-ranging conversation between two of the world’s leading interdisciplinary environmental scientists: Paul R. Ehrlich, whose book The Population Bomb shook the world in 1968 (and continues to shake it), and Michael Charles Tobias, whose over 40 books and 150 films have been read and/or viewed throughout the world. Hope on Earth offers a rare opportunity to listen in as these deeply knowledgeable and highly creative thinkers offer their takes on the most pressing environmental concerns of the moment.

When a university press blurb writer very likely steeped in a stiff brine of Rhetoric and Composition uses a phrase like ‘shook the world’ it doesn’t need quotes like I used to mark it off as irony. Adding ‘and continues to shake it’, the unsaid must be, ‘with laughter’.