Monday, 29 December 2014

The Leftovers by Tom Perotta


I first became aware of the writing of Tom Perotta through The Leftovers show which I liked for its odd premise of a secular rapture. All over the world people of all faiths and none are whisked into non-existence. Between 1 and 3%. simply vanish in the blink of an eye. Nora Durst’s husband and two children are taken while she is in the kitchen getting paper towels to mop up an apple juice spill which has not yet begun to cascade to the floor over the edge of the table. She wipes it up in an empty room and two weeks later comes to herself after a fugue. How can you accept what is unintelligible? As though some humans were a mirage.

The major characters and their relationships in the book are the same as in the show. Wisely, there is no explanation offered for the inexplicable. Attempts to grapple with bafflement takes many forms. It is three years on from what the authorities are calling a sudden departure. Kevin Garvey the Mayor of Mapleton who has been elected from a Hopeful Party platform navigates by niceness. His daughter Jill 17 begins to fail at school and screw around led astray by Aimee her pal. Son Tom dropped out of college and has gotten involved with Holy Wayne a minister who absorbs the grief by hugging the afflicted. His son was taken and he is hopeful that one of his six underage concubines will give birth to a replacement. Opposed to any rapprochement with the event even unto ‘moving on’, are the ‘guilty remnant’ a cult who dress in white and by their silent witness haunt and stalk the populace.

There’s more, much more. It’s a rich Xmas cake and indeed Xmas features in the book as an attempt to make a family holiday of it. Kevin Garvey’s cheery banalities fail to exorcise the haunt by his wife who calls to the house on Xmas day. She is now a member of the G.R.

Tom Perotta doesn’t do fancy prose on principle and this suits the novel. Verisimilitude is rendered by the refusal to engage with the mystery and staying penny plain. The gothic is reduced to the suburban by the accretion of mundane detail and the credible deeps of the plot. One could take the novel as a metaphor for the missing while present ones, the ignorable that generate this version of society as their dream or myth. Suddenly everyone is made to care. It’s as the philosophers say, multiply realisable or something. You’ll be sorry when I’m not here anymore after a fashion but the where I’ll be is uncanny.

It was a good novel. I started it on Xmas Day and finished it yesterday. Its ending, though not I would hope leaving itself open to a sequel, Warmedover, falls where the first season ended. Can they resist the need to explain the Event.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Ripe and Unripe Advaita


He who thinks that liberation is something that has to be literally ‘produced’ has in mind a ‘liberation’ that would depend on action of body, speech or mind. The same is true of those who think that the soul has to undergo transformation to become the Absolute. Liberation as conceived in both these views would necessarily be impermanent. (B.S.B. I.i.4)

Nor does liberation depend on action in the form of purification (samskara). Purification is brought about through conferring some new attribute on the thing to be purified, or else removing a defect. But in the case of liberation it is not possible to confer a new attribute. For liberation is the Absolute in its true nature to which nothing can be superadded. Nor can there be purification through removal of defects. For liberation is the Absolute in its true nature, eternally pure and free from defects. (B.S.B. I.i.4)
(from The Method of Vedanta by Swami Satchidanandendraa pg.167)

Presumption is both a method and a danger in advaita. Liberation being our natural state should require no recourse to means. That’s true but as a practical balance to no scales no weights there is the procedure of adhiropa/apavada (attribution and retraction) which is a progressive elimination of false views and the view that there are no views. When Vivekananda met Ramakrishna for the first time he spouted pure advaita to the Master. ‘True enough’, he was told,’ but not for you who are still green and unripe’. (from memory)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Original Sin, Original Deficit


After reading Ed Feser on Polygenism, Monogenism, the infusion of a rational soul and other topics relating to Theology’s third rail
monogenism and polygenism
I felt the need to acquaint myself further with the topic. A review from a faithful position is at
original sin
On Mastermind it would definitely qualify as a special subject. It is an issue which sprouts rather quickly the neon word heretic. As a heretic but not I insist an apostate I find it fascinating. It is a story out of the human race’s dream time when metaphysical speculation was expressed symbolically. When however the story is treated as quasi history at the same time as its inner meaning is parsed and analysed, theological epicycles are spawned.

From a comparative religion viewpoint the Hindu view of original deficit works the same ground. Here ajnana or avidya or ignorance is the structural fault. Human consciousness itself is locked into the subject/object dyad and the inevitable I, me, mine which it is argued is an error and the source of sin. Darwinian evolution is a problem for the Orthodox in relation to the doctrine of Karma. Clearly if birth is due to action in a previous incarnation it can’t get started, there cannot be a first man. Sankara posits a beginingless creation for this reason. Hindu creationism is the polar opposite of the Christian.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Will to Believe by William James


Part of the reason that the notion of volition in relation to belief has gained credibility must be due to the essay The Will to Believe. Here belief is presented as a pragmatic device to get over the angst of indecision that is a torment. Living in Keatsian negative capability just won’t do so we plump. John Watson
John Watson/Wikipedia in The Philosophical Basis of Religion (1907) writes with a brio equal to James:

Can we wonder if those bred in the rugged and manly school of science should feel like spewing such subjectivism out of thdr mouths? The whole system of loyalties which grow up in the schools of science go dead against its toleration; so that it is only natural that those who have caught the scientific fever should pass over to the opposite extreme, and write sometimes as if the incorruptibly truthful intellect ought positively to prefer bitterness and unacceptable-ness to the heart in its cup.

It fortifies my soul to know
That though I perish Truth is so

sings Clough, While Huxley exclaims: My only consolation lies in the reflection that, however bad our posterity may become, so far as they hold by the plain rule of not pretending to believe what they have no reason to believe, because it may be to their advantage so to pretend, they will not have reached the lowest depth of immorality. And that delicious enfant terrible Clifford writes; “ Belief is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements for the solace and private pleasure of the believer. . . , Whoso would deserve well of his fellows in this matter will guard the purity of his belief with a very fanaticism of jealous care, lest at any time it should rest on an unworthy object, and catch a stain which can never be wiped away”

If we look at the normal manifestations of faith we can see that those who have had it from infancy in general pass through its three stages as sketched by Baron Von Hügel.
Von Hugel's stages
I surmise that there is a universal aspect to this which spans all the major traditions. Contra James when the second rationalising aspect of faith is dominant the temptation to plump for faith is an itch that often goes away leaving a shallow scientism in its place.

If James had understood that the cultivation of faith has an active and experimental aspect to it then this concept of a leap across the abyss would have been altered to a position that reflects reality. Those who never had or have lost their faith in God can surrender to a higher power by whatever name they call it and receive a response which does not come from themselves They have tried the application of will power and admit themselves to be powerless before their addiction. This is the core of the 12 step program and the ancient De Profundis clamavi ad te Domine

This may be scouted by sceptics who would claim that this is a mere projection. They really don’t believe in what works.








Monday, 15 December 2014

Belief in God as a choice


Is belief in God something you can choose? How would that point at which the choice is made be arrived at? By grace we might find ourselves pitched into belief willy-nilly. That certainly happens and seems to me more likely than a cool appraisal followed by a decision. It appears as though there ought to be an answer to the question - why do you believe in God. Because he, she, it is there. Choosing to believe in God may be a sophism like choosing to believe in the evidence of your senses in your normal state of mind.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Impanation


Impanation could be described as theological trepanation whereby a hole is bored in the mind for the insertion of heresy. I came across the term in
pruss on impanation
Fetching from my Holmsian lumber room a dusty copy of Sheehan’s Apologetics I seemed to remember that it was heretical. New Advent confirms that it is:
 Orthodox Lutheranism expressed this so-called sacramental union between the Body of Christ and the substance of bread in the well-known formula: The Body of Christ is "in, with and under the bread" — in, cum et sub pane; really present, though only at the moment of its reception by the faithful — in usu, non extra usum. The theologians of the Reformed Churches, calling this doctrine, in their attack against the Lutherans, impanation, use the term not in the strict sense explained above, but in a wider meaning.
(new advent)

Alger of Liège
writing in an era before ecumenical tact calls impanation an absurd novelty ((quia nova et absurda). I’m not sure what Archbishop Sheehan of Sydney called it. The odd thing is that though second hand bookshops show in their 1 euro barrows the detritus of the breakup of seminary libraries no Apologetics has emerged before me in its usual brown parcel paper cover. I could send to Amazonia for it but that would be too wilful and I rather await its providential manifestation. My providentialism is a shade away from presumption which the catechism defines as:
A foolish expectation of salvation without making use of the means necessary to obtain it,





Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Sankara and Rope/Snake analogy


That the Chinese character for sunya (emptiness) is the character for sky assures me that abstraction has a solid foundation. In the Hindu Sankhya system of 5 elements akash or space is sometimes translated as sky. When Sankara was attempting to answer the objection to his superimposition/adhasya analogy in which the attributes of one thing are transferred to another as in the coils of a rope being seen as a coiled snake, he took the example of akash. The objection took the form of saying that the analogy presupposed two sensible items being confused whereas the attributes of the Jiva, weight, complexion etc cannot be superimposed on that which is not a sensible item namely the Self. On the contrary wrote Sankara (Preamble to B.S.B.) akash/sky which is without attributes has the convex shape of a frying pan (wok) and the smudges of clouds projected on to it.

Two observations are pertinent. One is the patent misunderstanding of the role of analogy in argument. It is narrowly focused to bring out some point that its proposer regards as salient. Why then does Sankara,who understands this well, attempt to extend the analogy to answer a specious objection? Perhaps here we have the operation of a temporary approximation which will be discarded as knowledge increases similar to the method of adhiropa/apavada (attribution followed by retraction). The objector is at a level which is not very sophisticated. The important element of the teaching, adhyasa, should be retained for further reflection without being diluted by irrelevant considerations. In time it will be understood that it is the fact of the movement of attributes that is the important point and not the objects involved whether sensible or not.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

William Cowper: Hare of God


Finally Evangelicalism – and in this also it was unique among the philosophies of its day – could satisfy the temperament of the artist. For it alone set a supreme value on that emotional exaltation in which the greatest art is produced , it alone make the imagination the centre of its system and not a mere decorative appendage to it. An attitude of civilized disillusionment is all very well in its way, but it is not conducive to creative art. Wesley could have understood Dante as Voltaire or even Dr. Johnson could never have done. The Evangelicals may have disliked poetry, but their sublime conceptions of the universal plan is the most imaginative poem of its day.

Surging and swirling, flowed on the vari-coloured dream of eighteenth-century life. People were born and grew up; made money or lost it; were serious, were frivolous; yielded to a good impulse, yielded to a bad one; had moments of ecstasy and forgot them; made resolutions and failed to keep them married and grew old and died – their life an incoherent tangle of hopes and fears, desires and inhibitions, aspirations and apathies; heterogeneous, hand-to-mouth, without order or sequence. But though it moved a small band of people for whom the whole multifarious complex was resolved into a single and majestic action- that conflict which, as long as life lasts, the children of light must wage with the Prince of the powers of the air. They were sometimes feeble and sometimes erring, for they were mortal; but they never faltered in their effort to measure their every word and act by the highest standard they knew. They did what they though right whatever trouble it got them into, and whatever pleasure it deprived them of. Indeed, the ephemeral joys and sorrows of the world meant little to them. On their brows lay the shadows of the wings of death, and in their ears chimed ever the bells of Paradise.
(from The Stricken Deer (Life of Cowper) by Lord David Cecil)

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William Cowper kept pet hares. They cheered and distracted him from the doom represented by the scrap of Latin that he retained from a dream:
Actum est de te, periisti (It’s all over with thee, thou has perished)


Epitaph on a Hare
By William Cowper

Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue,
Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne’er tainted morning dew,
Nor ear heard huntsman’s hallo’,

Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domesticate bounds confined,
Was still a wild jack-hare.

Though duly from my hand he took
His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
And, when he could, would bite.

His diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk, and oats, and straw,
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
With sand to scour his maw.

On twigs of hawthorn he regaled,
On pippins’ russet peel;
And, when his juicy salads failed,
Sliced carrot pleased him well.

A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
And swing his rump around.

His frisking was at evening hours,
For then he lost his fear;
But most before approaching showers,
Or when a storm drew near.

Eight years and five round-rolling moons
He thus saw steal away,
Dozing out all his idle noons,
And every night at play.

I kept him for his humor’s sake,
For he would oft beguile
My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
And force me to a smile.

But now, beneath this walnut-shade
He finds his long, last home,
And waits in snug concealment laid,
Till gentler Puss shall come.

He, still more agèd, feels the shocks
From which no care can save,
And, partner once of Tiney’s box,
Must soon partake his grave.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Colm Toibin was on the telly last night - Imagine with Alan Yentob


Colm Toibin was on the BBC last night attended by acolyte Alan Yentob.
imagine
He was given the magic carpet treatment, ‘ten minutes in Barcelona’, done, ‘a stroll through Enniscorthy’, done, the display of the famous writer’s chair with lumbar numbing back, done, done, done. The BBC is like that; mention a place and you’re there. The low respectful feed of Yentob skied close to the ravine of mockery at times - ‘your countryman Samuel Beckett’. Toibin has a fine actorly voice with its regular scansion modulated by occasional strange pauses as though to fetch from a Bergsonian hidey hole a memory that eluded. Hardly, as the anecdotes and observations are well worn banalities sanctified by their long residence in the fanum of the writer’s mind.

Brooklyn his novel is being made into a film, the short story A Priest in the Family which I wrote about some years ago has been shot. I haven’t seen it. If it ever is shown on the telly I may watch it.

a priest

The next time I meet Professor Mickey we’ll have a good laugh. Three homes, how are you!
reputation

Monday, 1 December 2014

Seeker's Sabda


Nor can anyone acquire new and different knowledge of anything under the force of an injunction it he has already known it as different through a valid means of cognition. Even if he thinks of it differently (e.g. thinks of woman as the sacrificial fire, (cp. Chand:V.viii.l) under the conviction that he is enjoined to do so, this does not amount to knowledge, but only to imaginative mental activity. And if a thing that had been properly known through a valid means at cognition suddenly began to appear different of its own accord, that would simply he error. (B.S.Bh.III.ii.21)

(Swami S. Note)
Let us suppose that a person, who has know something in one way through a valid means of cognition, meditates upon it as something different in obedience to a Vedic injunction. The point here made is that genuine knowledge will remain unchanged by this, even though the person is obeying a vedic injunction. For instance, if one is enjoined to see vishnu in a stone image, that does not abolish the notion that it is a stone image. The notion of vishnu is the product of subjective human endeavour. It is only a piece of meditation, and so a piece of mental activity. If, however, there were only the stone image, and through darkness or some other obscuring factor there arose other ideas of it, such as the notion that it was a man, that should be considered simply as error.
(from The Method of Vedanta 134/5 by Swami Satchianandendra)

If, as is the case with most people, one has come within the purview of vedanta through the mediation of a teacher then the confirmation that one has experienced will become virtual sabda or a valid means of knowledge. That remains the touchstone in contrast to the mental understanding of even the highest teaching. The Master has become the portal. May I suggest that the presence of the Master becomes subtilized as the Seeker progresses. Even Ramana was first drawn by Arunachala Shiva. His atma vichara method or who am I inquiry is energized by his presence.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Bishop Eamon Casey and John McGahern, son owned and son unowned


The liberal intelligentsia of Ireland follow the practice of remembering their holy dead and pleading for their intercession with the spirit of enlightenment. Professor Brian Farrell, recently deceased enters into the recollection of Henry Farrell by way of posthumous networking.
they've lost
'They've lost', he said to Henry who was his student at the time when it came out about Bishop Eamon Casey and his son Peter by his lover Annie Murphy. The good Bishop fled and the moment is memorialised as the relief of Ireland from the power of the Catholic Church. Personally I see it as a strong wind that blew the chaff away.

What's the position now between Eamon, Annie and Peter? After an initial period of bitterness they are long reconciled.
eamon and peter
The Plain Catholics of Ireland most of whom have an empirical acquaintance with original sin are disinclined to select handy stones.

Another son of that rod of chastisement of Irish life and the sins of the father, namely John McGahern,is hardly mentioned. John P. O'Sullivan who writes for the Sunday Times and blogs as Ardmayle details the rather sad story. He wrote it in 2005 the year before McGahern's death when the unowned son's existence became generally known.
ardmayle

John McGahern was a very fine writer who seems to have replicated in his own life the cold father that he wrote about so well in his Memoir and many stories. So acute and at the same time bafflingly blank.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Bergson and Psi


Reading of a philosophy professor’s aim to naturalise Bergson left me wondering what would be left after he was done. Of the modern philosophers of note I cannot imagine one less amenable. What would one make of his interest in Psi? His presidential address to the Society for Psychical Research in 1913 was entitled Phantasms of the Living and Psychical Research. A leading man of science at a dinner party relates an incident which was told to him by a reliable witness. He doubts and offers grounds.

I discover the same feeling, the same disdain for the concrete, at the root of the objections that are raised against many of your conclusions. I will cite only one example. Some time ago, I was at a dinner party at which the conversation happened to turn on the phenomena which your Society investigates. There was an eminent physician present, one of our leading men of science. After listening attentively, he joined in the conversation, expressing himself, as nearly as I remember, in these words: "All that you are saying interests me very much, but I ask you to reflect before drawing a conclusion. I also myself know an extraordinary fact. I can guarantee its authenticity, for it was related to me by a lady highly intellectual, whose word inspires me with absolute confidence. The husband of this lady was an officer. He was killed in the course of an engagement. Well, at the very moment when the husband fell, the wife had the vision of the scene, a clear vision, in all points conformable to the reality. You may perhaps conclude from that, as she herself did, that it was a case of clairvoyance or of telepathy? . . . You forget one thing, however, and that is that it has happened many times that a wife has dreamed that her husband was dead or dying, when he was quite well. We notice cases in which the vision turns out to be true, but take no count of the others. Were we to make the full return, we should see that the coincidence is the work of chance."

Bergson points out that his grounds were specious and wilfully blind for he has ignored the very striking degree of conformity between the vision and the concrete circumstances of the death of the husband. What is the reason for the rejection of such clairvoyance? The strength of modern science lies in measurement and experiment. If events are not suitable for such scrutiny then they tend to be ignored.

All our mental science, all our metaphysics, from the seventeenth century until the present day, proclaims this equivalence. We speak of thought and of the brain indifferently; either we consider the mental a simple "epiphenomenon" of the cerebral, as materialism does, or we put the mental and the cerebral on the same level, regarding them as two translations, in different languages, of the same original. In short, the hypothesis that there is a strict parallelism between the cerebral and the mental appears eminently scientific. Instinctively, philosophy and science tend to cast aside whatever would contradict this hypothesis or fit ill with it. And this at first sight appears to be the case with the facts which "psychical research" deals with, or at least it might be so with a good number of them.

In his Matter and Memory Bergson distinguishes between memory which has become motor memory or rote and is subject to cerebral trauma and memory which is manifest in lived duration and is spiritual and non-corporeal. It is this sort of consciousness which makes possible the impossible knowledge. In his address he expands on the relation between the immaterial aspect of mind and its personal tethering to a body and speculates that there may be some sort of flowing together of consciousness which is not bound by the common strictures of space and time.

But if the mind is attached to the body only by a part of itself, we may conjecture that for the other part of the mind there is a reciprocal encroachment. Between different minds there may be continually taking place changes analogous to the phenomena of endosmosis.

Find Mind-Energy - Lectures and Essays at Internet Archive
mind-energy






Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Spook Stories by E.F. Benson


Would you like to read some ghost stories by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate resting on the hob? Try the Spook Stories by E.F. Benson available at
Spook Stories
They are nicely written with careful characterisation as you would expect from one of the Benson boys. Take this introduction to Naboth’s Vineyard

Ralph Hatchard had for the last twenty years been making a very good income at the Bar; no one could marshal facts so tellingly as he, no one could present a case to a jury in so persuasive and convincing a way, nor make them see the situation he pictured to them with so sympathetic an eye. He disdained to awaken sentiment by moving appeals to humanity, for he had not, either in his private or his public life, any use for mercy, but demanded mere justice for his client. Many were the cases in which, not by distorting facts, but merely by focusing them for the twelve intelligent men whom he addressed, he had succeeded in making them look through the telescope of his mind, and see at the end of it precisely what he wished them to see. But if he had been asked of which out of all his advocacies he was most intellectually proud, he would probably have mentioned one in which that advocacy had not been successful. This was in the famous Wraxton case of seven years ago, in which he had defended a certain solicitor, Thomas Wraxton, on a charge of embezzlement and conversion to his own use of the money of a client.


There’s a certain sort of diction that goes with a good ghost story. It’s slightly elevated, superior and authoritative. Individuals are encountered, not met.

Hatchard was a bachelor; he had little opinion of women as companions, and it was enough for him in town when his day's work was over to take his dinner at the club, and after a stern rubber or two at bridge, to retire to his flat, and more often than not work at some case in which he was engaged till the small hours.

small hours begs for single quotes as an advertent lapse into the demotic.. His ghouls are not commonplace creatures.



Monday, 24 November 2014

I Was Doncing by Edwin O'Connor


How did it happen that a talented writer like Edwin O’Connor could drop into the slough of ‘who’? He won a Pulitzer prize in 1962 for the novel The Edge of Sadness which it was felt was really for The Last Hurrah from 1956 which was made into a film starring Spencer Tracey and brought O’Connor a fortune. His book I was Dancing showed that riches hadn’t curdled his powers though fairy gold tends to be misspent. What does a bachelor want with an 11,000 sq.ft. house in a prime location in Boston recently on offer for a final reduction of 10 mil?

‘Hurrah’ (pub.’61) and ‘Dancing’ (pub.’64) are the only two of his books that I’ve read and they are both excellent. I would regard the latter as the more finished and sustained fiction that gives full expression to his fine sense of humour. Daniel Consadine a ex-vaudeville performer with his dancing comedy act. ‘Waltzing Daniel Consadine has at the age of 77, a serious climateric, turned up at the house of his son Tom. When the story opens he has now been there for a year and feels that this ought to be his final berth though it is 20 years since he last saw his son. He was a good provider sustaining the family and putting Tom through college and law school by touring incessantly. He was an absent father but is making up for it with a pervasive and invasive presence that is driving Tom’s wife frantic. The novel opens with his daily stunt of waking at 7A.M. moving around, singing, tap dancing but not rising until noon:

The truth was that his father lived in a nest of small and maddening mysteries. Tom knew, for instance, that very soon now the soft tapping would stop, it would be succeeded by footsteps, lightly padding across the floor. Then would follow the other sounds: a window closing, water running, a snatch of song. A shoe would drop, a toilet flush. All normal morning sounds, all sounds of someone getting up for the day. Only — his father was not getting up for the day. His father was not getting up at all: whatever the day, he did not rise until noon. So then, why this fake rising? This false start, day after day, which meant nothing and accomplished nothing — except, of course, to snatch the sleeping from their sleep?

It is of course the demand for an audience that he regards as his due that has worn down his welcome to a nub of tolerance. The charm and the quiver of stories have faded into the light of a common daily trial. With encouragement from the wife, Tom a month previously extracted a promise that Daniel would leave for an Old Folks Home - Smiling Valley. This he plans to frustrate and precisely how his entourage are left wondering. He has a number of visitors, eccentrics all, who gain entry to his room which he never leaves by using a special knock. There’s Billy Ryan, homeopath quack, Father Frank Feeley, retired priest and devotee of the track and old time fan Gottlieb:

And he had, for now there was a knock on the door. It was a soft, apologetic knock; it was also the code knock.
"What the hell did I tell you?" Daniel said triumphantly. "That'll be Gottheb."
He went quickly to the door and opened it. Standing there, looking at him, was a small, elderly bald man. He was carefully and expensively dressed; he was unmistakably Jewish; there was about him an air of ahnost radiant dejection. His hands hung down by his sides; as the door opened, he raised his right hand an inch or so in greeting.

Fr. Feeley is a misanthrope of exceptional capacity. He advises young priests how to keep away pious bothersome ladies. He is also a fan:

"Well, I was your fan for an entirely different reason," Father Feeley said. "I liked you: I never liked vaudeville. By and large it seemed to me a collection of absurd people: middle-aged idiots with dyed hair singing love songs, Chinese laundrymen throwing Indian clubs at each other, malformed women doing indecent gymnastics. Farcical nonentities, all of them. You were an exception, Daniel. It always seemed to me that your performance was a marvelous burlesque of your co-workers. Consciously or unconsciously, you were indicating contempt for the whole imbecilic milieu. It was the kind of performance a sane man could enjoy."

Delia his sister is a resident of Smiling Valley, the beckoning fate that he refuses to submit to. She is inclined to gloat. What will happen on this day of days? Will he go or will he stay? They have managed to book a corner room for him somehow, the son is going to pay for it. You oscillate between thinking that his limpet like clinging to his rock is unjustified and considering the son Tom and Ellen his wife cold deniers of the demand of blood ties. This is a jewel.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Analogy as Approximation


Brh.II.iv.7:
As, when a drum is beaten, one cannot distinguish its various notes, but they are included in the general note of the drum or in the general sound produced by the different kinds of strokes.
(Madhvananda Swami trans)

Explication of the text as given by Swami Satchidanandendra in Method of Vedanta :
On this subject we have the Vedic text: “One cannot hear the individual sounds when a tatoo is beaten on a drum. One can only hear the sound of the drum, or of the beating of the drum’. This is the meaning. One can only hear the sounds that come forth from a drum that is being beaten as ‘the sounds of the drum ‘ - that is, one can only hear them as the universal ‘sound’ in particularised form; particularised here by the blows on the drum. The particular sounds cannot be perceived separate from the universal ‘sound’, as they do not exist independently of it. This principle must be applied in evaluating particulars everywhere. And from this we conclude that no particulars exist independently of the universals to which they belong.........
And we see by analogy that none of the particulars and classes found in the world during its period of manifestation exist independently of the (greatest and all-inclusive) universal called Being.
But how should we understand this term ‘universal’ (if it is to mean being in the profoundest sense?) It cannot be the universal called ‘Being’ as conceived by the Logicians which (is merely the objective universal that) accompanied by ( and dependent on ) the Witness-consciousness which is its own true Self. We know from our own direct experience that the universal called ‘Being’ in this sense has no existence apart from that Consciousness which is its invariable support................

Thus when the texts speak of the existence of universals and particulars, using the example of the drum and the rest, they do not intend to inculcate the idea that the Self is a supreme objective universal. Their purpose, rather, is to direct the mind towards the Self as Consciousness, which is itself neither a universal nor a particular, by teaching that neither universals nor particulars exist independently of Consciousness. Hence it is clear that the reference to universals and particulars is only a phase of the the method of teaching by false attribution followed by denial.


The analogy of drumming as being absorbed back into drum sound or the particular being resorbed by the universal is reminiscent of the well known problem of universals. We recognise something as a something. As the individual sounds of the drum merge into drumming so too individual conscious elements merge into consciousness as such. This is a form of meditation to move us past the fascination of the particular and is the import of the citation previously ascribed to Bhaskara.

Therefore it is correct to say that particulars have no existence as anything other than (massed) Consciousness. (Brh. Bhasya II.iv.7)

Note that this too is a false attribution followed by a retraction/denial. Analogies are suggestive approximations.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Logic and retraction

A question one asks is - How could this be true? That is not a shrug warding off credulity but a genuine one that seeks to find a reason for the truth of something. You are looking for a way to see the truth in it. You trust the proposer but doubt the proposal. In advaita this doubt is amplified because of the S.O.P. of attribution and retraction.

from Method of Vedanta by Swami Satchidanandendra:
No objects are seen in waking and dream in the absence of consciousness. Therefore it is logical to say that without consciousness such objects would not exist.
(Brh.Bh. II.iv.7 ie. Bhaskara’s commentary on the Brahma-Sutra)

This runs counter to the thesis of the unknown object (ajnanatta satta) or the idea that a real object is one which can be unknown. An unreal object only ‘exists’ while it is taken up by the mind and not otherwise. cf. unknown object

The other element which makes one wary is the expression logical. In advaita it is the logical that keeps you pinned to Maya. The logical is about the subject/object dyad and that is what is to be transcended. That theory of knowledge expressed by the citation from Bhaskara is what is to be transcended. An attribution followed by retraction.

It is also the case when I checked on the section pg. 470 ff. on Bhaskara the Swami had much to disagree with and so quoting him may be an ironic nod. But that is to anticipate as I am just now at pg. 99.

Correction 20/11/14: The citation above is not the work of Bhaskara but from the commentary by Sankara on the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. The Bh stands for Bhasya. Bh at the front of an abbreviation stands for a work of Bhaskara’s. The Idealist interpretation which I took from it is one which is sometimes offered as Advaitic. The suggestion is there certainly but should I think be resisted. My follow up post on the citation in its true location Analogy as Approximation will deal with its ontological import.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

H.L. Mencken


Over the years I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Mencken book so by the grace and favour of Internet Archive I downloaded Prejudices for a more extensive read than the snippets I’ve encountered. Generally they were rambunctious claymore swings at perennial follies with more exuberance and better writing than most journalism though that bar may be more suitable for limbo dancing. I feel that he’s not as good an essayist as he is claimed to be. There’s a uniformity of tone and volume that is wearing. Tirade fatigue sets in and one begins to notice that beyond the abstractions of ‘big government’ and any religion whatever, his sneers at ‘lintheads’ and ‘southern crackers’ manifest elitist contempt. He was a eugenicist and racial theorist when that was commonplace. He failed to look closely at those dismal examples of progressive thought and missed an opportunity to turn his scorn on them and perhaps make them less fashionable. To be clear, he wasn’t wrong about everything, just the important things.

The great problem ahead of the United States is that of reducing the high differential birthrate of the inferior orders, for example, the hillbillies of Appalachia, the gimme farmers of the Middle West, the lintheads of the South, and the Negroes. The prevailing political mountebanks have sought to put down a discussion of this as immoral: their aim has been to prosper and increase the unfit as much as possible, always at the expense of the fit. But this can’t go on forever, else we’ll have frank ochlocracy in America, and the progress of civilization will be halted altogether.
—Minority Report: H. L. Mencken’s Notebooks

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana (Hearing, Reflection, Meditation)


There are different kinds of teacher. The prolix sort will explain everything down to the last detail with take aways and handouts. That is the classic academic, scholastic. Another works by questions, hints and puzzles that you must work through yourself to get to the point where you inhabit an understanding.. I think here of the koan exercise where you demonstrate an understanding in a way that isn’t a cog. The first is the examined life for examinations, a tourist’s eye view of the country with some beautiful snaps of the main attractions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but a truly examined life produces aporetic gravidity.

I forget now where I read an account of a guru teaching the Bhagavad Gita. Together they would read a verse and then fall silent to reflect on it. Sravana and Manana. Then after a while the teacher would ask: Have you all understood? Then they moved to the next verse.

Nididhyasana is the third leg of the classic path. It is the meditation on what has been heard and reflected on. It seems to be a non-discursive immersion in an understanding until it is as familiar as your home weather.

Sravana has its own mysteries. As the Vedas have the authority of being a pramana or valid means of knowledge, a true hearing of a Mahavaka or distillation of their purport ought to be immediately grasped. (Tat Tvam Asi - that thou art) The claim is that a student who was sufficiently ripe could realise the truth of the mahavaka simply by hearing it. The tricky part is that a mere intellectual understanding is not sufficient to bring one over the line to realisation because you are already over that line. I could never find out whether anyone had ‘achieved’ enlightenment through sravana.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Catholics R us


It is always instructive and chastening to learn that the great minds of former times were subject to the common prejudices of their day. In 1823 Samuel Taylor Coleridge feeling the backward surge of Catholic Emancipation that came in 1829, could write:

April 29. 1823.
CHURCH OF ROME.
The present adherents of the church of Rome are not, in my judgment, Catholics. We are the Catholics. We can prove that we hold the doctrines of the primitive church for the first three hundred years. The council of Trent made the Papists what they are. [1] A foreign Romish bishop has declared, that the Protestants of his acquaintance were more like what he conceived the enlightened Catholics to have been before the council of Trent, than the best of the latter in his days. Perhaps you will say, this bishop was not a good Catholic.[2] I cannot answer for that. The course of Christianity and the Christian church may not unaptly be likened to a mighty river, which filled a wide channel, and bore along with its waters mud, and gravel, and weeds, till it met a great rock in the middle of its stream. By some means or other, the water flows purely, and separated from the filth, in a deeper and narrower course on one side of the rock, and the refuse of the dirt and troubled water goes off on the other in a broader current, and then cries out, "We are the river!"[Footnote 1: See Aids to Reflection, p. 180. note.][Footnote 2: Mr. Coleridge named him, but the name was strange to me, and I have been unable to recover it—ED.] * * * *

A person said to me lately, "But you will, for civility's sake, call them Catholics, will you not?" I answered, that I would not; for I would not tell a lie upon any, much less upon so solemn an occasion. "The adherents of the church of Rome, I repeat, are not Catholic Christians. If they are, then it follows that we Protestants are heretics and schismatics, as, indeed, the Papists very logically, from their own premisses, call us. And 'Roman Catholics' makes no difference. Catholicism is not capable of degrees or local apportionments. There can be but one body of Catholics, ex vi termini. To talk strictly of Irish or Scotch Roman Catholics is a mere absurdity."
(from Table Talk)

That particular Brand war goes on, with the fervour of our friends, the separated brethren in the ‘wee six’ of NornIrlan, and their Romish and Papist contrasted with the style book correctness that is still maintained, the very one that Coleridge objected to. Another modern result of this term conflict was the taking over of a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin some years ago by Afghani asylum seekers. My intuition is that they thought that this was the main church of the populace. After a period of quiet reflection they were evicted by the Guards and mostly deported. The ways of the Ferengi are strange and inscrutable.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Marquand: An American Life by Millicent Bell


John Philips Marquand died in his sleep at the age of 67(1893 -1960) and after having read Marquand: An American Life by Millicent Bell I think he also lived in his sleep. He suffered from a folie de grandeur which afflicted his choice of wives, both of them from the leisured rich class. Perhaps Bell’s tag, An American Life refers to the elusive Second Act. Everything he did seemed to be aimed at recovery of his early fall into genteel struggle after the loss of his father’s wealth. You get the rich girl, not the same rich girl, that earlier spurned you, you get to join clubs that wouldn’t have you for a member, it rankled that you were unclubbable at Harvard where you studied Chemistry, you make pots of money writing inscrutable Inspector Moto detective stories and in an extraordinary reversal of genre become a respected author of middlebrow fiction. And yet, and yet. Snobbery in the novels of Jane Austen can be amusing, but is somehow in an American inappropriate. The Kent’s Island Estate folly, the ancestral property of Curzon’s Mill which he went to law over with his wayward relatives who owned some 32 seconds of it, is all part of his squire manqué capers. Wickford Point is an account of the menage that he wanted to evict and his most autobiographical novel. It’s brilliant of course, the man may have been unpleasant in many ways but he could write. It has that ambivalent tone of jocose complaint which was his standard way of amusing the rapt company. Behind it was real irritation at the infringing of his writing time, the undue fame of others, water that couldn’t be found at Kent’s Island, a wife’s demand that he summer in Aspen and any current contremps. He indulged in that costly brand of narcissism, psychoanalysis. In Bell’s biography there is no mention of an eureka moment, the uncovering of early trauma, the liberating vista - so that’s why I’m so unhappy. Money is a superb insulator. It must be asked though why a man with his reserves of irony lived in the resorts of the wealthy, playing golf. An answer might be - to avoid his two families. However much he kept his families and wives at a distance, his family plate he kept close to him finally leaving a silver tray made by Paul Revere as a gift to his Alma Mater, Harvard.

Millicent Bell’s long and detailed book is a through account of Marquand’s life and writing career, his lucrative connection with the Saturday Evening Post and Little, Brown the publishers. Due to his massive earning with the latter his money was doled out to him to avoid punitive tax which meant that he was a major creditor of the company for which he got ‘not one red cent’. They have allowed his books to remain out of print, an indication of fickle fame and business values.

A good read and excellent background to an understanding of an unjustly neglected writer.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Augustine and the Incredible


The naive pre-scientific beliefs of sages whose reflections on metaphysical topics continue to stimulate displays a contrast which demonstrates the perennial aspects of philosophical thought. Their errors are not just a matter of knowledge but of faulty connections. Every schoolboy now knows what sorts of explanations are likely and what are not and will not accept the incredible simply on the basis that it is widely believed. Augustine in his City of God uses the concept of the ‘incredible’ in ways which appear to run counter to each other. In Vol.II Part XXI Chap. 4 he writes about wonders which, unless you had experienced them, you would discount as incredible. Some of his examples, the salamander who lives in fire and the incorruptible flesh of the peacock for instance are simply superstitions, others such as the nature of charcoal and lime used in mortar have properties that astound and baffle by reason of their virtue. Diamonds which resist all forces of destruction are easily wrought by the application of goat’s blood. A diamond will also negate the power of a magnet.

The diamond is a stone possessed by many among ourselves, especially by jewellers and lapidaries, and the stone is so hard that it can be wrought neither by iron nor fire, nor, they say, by anything at all except goat's blood.

Yet far more astonishing is what I heard about this stone from my brother in the episcopate, Severus bishop of Milevis. He told me that Bathanarius, once count of Africa, when the bishop was dining with him, produced a magnet, and held it under a silver plate on which he placed a bit of iron; then as he moved his hand with the magnet underneath the plate, the iron upon the plate moved about accordingly. The intervening silver was not affected at all, but precisely as the magnet was moved backwards and forwards below it, no matter how quickly, so was the iron attracted above. I have related what I myself have witnessed; I have related what I was told by one whom I trust as I trust my own eyes. Let me further say what I have read about this magnet. When a diamond is laid near it, it does not lift iron; or if it has already lifted it, as soon as the diamond approaches, it drops it.

It would be invidious to chide Augustine for his credulity in these instances but his use of the notion of the incredible as giving some sort of warrant to theological beliefs is paradoxical.

A full quote is necessary to give the flavour of this:

But granting that this was once incredible, behold, now, the world has come to the belief that the earthly body of Christ was received up into heaven. Already both the learned and unlearned have believed in the resurrection of the flesh and its ascension to the heavenly places, while only a very few either of the educated or uneducated are still staggered by it. If this is a credible thing which is believed, then let those who do not believe see how stolid they are; and if it is incredible, then this also is an incredible thing, that what is incredible should have received such credit. Here then we have two incredibles,—to wit, the resurrection of our body to eternity, and that the world should believe so incredible a thing; and both these incredibles the same God predicted should come to pass before either had as yet occurred. We see that already one of the two has come to pass, for the world has believed what was incredible; why should we despair that the remaining one shall also come to pass, and that this which the world believed, though it was incredible, shall itself occur? For already that which was equally incredible has come to pass, in the world's believing an incredible thing. Both were incredible: the one we see accomplished, the other we believe shall be; for both were predicted in those same Scriptures by means of which the world believed. And the very manner in which the world's faith was won is found to be even more incredible, if we consider it.
(Vol.II. 22:5)

Believing in the diamond cutting efficacy of goat’s blood is a good preparation for that which of its nature cannot be tested. In its way this is a proleptic trumping of Hume’s ‘the truth of a miracle is a greater miracle than the miracle itself’. The incredible general acceptance of the incredible is for Augustine made rational by the fact of miracles. Can anyone doubt their centrality?

 







Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Why Bother?


You have a neat clean metaphysical theory with crisp edges, open to attack of course but defensible. You have spent a long time developing this to the degree that you identify with it and would feel bereft if it were shown to be mistaken. Apart from that what difference does it make, other than the sense of having solved a standard puzzle? You might imagine that a Realist would place the world in a different context to the Idealist and I suppose there is truth in that, whatever truth is. Should that give rise to a specifically different quality of experience? Could a scientific experiment be devised to test this? I think not. It’s just philosophy after all.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Two Stephens, Dixon and Whitman


It seems impermissible to doubt that Stephen Dixon is a great writer. Famous unknowns, unrecognised celebrities and the outstandingly unobtrusive are the reclusive partygoers that it may be asked of - didn’t he die in 1963 and it was overlooked because of the other thing? No, not him, that one. Yes, I have you now.’

How does one discover Dixon if you don’t go to the parties that he’s never at. The answer to that is my new adage: A secret shared is a secret squared. News of the O. Henry awards where he is a fixture is where I spotted his name linked with the as usual genuflection. Via that great internet (why is internet regarded as a misspelling?) resource openlibrary.org I downloaded 2 of his books for to sus. His big volume of Stories and Interstate ,a novel, are probably representative. Turgid, torpid, turbid is my initial reaction I fear but I will plough on and plough the rocks of yawn. Writing too for me must follow that Buddhist saying : Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. You do not colour in everything, how is the active imagination to be activated without imaginary space?

Onneglected books
I came across the F. Scott Fitzgerald proposal to Scribner’s re a library of the unjustly fallen into neglect. Stephen French Whitman is mentioned and some of his works are available on archive.org. Languid, louche, lambent and a great laugh. Looking at Predestined mentioned by Scott, 25 at the time and famous already and won’t stop being famous either.

Felix was sent round the world. He saw strange seas and lands. On shipboard he awoke, sometimes, to find blowing through the open port-holes air as extraordinarily flavored as if enveloping another world. He perceived across water for the first time, yet with the inexplicable thrill of an old traveller returning after many years, minarets, pagodas, a Chinese junk, spider-like Malay catamarans. He became enamoured of strange perfumes, antipodal music, women so fantastically charming that they seemed unreal.

The cumulative effect of grandiloquence is the creation of unreality. Whitman does not ‘murder his darlings’, he breeds more of the divine creatures.

Here is the opening of Sacrifice (1922):

Lilla Delliver's parents, killed in a railway accident, left their child a legacy other than the fortune that the New York newspapers mentioned in the obituaries.
The mother had been tall, blonde, rather wildly handsome, with the look of one of those neurotic queens who suppress under a proud manner many psychic disturbances. Painfully fastidious in her tastes, she had avoided every unnecessary contact with mediocrity. Reclining on a couch in her boudoir, she read French novels saturated with an exquisite sophistication. Then, letting the book slip from her fingers, she gazed into space, as listless as a lady immured in a seraglio on the Bosphorous. At night, if the opera was Tristan, she went down to her limousine with the furtive eagerness of a woman escaping from monotony into a secret world. She drove home with feverish cheeks, and when her husband spoke to her she gave him the blank stare of a somnambulist.








Friday, 24 October 2014

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada




To alter the poster: Is this novel really necessary? I mean necessary to have read and that is placed as the keystone to an understanding of what happened to the Germans under the Nazis. I believe it is. It answers the question: how do you remain decent even if your resistance is not just personally futile but drags others to their deaths? If ever there was a test to destruction of the Categorical Imperative this was it. Helpless, powerless people can always do one small thing and what Foreman Otto decides is based on the true story of the Hempels who left postcards denouncing Hitler in offices and building all over Berlin for years. They hoped to incite resistance or at least a foot-dragging amongst the civilians. Fallada wrote the novel in 24 days and the hallucinatory intensity of the writing was likely aided by pharmaceutical stoking. There is no pause in the tension and though we want Otto Quangel and his wife Anna to come through, it can only end one way.

Along with the central characters of Otto and Anna there are police informants who allied to Gestapo Inspector Escherich try to trace the author of the postcards. Cunning deviants and thugs abound and the portrait of Obergruppenfuhrer Prall leaves no doubt that the Second World War was necessary. His like probably emerged after de-nazification with a sense of having been fooled by Hitler.

The translation I read is by Michael Hoffman and it reads smoothly. ‘Beauty is slowness’ said Ezra Pound who escaped hanging, pardoned for writing well as the poet said. No slowness here, so no lyrical interludes, no soaring, only burying in ground well trodden by jackboots. In the Modern Classic Penguin there is an extensive afterword with some excellent background notes.



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pramanas as irreducible means of knowledge


An important and to my mind a very interesting aspect of the Pramana (Means of Valid Knowledge) theory is that each pramana is unique and cannot be reduced to any other. Dharmaraja Adhvarindra writer of the classic book on the topic Vedanta Paribhasa which he says is for the enlightenment of backward students is at great pains to stress this point particularly on the pramanas which are not universally recognised as separate by all schools. He recognised 6 whereas Vaisesika counted 2, Sankhya 3, and Nyaya 4. He justifies the inclusion of upamana (Comparison) and anupalabadhi (Non-Apprehension of Existence) as freestanding which other schools reduced to a function of pratyaksha (Perception).


This point is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article on the pramanas, unless I missed it. I also sense that this ‘gavaya in the room’ is overlooked generally but I could be wrong by those who would link upamana to modality. While on the topic of modality surely the ultimate source of deontic modadlity is the Gita - what ought I do, what can I do, what may I do, what must one do and what is impossible.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Real and the Really Real in Advaita Vedanta


The real in Advaita Vedanta is where you are now - qualified by the Method of the Vedanta i.e. As each new metaphysical level is attained the attributions superimposed on the real at the previous level are retracted. Ordinary perception is always taken to be veridical until it is discovered not to be. That is the default position. The discussion of snake/rope confusion refers to a metaphysical ajnana (ignorance) and does not infer a position of universal scepticism. as in the argument from illusion in Western philosophy.

It is the expression of the paradox of metaphysical realisation that gives rise to the Matilda Reaction:
Matilda told such dreadful lies
It made one gasp and stretch ones eyes
(Hilaire Belloc)

Swami Satchidanandendra (Method of the Vedanta):
(1) Therefore, since being embodied is the result of false notions, it stands proved that the enlightened person is not embodied even while still alive. (B.S.B. I.i.4)
(2)The question whether the soul ‘has’ or ‘has not’ a body depends simply on whether metaphysical discrimination has or has not arisen. For the Vedic text says, “Dwelling in all bodies, not Himself embodied” (Katha Up. I.ii.22) (B.S.B. I.iii.19)

The failure to discriminate between the metaphysical and the conventional often results in puzzles about whether realised sages actually feel pain or really need those glasses.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

White Noise by Don DeLillo


Coleridge said of Wordsworth that he had to create the taste with which he was read, DeLillo has gone further by creating the reader by which he is read.
gashouse scrapper
It may well have been the twinkling maestro’s work or an example of the phenomenon which I read about in the pull-out literary section of the National Enquirer which tells how an authors deeply meditated work can become actual and manifest. Tom Sawyer I know where you live!

White Noise read by everybody except myself until the other day is a masterpiece of sustained satire such that when you start to talk about it you realise you are in it and put down your signifiers and surrender to the fun and mockery of academics that were too long on the McLuhan teat and went solid with Barthes and the Hitler and the Holocaust industry which only abates during attacks on Gaza for reasons of sensitivity. Then the great theme of telly and its channelling of reality, parsing it as an all pervasive context. DeLillo hasn’t bothered to claim that there is no resemblance to anyone living or dead for that would be to draw the modern science of disclaimers that negate that which is denied. Some logician might take that up and discover the modifier ‘like’ as a paraliptic inversion.

To re-read, a must, to have only just read a criminal oversight.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A.E. Taylor's summation (Elements of Metaphysics)

Final Paragraphs:

Quite apart from the defects due to personal shortcomings and confusions, it is inherent in the nature of metaphysical study that it can make no positive addition to our information, and can of itself supply no motives for practical endeavour. And the student who turns to our science as a substitute for empirical Physics or Psychology, or for practical morality, is bound to go away disappointed. The reason of this we have already had occasion to see. Metaphysics has to presuppose the general principles of the various sciences and the general forms of practical experience as the materials upon which it works. Its object as a study is not to add to or to modify these materials, but to afford some coherent and systematic satisfaction for the intellectual curiosity which we all feel at times as to the general nature of the whole to which these various materials belong, and the relative truth and clearness with which that general nature is expressed in the different departments of experience. Its aim is the organisation, not the enlargement of knowledge. Hence for the student whose interests lie more in the enlargement of human knowledge by the discovery of new facts and laws, than in its organisation into a coherent whole. Metaphysics is probably undesirable, or desirable only as a protection against the intrusion of unrecognised and uncriticised metaphysical assumptions into the domain of empirical service. And similarly for the practical man whose interests in life are predominantly ethical, the main, if not the sole, value of metaphysical study lies in its critical function of exposing false metaphysical assumptions, which, if acted upon, might impair the vigour of spontaneous moral effort.

But for those in whom the speculative desire to form some coherent conception of the scheme of things to which we belong as a whole is strong. Metaphysics has a higher importance. In such minds the impulse to reflect on the nature of existence as a whole, if debarred from systematic and thorough gratification, is certain to find its outlet in unsystematic and uncriticised imaginative construction. Meta-
physics they will certainly have, and if not conscious and coherent, then unconscious and incoherent Metaphysics. The soul that is not at rest in itself without some " sight of that immortal sea which brought it hither," if hindered from beholding the object of its quest through the clear glass of rational reflection, will none the less seek to discern it amid the distorting hazes and mists of superstition. It is in such seekers after the Infinite that Metaphysics has its natural and proper followers, and for them the study is its own justification and its own reward. If a work like the present should prove of any help to such students, whether by offering positive suggestions which they can accept, or by assisting them to know definitely why they reject its conclusions, it will perhaps have achieved as much as its writer could reasonably expect.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Method of Vedanta by Swami Satchidanandendra


A giant tome arrived with a solid thump on the mat at the foot of the stairs. The door was open so Pat the Postman launched it in. . The Method of Vedanta: A Critical Account of the Advaita Tradition by Swami Satchidanandendra trans. by A.J. Alston. It’s a mere 975 pages long. Kuthastha (anvil) indeed. I’ve read some other of his shorter works but this is reckoned to be his magnum opus published at the age of 84. Trying the literary test of opening it at page 99, by then an author should be getting into his stride, I find a commentary on the Deep Sleep question - i.e. does the fact that we know we have been in a deep dreamless sleep infer anything about consciousness as such. Can we draw anything from that knowledge. I recently went into this in a short note covering much the same ground as Swami does - but he speaketh as one with authority.
dreamless sleep

A counter thought to the pure immediacy of D.S. is the possibility of a psychological master knowledge, an overseeing of time periods. It has been established that subjects left for long periods of time in deep caves without clocks or access to cues about night or day will fall into circadian rhythms alternating waking activity and sleeping in units of 23 hours.
circadian
One can readily admit that the ‘cellular clock’ is for something but what is D.S. for? Anything ‘naturalisable’ is for something and fits into a physical pattern. Mystagogic mystery.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington


Booth Tarkington is another double Pulitzer like Marquand who has dropped into obscurity. Though I have read only The Magnificent Ambersons (pub. 1918) his sepia oval portraits seem more Victorian than they ought to be. As you might expect there is no tumult in the knickerbockers or bother in the bustle of his upper class dramatis personae though there is intimation of genteel blenching and the manly firmness of jaw. That’s just a surface which is a challenge to the artist’s depiction of a profound Oedipal drama. George Amberson Minafer adores his mother who having produced him stopped, knowing that such perfection was not to be exceeded. The Minafer that she married is a mini-vir, a good grey little man who works in business of an unspecified sort. The man she might have married is Eugene (well born) Morgan who fell through a bass fiddle under the influence and fell out with Isabel Amberson, Mother Machree. He comes back 20 years later as an inventor and a developer of the snorting monster, the horseless carriage. With such adventurous competition in the vicinity Minafer pere does the decent thing; he dies. Minafer fils who paid no attention much to his father which he lived now finds himself the guardian of his mother’s honour. Greek drama is broad.

By way of gender equality there is an Electra, Lucy Morgan, daughter of the inventor, who is his housekeeper ever since her mother died. She sees clearly (Lucis) what George is, a monster of family pride and bumptious as a rook, yet she loves for he is a handsome lad with a gallant side to him. When it is brought to his attention by his scheming aunt, the sister of his late father, that Eugene Morgan is courting his mother, George is willing to cast his love for Lucy aside to protect his mother from scandal and the unspeakable.

Those are the deeps of the novel, the surface is light, witty and mocks the pretensions of the late Victorian moneyied classes, not real gold but gilded to a good depth. The capers of George who is a spoiled brat aren’t hated because both you and the author share the knowledge that the longed for comeuppance must happen. How it does I found quite realistic and you share or are tempted to the view that there is something to good old stock.

Certain social aspects may grate on the modern and one gets the sense that whatever was the reason that the Civil War was fought liberation of the ‘darky’ was not a major factor in it. A genial patronising which might be worse than outright contempt pervades their mention.

They have passed, those darky hired-men of the Midland town; and the introspective horses they curried and brushed and whacked and amiably cursed—those good old horses switch their tails at flies no more. For all their seeming permanence they might as well have been buffaloes—or the buffalo lap robes that grew bald in patches and used to slide from the careless drivers' knees and hang unconcerned, half way to the ground. The stables have been transformed into other likenesses, or swept away, like the woodsheds where were kept the stove-wood and kindling that the "girl" and the "hired-man" always quarrelled over: who should fetch it. Horse and stable and woodshed, and the whole tribe of the "hired-man," all are gone. They went quickly, yet so silently that we whom they served have not yet really noticed that they are vanished.

It’s a good novel. An American classic with Greek forbears.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The True Rasa of Indian Thought


The idea planted by Matilal that the theological and mystical elements of Indian thought ought to be avoided by philosophers has taken root. He himself swerves around Sankara who falls foul of the closed minded definition of what counts as philosophy in analytic circles. The bewildering fatuity of the continental/analytic divide is accepted by a large part of the Anglo-American tradition so how can they make the leap to an understanding of the interwoven elements of Indian philosophy that dares to ask: what is conceptual analysis for?

The problem is that when one attends only to the acceptable face of Indian thought what is left may be depreciated by Western logicians.

Compared with the logic of the ancient Greeks, Indian logic is not very impressive. It must be emphasized, however, that – unlike the logic of the Arabs – it developed independently of Greek though. While it may be granted that the logic of propositions may have been anticipated by some Buddhist logicians, it does not seen that much progress was made. The logic of noun expressions asserted itself more firmly, as in the five-member syllogism and its variants, but it never reached the level of Aristotle's syllogistic. The development of Indian logic was severely handicapped by the failure of its logicians to make use of variables. As a result, no logical principles could be stated directly; they had to be illustrated by standard examples or described metalinguistically (i.e. in talk about the language in which they might have been stated ). Finally, in Indian thought, logical topics were not always separated from metaphysical and epistemological topics (on the nature of being and knowledge, respectively). It must be remembered, however, that present knowledge of the development of logic in India is incomplete and that it may have to be revised in the light of future research.
( from Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th.Ed.1991 Logic, the History and Kinds Of Nicholas Rescher ed.)

Dr. Ganeri whose plea for a cosmopolitan attitude to philosophy has been circulating recently
circular
is of the Matilal lineage as it were. Following that line is evident from his introduction to the 2001 Indian Logic: A Reader in which he claims that the accentuation of the spiritual element in Vedanta is an internalisation of an orientalist attitude which neglects the logical and rationalist strain of thought. True after its fashion, I suppose, but the diabolism of it is that the focus on the analytic is also an internalised image of 'real' philosophy.

Where is the true rasa? 'Leave the pickles' I always say in my local Indian restaurant.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Taking the Poly out of Polytheism


Augustine was scathing about Greek and Roman polytheism. He devotes several chapters to the topic in The City of God in Vol.1 Bk.4. A sample:
Next let us ask, if they please, out of so great a crowd of gods which the Romans worship, whom in especial, or what gods they believe to have extended and preserved that empire. Now, surely of this work, which is so excellent and so very full of the highest dignity, they dare not ascribe any part to the goddess Cloacina; or to Volupia, who has her appellation from voluptuousness; or to Libentina, who has her name from lust; or to Vaticanus, who presides over the screaming of infants; or to Cunina, who rules over their cradles.

My favourite god is Sterculius who is in charge of compost heaps and unfortunately does not favour me. It may be due to my ommission of libations as recommended by Lawrence D. Hills in his classical Organic Gardening. Augustine’s ironies might be tempered by the consideration that the roots of his grandfather religion, Judaism, lie in polytheism. That may be resisted by some claiming that tribal religion did not pass over into Judaism until some liminal event, reception of the Tablets of Stone or The Burning Bush Declaration.

Hinduism trumps all priority disputes with its doctrine of the apoureshya (not of human origin ) nature of the Vedas. With each new creation the Vedas emerge precisely the same to be heard (sruti) by the sages. Their polytheism is interpreted by some as aspectual. There are many names but one reality that supervenes, Brahman, sat-cit-ananda. People have their favourites. There is Santosh-Ma, the goddess that deals with the Lotto.

Claude Levi-Strauss in his cybernetic way may have an element of wisdom:

We are not therefore claiming to show how men think the myths, but rather how myths think themselves out in men and without men’s knowledge.
(The Raw and the Cooked.)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Richard and Clare's Horse's Prayer


Richard Boyd-Barrett T.D. and Clare Daly T.D. (Members of Parliament) would like to do away with the prayer before the business of the day:
Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I would like that a prayer against their special intentions i.e. the introduction of abortion, be added as a tail.

Boyd-Barrett was on the radio today talking about the separation of Church and State as though that were an element in the constitution which is not correct. The preamble to the Constitution states:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.



Naturally Matt Cooper did not remind him of this. One mustn’t challenge left sentiment on anything and by way of pointing up advanced thought, Mattie McGrath T.D. who happened to be on pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, Medugorje was asked for his views. His location was mentioned several times as if to underline red-neck-crawthumper.

Big job ahead for Clare and Richard - change the Preamble and the Eight Amendment (right to Life) and get re-elected. The prayer from them is paidir chapaill (the horse’s prayer) - constant repetition of the same note.

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

BOOK SEVEN


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
high.
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
house-room,
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
mouth.

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
Virginia_,
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
years;
The great yellow shocks of wheat and the dust-white road through
summer,
And, in Fall, the green walnut shells, and the stain they left for a
while.

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
corn.




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


APHORISM I.


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.



APHORISM II.


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.


APHORISM III.


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

rajah




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.



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hinduism by Jonardon Ganeri (from Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion pub. 2010)


If we were to bake a Hinduism cake what ingredients would we put into it? Clamour of bells at arati, the waving of burning camphor, pre-dawn chanting of 'asato ma, sat gamaya , yoga, the fully naked sage padding along a road with his water pot and staff, first feeding ceremony, Brahmins with thread over their ears drying off after a dip in the Ganges, the smell of the garlands in Bangalore City Market, Gita, Upanishads. I could go on but finally and ever and always – darshan, darshan of the murti, the teacher, your innermost self in meditation.

Now compare that to the alternative cake of Nyaya logic and disputations concerning the empirical foundation of the fruits of sacrifice offered by Jonardon Ganeri in his note on Hinduism in A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Falls flat doesn't it? Not that its not an ingredient but it would take a scholar to spot it. It's the sort of hard tack that sustains but barely his lucubrations. The cause of this fallen cake is not hard to discover and its aetiology requires no acute investigation. There is an embarrassment about the relationship between Hinduism and religion, it seems more the province of mad mystics and not the detached logical explorations of the philosopher. How else will the study of Hinduism, if you accept that label, be moved from the Religious Studies Department to the more prestigious Department of Philosophy?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Hindu Conversion II


Thoughtful, objective analysis reveals that all Gods are but partial manifestations of the same purusa, Sri Krsna, and all Goddesses partial expressions of the primal sakti, Sri Radha. Krsna possesses all attributes of divinity found in other incarnations as well as aspects found in him alone. There can be only one God, yet . . . he has many expressions of himself. ~ Swami Tripurari (Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence, p. 71)

Hinduism is like the Irish Tourist Board slogan with a picture of a country road and the legend the road you're on will take you there. One can see from the opening quote of a leading figure in ISKON that they regard Krishna as the main highway. In that sense they are unusual and fall outside the standard 'all paths are one and no one path is superior' doctrine. They also reject the saguna (formful)/nirguna(formless) characterisation of Brahman. Vishnu then would be an incarnation of, a ray of, Krishna. The division of doctrine into the vyavaharika and the paramarthika namely that which can be understood as limited and provisional and that which is beyond conceptual understanding and is a matter of realization; is also rejected by Swami Tripurari. That quote is taken from a statement by Dr. Michael Sudduth who became a convert to Gaudiya Vaishnavism (G.V.).
gaudiya vaishnavism
Obviously Hinduism is so broad a church that it encompasses all positions including proselytism but speaking purely from the vyavaharika position it is logically counter to the main understanding of sanathana dharma which baffled missionaries. 'Yes, yes', the target group would say with that assenting wobble, 'Jesus is God, all are God'. If they were already there how could they be brought there. Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought this was due to a lack of concentration:

APHORISM XVIII. (Aids to Reflection)
Examine the journals of our zealous missionaries, I will not say among the Hottentots or Esquimaux, but in the highly civilized, though fearfully uncultivated, inhabitants of ancient India. How often, and how feelingly, do they describe the difficulty of rendering the simplest chain of thought intelligible to the ordinary natives, the rapid exhaustion of their whole power of attention, and with what distressful effort it is exerted while it lasts! Yet it is among these that the hideous practices of self-torture chiefly prevail. O, if folly were no easier than wisdom, it being often so very much more grievous, how certainly might these unhappy slaves of superstition be converted to Christianity! But, alas! to swing by hooks passed through the back, or to walk in shoes with nails of iron pointed upwards through the soles—all this is so much less difficult, demands so much less exertion of the will than to reflect, and by reflection to gain knowledge and tranquillity!
Comment.
It is not true, that ignorant persons have no notion of the advantages of truth and knowledge. They confess, they see and bear witness to these advantages in the conduct, the immunities, and the superior powers of the possessors. Were they attainable by pilgrimages the most toilsome, or penances the most painful, we should assuredly have as many pilgrims and self-tormentors in the service of true religion, as now exist under the tyranny of Papal or Brahman superstition.