Monday, 28 December 2015

Jealous God

It seems that ‘my God’ is subject to jealousy as well as being the object of jealousy. A Trinitarian God is not the same as the God of the Muslims. The Christian cannot allow that a description contrary to the one revealed points to the same entity. Therefore the Jews of the Old Testament were worshiping an unrevised version of God in a faulty edition presumably the same as that taught by Joseph and Mary and the local rabbi in Nazareth.

What is one to make of this sophism?:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."
(Acts 17:22)


Friday, 25 December 2015

The Tenth Man and the Koshas

There's a terseness about Sankara when he is at his best. The decks are being cleared and the cannons run out as it were. In Tai Up. II.i.1 the well known analysis of the definition of Brahman as satyam, jnanam, anantam is unpacked. First the opponent open up with an attempt at dismasting. The notion of the limited individual achieving unity with the unlimited is evidently incongruous. Not so says Sankara. It is a question of realisation. One is stuck in a conceptual framework much like the person counting the number of people that forded a river. He counts in a successive manner and finds only nine have made it over. Where's the tenth man?, he asks. When he shifts to counting inclusively the complete number is clear to him. Our normal and usual way of counting objects in the world out there is successive but that is not always adequate. I can remember the discussion about whether the year 2000 really marked the millennium because Dennis the monk (Dennis the Short) started from the year 1 when devising his chronology. A year had not elapsed then, so back to year zero if you please which makes our space odyssey 2001. Interestingly like the concept zero which was not available to height challenged Dennis (remember that meme) the concept of non-incongruity between the Jivatma and Brahman has also to be inculcated through rigorous analysis.

The individual soul, though intrinsically none other than Brahman, still identifies itself with, and becomes attached to, the sheaths made of food etc., which are external, limited, and composed of the subtle elements; and as (in the story) a man, whose mind is engrossed in the counting of others, misses counting himself, though that personality is the nearest to him and supplies the missing number, just so, the individual soul, under a spell of ignorance, that is characterised by the non-perception of one's true nature as Brahman, accepts the non-Selves, such as the body composed of food, as the Self, and as a consequence, begins to think, "I am none other than those non-Selves composed of food etc." In this very way, Brahman, that is the Self, can become the non-Self through ignorance, there is a non-discovery (in the story) of the individual himself who makes up the requisite number, and just as there is the discovery of the selfsame person through knowledge when he is reminded of that personage by someone, similarly in the case of one, to whom Brahman remains unattained owing to his ignorance, there may be a discovery of that very Brahman by realising that omnipresent Brahman to be non other than one's own Self - a realisation that comes through enlightenment consequent on the introduction of the scriptures.

koshas is a short account of the coshas/cosas/koshas.
There are 5 of them and they are part of the samkhya (meaning counting) ancient cosmological system. There are 20 elements or is it 25, anyway the analogy of counting as in the Tenth Man is maintained. The Koshas are the different ways of viewing the human constitution or schemas in terms of the spiritual, vital airs (pranas of yoga), biological, mental, bliss body. By focussing on the elements of the human constitution we may forget to consider the 'binding problem' as it is called in western epistemology. What pulls the whole together?

Monday, 21 December 2015

Orthopraxis and Liberation

In his commentary on Taittriya Upanishad Sankara (Tai.Up. I.xi.4),during his discussion of Karma, Knowledge and Liberation, proffers three contraposititions to his doctrine of the central importance of Knowledge in the achievement of Liberation. These objections centre on orthopraxis which is a feature of the religion in its Mere Hinduism form to borrow a phrase. That ancient strand of the primacy of ritual is moderated by the Upanishads’ discussion of the inner symbolic meanings of fire, ghee etc. Sankara takes a rigourist view of Knowledge as the sole factor in the banishment of ignorance. Is the ascription the book Soundarya Lahari with its detailed description of Yajna, Yantra and Mantra to him an attempt to bring him back to ritualism? Who can say at this point. If you google 'yajna’ you will be offered them for a fee of 900$. For the finding of a suitable life partner cheap at the price.

To summarise his rebuttals: it’s all karma/action and only brings more karma in its train.

And hence liberation is not (an) achievable (result). A traveller has to reach a place which is different from himself. Not that the very place that is non-different from himself can be reached by ones self. And this follows from the well-known fact of identity (of the individual and Brahman) gathered from hundreds of Vedic and Sruti texts such as “Having created it (the world ), He entered into it”. *(Tai.Up., “Know the individual soul also to be myself” (G. XIII.2).

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym (1958)

This is that rare thing; the Anglo-Catholic novel. A central focus or field in which the characters are brought together is the church of St. Lukes whose parish priest is Father Thames. I feel that this is Pym’s sly echo of Father Tiber as in Macauley’s Lay:
O Tiber! Father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray
Father Thames doesn’t need to have swum it as the true ancient and catholic tradition is upheld by him even unto celibacy and not just incense, processions and auricular confession. Very High, High Church and several times the Low is mentioned with a shudder.

The time of the novel is about 1955 and the narrator and protagonist is Wilmet Forsyth who is married to Rodney. She is 33 and her husband is older, a higher civil servant, department unspecified though we learn down the novel that he was involved in the production of report on the linoleum industry. They live in the residence of his mother Sybil, a widow with an interest in archaeology, quite happily. No area specified but the leafy square that is their view indicates a good one. Rhoda the maid of all work lives in the basement. Sybil takes charge of the cooking. Wilmet arranges the flowers and is free to do much as she likes. From the observations of others as reported by her we learn that she speaks with a cultured accent is regarded as beautiful and dresses very well. She is also witty and good company, and a little innocent which is part of her charm for the reader. A knowing scryer of character falls dead on the page.

Having no children leaves her with time on her hands. Piers Longridge the brother of her best friend Rowena Talbot teaches evening classes in Portugese and French and as they have planned to go on holidays to Portugal it might be useful to take lessons in the language:

'That hardly seems likely,* said Sybil with a laugh, 'but it would be nice for you to have some intellectual occupation, if it would be that.
'You mean that I should have some work to do?* I asked, rather on the defensive, for I sometimes felt guilty about my long idle days. I did not really regret not having any children, but I sometimes envied the comfortable busyness of my friends who had. Nobody expected them to have any other kind of occupation.
'Not at all, dear, said Sybil calmly. 'Everybody should do as they like. You seem to fill your days quite happily.*
It was true that I had tried one or two part time jobs since my marriage, but Rodney had the old-fashioned idea that wives should not work unless it was financially necessary. Moreover, I was not trained for any career and hated to be tied down to a routine. My autumn plans to take more part in the life of St Luke’s, to try to befriend Piers Longridge and perhaps even go to his classes, ought to keep me fully occupied, I thought.

The unromantic Rodney deposits a substantial sum of money in her account on her birthday quite enough for her to keep herself beautifully dressed. She describes her outfits regularly. However there’s a feeling of a lack, an ‘is that all there is’.
’Yes, I’m very lucky((to have 3 children)). It's a pity you haven't any, Wilmet,' she ((Rowena)) added tentatively. ‘Do you mind?’
‘A little, I suppose. It makes one feel rather useless. Still, there's plenty to occupy my time.’

Very English of that pre-sharing era. Later they watch a television programme. In the upper middle class way everything is given its full style and title. Telly would come in quotes and said in a common accent.
After dinner we had coffee in the drawing-room and watched a television programme. There was a film about the habits of badgers, which showed the creatures rootling about in a kind of twilight in what seemed to be rhododendron bushes. But in reality, as we were told by the commentator, there were lights suspended from the trees because badgers only come out at night and so couldn't be filmed naturally. There was something melancholy about the creatures in the half darkness, with their long sad faces.
Wilmet’s secret project is the raising of Piers Longridge from the slough in which he is perceived to be wallowing. He seems to her to be a handsome, dissolute, romantic figure. That doesn’t work out as she planned. She has a friend Mary Beamish:

Mary Beamish was the kind of person who always made me feel particularly useless —she was so very much immersed in good works, so splendidly everyone said. She was about my own age, but small and rather dowdily dressed, presumably because she had neither the wish nor the ability to make the most of herself. She lived with her selfish old mother in a block of flats near our house and was on several committees as well as being a member of St Luke's parochial church council. This particular morning, which seemed to me in my nastiness the last straw, she had just been to a blood donor session and had apparently come away sooner than she ought to have done; for when Sybil and I arrived at the Settlement she was sitting on a chair surrounded by anxious fussing women, one of whom held a cup of tea seeming uncertain what to do with it. 'You should have rested for at least twenty minutes,’ said Miss Holmes, the warden of the Settlement, a tall worried looking woman. ‘It was most unwise of you to come away so soon.’
'And not to wait for your cup of tea either,’ said Lady Nollard in her fruity tones which always made me think of some great actress playing an Oscar Wilde dowager. 'That was very naughty, you know.’

Mary Beamish of course escapes the fate that Wilmet presumes for her and by the end her quiet certainties are exploded. Is she an Emma of our day? Yes in a way and also just as charming. This novel abounds in wit and observation and moves along effortlessly without a single slack passage. She retails the adventures in the clergy house and the sticky fingers of their new housekeeper Mr. Bason who follows that career with horse brasses and high teas in an antique shop in the West Country. Handsome Fr. Ransome, dull and dumpy Father Bode and Trollopean Father Thames get the due notice of the wit of Barbara Pym. On that I’ll end my song.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Kant and Advaita's Third Way

The trouble with Kant and other system builders with an extensive glossary of technical terms is that to navigate your way through them you have to achieve a command of this jargon. This has an indoctrination effect, engrams are etched and suddenly you’re in Kantworld where beauty is the understanding’s grasp of the purposiveness of the object. A work of art works. That doesn’t seem right.

 a race-automobile which seems to rush over exploding powder is more beautiful than the 'Victory of Samothrace'."(Tommaso/Futurist Manifesto)

What is Kant’s central insight, experiment or observation that functions as a protophaenomenon as Coleridge put it. Having a sense of that we can then submit to the system and its toils. Essentially it is a reaction to what he call transcendental realism or finding everything in the object. He opposed to that his own transcendental idealism or finding everything in the subject. It seems to have taken him 10 years to pack that bag.

Advaita Vedanta offers a third way: transcendental non-dualism to adapt Kant’s terminology and rule of trine. The object is an appearance. That is its reality. By virtue of being a form of limitation of absolute consciousness it can appear as it is in the mind of the subject which is also a form of limitation of absolute consciousness. Being of the same 'stuff’ the mind can take the form of the object. There is then a non-numerical identity relation between the object out there and the object in the mind of the subject. To this basic position Advaita adds in my interpretation of the theory of superimposition (adhyasa) a further layer. The Advaitin asks: Where is this consciousness really taking place? They postulate that it is in absolute consciousness, the ultimate reality. However the locus of this awareness is taken to be the mind of the subject, being superimposed there due to the dominant role of the physical in the generation of perception. Liberation is the overcoming of this mistake.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Line of Beauty and The Golden Section

When Kant maintains that saying that something is beautiful is a claim to an objective position that does not reflect the eye of the beholder, is he correct? The sceptic might say that if Kant had gotten out of Konigsberg more often he would have to admit that the ‘line of beauty’ is very variable.
line of beauty

Yet there lingers the doubt in the waiting room of challenged axioms: we do dispute taste. Might there exist an attractor that throws its shadow over the fluctuations of what is considered beautiful. Hogarth’s sinuous line converts the plain into the beautiful but he also admits that the uneventful causes the central experience to stand out. It is clear that fiction with too many effects subverts its own power. The line needs framing.

The golden section was first noticed by the Greeks but it was always a guiding intuitive principle.
golden ratio
It is the craftsmen who live unconsciously within a tradition that manifest the central aesthetic most clearly. This Chinese woodworker when he fashions and shapes his frame saw and moulding planes creates the curve of beauty. It is ergonomic too. Beauty works.
chinese woodworker
Scandinavian cabinet makers within a tradition of individual conscious design find harmony in more complex ways. Their rectangles are stretched and have to find balance in their negative space and the interior arrangements of the cabinets. The show cabinets of James Krenov can be uncomfortable to look at. There’s a tension that requires a complete explication before harmony is achieved.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Philosophy of Kant as contained in extracts from his own writing by John Watson

As I was reading John Watson’s extracts from the Philosophy of Kant in his own translation I had the uncanny experience of being able to understand it inasmuch as this was new to me. Is this a true translation or a paraphrase I asked myself. I checked his extracts from the Third Critique (of Judgement) comparing and contrasting them to the translation by James Creed Meredith revised, edited and introduced by Nicholas Walker (Oxford World’s Classics). Right enough there are differences but it is as though Watson had wrested intelligibility from the wearying anfractuousities of Kant. It’s that sense that one has of Kant constantly doubling back in mid sentence as a new thought,which he imagines clarifies, occurs to him .

Watson’s introduction to his Extracts contains in brief his philosophy of education and is worth quoting:

My reason for presenting to the public these translations from the philosophical writings of Kant will be best understood if I state how they came to be made. The teacher of philosophy soon finds that a very powerful irritant is needed to awaken his pupils from their " dogmatic slumber." I do not doubt that it is possible to secure the desired end by a systematic criticism of the preconceptions that stand in the way of genuine philosophical comprehension. But my experience is that it is almost impossible, by this method, to prevent the average student from accepting what he is told without mastering it and making it his own. Thus he passes from one form of dogmatism to another, and with the new dogmatism comes the great enemy of all education, a conceit of knowledge without its reality. The study of philosophy is of little value if it does not teach a man to think for himself. The process of self-education is necessarily a severe one, and, therefore, distasteful to the natural man. Yet any attempt to evade it by some " short and easy method " defeats the end. What is required is a process by which the student who is really in earnest may pass, gradually and surely, from a lower to a higher plane of thought. The philosophical writings
of Kant, which exhibit in brief the transition from the old to the new, I believe to be a potent instrument for this end. 

Watson’s Translation of Introduction to the Critique of Judgement:
THE object of philosophy is to search for the principles by which reason may obtain a true knowledge of things. Now, we may conceive of objects either from the theoretical or from the practical point of view, and hence the ordinary division of philosophy into theoretical and practical is perfectly correct. But, in making this division, we must be sure that the conceptions upon which the distinction of principles rests are themselves distinct.
There are two, and only two, classes of conception by reference to which a distinction may be made in the principles of philosophy. These are conceptions of nature and the conception of freedom. The former are the condition of theoretical knowledge in conformity with a priori principles; the latter in itself supplies merely a negative principle of theoretical knowledge, but it is the source of principles which enlarge the sphere of the will, and which are therefore called practical Philosophy has thus two main divisions, theoretical philosophy or the philosophy of nature and practical or moral philosophy. But these terms have hitherto been grossly misapplied, both in the division of the principles of philosophy and in the division of philosophy itself. For it has been assumed that there is no distinction between what is called "practical" in the sphere of nature, and what is " practical" relatively to the idea of freedom. Now, this confusion between two perfectly distinct conceptions has made the division of philosophy into theoretical and practical unmeaning, inasmuch as the same principle is assumed to apply to both spheres.

Meredith’s Trans:

Philosophy may be said to contain the principles of the rational cognition that concepts afford us of things (not merely, as with logic, the principles of the form of thought in general irrespective of the objects), and, thus interpreted, the course, usually adopted, of dividing it into theoretical and practical is perfectly sound. But this makes imperative a specific distinction on the part of the concepts by which the principles of this rational cognition get their object assigned to them, for if the concepts are not distinct they fail to justify a division, which always presupposes that the principles belonging to the rational cognition of the several parts of the science in question are themselves mutually exclusive.
Now there are but two kinds of concepts, and these yield a corresponding number of distinct principles of the possibility of their objects. The concepts referred to are those of nature and that of freedom. By the first of these, a theoretical cognition from a priori principles becomes possible. In respect of such cognition, however, the second, by its very concept, imports no more than a negative principle (that of simple antithesis), while for the determination of the will, on the other hand, it establishes fundamental principles which enlarge the scope of its activity, and which on that account are called practical. Hence the division of philosophy falls properly into two parts, quite distinct in their principles-a theoretical, as philosophy of nature, and a practical, as philosophy of morals (for this is what the practical legislation of reason by the concept of freedom is called). Hitherto, however, in the application of these expressions to the division of the different principles, and with them to the division of philosophy, a gross misuse of the terms has prevailed; for what is practical according to concepts of nature has been taken as identical with what is practical according to the concept of freedom, with the result that a division has been made under these heads of theoretical and practical, by which, in effect, there has been no division at all (seeing that both parts might have similar principles).

I rest my case. Those baffling bracketed parentheses.

Watson’s work is at
watson's critique

Meredith's Critique

Monday, 7 December 2015

Secret Societies and the French Revolution by Una Pope-Hennessy

What can with certainty be said is that the entry in Wikipedia for the Illuminati is both at once full of otiose speculation and specious completeness and nevertheless lacking in reference to important sources. I chiefly have in mind the essay on Secret Societies and the French Revolution by Una Pope-Hennessy (nee Birch) who traces with admirable clarity the sources of The Perfectabilists who later became known as The Illuminati. This surprises me but on reflection to mention only to deprecate The Illuminati as a leaven of subsequent uprising is an indication of their well known strategy.

Birch accounts Martinez de Pasqually an important forerunner:

Not only was France the home of many masonic lodges, but its social system was riddled with mystical societies which gathered their initiates from among the adepts of masonic grades, and owned allegiance to no supreme council. Swedenborg and Martinez de Pasqually always regarded masonry as a school of instruction, and considered it the elementary and inferior step that led to the higher mysteries. In consequence of their teaching it came about that a great number of sects and rites were instituted in all parts of Europe, whose unity consisted in a common masonic initiation, but whose aims, doctrines, and practices were often irreconcilable. The Martinizists, or followers of Martinez de Pasqually, were a distinctively French sect; they had lodges in Paris in 1754, and also at Toulouse, Poitiers, Marseilles, and other places. The term "Illuminates" is applied to them equally with the Swedenborgians, Martinists, and several germane societies.
Pasqually is said to have been a Rosicrucian adept. His teaching was theurgic and moral, and his avowed object was to develop the somnolent divine faculties in humanity, and to lead man to enter into communication with the invisible, by means of " La Chose," the enigmatic name he gave to the highest secret. He is chiefly interesting as having been the first to permeate the higher grades of French masonry with illuminism, an example followed afterwards with conspicuous success by the disciples of Weishaupt.

Pasqually was followed by Louis Claude de Saint-Martin who further adapted the teaching of his master and became:

He became the mystical philosopher of the Revolution, and the book he published in 1775, " Des Erreurs et de la Verite," produced an immense sensation, comparable to that created by the publication of " La Profession de Foi d'un Vicaire Savoyard." Like Rousseau, he believed in the infinite possibilities of man, holding that Providence had planted a religion in man's heart "which could not be contaminated by priestly traffic, nor tainted by imposture." Rousseau gave the name of conscience to "the innate principle of justice and virtue which, independently of experience and in spite of ourselves, forms the basis of our judgments"; Saint-Martin thought it the divine instinct. On the belief in man's essential goodness both founded their demand for social revolution, claiming an opportunity for men to be indeed men and not slaves, a chance for climbing back to that old God-designed level of happiness from which they had descended. Saint-Martin saw in such a movement the awakening of men from the sleep of death, and with deep conviction he responded to the cry “All men are priests," uttered three centuries earlier by Luther, with the cry "All men are kings " The answer to the social enigmas of the century was whispered by him in the " ternaire sacre " of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; and it echoed with reverberating clangor through all the lodges of France. Martinist societies were everywhere founded to study the doctrines contained in his book and to expound the teachings of the mystical philosopher who, like Lamartine in a later day, contemplated the Revolution as Christianity applied to politics.

Well, one might say, these societies were no more than the foolery of secret handshakes along with the serious business of fixing the little difficulties of their friends in the commercial and legal spheres. That was true and continues to be the case but prior to the Revolution they were the source of the dissemination of forbidden ideas which culminated in the 'ternaire sacre’ latterly the divine 'laicite’.

Birch offers evidence of the systematic infiltration of French Lodges by the Illuminati under the direction of Weishaupt. Her elegant and extensive essay is well worth reading. Find it on along with her introduction to The Disciples at Sais by Novalis. The epub format is faulty but the pdf is quite readable on my cheap rubbish tablet.

Friday, 4 December 2015

First and Second Law of Cliche

You have discovered the first law of cliché. They are there to put you at your ease and come with the nudge of unuttered single quotation marks. Jimmy J. can say ‘run off her feet’ in The Dead and that’s all right but he would forbid himself ‘eyes that strain in their sockets’ not as though he didn’t know all about eye strain as he scanned with the largest available glass. Nor would he be guided by the ‘moon’s lanthorn’ a sort of fey navigation that he would undoubtedly ‘eschew’. Withal.

The second law is that cliché has claws. The everyday can maim you suddenly, like you were cut by a Stanley knife, a clean shallow cut that traces a weeping edge like the tears of a statue in a remote monastery, so embarrassing to the monks.

Abbe Brens: And Now This.
Pater Miks: Yes it is vulgar but that is the catholic part of the meaning of the Catholic Church. God comforts us with the familiar. Bread, wine, oil and now blood.
A.B.: I told you to stop reading Chesterton.

Cliches uttered by policemen are not comfortable. Ascertaining and forming an opinion is a gavel rap. When polis refers to you as ‘sunshine’, that is not the beckoning of Falcon Tours. For you my friend happiness is a footnote in a YA book entitled A Nosegay of Verse.