Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Calasso's Ardor

I offer you his last, final and concluding words - yes it has seemed interminable:

Killing, sacrifice, and rapture are bound together, both for god and man. And this makes them accomplices, it obliges people to celebrate long, exhausting soma rites. But it is also the only way of attaining a life that - for a while - is divine.

That song by the Moody Blues:

Timothy Leary's dead.
No, no, no, no, He's outside looking in.
Timothy Leary's dead.
No, no, no, no, He's outside looking in.
He'll fly his astral plane,
Takes you trips around the bay,
Brings you back the same day,
Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary.

And yet he should know better for on pg. 38 in his Yajnavalkya chapter he writes:
There is, even now, no complete edition of the Satapatha Brahmana, since it ought to include the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad as its final part.

That Upanisad is final in the Aristotlian sense of final as being what the whole propaduetic excercise of the sacrifice is aiming at. Ritual is karma or action and only creates more action. Knowledge alone is final though soma may bring  Beautiful! God! It's God! I see God! (Frank Zappa).

Coming from a noble lineage of philosophers Calasso adds to the burden of Lamark by never asking about first principles. What is sacrifice for, why do we do it; gets the perfunctory answer - out of gratitude. It’s like the banal ‘giving something back’ kind of. How does sacrifice work, ontologically speaking? My previous post on Dining in/on Kailas suggests the theme of virtue a not particularly original idea with neo-Platonic overtones which also has the suggestion of the doctrine of correspondences. Coconut oil is likely good for the hair and eyebright may be a nerve tonic. The explanation of ritual points of the brahman/invigilating priest assumes suchlike sympathies.

When the soma plant is brought in order to be crushed to yield its sacret juice it is told the reason why. Calasso states:

For a noble purpose, certainly, though a mysterious one, for “the supreme sovereignty of the metres”.

The metres have to be preserved impeccably along with their pronunciation for the mantras to be effective. If they are altered the sacrifice will fail. That is common knowledge and the devices used in the Vedic tradition are discussed in the Sage of Kanchi’s book, The Vedas. At its core is the Doctrine of Bijas. cf
and 28,000 entries in google. So it is not a mystery.

The mystery is how such a slight production could achieve such success. Partially it must be owing to the mismatch of the knowledge base of most literary reviewers with the topic. This is a nice way of saying ignorance. I’m not sure if I’m done with Calasso yet but I seem to far exceeded the attention span of a lot of views which according to Google Analytics is 0 seconds. More anon.

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