Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Maya of Henri Bergson

This is worth quoting in full:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words
again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and opernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ver took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
(from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Mindful of the penetrating awl eye from the podium, I, as a matter of mental economy, try to save on my negative capability against the rainy day of outright paradox. So then finding that the metaphysics of Bergson and Shankara are both genial I hereby justify my simultaneous adherence.

To keep my very distractable mind focused I am in the habit of writing notes as I read. One of those files on that excellent little app Fastnote is called The Maya of Henri Bergson. Maya though generally understood as illusion is much much more. The use of the term ‘illusion’ indicates a judgment that can be corrected by
analysis. Maya is a natural state that makes the subject/object dyad possible. It therefore underpins veridical perception. It is unavoidable but contains within itself the aporia - how does that external object come to be, in some sense, in me? It is the object’s ‘perceptuality’ that corrects Maya while at the same time leaving perception as it is. Our understanding has changed not our experience.

The leading analogy in the case of Maya and superimposition is that of the rope that is taken for a snake in poor light conditions. In Bergson the leading analogy re the lapse from duration is the cinematographical mechanism. The core of both of those analogies is the concept of in Bergson's case 'superposition' and in the case of Advaita/Shankara superimposition'. There is more than just a simple similarity of term here, there is a fundamental congruence of a metaphysical standpoint. What both assert is that a practical view of how things are, the one led by mathematics and the other by the inevitable subject/object dyad , both of these views are metaphysically incomplete. They do not represent an ultimate reality.

The trouble with analogies is that in order to understand how they are to be taken you must already have a grasp of what they analogise. If you don't you are almost certainly going to focus on some point which is irrelevant. In the case of the cinematographical mechanism some people have taken it as a critique of the cinematic art's i.e. the film's, capacity to represent reality. In the case of the 'adhyasa'/superimposition concept some people have become fascinated by the epistemological problem of illusion and its psychological foundations.
So what then are those analogies good for if they distract from their true import? My tentative answer is that they are a mnemonic device that holds a complex philosophical position in a single image. The internal elements of the analogies draw together a complex of abstract elements.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Aurora Leigh: Baptised into the grace and privilege of seeing ( Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,—
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady’s hall or tenant’s lodge
Dispensed such odours,—though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit: Continent Cut Off

I’m surprised and it’s good. The British have declared their independence and the right to waste their money in their own way. No more will they have to support the travelling circus of the monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg costing €130,000,000 pa.
travelling circus

Bullying by the elites did not work. Progress towards the United States of Europe has been halted and national governments will have to listen to the disaffected.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dive Deep

Everybody has a view on morality or about what should be done in a given circumstance and they attempt to base their conclusions on a general principle drawn from the act under discussion itself. Socrates annoyed the Athenians by demonstrating the paradoxes generated by such ‘horizontal’ justifications. Dive deeper would be his motto, find at the metaphysical level the reasons for your action. In short consult with the One, the True and the Good.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow

To get away from my murder books The Ring and the Book and Crime and Punishment I interposed the sportive Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow. It’s fun but is it great art? There are fine comic scenes in it usually with a touch of menace as the embattled hero Charles Citrine whose life has a lot of loose ends and unresolved issues attempts to bring order and light into a universe in which Ahriman has the upper hand. From anthropohagy to Anthroposophy might be the postcolon title of the book if that particular authorial affectation was going in 1975. It’s a fleshly book , an incarnate, local book. Chicago is presented as the American city releasing ‘foul and pestilential exhalations’ and full of cheerfully crass philistines who pity the intellectual Citrine who thinks that knowledge is an adequate adaptation. As with all Bellow protagonists he presents himself as emotionally labile who feels too much for his own good, put upon and a victim of his good emigrant heart. He suspects that Renata his lover who is 30 years younger than him is after the literary loot from his Broadway play and movie, not to mention the Pulitzers. His ex-wife and her cannibal lawyers see every compromise he makes as weakness. One hundred thousand dollars alimony a year for ever and aye is the prospect that opens up. In case that he should think of hiking to another jurisdiction the judge wants a bond of 200,000. If that wasn’t enough he has run foul of Cantabile, a volatile hoodlum and wannabe wiseguy. Bellow hauls in a net of incident full and overflowing. But who is Humboldt or von Humboldt Fleischer to give him his full name. We know that Bellow here is drawing on his old chum and rival Delmore Schwartz. How true it is to their real relationship I don’t know but what strikes me as a guilty truth is the chance sighting of Humboldt some days before his death by Citrine who hides from him.

Poor Humboldt didn't impose his cycles for very long. He never became the radiant center of his age. Depression fastened on him for good. The periods of mania and poetry ended. Three decades after Harlequin Ballads made him famous he died of a heart attack in a flophouse in the West Forties, one of those midtown branches of the Bowery. On that night I happened to be in New York. I was there on Business—i.e., up to no good. None of my Business was any good. Estranged from everybody, he was living in a place called the Hascombe. I went later to have a look at it. Welfare lodged old people there. He died on a rotten hot night. Even at the Plaza I was uncomfortable. Carbon monoxide was thick. Throbbing air conditioners dripped on you in the street, A bad night. And on the 727 jet, as I was flying back to Chicago next morning, I opened the Times and found Humboldt's obituary.

I knew that Humboldt would soon die because I had seen him on the street two months before and he had death all over him. He didn't see me. He was gray stout sick dusty, he had bought a pretzel stick and was eating it. His lunch. Concealed by a parked car, I watched. I didn't approach him, I felt it was impossible. For once my Business in the East was legitimate and I was not chasing some broad but preparing a magazine article. And just that morning I had been flying over New York in a procession of Coast Guard helicopters with Senators Javits and Robert Kennedy. Then I had attended a political luncheon in Central Park at the Tavern on the Green, where all the celebrities became ecstatic at the sight of one another. I was, as they say, "in great shape" myself. If I don't look well, I look busted. But I knew that I looked well. Besides, there was money in my pockets and I had been window-shopping on Madison Avenue. If any Cardin or Hermes necktie pleased me I could buy it without aski
ng the price. My belly was flat, I wore boxer shorts of combed Sea Island cotton at eight bucks a pair. I had joined an athletic club in Chicago and with elderly effort kept myself in shape. I played a swift hard game of paddle ball, a form of squash. So how could I talk to Humboldt? It was too much. While I was in the helicopter whopping over Manhattan, viewing New York as if I were passing in a glass-bottomed boat over a tropical reef, Humboldt was probably groping among his bottles for a drop of juice to mix with his morning gin.

This betrayal is the moral centre of the book, the sun around which everything else falls, the gravity that bends the space of the novel. It’s almost, well, groovey, to be distracted by the picaresqe priapism of the novel, by Renata the succubus and her witchy mother and the Chicago characters who are corporeally and psychologically larger than life but we take a sober turn when Charlie begins to talk to his death which is what he does though he disguises it as an anthroposophist excursion. Sometime before Charlie begins to put a little distance between the fuzzy warmth of his foibles and his truth , we begin to get a little tired of the cap ‘n bells and the bladder whacking. You’ve danced the hornpipe long enough in
These were light, weightless red shoes from Harrods, a little short in the toe, but admired by the black shoeshine man at the Downtown Club for their weightlessness and style. 

Sumptuary catelogues abound in this book, cashmere socks, wouldn’t they tickle, and linings, many hued, spat out by mulberry eating worms. We are told that if you have a funny foot you need a funny shoe, hand lasted naturally.

How does Citrine end up in Spain trying to communicate with death? You’d need to read it. There are no cliches in it, Bellow refused ‘author’ as a verb, the side bars on esoteric topics are to the point but that’s my foot. Go on read it but of course you have already. What did you think, gentile reader (sorry) is it now in the land of the period craze?

Friday, 17 June 2016

Trumpitude and Brexititude

Well we are in a tizzy, aren’t we. Right thinking people everywhere are profoundly annoyed that their views are being ignored by the ‘profanum vulgus’ and the normal ‘arceo’ is suspended by a democratic process. (Odi profanum vulgus et arceo - I hate the common mob and keep them at a distance : Horace) Trumpitude and Brexititude are being equivilated, the same educational level evinced by both, the same twitter led bolshiness. One thinks of Matthew Arnold and the Populace whose goal is to do as it likes. You taught them to read, and gave them the vote; now look. One agonia aunt on Crooked Timber claims that once out of the E.C.. if such should happen, he will feel less European. Oh my God, do you remember Cona coffee?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Bergson on Intuition

Let it be said, in conclusion, that there is nothing mysterious about this faculty. Whoever has worked successfully at literary composition well knows that when the subject has been studied at great length, all the documents gathered together, all notes taken, something more is necessary to get down to the work of composition itself: an effort, often painful, immediately to place oneself in the very heart of the subject and to seek as deeply as possible an impulsion which, as soon as found, carries one forward of itself. This impulsion, once received, sets the mind off on a road where it finds both the information it had gathered and other details as well; it develops, analyzes itself in terms whose enumeration follows on without limit; the farther one goes the more is disclosed about it; never will one manage to say everything: and yet, if one turns around suddenly to seize the impulsion felt, it slips away; for it was not a thing but an urge to movement, and although indefinitely extensible, it is simplicity itself.
(from: Introduction to Metaphysics)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Irish Noh Drama:The Eight Amendment.

Discussing abortion with its supporters is I feel like going into the ‘gloom’ in the Night Watch movie; I’m invisible because the entities there don’t recognise my presence but there is a price to be paid - my life is drained. (The N.W. is a Gnostic masterpiece by the way)
Writing, by hand, notes as I was reading
young mahon
James Edwin Mahon’s paper I felt the biro going like a polygraph as I claimed ‘I am a Saturnian’ - really. For this annotation I required a power tool, ancient technology that is not susceptible to malign vibrations. Out of its insulating case I bring the brushed aluminium and dimpled leather look body, Olivetti Lettera DL (de luxe). Big ju-ju.

Does that sound mad? Does it sound madder that putting Judith Thomson’s violinist front and centre in the war on life? Of course she, J.T., doesn’t want to be taken as a bad person so she asks – Would someone who decide to abort at 7 months because it interfered with holiday plans be not a decent human being? Really. Mahon asks why should there be any negative assessment of the probity of her action if the foetus viable though it be still had no right to the use of her body? Kinda gotcha, sort of. Get outa that one.

Bergson would say that the analysis of concepts and the virtual hypostasis of analysands is the problem. This is what gives Ethics as above its pettifogging and trifling trolleyist cast. Break up the continuous flow of life into point instants, pausing it at your command, generates the paradox that what is an inalienable right at month 2 becomes questionable at month 7. The intuition about a right to life has become undeniable at that point even if was unrecognised due to lack of imagination at the earlier point.

I must get out the gloom now. Young Mahon says Ould Mahon has moved on; in the right direction one hopes. The Only Philosopher of the Western World may miss the packed jury of the Citizen’s Assembly on the question set up by the dismal Half Taoiseach Kenny, tenant at will of Fianna Fail. In Ireland we do Noh Drama not Kabuki. It’s an ancient tradition.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Aurora Leigh meets her aunt.

I think I see my father’s sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father’s elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,—once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
more for ruth than pleasure,—if past bloom,
Past fading also.


(from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Man in my Basement by Walter Mosley

Amongst the 5 for €5 that I got recently was my first Walter Mosley, The Man in my Basement. It isn’t in the genre of hard boiled detective usually associated with this writer but whether it extends his reach beyond his usual grasp is a question that those up on his oeuvre would be better able to answer. I liked it with some reservations about the symbolic schematism.

Charles Blakey who regards himself as Black blue blood for an ancestor that emigrated from Africa as an indentured servant, opens the door to a white man who has a strange request. He wants to rent the basement for a month. It is a commodious dry glory hole with the lumber of several generations in it. Above it are 3 stories of what my American paperback cover illustrates as Famille Bates style grandeur. ‘Why would he want to rent a basement from me’ asks Charles never Chuck or Charlie. It seems that he wants to set up a cage to live in for a month to expiate his sins. Whether sins against humanity or sins against credibility or a chunk of symbolism from a corn flakes packet need not wrinkle your smooth brow. There it is.

Charles Blakey who is in trouble with the mortgage and is unemployed and on his way to being a career lush is an interesting and I thought a well drawn character in the outsider mode. It is likely that the distraction of the basement is only a way of exercising some moral muscles for our anti-hero. His friends are worried about him and put up with his disdain and know more about him that he thinks they do. They are impatient and see the fall of the House of Blakey as immanent. Clearing the basement has brought to light a lot of valuable antiques and some ‘passport’ masks. This brings in an elaboration of the plot in the form of a dealer woman friend who brokers this valuable cache. She interprets his anomie as distress at the forced sale of his heritage. He allows her to think that but is unable to break out of his settled aloofness for the ordinary reason of being special unto himself. There is no easy resolution to his distance from others. Technically the basement cell is a plot extension like a hair extension, slightly unreal, slightly de trop. Alors. When it runs its course the novel has run its course which is a short 213 pages. Is the renter Anniston Bennet a mask through whose empty eyes we stare into hell?

Anniston Bennet came on Friday at 4:00 exactly. He wore yellow short sleeves over a blue T-shirt, and brown trousers. His tennis shoes were the same blue as his shirt. He had no tie and the yellow shirt was open at the throat, showing a hairy pale neck over the top of the T-shirt collar. His head was oval and his chin came to a tip like the masks that I kept in their box on the windowsill next to my bed. His blue eyes were a perpetual shock, but there was no wonder or magic in the rest of his face.

Blakey is a liar and he knows it if you allow that a liar knows anything that isn’t falsified on sight.

I’ve lied all my life. To my parents and teachers and friends at school I lied about being sick and not coming in to work, about romantic conquests, my salary, my father’s job. I’ve lied about where I was last night and where I was right then if I was on the phone and no one could see me. I have lied and been called a liar and then lied again to create other falsehoods. Sometimes I lie to tell people what I think they want to hear.
It’s not such a bad thing - lying. Sometimes it protects people’s feelings or gives them confidence or just makes them laugh.

This is an unreliable narrator but he’s telling us that. Is the Southampton liar a Cretan liar? I’ll be looking out for more Mosley.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Ring and the Book by Robert Browning

O lyric Love, half-angel and half-bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire —
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue.
And sang a kindred soul out to his face —
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart —
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory — to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die —
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!

(from The Ring and the Book)

What a singer Browning is. A master of the apparently effortless effusion. That hymn to his wife is at the end of Book 1. She helped as his divine muse and the poem novel is a proof of it. In a way the story is like the tales I watch in the mid hour of insomniac night on Tru Tv. The detectives seem so grateful for the stupidity of the average killer. So Guido didn't make sure Pompilia was dead, and he forgot about a licence to hire horses to make his way back to his hole in the wall. If he had of had Cochran and Bailey as his defence team he woulda got off. Sure Guido had to put up with a lot. Crime passionel. He snapped. So would you members of the page turners guild and semi-gentle readers.

This to be my portal bench reading for a Summer that so far does not belie the name.

Monday, 6 June 2016

James on Bergson / Concepts & Reality

Bergson believes something which appears to flout physical law. Memory he claims can flash our whole life before us in the twinkling of and eye. That suggests the paradox of equivalence in experience of a couple of nano seconds to n years. ‘Memory’ as I understand it in the metaphysics of Bergson is merely consciousness at its most salient. ‘The thoughts of a boy are long, long, thoughts’ said Houseman in a poem but really thoughts as conscious states do not take time but are linked to a precise instant of space/time. This is at the point of the ‘memory cone’ where consciousness meets physics (in the illustration given in Matter and Memory). The mistake made is to extend the conceptualization or intellectualization realized by formal law into physical reality itself. Infinity paradoxes proliferate. Achilles can never catch up with the tortoise.

Bergson and the Critique of Intellectualism is the title of Lecture VI of the Hibbert Lectures given by William James in 1909. It is quite positive about Bergson.

I have to confess that Bergson's originality is so profuse that many of his ideas baffle me entirely. I doubt whether any one understands him all over, so to speak; and I am sure that he would himself be the first to see that this must be, and to confess that things which he himself has not yet thought out clearly, had yet to be mentioned and have a tentative place assigned them in his philosophy. Many of us are profusely original, in that no man can understand us—violently peculiar ways of looking at things are no great rarity. The rarity is when great peculiarity of vision is allied with great lucidity and unusual command of all the classic expository apparatus. Bergson's resources in the way of erudition are remarkable, and in the way of expression they are simply phenomenal.

James’s understanding and clear exposition is a great introduction to the difficulties of Bergon’s thought:

In the first place, logic, giving primarily the relations between concepts as such, and the relations between natural facts only secondarily or so far as the facts have been already identified with concepts and defined by them, must of course stand or fall with the conceptual method. But the conceptual method is a transformation which the flux of life undergoes at our hands in the interests of practice essentially and only subordinately in the interests of theory. We live forward, we understand backward, said a danish writer; and to understand life by concepts is to arrest its movement, cutting it up into bits as if with scissors, and immobilizing these in our logical herbarium where, comparing them as dried specimens, we can ascertain which of them statically includes or excludes which other. This treatment supposes life to have already accomplished itself, for the concepts, being so many views taken after the fact, are retrospective and post mortem.

The practicality of the conceptual method is a clever inversion.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Diversity in Philosophy

This opininator article inspired a good deal of discussion:
diversity You can’t be agin diversity, no certainly not. The Nousian commentary was lively. daily nous
Amy Olberding’s contribution was witty.

I can recall no sentence beginning with the phrase -'even with the best will in the world’.

As an outsider, a general reader in the Six Darshanas hindu philsophy and Buddhism but staying mostly within the confines of Advaita, my initial reaction was that here was the Springtime gathering of nesting material. I was shocked to put it mildly. This sort of thing must stop.

Looking at many of the most prominent thinkers in the deeper end of the pool I paddle in it is evident that their approach is analytic. They value in Philosophy, clarity, logic, conceptual analysis etc. It's the analytic/subcontinental divide if you will. The cast of their minds is the Western dyadic one and whatever that is, it’s not diversity.

Butterfly, wherever you go you’re always there.

Friday, 3 June 2016

God's Hiddenness

My spell checker wants to change the hiddenness of God to the hideousness of God which is a succinct expression of the argument whose first cousin on the mother’s side is the argument from evil. If the party giver is so great why are so many left outside?

It’s no good talking about a 'humble and contrite heart’ or the 'knee of understanding’ to those nay sayers. An idea that I toy with is that the metaphysical intuition of necessity as underpinning contingency is a slight flicker of the lace curtain. In the Gita chapter 3:22, 23 Krishna alludes to this:

Arjuna, there is nothing in the three worlds for Me to do, nor is there anything worth attaining unattained by Me; yet I continue to work.
Should I not engage in action, unwearied at any time, great harm will come to the world; for Arjuna, men follow my path in all matters.

That bare intuition is not a R.S.V.P. You have to want to get in to get that invitation. A question asked by spiritual teachers is - What do you want? What does your life say that you want? That antique expression, cop yourself on, should be revived.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

William Hurrell Mallock's Natural Wealth

I feel that the early success of William Hurrell Mallock was significant in setting him on a course for the doldrums. It was too easy and it established a sense of mission which was irony proof. The easily mocked fatuity of progressive thinkers and his tendency to reach the facile conclusion that they were wrong about everything led him to imagine that every aspect of Conservative thought was basically correct. The aristocracy and by extension land owning and rent extracting gentry were a reflection of the God given natural order. In 1882 five years after The New Republic he could offer this clubman level view of the Irish peasantry:

But in none of these places, except under foreign pressure, do the natives produce wealth.
It is not, however, only amongst tropical or sub-tropical savages that we can find parallels to our imaginary islanders. We can find them in Europe, in the very middle of civilisation. Not to go farther afield, we can find one in the Irish peasantry. The Irish have to labour it is true; but why? Because without labour they would perish with cold and hunger. The labour they do, however, is only just sufficient to raise them to that level on which without labour our islanders are placed naturally. It is the lowest level compatible with animal comfort. The Irish rise to that, and they develop some skill in the process; but in spite
of their skill, beyond that level they cannot rise. Necessity may be the mother of invention ; but it is the mother only of the invention of necessaries. With the attainment of the necessaries, their skill and their invention ceases. They can invent no more, because they want no more. They have no desire for a clean cottage with four or five rooms in it; they prefer a smoky hut. They have no desire for a house to put the pig in; they had far tsooner that it kept the family company. Not only have they no desire for such improvement ; they resent it if it is thrust upon them. Give them a clean cottage, they will instantly make it dirty. Put the pig in the pig-house, they will instantly have it back in the kitchen. What they want is not riches; it is simply a leisurely poverty. I have said this of the Irish, but it is not true only of them. They are simply a familiar type of the average of mankind in general wherever wealth is not directly before them, either in itself or in the means that lead to it. The average of mankind, all the world over, are, in that case,
exactly in the condition of our islanders. "Wealth not being before them, they are unable to desire it."
I know this is a hard saying
(from Social Equality) social equality

The answer to that is:
- Arrah, aman’t I making you wealthy sor, God be good to you and and all belonging to you.