Monday, 27 November 2017

Augustine on Self-Awareness and Advaitin starting point


Book XI:26. Of the image of the supreme Trinity, which we find in some sort in human nature even in its present state.
And we indeed recognise in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity, an image which, though it be not equal to God, or rather, though it be very far removed from Him,—being neither co-eternal, nor, to say all in a word, consubstantial with Him,—is yet nearer to Him in nature than any other of His works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us; for we do not come into contact with these by some bodily sense, as we perceive the things outside of us,—colours, e.g., by seeing, sounds by hearing, smells by smelling, tastes by tasting, hard and soft objects by touching,—of all which sensible objects it is the images resembling them, but not themselves which we perceive in the mind and hold in the memory, and which excite us to desire the objects. But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am.[493] For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? for it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know. And when I love these two things, I add to them a certain third thing, namely, my love, which is of equal moment. For neither am I deceived in this, that I love, since in those things which I love I am not deceived; though even if these were false, it would still be true that I loved false things. For how could I justly be blamed and prohibited from loving false things, if it were false that I loved them? But, since they are true and real, who doubts that when they are loved, the love of them is itself true and real? Further, as there is no one who does not wish to be happy, so there is no one who does not wish to be. For how can he be happy, if he is nothing?
(Ffrom City of God by Augustine

Yet though different in fundamental doctrine there is some striking likeness to the advaitic starting point of atma vichara or inquiry into the self - For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Residing in that sense of self and being detached from the particular content of the conscious state is delight/ananda. Likewise consciousness as such is unsublated in all modes of consciousness; waking, dreaming and deep sleep. This last is paradoxical and is unique to Advaita. How do we know that we have been in a state of deep dreamless sleep? Is it an inference, a memory or immediate knowledge? I have written about this before so I won’ repeat it here.
Cf: deep sleep as protophaenomenon

Friday, 24 November 2017

Carlyle and Mill on Forced Labour and Indian Indentured Labour


I’ve written before on Carlyle’s Negro Question that ranting rantipole document in which various rebarbative remedies are proffered to solve the plight of the sugar plantations in the West Indies. The former slaves you see had taken to growing pumpkins, his metaphor for subsistence farming, on the uplands. Sure beats cuttin’ cane. No, wrote T.C. they should be pressed to really work the land for high value crops because if they don’t they forfeit the right to occupy it. They are not taking out of it the good that God put into it. (One notes that similar dispossession was justified in South Africa and Israel etc. We made something of this land which was being wasted by ..... T.C. was a supporter of mass immigration.) If they don’t then the West Indies will become another Ireland unable to sustain a growing population. The dismal science, his name for the political economy of the day, held that there should be no interference with the market or classic laissez faire. In the end things would sort themselves out. Both at home and abroad Carlyle was for active intervention when things became stagnant.

His pressed labour was not a novel proposition. In Africa all the colonial powers used it. The French corvee system in Algeria is well known, railways and roads were built with it. The British used it. Workfare is a form of it if you look at from a certain angle i.e. as a cure for laziness especially that of blacks. Compulsory training or withdrawal of social welfare is another strategy which does not compete with paid labour. The idea mutates like a virus.

Naturally the anti-slavery groups were incensed by this return to quasi slavery. John Stuart Mill was one of their spokesmen. He wrote a counter pamphlet against The Negro Question. I have always felt that Mill was a hypocrite considering his high position in the East India Company. He retired from it in 1858. I have been reading about Indian indentured labour during his period at India House. What is remarkable is that no one asks how Mill justified this transfer of Indians to the West Indies to work the sugar plantationd using a pittance which to a poverty stricken populace might be a lure. How did Mill square that circle? (Note the irony of the replacement of pure chattel slavery with bond slavery, that ongoing Indian running sore.)

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.
(from Liberty by John Stuart Mill)

His mind was clouded by imperialist racist colonial presumptions which are still current. That they were obvious in the case of Carlyle whose demand that something, anything, be done amounted to decerebrate flailing makes Mill a smoother fraud but not I suggest a better man.

some links:indian indentured labour

impeialist Mill

Mill on Liberty

Mill and Carlyle debate and articles

documentary movie on how britain reinvented slavery


Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Letter and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle


Mrs.C: - Bout’ ye Mr.C
Mr.C: - Can’t complain Mrs.C.
Mrs.C: - Try harder Mr. C.
Mr.C: - Now is desolation made more desolate and the treacherous phare of mine enemy has brought me to the rocks and ruin.
Mrs.C: - How so Mr.C?
Mr.C: - This toast stinks of smoking sea coal. Can they not light the fire in the range earlier to get good hot embers before the toast is plied to it. This is Stygian. Besides I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. There was a cat running up and down the garden wall. And the porridge. Have we run out of good East Lothian oats?
Mrs.C: - The history of Frederick the Great of Prussia has laid waste to this house. Twelve years on it and only 5 books written. One more will complete it and finish me.

That last sentence nor any like it was never uttered before Mr. C(arlyle). She, Jean Welsh Carlyle, always referred to him as such in her many letters in which the complexity of ministration to her husband was mentioned. As Frederick waxed she waned. In the end he had a posthumous victory and Thomas Carlyle only became aware of her suffering after she died. This knowledge came to him through the reading of her journal. However others realized this and made sure that she had regular spells of time away from him to recover. John Stewart Collis in his book on their marriage The Carlyles maintains that fond absence was the glue that kept them together. So she married a genius and that is what she got dyspepsia, insomnia, moaning in the gloaming with a lassie by my side and all. Her letters were not a valve for venting but genuine warm communication with her friends and family.

In the opening letter of Vol.3 J.W.C.

My dear Miss Barnes,—How nice of you to have written me a letter,' all out of your own head' (as the children say), and,'how very nice of you to have remarked the forget-me-not, and read a meaning in it! It was certainly with intention I tied up some forget-me-nots along with my farewell roses ; but I was far from sure of your recognising the intention, and at the same time not young enough to make it plainer. Sentiment, you see, is not well looked on by the present generation of women; there is a growing taste for fastness, or, still worse, for strong-mindedness ! so a discreet woman (like me) will beware always of putting her sentiment (when she has any) in evidence—will rather leave it—as in the forget-me-not case—to be divined through sympathy; and failing the sympathy, to escape notice.
And you are actually going to get married! you ! already ! And you expect me to congratulate you ! or ' perhaps not.' I admire the judiciousness of that 'perhaps not.' Frankly, my dear, I wish you all happiness in the new life that is opening to you ; and you are marrying under good auspices, since your father approves of the marriage. But congratulation on such occasions seems to me a tempting of Providence. The triumphal-procession-air which, in our manners and customs, is given to marriage at the outset—that singing of Te Deum before the battle has begun—has, ever since I could reflect, struck me as somewhat senseless and somewhat impious. If ever one is to pray—if ever one is to feel grave and anxious—if ever one is to shrink from vain show and vain babble—surely it is just on the occasion of two human beings binding themselves to one another, for better and for worse, till death part them; just on that occasion which it is customary to celebrate only with rejoicings, and congratulations, and trousseaux, and white ribbon! Good God !

Frederick the Great was casting his curse on her marriage. Thomas Carlyle in a note to Letter 214 writes:

In October, after getting home, there was a determined" onslaught made on ' Frederick,' an attempt (still in the way of youth—16 rather than 60!) to vanquish by sheer force the immense masses of incondite or semi-condite rubbish which had "accumulated on ' Frederick,' that is, to let the printer straightway drive me through it!—a most fond and foolish notion, which indeed I myself partly knew, durst I have confessed it, to be foolish and even impossible! But this was the case all along; I never once said to myself, 4 All those chaotic mountains, wide as the world, high as the stars, dismal as Lethe, Styx, and Phlegethon, did mortal ever see the like of it for size and for quality in the rubbish way? All this thou wilt have to take into thee, to roast and smelt in the furnace of thy own poor soul till thou fairly smelt the grains of gold out of it!' No, though dimly knowing all this, I durst not openly know it (indeed, how could I otherwise ever have undertaken such a subject ?) ; and I had got far on with the unutterable enterprise, before I did clearly admit that such was verily proving, and would, on to the finis, prove to have been the terrible part of this affair, affair which I must now conquer tale quale, or else perish! This first attempt of October-February, 1859 —-1860 (after dreadful tugging at the straps), was given up by her serious advices, which I could not but admit to be true as well as painful and humiliating! November 1860 had arrived before there was any further printing: nothing thenceforth but silent pulling at a dead lift, which lasted four or five years more.
My darling must have suffered much in all this; how much! I sometimes thought how cruel it was on her, to whom ‘Frederick' was literally nothing except through me, so cruel, alas, alas, and yet inevitable ! Never once in her deepest misery did she hint, by word or sign, what she too was suffering under that score ; me only did she ever seem to pity in it, the heroic, the thrice noble, and wholly loving soul!

It is a curious fact that three Victorian sage writers, Ruskin, Mill and Carlyle, with more remedies than Boots the Chemist, had serious trouble in the trousers department. All the rest of us have to do is hang them up on a convenient nail. Meanwhile back in Vienna.....

Find Vol.3 at letters J.W.C.




Friday, 17 November 2017

Conservative Consolation


Another class, a week after being told about unconscious learning and training, tried it on the professor. Every time he moved toward the right side of the lecture hall, they paid rapt attention and roared at his jokes. It is reported that they were almost able to train him right out the door, he remaining unaware of anything unusual.
(from Origins.. by Julian Jaynes)
This is just the sort of thing worked by the label ‘conservative’. Move towards that corner and no one laughs at your jokes, your remarks are viewed as dangerous reaction and in general a spiritual halitosis sets in. Move in the direction of the liberal corner and the most trite observation is deemed deep and wise. Is it a consolation to remember that most of the greatest writers and thinkers have been conservative? I find it so.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Not So Greek Julian Jaynes


Or in the many-poemed comparison of love to a rose, it is not the tenuous correspondence of metaphrand and metaphier but the paraphrands that engage us, that love lives in the sun, smells sweet, has thorns when grasped, and blooms for a season only. Or suppose I say less visually and so more profoundly something quite opposite, that my love is like a tinsmith's scoop, sunk past its gleam in the meal-bin.D The immediate correspondence here of metaphrand and metaphier, of being out of casual sight, is trivial. Instead, it is the paraphrands of this metaphor which create what could not possibly be there, the enduring careful shape and hidden shiningness and holdingness of a lasting love deep in the heavy manipulable softnesses of mounding time, the whole simulating (and so paraphranding) sexual intercourse from a male point of view. Love has not such properties except as we generate them by metaphor.
Footnote: From "Mossbawn (for Mary Heaney)" by Scumas Heaney, North (London: Faber, 1974).
(from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind)

Julian Jaynes is here having fun with neologisms and making a serious mistake about the subject of a poem. The ‘Mary’ is Seamus Heaney’s mother. Marie is his wife’s name. Mossbawn is where Heaney grew up. Watching your mother making bread is something that you never forget. My mother had a way of rubbing with the back of a spoon the soda in her hand and moving her palm over the basin of flour.

Mossbawn: Two Poems In Dedication


1. Sunlight

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells


Silas Lapham had to be punished. I wonder why. He’s an essentially decent vulgarian as banausic as they come but not an evil man. The garish colours that emerge from his paint mine are at least cheerful unlike the magnolia of the class that is set up against him. They are represented by the Corey’s whose son is interested in a career with Silas. Thomas Corey is reverting to the mercantile roots of his family. Grandfather had laid down the gold of yore in import export. The middle generation was engaged in decorous spending, no showing off, smooth Harvard pieties of Beacon Street rule. Are there any Latin tags, there should be. I forget. There’s a pale aesthetic aspect to the Corey’s.

William Dean Howells sends his doppleganger Bartley Hubbard, also a newspaperman, to interview Lapham in the opening pages of the novel and gives us hints that are never followed up on that there might be a mediating voice in the novel. Alas ‘tis only a devise to fill us in on the rise of Lapham to where he now hangs like that ball in the sky. Leave it to me, I’ve got it, this is mine says Howells. Does it fall between ‘this reporter’s hands’? No it doesn’t. He fields it nicely and keeps the story moving along. There is no high gloss finish (note to self, keep up the paint metaphors) nor is there the muted eggshell only primary durability painted on the rocks and barnsides of America. Good stuff representing the continuing deploring tradition of the scribal class. He ‘helmed’ The Atlantic Monthly in its early days. We are told this:

Of all the men of letters who took the helm at The Atlantic Monthly in its first fifty years, perhaps its most prolific and well-known was William Dean Howells—at least in his day. In our time, however, Howells is relatively unknown, especially when compared with the writers he helped bring to national prominence—Mark Twain and Henry James, among others. But a new Howells biography by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, published this year, has returned this author of some forty novels to the literary spotlight. 
(from: atlantic)
That ‘helm’ in the first sentence, is it a deliberately crass echo of a imdb review or The Atlantic Monthly turning its megaphone into an ear trumpet? I am aweary. The electric blanket has been on awhile. I to bed.

Another American classic.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Quasi-Formless Meditation


Augustine distinguishes between praying with the mind and praying with the spirit. I feel the distinction here is between the use of images, the reflection on the lives of the saints, aspirations, mantra and other ‘fixities and definites’ as against the formless meditation which is a total turning of the mind and heart that can alter your world. It allows the fullness of the being of consciousness to manifest as an objectless orientation. Unrestriction by an object allows expansion beyond the formal.

Is this way of thinking about Dhyana/meditation accurate when as the Kena Up. Says the Self is known with every state of consciousness. True but for the practice of seekers on their way an empty open approach may be a better way to avoid distraction. Being formless is difficult and a bare focus on the Heart centre on the right hand side of the chest may be useful. To sink into the Heart or fall into it has been practiced by the devotees of Ramana Maharshi though in strict non-dual terms it is metaphorical.

Bhagavan: No. Only the quest ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. What remains all through deep sleep and waking is the same. But in waking there is unhappiness and the effort to remove it. Asked who wakes up from sleep you say ‘I’. Now you are told to hold fast to this ‘I’. If it is done the eternal being will reveal itself. Investigation of ‘I’ is the point and not meditation on the Heart-centre. There is nothing like within or without. Both mean either the same thing or nothing. Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the Heart-centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the Heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still, whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active. In whatever place in the body one thinks Self to be residing, due to the power of that thinking it will appear to the one who thinks thus as if Self is residing in that place. However, the beloved Heart alone is the refuge for the rising and subsiding of that ‘I’. Know that though it is said that the Heart exists both inside and outside, in absolute truth it does not exist both inside and outside, because the body, which appears as the base of the differences ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, is an imagination of the thinking mind. Heart, the source, is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. Heart, the supreme space, is never a form. It is the light of truth.