Friday, 29 December 2017

Divide Small and Serve All

So, in my view, the self comes into being with the first act of attention, or the first time attention favours one interest over another. This will occur when we have multiple interests, two or more of which are in conflict. At the very moment attention resolves such a conflict, the self is born.
(from an essay in Aeon self and attention
On the Self and Attention by Carolyn Dicey Jennings

Given that there is no greater focussing of the attention than that of the lover on his lass and vice versa must we assume that Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins has a divided self?

Her polyamory philosophy about which she has written in the Chronicle of Higher Education
has a photo of herself and her husband and lover flanking her throne. It lacks only a cheetah on a silver chain to complete the title of C.I.J. who must be Obeyed


Its not you, its not me, its not the others, its all of us. Can we recalibrate the emotional intensity, scale back the neediness, slow down the unfolding and retain a medium grade self-centredness, a dyke of privacy that can overcome the flooding of that sea of loss and incompleteness? The inner baby is crying in the nursery pleading for Mother. No Mother. The first words that you learn are ‘All Gone’. Yes. All Gone.
(from an unwritten story with proposed title A Strong Bench)

Friday, 22 December 2017

Thank Me for being Me

Seen in a year’s best books list:

Földényi’s Melancholy is a Burton-inspired chronicle that bests a thousand other intellectual histories of its kind. It spoke to me of what it is to be the sort of person who feels the need and drive to read all these books in the first place, and of the intangible benefits I gain from them.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Ezekiel's Wall

What does it mean though:
Lo, when the wall is fallen shall it not be said unto you, where is the daubing wherewith you have daubed it.
Ezekiel 13:12

My understanding of it which may be wholly wrong is as follows. 'Daubing' is what builders in Ireland would call 'render' or that skim of sand and cement mix applied to house walls to shed the rain and prevent it from lodging in the joints of the masonry where the working of frost would degrade the mortar. In metaphorical terms then daubing is the skim of beliefs, analogies and oh very well - narratives, which sustain the fabric of our lives. When it is 'thin', porous or ill-applied then the weather of attrition soon exposes the 'wall' to damage and eventual failure.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Commensality Chez Kaufman

In the interest of his thesis
that refusing to tuck into whatever your host chooses to offer you makes you a philistine because you don’t respect their food culture Daniel Kaufman offers the example of the Chinese man who offered an American visiting the country cicadas to eat. Though he was a little disgusted by the idea of eating insects he accepted the treat as a matter of good manners. This is the interpretation we are offered. I find it questionable given that even the Hong Kong Chinese refer to Northern Chinese as ‘locust eaters’ as a pejorative. The Chinese host therefore was well aware that not everyone is partial to crispy critters. Why did he do it? Was it going to be a good story, how the gweilo forced them down? And mime it.

Would this acceptance of anything your host offers apply to the eating of broccoli? One might say: put it on my plate if you wish but I will not eat it. Would that be a reproach to your family’s judgment of its healthful properties and have a chilling effect on commensality chez Kaufman. There would be the unspoken thought that there was one amongst us who does not love his broccoli that mother prepared with love and chapped fingers from the washing in cold water. This is not to be borne.
This would have the effect that cynics claim is the basis of dietary restriction as in Judaism and Hinduism namely the restriction of commensality to the in group.

I am glad to see that virtually no one goes along with Kaufman’s daft commensality culture. When I was a lad - story time - I was in London’s Soho and spotted a little cafe with hot salt beef sandwiches. I went in and ordered one and asked for a glass of milk to go with it. We don’t serve milk at lunchtime was the answer I got. Milk, I said, milk, thinking that I was not understood. We don’t serve it at lunch. Baffled I took the sandwich to my table. It was delicious. Now that I know that one mustn’t seethe the calf in its mother’s milk I wouldn’t ask. I wouldn’t even ask chez Kaufman.

“Lo, when the wall is fallen shall it not be said unto you where is the daubing wherewith you have daubed it”. Ezekiel 13:12

Friday, 15 December 2017

Julian Jaynes and Self-Awareness

Here is the problem with Julian Jaynes Origins of Consciousness. He maintains there existed a time when humans were conscious but not reflexively so. They did not have that subjective awareness which has implicit in it the knowledge that one is aware that one is aware. There was no sense of that supervenient ‘I’ that can allow to examine our consciousness. Is that possible? Isn’t that self known with every state of awareness? What could block it? Memory establishes the knowledge that I was here before and that this place is familiar. Would we be able to use this continuity without reflecting on it. How would the ordinary experience of being mistaken about the position of things happen without a comparison.

Jaynes’s reliance on the Iliad and the consciousness of the warrior who does not take thought but acts out of his training and established virtue begs the question. The hero’s ‘arete’ is simply to fight, to engage his valour, his thumos, in a righteous cause. The counsel of Krishna to Arjuna who is dithering and unable to act is likewise to follow his dharma which is to be a warrior and engage an unrighteous enemy even if some of them are relations and respected elders. Excessive reflexion leads to a fall from dharma in the case of the Kshatriya. The spirit of a warrior is no indication of a general state of consciousness.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Appearance in Advaita

What indeed is here is there; what is there is here likewise. He who sees as though there is difference here, goes from death to death.

This is to attained through the mind. There is no diversity whatsoever. He who sees as though there is difference here goes from death to death.
(Katha Up. II.i.10, 11)

This is similar in intent to the Tantric: 'What is here is there, what is not here is not anywhere'. The idea being proposed is that the object which appears is a limiting adjunct of the absolute. Appearance is their reality. Looking for greater ontological depth on the plane of appearance in a quasi Kantian noumenon, in the appearance itself so to speak, is a mistake. In a failing light my car appears to be grey but it is in fact blue. There is a real thing that appears to have a certain quality. 'Appearance' as used in Advaita is analogical. Advaitic appearance is not tied to the reality of an object that appears but to the creative power of the absolute.

To further the difficulty, ordinary everyday appearance is used in the snake/rope confusion story to explain the nature of superimposition/adhyasa.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Fr. O'Flynn by Alfred Perceval Graves

While we're on the Graves' we mustn't forget Graves Pere, Alfred Perceval, who is famous for parlour ballads such as Trottin to the Fair and Fr. O'Flynn

Of priests we can offer a charmin variety,
Far renownd for learnin and piety;
Still, Id advance ye widout impropriety,
Father OFlynn as the flowr of them all.

cho: Heres a health to you, Father OFlynn,
Slainte and slainte and slainte agin;
Powrfulest preacher, and tenderest teacher,
And kindliest creature in ould Donegal.

Dont talk of your Provost and Fellows of Trinity,
Famous forever at Greek and Latinity,
Dad and the divils and all at Divinity
Father OFlynn d make hares of them all!

Come, I venture to give ye my word,
Never the likes of his logic was heard,
Down from mythology into thayology,
Truth! and conchology if hed the call.

Och Father OFlynn, youve a wonderful way wid you,
All ould sinners are wishful to pray wid you,
All the young childer are wild for to play wid you,
Youve such a way wid you, Father avick.

Still for all youve so gentle a soul,
Gad, youve your flock in the grandest control,
Checking the crazy ones, coaxin onaisy ones,
Lifting the lazy ones on wid the stick.

And tho quite avoidin all foolish frivolity;
Still at all seasons of innocent jollity,
Where was the playboy could claim an equality,
At comicality, Father, wid you?

Once the Bishop looked grave at your jest,
Till this remark set him off wid the rest:
"Is it lave gaiety all to the laity?
Cannot the clergy be Irishmen, too?


There exists a Latin translation:found at session site
supplied by j.F. Murphy

Pater O’Flynn

[Latin translation of A.P.Graves famous song "Father O’Flynn".
The translation was done by Father Alexius Quinlan of Mount Melleray, Co.Waterford. It is worthy of "Prout" and deserves a place in any good collection of Irish songs, as the work, well done, of an Irish monk.]

O clerici adsunt diversis littoribus,
Omnes qui semper insignes sunt moribus,
Quisque verrissimus suis coloribus?
FLYNNIUS ombibus verior stat:
Radice Hibernica gaudet O’FLYNN,
Ut ombibus patet per suum nomen,
Ex quo in minoribus parochiabilus
Antiquioribus praestiterat.

Multos ad annos carissime FLYNN,
Omni virtute doctissime in
Orator optime, doctor mitissime,
Donegalissime, PATER O’FLYNN.

Trinitat’s Collegii sapientissimi,
Latinam, Graecamque loquuntur satissime,
Locquaculi omnes, sed omnes citissime
In infimum saccum detrudit O’FLYNN.
Dei immortales mirantes laudant
Logicam FLYNNICAM et aestimant.
Res mythologicas et concholigicas
Victas omnino a PATER O’FLYNN.

O PATER O’FLYNN habes baculum magicum,
Quo opus facis omnino mirificum,
Ebriis pigris, superbus remedium
Dabitur optimum hoc baculo.
Quare in tota parochia FLYNN,
Ne unus quidem pecator est in;:
Nec feminae garriunt, viri nec titubant,
Obtiner timor in hoc loculo.

Olim Episcopus valde turbatus est,
In verba FLYNNICA multum mirantus est,
Magna molestia ipse captatus est
Donec hoc modo respondit O’FLYNN,
"Num soli laici hilares sint,
Clericine perlaeti videri debent?"
Oportet clericum esse Hibernicum
Tum in dolore, tum gaudis in.


The original jig tune is generally played at breakneck speed quite unsuitable for dancing lest the Gaelic maiden be a maenad. Quite. I have often heard versions of it sung on old 78's.
Here's one:

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Shout by Robert Graves

Any short story which begins after this fashion will give that settling in feeling in the hara - this is going to be good. I would say to the prospective student of a master’s degree in writing - please don’t, just read this story once a day for a month, once a month for a year and once a year for the rest of your life just as you would oil a prized piece of furniture.

cricket ground, the chief medical officer, whom I had met at the house where I was staying, came up to shake hands. I told him that I was only scoring for the Lamp-ton team today (I had broken a finger the week before, keeping wicket on a bumpy pitch). He said: "Oh, then you'll have an interesting companion."
"The other scoresman?" I asked.
"Crossley is the most intelligent man in the asylum," answered the doctor, "a wide reader, a first-class chessplayer, and so on. He seems to have travelled all over the world. He's been sent here for delusions. His most serious delusion is that he's a murderer, and his story is that he killed two men and a woman at Sydney, Australia. The other delusion, which is more humorous, is that his soul is split in pieces—whatever that means. He edits our monthly magazine, he stage manages our Christmas theatricals, and he gave a most original conjuring performance the other day. You'll like him."

I found this story in a collection Great English Short Stories put together by Christopher Isherwood (pub. 1957). In a mischievous way this British collection has four outright foreigners. (Conrad, George Moore, K. Mansfield, Ethel Colburn Mayne) A very good selection.

Though I could say many clever things about The Shout I will for once in my life refrain. Scour the internet, find it, read it. I’ve returned it to so if you want to read it online it’s there.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Necessity of Naming

(((Here are some posts on the subject blended together)))

Rumi refers to the myth of the naming of the animals as the type of the primal co-creation in which the world is blessed and accepted and inner and outer truth are made one:

When Adam became the theater of Divine inspiration and love,
his rational soul revealed to him the knowledge of the Names.
His tongue, reading from the page of his heart,
recited the name of everything that is.
Through his inward vision his tongue divulged the qualities of each;

This is the basis of what is called 'abjid' (arabic) or 'gematria' in Greek in which names are given a numerical value. The Hebrew Kaballah has this science also Aleph (1), Beth (2), Gimel (3) and so on.

In the Zohar it is written

"Had the brightness of the glory of the Holy One, blessed be his name, not been shed over the whole of his creation how could he have been perceived even by the wise? He would have remained (totally) unapprehensible, and the words "The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isaiah 6:3)could never be spoken with truth. But the closer man comes to his pure and divine essence, the more he experiences the intrinsic unity in all the emanations of the Sefiroth; for this unity is none other than the essence of man, the supreme 'self'"
((from 'The Universal Meaning of the Kabballah by Leo Schaya pg.28))

Vedic Words

There may be a truth in the mythic idea that the word itself is a real thing. I mean that it is more than just articulated air. We have this thought in the ancient theories of magic, the name and that which it names are connected non-adventitiously. We find this in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic and the theory of the Vedic word is treated most seriously by the Advaitic philosopher Shankara.

It's curious that this should be so when you consider that Sanskrit is a declined language like Latin, Turkish or Gaelic etc and the body of the word can change its shape quite radically in the various cases. So then it is not the shape of the word that is significant it is the meaning of the word, what it signifies, connotes, denotes, its extension, intension, take your pick. The word as articulated air has a nimbus about it. The word 'scian' has a sharpness about it, it has a piercing nature, 'couteau is blunt, (to me) In ancient taboos some words are forbidden, they call up that which they mention or refer to. Fairies (air spirits) are not called such but are known as 'the good people', the Furies are the Euminides (well wishers), certain activities which further the continuance of tie species are known as 'this thing'. Euphemism is commonplace and surely has its origins in the idea that to mention something is to call it up.

There is a difference between saying that there is a relationship between the word and the 'thing’ and the word as the 'thing’. What does Shankara have to say on this point? What in short are Vedic words?

"It is on the basis of the inborn, relationship between words and their meanings from the very beginning that the validity of the Vedas has been established by saying...."
The Vedantin holds that "because the universe, consisting of the gods and others, originates verily from the Vedic words."

The objection to this seems cogent at first sight. If something has an origin then it is non-eternal. So are we to take it that the gods are non-eternal? No, says Shankara, it is the relationship that is eternal and not the event of the word giving rise to the existence of the thing.

Is this an acceptable answer? Let us go on to consider the rest of his thoughts on the subject. He makes the obvious point that there cannot be a connection between each instance referred to by a word and the vedic word. It is the generic word that is eternal, a notion, very similar to that of the 'ideas' of Plato. There is besides no imputation of a birth from words in the samesense as birth from a material cause.
Is this theory subject to the same difficulties as that of Plato’s? Can generality precede instantiation? Can the meaning exist separately from the instantiation of the meaning? This puts us in mind of the Cheshire Cat and its smile. Can there be equivalence without things we discover to be equivalent. Can there be identity which precedes things which are identical or exactly similar? This seems to be a paradoxical doctrine. How, again, is it known that the universe originates from words? "From direct revelation and inference".

Essentially he means from the Vedas and Smriti. He offers Quotations. An intuitive rationale of Shankara's is. "Besides it is a matter of experience to us all that when one has to accomplish some desired thing, one remembers first the word denoting it and then accomplishes it." He uttered the syllable bhuh, He created the earth. Tai.Br. II.ii.4.2

How is this meant to happen?
Sphota is the answer of the grammarians. There is an impression created by the words which are themselves created by the letters which constitute them. Shankara is capable of activating his critical intelligence on this notion which had been in abeyance due to his acceptance of a literal understanding of the vedas. His judgment is that the unit of intelligibility, to coin a phrase, is the word. "And. this sphota has no beginning, since its identity is recognisable at every utterance (of the word)." This then is the intuitive core of the Vedic word. It corresponds to the problem of the origin of universals. How can you find them unless you have them already?

His final considered opinion is that the single concept ‘cow’ emerges on the basis of the letters as a whole and not any other thing (called sphota).

Page 111 V.P.(Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra a medieval scholar, pub.Advaita Ashrama)
" Of these, secular sentences are of the nature of restatements, since their meanings are primarily apprehended through other means of knowledge; but with regard to the Vedas, since the meaning of Vedic sentences are known at first hand, they are not of the nature of restatements."

More on Vedic Words

The topic of Vedic words or universals if you will is one that I have considered in various posts.vedic words
bijas Here I will attempt to get at the truth that the myth embodies while admitting that any interpretation does not exhaust that path to understanding. A myth is never eviscerated by explication but remains a living path.

In his discussion of ‘eternal words’ in B.S.B. I.iii.28 Shankara deals with the standard objection. That contra-vedantin contrarian, the opponent, (purvapakshin) states the obvious – First the son is born and then the son is named. You experience the object and then you name it. Somehow the universal is extracted out of this raw ore.

No, since the relationship between such generic words and their meanings, as for instance cowhood and cows, is seen to be eternal (i.e. beginingless). Not that the distinguishing characteristics (i.e. genus)of the cows etc. are created afresh each time these cows etc. are born; for the individual forms of substance qualities and actions alone can have origin, but not so their distinguishing (general) characteristics (i.e. genus). And words are connected with the general characteristics and not with the individuals; for the individuals are infinite, and it is impossible to comprehend the relation of a word (with all of them).

The paradoxical result of this doctrine is that we do not meet particulars except in the form of characteristics or accidents in the scholastic terminology but we know their aggregation in the form of universals, substantially embodied as it were. Does he mean by non-original characteristics those that can only exist as embodied i.e. colour, weight, size etc. So ‘elephant’ is an eternal word but not its weightiness, greyness, velocity, and call.

Calling the universals vedic words or eternal words arises from the belief that the Vedas arrive in the same form at each new creation.

Brahma created the gods by (thinking of) the word etc.; He created men and others by the word asrgram; by the word indavah the manes by the word tirabpavitram the planets; by the word asavah the hymns……

As an analogical point Shankara remarks:

Besides, it is a matter of experience to us all that when one has to accomplish some desired thing, one remembers first the word denoting it and then accomplishes it. Similarly it is understood that in the case of Prajapati (Brahman) also, when he was intent on creation, the Vedic words flashed in His mind before creation and then He created the things according to these.

A myth is greater than any interpretation and so to speculate about the meaning behind it or to see in it the personal genesis of a world is not reductionist. Out of the ‘blooming buzzing confusion’ which is a solidary particular comes the differentiated cosmos initially created by pure perception as Bergson held (cf. Matter and Memory chap. 1). Later comes the mature, memory inflected, perception which we adopt for the purpose of speed in the navigation of a dangerous world. We shot our uncle in the hunting season not because he looked like a moose for even with his glasses on he doesn’t look like a moose, but because of a blundering movement on his part that was the movement of a startled moose.

Out of the formless chaos comes names. One of the experiences which is cultivated by Yogis is the return to the undifferentiated which occurs when mind waves are eliminated – citta vritti nirodha. Coming back out of that state and re-making your world brings with it the possibility of a different vision or a creative re-organisation. It is a ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.


Cher Maitre Cormac writes:

As Pantugrel is walking through a cold patch he is hit by a particularly bad hail storm. Frozen words falling from the sky. Rabelais explains these are words that weren't heard.

Listening to a sanskrit scholar on the radio the other day he mentioned that all mathematical theory was written in verse, and that the Indians were the leading mathematicians until th 14 or 15 century.
The extant sanskrit classical library is apparently enormous.
And phenomenology in all this? Is it a realism? The word is an integral part of the phenomenon, is it not? And it would seem to be non dual.

I have always loved being in a new place where I don't understand the language and have to imagine and surmise what people are saying. Its a condition which doesn't last very long, little by little we begin to distinguish sounds and eventually meaning. It is always a dissapointment to find that the meaning is not very dissimilar to ones own.(I've never been to Amazonia for example.But the Vodoo priests in Benin can tell by the sound of the sea if there are fish to catch.)Eventually the language becomes transparent and it is the meaning that becomes dominant.

The Zaroastrian priests had very small chapels, big enough for only one person, sometimes two.They would bring about the world by their liturgical description of it,each thing in its proper place and proportion.Then if the world was summoned up fittingly, the sacrifice could take place.They too came from the Aryan invasion and share a common root with the Vedas.

I think all liturgies are a conjuring up of a world,or a god.And the worlds exist and the gods come if the words are right.

I ask:

But could those psychopomps do 'explication de texte'?

Those adepts of what might be unfolded had ways of achieving stastis in the concrete actuality of the statements themselves. Eternality reflected in an unchanging text could be checked by rhymes and quantities. Not only that but from the mantras they extracted like the meat from a nut the bijas and if you dared follow them go back to the sounding void of the 'nirbija'.

All the more reason that the group of seeds (bijas) which, because they are independent of the constraints of convention, cause consciousness to vibrate thus constitute a valid means for the attainment of consciousness. Because of the nonexistence of meaning to be expressed, because they vibrate in consciousness in a way that is totally indifferent to the external reality, because they are self-illuminating, because they cause the extinction of the movement of the vital breath - for these reasons the group of seeds are completely full and self-sufficient.

(Abhivinagupta on Bijas/ from The Triadic Heart of Siva by Muller-Ortega pub. Suny '89)

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ride upon the Storm

A new show I'm watching and enjoying is the Danish Ride upon the Storm (R.T.E.) with the central focus on a clerical family of the National Church i.e. Danish Lutheran. Excellent acting and writing. Is that title a reference to the Book of Job? Anyway they have their problems the sort that come with being sinners. What intrigues me is a plot point which is so odd that it must be true. One son is a padre in the Danish Army on a tour in Iraq. At first he refuses to bless the weapons of the men which alienates them as they are in a hot zone and need all the juju they can get. R.C.s bless the weapons of war I am informed, in the best of Latin. Why ever not ? It's a just war. We only ever fight just wars. Later on he relents and does bless the weapons and to rebuild his relationship with the men goes out on patrol with them. They get in a firefight in which the padre participates they are pinned down and a bomber who is in the area going about disguised in a niquab is shot dead by August (padre).Uh, uh. Did anyone make sure that the Holy Warriors got the memo about the Geneva Convention? No. Heads will roll over that. Back home August covers up his part in a civilian shooting. The word gets out that August has blessed weapons and the media get on it. You can bless same sex couples but blessing weapons is a 'blasphemous fable'. That whirring noise from the tomb of Luther at Wittenberg?

Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance. K.J.V.