Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Bergson and Advaitic Superimposition (adhyasa)


Matthew Arnold reminded himself somewhere that he ought not to find himself everywhere.  That is a  perfectly sound stricture but here I am going to set it aside and indulge my synthesizing and syncretizing habit.  Neither Bergson nor Sankara came from Mars to astound the Earth with some utterly novel doctrine beyond anything which Earthlings could fathom.  That the lineaments of my assimilation be perfectly clear I will go briskly through what I think are interesting parallels.  In the samprajnata samadhi there is a resemblance to the pure perception of Bergson. Refer to my previous post. 

In those rare states of consciousness there is seeing but nobody sees, hearing but nobody hears etc.  or at least the identification with a jiva or person is exiguous.  This is practically next door to the pure asamprajnata or nirvikalpa samadhi in which there is just absorption into pure consciousness.  However as Sankara says the natural, ordinary, unreconstructed state is one in which there is full identification of the jiva and his states of mind.  What Bergson would say is that there is an element of pure perception in all our conscious states but that memory binds us to a personal history.  It is as though through memory a superimposition takes place.  The need to react to present demands brings the person down into a history.

"But inversely,, if recollection is regarded as a weakened perception, perception must be regarded as a stronger recollection. We are driven to argue as though it was given to us after the manner of a memory, as an internal state, a mere modification of our personality; and our eyes are closed to the primordial and fundamental act of perception, the act, constituting pure perception, whereby we place ourselves in the very heart of things. And thus the same error, which manifests itself in psychology by a radical incapacity to explain the mechanism of memory, will in metaphysics profoundly influence the idealistic and realistic conceptions of matter." (Matter and Memory pg.73)

You can discern here I think the suggestion that the condition of pure perception is primordial.  It is what the aggregate of images or the plenum of awareness that has as yet no personal centre implies.  The next step is the placing of all this or more correctly an edited version of this on a central ego This is the natural state.  This placing is what Sankara would call adhyasa.

  We never leave our total nature behind or otherwise enlightenment would be a mirage.

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