Attuning to Ultimate Realities [CCafe, Open Session 7/17]


(Ed Mahood) #21

They may not be, but we do need to seriously rethink how and why they are.

One of the threads you were weaving into your pointer toward ultimate reality was the Weinstein clip, if I’m not mistaken. I had mentioned when he was first referenced that I think he’s fundamentally confused, but perhaps the word “off base” would have been more appropriate. To me – and I could be wrong – he is in essence an E.O. Wilson-lite; that is a kind of revised and more socially acceptable variant of Wilson’s sociobiology, which fell out of favor almost as quickly as it fell in.

The direct refutations of it and most materialist/physicalist/reductionistic theories of how we have ended up where we are today are many. Raymond Tallis (The Explicit Animal, Aping Mankind, The Hand) and Kenan Malik (Man, Beast, Zombie) immediately spring to mind, but they only say why such theories don’t work. They are not strong on what possible alternatives might be (or if they do so, it is only implicitly). And there are alternatives, such as Malcolm Donald’s The Origins of the Modern Mind, but one always gets the feeling one is dealing with only part of the picture. (Hell, on the other side of that coin, Aurobindo’s The Life Divine is also an alternative, but so much so that I think it is wiser to show that there are not-so-large (and radically different) alternatives that help sensitize us to the problematic involved and which can provide additional foundations for dealing with such radical alternatives, if I may phrase it thusly.) These are merely examples, and I mention them only because I’ve read them … I make no claim to being any kind of expert, or even an informed layman in the field.

Nevertheless, I would like to mention another (short … <150 pp.) text that may be worth considering. It came up in one of the Aurobindo threads, so there’s no way I can know whether you saw reference to it or not, but it is Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos. Its subtitle, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False” is not so much hyperbole as a clear statement of intent. And since that conception is, in my mind, almost certainly false, he explores what that means and what it would take to develop a (or other) potential alternative(s). It’s about rethinking what we think we know in this regard.

As a matter of fact, should there ever be a lull in the reading-group action around here, this would be an excellent text for a group reading, as we have quite a few participants here who have much expertise to contribute to the many and diverse aspects of the topic that need to be re-thought about.

Truth be told, I’ve been chewing on that line I quoted above ever since I read it, and it has occurred to me that you are a pretty big fan of biological evolution, based on references and inferences you have made in various postings. As it’s not a topic per sé that I want to delve into (precisely for the reasons Nagel presents in Chapter 1 of his book), I thought I’d at least suggest the text, for I think it is one that even if you can’t exactly sink your teeth into it, it still would give you a whole lot to chew on.

Just a thought.


(john davis) #22

I suggested Weinstien, as he is recently in the news, and is trying real hard to break with E.O. Wilson’s tradition. I imagine-and I may be wrong-that Wilson is in deficient Mental swamp but Weinstein is trying his best to get out of it by acknowledging how flawed everyone on the left and the right are. No one has a policy. He clearly thinks cultural evolution and biological evolution are at a cross roads and that our biological ( breed, baby, breed) will doom humanity. I see some thinkers who are moving beyond the swamp and even if they aren’t integral yet can be appreciated as they galvanize a public that is exhausted by the culture wars.

As you have pointed out, Ed, there are other materialists who are seeking some ‘wiggle room’ without giving up their mental bias. I think many thinkers have gone much further, too, but they are still wobbling at the edge of what Gidley is calling the post-rational.

I read Nagel’s book and found it rather tepid but it did cause a huge backlash revolt among Pinker and friends. I think this kind of hyper vigilant response shows that all is not well in the Ivory Tower. And that is a sign of the cracks and fissures that many of us are recognizing as a good sign. It is amazing how irrational the rationalist can become when the the higher octave of Integral is starting to sound from afar. It is a very faint sound, perhaps felt in our minor gestures. I think Trump’s regime is waking up some of these intellectuals from their dreams of omnipotence.


(Ed Mahood) #23

Maybe he is trying to distance himself … and obviously, the clip is too short to make a real determination, but it sounded a whole lot like a whole lot of the same, old same-old. I gave up on left/right a long time ago, and I found good justification for my exasperation in Ian Macdonald’d The Root is Man (which @madrush and I had a nice little back-and-forth about quite a while back.)

While I can certainly see your point, I still find that the text is (1) clear, (2) clearly postulated (assumptions and presuppositions having been made clear), (3) well stated and clearly reasoned which allows for actual engagement, and (4) addresses themes and topics that are worth thinking about and discussing (a) in spite of Ivory Tower’s reaction (which in many regards was to be expected) and (b) are so very much related – at base – with themes and topics that are being engaged in other threads around here. Yes, he’s made his case, but I suspect that in these parts, there are others who would like to amend, revise, expand, contradict, or refute assertions or points he makes in a way that would help us get a better handle on what we think more precisely about those themes and topics. It’s a kind of neutral ground on which to meet.

While I enjoy the Aurobindo sessions, for example, there’s much more that’s not being said than is being said, and the essence of what the text is about, for example, is not being addressed. I don’t think that’s an easy thing to do, which is why I described his work in relation to Nagel’s – in passing – as radical. I could just have easily made reference to Steiner, who is – in comparison to Nagel – also radical.

Maybe it’s just me, but I get the feeling that most of us around here come from a more academic/scholarly background and that predisposes most of us to a more intellectual approach, if that’s the right way to phrase it. Nevertheless, as I know you and I agree, there is much more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in any of our philosophies, but not everyone is ready to take that “leap of faith” into the non-philosophical all at once. I wouldn’t want to be the one on the sidelines badgering everyone to jump.

There are cracks and fissures in the edifice, I agree. We may welcome them, but for others, they can be signs of impending doom. We needn’t coddle anyone, but rather I think it would be a good thing, where possible, to help point out that, yes, doom is coming, but not from that quarter.

Trump is still just a distraction. These are the days of the Grey Eminence, it’s time to look beyond the smoke and mirrors.


(john davis) #24

I think that is complicated by the fact that many of us dont know what the Upanishads are all about. But Sri Aurobindo is thoroughly westernized. He is not speaking an entirely foreign cultural language. I suspect many of us have already gone into the Cosmic Mind and decided not to talk about it. It is a large taboo subject. It is so hard to say the obvious. I will be leading the next two chapters and so will try to initiate a different way of reading. It may backfire terribly but I think Aurobindo mainly endorsed the radical idea that we need to explore what we adore and do it on purpose.


(Ed Mahood) #25

If TLD were a religio-philosophic text, I think that would be more important. I’m not convinced you have to have read a single Upanishad to get what he’s saying.

I would phrase that differently (perhaps along the line of he understands the western mind), but I agree, and that is why I don’t think precisely that the Upanishads are the key.

I suspect it is less a decision than a feeling of inadequacy to talk about it, in ways that others (at random?) might understand. But I do think I get your gist.

Formally, yes; informally, no. The moment you agree that there’s more to reality than meets the eye or that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophies, the taboo has been broken.

And that is the best news that I’ve heard all day.


(Maia Maia) #26

Have you ever read any of Raimon Panikkar’s many books? A cross-cultural, multi-everything scholar/teacher/writer who was beginning the work of weaving the wisdoms … He had command of 25 languages, knew all major and many minor scriptures, main works, etc. Personally, he was warm and human, but his books (tomes?) were nearly inpenetrable unless you were a scholar yourself. So torn about this! Fidelity to the complexity viz who are you going to be able to really speak to, communicate with?? Donna Haraway, Timothy Morton, just to name two I completely admire, but …too difficult to recommend in most cases. Where do we make the cut? Same issue with my own writing… Love the complexities! Need to actually communicate. Language is terribly ambiguous, so we try harder to get the details all in…and then …can become tangled overall with brilliancies throughout, as I said of Dorian… but who’s going to do the work? “In mythology both Hermes…adn Thoth are said to have brought our ancestors the potent mind-altering substance writers and publishers push. Like it’s more properly pharmacological psycoactive cousins, writing can produce or break through the screelike phenomenal layer called maya in Hinduism, the laer of ordinary everyday life we take to be real…all is not as it seems…” Language as part of the screen and…capable of busting the glass? “Plato…writes that Socrates refers to writing as a 'drug”" ie, pharmakon.
Don’t know about you, but I’m an addict…who alternatively goes nearly cold turkey, then I fall back in love (uh-oh) and ride the bliss…until …rediscovering that “drug” is really both remedy and poison, “or neither or both”.
Hermes is the one who takes us down into the underworld, who brings “magic” and even healing. What if all of reality is actually this multiply valenced? Then what?
Sorry! See what I mean?! My (our?) help is the blessed solidity of the natural world.


(Maia Maia) #27

Might you point us to a way to find the Weinstein thing refrred to? Thanks!


(john davis) #28

I think he is brilliant and would love to create a study group around him. I dont know him well but like you feel he has something important to offer.


(john davis) #29

Here is a brief clip. I am not a big fan but I think he has some useful insights and is worth listening to. He has a lot of stuff on Youtube.


(Heather Fester) #30

Just a quick note to say that early August sounds good–let’s discuss tomorrow on our call, @Geoffrey_Edwards.