Cosmos Café [2021-04-29]: The Wholeness of Nature 4

I have a good friend who is a Sanskrit scholar. He wrote his dissertation, and is currently at work on articles and books, about the 10/11th century sage Abhinavagupta, a really interesting character. Maybe that would be a entryway into the features of the language, and we could organize something…


That would be really wonderful! I’m up for it. Thank you, Marcos–both of you!


Very necessary work, and a preparation for the next wave. I quote from the paper Wild Kosmos, "Numerous scholars and philosophers are advancing new ways to define what an object is… I presented five different types of objects: multiple, meta-, hyper-, magical, and mythical."Sean Esborn-Hargens, an informed Goethean thinker and the author of the paper elaborates upon what an object could be. We are very naïve to think that our way of splitting into here/there is the way reality works. This is just a particular bias some humans have, enshrined into a mental deficient orientation that is a norm in a particular disenchanted group of powerful humans we could call hard core materialists. Real/unreal, true/false become untenable binaries when the notion of simple location is transcended. As many persons have had such non-local, anomalous experience the old ways of making the cut do not work. This was a theme in Lisa’s course and we are exploring the nature of objects in Goethe’s Way.

Many persons who used Sanskrit were good at producing thought-forms, semi-independent, intra-psychic beings ( Amer-Indians were doing this, too.) This is very similar to Archetypes which arise out of collective minds. Such phenomena are familiar to many of us but we have strong taboos about bringing these experiences into public discourse, as those who do are mocked, scorned, or medicalized.

This great Sage has a very interesting theory of subtle bodied experience which is hybrid ( both/and/neither/nor). The subtle is in between matter and spirit. I wonder who your friend is, Marco? I am currently reading a brilliant study on Wallace Stevens and Abhinavagupta by George Franklin Some Segments of the River. I have done extensive/intensive field work in these subtle realms for fifty years. I consider myself to be one of those who are trying to break out of the imposed conformity of language-games that tragically impedes our capacity for co-creating a new civilization that could become released from the death grip of the Dark Military Hypothesis. Many of our Infinite Conversations and written works have orbited around this motif. Can we actually make this more explicit and do it on purpose? The arrested development that dominates our current civilization will not last if we are to evolve. As Sean says we are in the stronghold of the modern, and the paralysis of the post-modern. We have lots of work to do. How long, oh Lord, must we wait?


I love the idea of a trance poetics dance BTW. :relaxed:

I don’t know if I mentioned it in this forum, but I see Quasha as doing Quantum Poetics. And, it’s great to see him popping up in the dialogue again. He also has some insight into ta’wil and formative interests in Blake, so he seems to be an honorary Cosmos-ite. In fact, when I saw the article that @Douggins shared, I thought that Quasha might have just read the Lachman book on imagination that we’ve both read, @johnnydavis54 . And, Goethe is another unifying thread pulling in that book too.

I don’t really know the process for suggesting a group topic, like with Abrams. It might be a good topic for summer, though, and I’m open to discussing.

As for what’s next, I wonder if it will have to do with consciously evolving language? I still want to talk about clean language with you at some point too.


Jim Ryan (maybe retired) at California Institute of Integral Studies (Jim Ryan | CIIS) would be a good contact on Sanskrit, @Lisa and @madrush. He’s taught it there for a long time and also teaches about tantra traditions (and other things) in the Asian Comparative Studies program.


@johnnydavis54 , I would love to also dialogue about this book. This is my kind of trance dance groove! Also, the connection brings to mind the true imagination and this quote from what you wrote:

Many persons who used Sanskrit were good at producing thought-forms, semi-independent, intra-psychic beings ( Amer-Indians were doing this, too.) This is very similar to Archetypes which arise out of collective minds. Such phenomena are familiar to many of us but we have strong taboos about bringing these experiences into public discourse, as those who do are mocked, scorned, or medicalized.

This reminds me of what I’ve read on Abinhavagupta and transmission. Interesting territory to explore, and I suspect another entry point for ta’wil!


Thank you Heather! We have an abundance of Sanskrit scholars now. Hopefully our questions will be able to be answered :blush:


Yesterday I was trying to Express how this Cafe’ has brought forth some
Ways of Meeting these Times of Troubling Changes & Staying With the Trouble,soon after I came across this piece from Tricycle Magazine.

The Burden of Awareness

Ayesha Ali

Last June, 60 percent of respondents in a USA TODAY poll characterized George Floyd’s death as murder. As of March 2, that number has since dropped to 36 percent. The poll also found that 4 percent of respondents in June were unable to describe his death; now, 17 percent are undecided.

I did not expect this. Yet I carry within me a deep knowing of this country and its history, so I cannot hold surprise.

Instead, I feel the burden of awareness. In Buddhist teachings, this awareness leads to liberation from suffering—it has been that for me as well—and yet it is also a burden because it connects me to the pain of my lineage and my present existence. This awareness allows me the space to reach into my heart, but what I find there is a burning question: Why is our society so certain about Black guilt, so certain that Black people have done something?

Emmett Till did something, Eric Garner did something, Tamir Rice did something, Breonna Taylor did something. It is this presumed something that allows our murder—that Black something. This something invites the questions that destroy clarity. It involves the convenient use of language that emphasizes the “complexity” of an “unfortunate” situation, allowing the inquirer to keep their hands clean and avoid accusations of any ill intent. I was pleased to learn as a student about the term sophistry , which is defined as using language to deceive. When the sole intention of our language is to reduce discomfort, we are deceiving not only other people but ourselves as well. Such words are merely another tool to support willful confusion. Pontius Pilate could relate to that kind of judicial thinking.

Thirty-six percent of people no longer believed that George Floyd was murdered as the trial of his killer approached. After the police officer was convicted of murder, another poll found that 71 percent of respondents agreed with the verdict, while 13 percent thought he was not guilty and 15 percent said they don’t know.

As a little girl, I heard the Bible story of King Solomon, who was called on to settle a dispute between two women who both claimed to be the mother of an infant. Solomon suggests that the baby be cut in half. One of the women agrees with him. I can hear her, “Yes, cut it in half!” Listening to this story as a child, I was so happy that the real mother was revealed. But now I wonder: What do we make of the other woman?

A similar query arises in the Zen story of “Nansen Kills the Cat,” in which the Zen master Nansen (c. 749–c. 835 CE) comes across two monks arguing about a cat. Nansen grabs the cat and says, “You monks! If one of you can say a word, I will spare the cat. If you can’t say anything, I will put it to the sword.” When neither monk is able to answer, Nansen cuts the cat in half. (Later Nansen tells this tale to the Zen master Joshu, who responds by putting his sandals on his head and leaves, an act that Nansen said “would have saved the cat.” The meaning of this perplexing exchange is left for each individual Zen student to ponder.)

I bring the freedom of curiosity to both the woman who would “solve” the problem by cutting the baby in half and to the monks who couldn’t save the cat. I see myself in the woman’s rage and the monks’ silence.

My Buddhist lineage and my ancestry allow me to see in ways that both ground me and astound me. But I often feel frustrated that my lineage, my practice, and my heart will not allow me the delusion of making the false mother a monster. I am unable to “other” her. She is a human being, and as such experiences joy and pain. Still, she is willing to cut the baby in half. And the monks, like the woman, cannot be dismissed as caricatures of Zen practice. Even they, like me, can be frozen in their “knowledge” or choked by the awareness of their ridiculousness.

I am blessed to have the ability to sit on my cushion and walk on trails to engage in finding peace and joy, even as I am living in a country with people who can explain away the killing of my people and other people of color by an institution that they see as their protectors. In this country, the protectors cannot be held culpable. To find them culpable would invite questions that do not support white supremacy. To question white supremacy would mean change, and perhaps a loss of some measure of social and economic supremacy.

There are, of course, political steps that I can support, both at the local, state, and national level, and those measures may cause change at the margins but will not impact the turning away or the willful rejection of what is. So, as always, I return to my practice. I return to the biblical story and bring my focus to the mother who was willing to lose her baby rather than see her killed. I am her, in that I am willing to forego the joy of annihilating the woman who would choose to kill the baby.

Calling upon the lineage of my ancestors—upon their spiritual genius and courage to embrace the practice of love to the best of their ability and circumstances—I, too, choose love. Calling upon the teachings of Jodo Shinshu, teachings that arose as a practice for peasants, I chant and know that all of us deserve the sea of compassion. Calling upon the philosophy of interbeing, I know I am connected even to those who would deny my humanity.

I will focus on breath, on the birds, and on the love and care of my family and community. I will hum, sing, and dance. I will put on my tutus that would make any sensible ballerina proud and go on “tutu walks.” I listen to my ancestors as they tell me, “Trouble don’t last always.” I will stay present to my heartbreak and flexible in my practice, bringing full awareness to joy and a deep awareness of danger.

Ayesha Aliis a teacher, poet, writer, and one of the founders of the Heart Refuge Mindfulness Community.


Hey, good news everyone. Dr. Ben Williams, assistant prof of Hinduism at Naropa University, has agreed to join us for a future Cosmos Café to talk about… well, all of the above, as of the below. But especially, it could serve as an introduction to the literary works, philosophical teachings, and historical character of Abhinavagupta and a bridge between the linguistic worldspaces of English and Sanskrit, and even German for that matter, since I believe there are some interesting morphological parallels between the figures of Abhinavagupta and Goethe, which could be fascinating to explore.

I’d suggest we prepare for a conversation sometime after The Wholeness of Nature (and the end of Ben’s semester). Then we could reflect on what we’ve learned or experienced through this reading and bring it into dialogue with his work, with hopefully mutually amplifying luminous effects. Here I believe is a really excellent introduction to Ben’s core areas of research and his dialogic style:

I would also heartily recommend Ben’s recent paper on Abhinavagupta’s deployment of the bee as a metaphor for his style of awakening and path as a guru in the historical context of initiatory Shaivism:

I resonated with that paper especially in the light of my poetic practice; it is a metaphor I appreciate for personal, aesthetic, and ecological reasons.

@sphuratti himself is a buzzing cross-pollinator between the fragrances of literature, art, music, philosophy, scholarship, and spiritual devotion. But that hardly exhausts the garden of Ben’s mind; he has also focused recently on the theme of cohering a countercultural lineage, mining the rich archives of the Naropa library (within the larger context of concrete collective, global, pluralistic cultural experiences) with the intense concerns of the present in mind, probing the possibilities for alternative futures often simmering radioactively right under our feet. It will be a real and pleasure for me to welcome him to the Café.

I’ll start a dedicated thread for that event once we get a little further along developing a theme… I also welcome other possibilities to grow the conversation in new directions. I’m especially eager to hear more from @hfester who also knows Ben personally (we all live along the Front Range in Colorado, and have savored opportunities for friendship and revelry) and to follow up on her suggestions as petals of thought unfurled. We live upon an axis of aesthetics that motorizes quantum parallaxes in our hive minds, synthesizing sweet nectars from the brooding buzzing dance of communication styles.



Thank you for arranging this. I haven’t gotten through his whole podcast, but it seems like we could have a very interesting conversation with Ben. I might like to invite a friend of mine who is more linguistically savvy than me (although he might not know Sanskrit, per se), if that’s okay.


That’s OK with me, Lisa. We will need more savvy minds in these conversations to consciously and creatively co-evolve our dances with language—to make our infinite games more beautiful and compelling.

The podcast with Ben is solid (so to speak). I listened to it twice and he really lights up toward the end discussing Abhinavagupta’s notion of becoming a “connoisseur of [Shiva-infused] reality.” Definitely worth a listen if you have the time!

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