you haven’t addressed the issue, just backed up to Spirit, which is of course the most “ontologically prior”. I feel no need to ask Ken; the prior question and answer came from several months ago, unrelated to anything happening on Infinite Conversations. It seemed to fit here given Tony’s exploration.
The issue is ontological priority. Aurobindo spends many pages explaining why neither Purusha (which involves) nor Prakriti (which evolves) can be considered ‘prior’ to the other. This has huge downstream implications. You and Ken are free to believe what you want. But I think backing up (or is it moving forward?) to Spirit is the only way the issue gets resolved, at least philosophically. I could be wrong, but that’s my takeaway from Aurobindo so far.
I think we would all agree that Spirit is ultimately prior. Ken just isn’t addressing that in that specific quote. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me in the relative space for involution not to be ontologically prior to evolution, and so if that is indeed Aurobindo’s view, fine., and we have a difference between our view and Aurobindo’s.
In a very much aside:
I’m not saying that the Meru work is the answer to anything, but it is something to think about seriously. Nevertheless … this popped into my mailbox today, from my friends at Meru, of course …
We are suggesting and proposing that the 27 lines (and/or their unit normals) provide a minimal natural language for cosmology and physics, embryology, biology, and neurology; and also, that this was at least in part understood by those who made use of the Hebrew and Vedic alphabets. [emphasis added)]
Some of us here have taken a brief look at Meru, and though we don’t always like to engage the too-strange (unless it’s our friends’ Martel & Ford’s broadcasts), this is something at least worth thinking about in relation to our Aurobindo challenge.
We have more than enough to keep us occupied at the moment, but a small heads-up in regard to future avenues of exploration can’t be too far afield.
After all, at some point we have to weave all these InfConv threads together into some kind of (meaningful) tapestry.
Personally I can conceive of situations where involution and evolution might be simultaneous. They are only incompatible in a logic based mode of reasoning with an excluded middle, and as we know there are various other modes of reasoning that do not require such a polarized perspective. I know nothing of Wilber, however, I am just wishing to contribute to the discussion.
For reference, a link to @achronon’s Meru presentations:
- Cosmos Café: Time, Space, & The Hebrew Alphabet [01/09]
- Cosmos Café: Less Time, More Space, & Hebrew Letter Gestures [1/23]
And here is Aurobindo in his own words on evolution and involution:
- Sri Aurobindo. Involution and Evolution // Essays in Philosophy and Yoga: Shorter Works. - 1910-1950. (BCL-16, CW-13)
One important distinction we have to make, I think, is between the scientific concepts of cosmic, biological, and cultural evolution and the more properly ‘spiritual’ concept that sees it as the process of phenomenal manifestation itself. This latter process, which Aurobindo calls Nature, is the part that I am suggesting is equiprimoridal with the involutionary ‘descent’ of Spirit into Matter.
I hope these thoughts are helpful to Tony’s original question! Is there a good metaphor or image that includes the various perspectives we’ve been exchanging thus far?
for me they are not incompatible, nor polarized; however, thanks for chiming in. My personal goal is that this be a site that honors equally the 1st person and 3rd person perspectives, a true integration of the “rocks of ages”, as Steven Jay Gould put it, I believe. I’ve been working in support of Venezuelan born Jeff Quintero for 5 years on this, and we will see if folks here are interested, perhaps there can be a Cosmos Cafe with his version of integral philosophy. We are close to having a presentation ready to go. I will send a note to Jeff.
the middle is excluded in this passage. yes, I can see how challenging it is to not exclude the middle in the typical way we tend to communicate!
Yes, agree with all of this! At the end of his life, R. Panikkar spoke most often in terms of rhythm and choreography—dynamic inter-relationship rather than any sort of stable hierarchy.
You wrote: “A future poetry would give us new ways of conceiving and communicating the divine.” I’d really like to hear more on this if you might expand a bit, here. Thanks!
thanks for the reply. The picture of a Sphere seems to be one that doesnt imply a further progression, like an arrow would for example, but a containment of the energy. Being spherical like a sphere or a half sphere its also closed up to an outside.
I’d have to look it up, Tony, but I think she meant it in the spirit of Nicholas of Cusa’s “God is a circle with center everywhere and circumference nowhere.”
Not sure how to translate that for a sphere, but I’ll look it up!
Ok, these are all from “Questions and Answers, 1956” (available for free online)
QUESTION: Mother, when one is identified with the Divine in the higher part of the being while neglecting the lower parts — neglecting life — doesn’t the Divine, in the part where one is identified with Him, advise one to attend to the lower parts?
ANSWER: And if before even beginning, one has decided that this must not happen, perhaps one makes it impossible for oneself to receive the advice of the Divine!
For, truly speaking, each one finds only what he wants to find of the Divine. Sri Aurobindo has said this by turning it the other way round; he has said — I am not quoting the exact words, only the idea: what you expect from the Divine is what you find in the Divine; what you want from the Divine is what you meet in the Divine. He will have for you the aspect you expect or desire.
And His manifestation is always adapted to each one’s re- ceptivity and capacity. They may have a real, essential contact, but this contact is limited by their own capacity for receiving and approach… It is only if you are able to go out of all limits that you can meet the total Divine as He totally is.
And this capacity for contact is perhaps what constitutes the true hierarchy of beings. For everyone carries within himself the Divine, and therefore everyone has the possibility of uniting with the Divine — that possibility is the same in all. But according to each one’s capacity — in fact, according to his position in the divine hierarchy — his approach will be more or less partial or total.
It could be said — although these words deform things a lot — that the quality of the approach is the same in every be- ing, but the quantity, the totality is very different… It is very difficult to explain in words, but if one may say so, the pointat which you are identified with the Divine is perfect in itself, that is to say, your identification is perfect in itself, at this point, but the number of points at which you are identified differs immensely.
And this is very marked in the difference between the paths followed to approach the Divine. Usually people set limits; they limit themselves by excluding everything that is not exactly the path they have chosen, for this is much easier and they go much faster — relatively. But if, instead of following one road, you go forward in a sort of movement which could be called spherical, where everything is included, which takes in all the possibilities of approach to the Divine, naturally the result is much more complete — and it is this that Sri Aurobindo calls the integral yoga — but the progress is much more difficult and much slower.
QUESTION: What does Sri Aurobindo mean by “oneness in dynamic force”?
ANSWER That’s what I was saying. There is a dynamic force which moves all things, and when you become conscious of it, you see that it is one single Force which moves all things; and as you become conscious, you can even follow its movement and see how it works through men and things.
From the minute you become conscious of the Unity — unity of Force, unity of Consciousness and unity of Will — well, you no longer have the perception which makes you quite sepa- rate from others, so that you do not know what goes on in them, they are strangers to you, you are shut up as it were in your own skin, and have no contact with others except quite externally and superficially. But this happens precisely because you have not realised in yourself the perception of this oneness of Consciousness, Force and Will — even of material vibrations.
It is the complexity which makes this perception difficult — for our faculties of perception are quite linear and very one- sided; so when we want to understand, we are immediately assailed by countless things which are almost inconsistent with each other and intermix in such an intricate way that one can no longer make out the lines and follow things — one suddenly enters a whirlwind.
But this is because… For instance, most men think one thought after another, even as they have to say one word af- ter another — they can’t say more than one word at the same time, you know, or else they stammer. Well, most people think like that, they think one thought after another, and so their whole consciousness has a linear movement. But one begins to perceive things only when one can see spherically, globally, think spherically, that is, have innumerable thoughts and perceptions simultaneously.
Naturally, up to now, if one wanted to describe things, one had to describe them one after another, for one can’t say ten words at once, one says one word after another; and that is why all one says is practically quite incapable of expressing the truth, quite incapable. For we have to say one thing after another — the minute we say them one after another, they are no longer true. They must all be said at the same time, just as they can all be seen at the same time, and each one in its place.
So, when one begins to see like this — to see, to discern, to feel, to think, to will like this — one draws near the Truth. But so long as one sees as one speaks, oh, what a lamentable poverty!
Up from Eden was released in German under the Titel “Halbzeit der Evolution” I read the book a few years ago and reviewed it on Amazon. The Involution, Evolution part was somehow an aspect that I havent really understood, but reading a few explanations and this segment here I think I got it now.
So one could say that Involution is the putting in or infoldment of the potentiality to grow into an acorn, while evolution would be the enfoldment of that potential into an oak. Stretching that principle into cosmic dimensions involution would be the putting in of the potential to evolve into the starting point of the cosmos. And underlying it there is also a process of cosmic forgetting and remembering. Viewing it that way, another way of putting it is maybe that the universe is becoming conscious of itself/remembering itself through humans. That would be a type of returning to a source.
In Ken Wilbers Involution/Evolution version everything is spirit and spirit is recognising finer degrations of itself in every further stage of human unfolding or evolution.
Thanks for that piece. I would really like to know if there is a difference between Ken Wilbers view on Involution/Evolution, exemplified in that segment, and Aurobindos version of Involution, or if there is no difference and he’s just adding in different words from eastern traditions still meaning the same overall process?
Marco is suggesting a difference, and I don’t believe I know the Aurobindo version well enough to comment, except to say that my hunch is that as long as the triple logic of Absolute Spirit, and relative involution/evolution is kept, then they won’t be very different. Glad to hear you are finding more clarity!
Yes, I see those maps, models and visual representations as learning tools, each one with their limited use but still having a great use in making the information more relatable - something to stick the information on to.
Thanks, thats a great link on Aurobindos view of Invo- and Evolution
Just on a Sidenote:
The BigBang - That Word doesnt make any sense because we know it wasn’t very big. I learned it was an infinitly small contraction of a singularity - thats not big. And there was no Bang, because in order for soundwaves to travel there needs to be an atmosphere - giving that it was most likely silent. So something like small silence would be maybe more suitable.
Thanks for the links … they’re always more helpful than just verbal references, especially since everybody reading TLD probably has more than enough on their hands already.
As a follow-up, especially for our more visually oriented fellow searchers, these links to animations regarding these “27 lines” showed up in my in-box yesterday:
The latter is interesting since you can pan in and out and click and drag the image through 3D space.
A naive question but here goes: when I read Wilber back in the 90s I recall thinking: This is Hegel all over again. Is there anything to this? At the time I had no contact with actual Wilberians, so I didn’t know anyone who could answer the question. If it is Hegel all over again, how does a Wilberian address the problems in Hegel? Any thoughts about contemporary neo-Hegelians like Brandom, McDowell, Pippin?
The Big Bang is a metaphor, which to me, says a lot about the adolescent males who probably produced that notion. It could just as easily have been called the Big Light. Not as sexy? Not enough noise? And the verdict isn’t in yet about what any of these metaphors mean. I imagine that there have been and will continue to be other metaphors that will emerge out of the Womb of Time. A hundred years from now will they still be calling it The Big Bang?
There more I ponder the involution-evolution question, the more quizzical I feel and paradoxical it becomes, and the simple ascent/descent narrative makes less and less sense.
Follow Wilber’s words (which paraphrase Aurobindo, as well) and think about this with me.
So first, there is pure Spirit, omnipresent, and yet, ‘up there,’ above everything else, since, through involution, it has to ‘descend’ and enfold itself—from spirit to soul to mind to life to matter, THEN the so-called ‘Big Bang’ (birth of the universe) can occur and the process reverses itself.
From the very first step, it doesn’t make sense, since we are presupposing a spatial orientation in a state (pure, pre-involved Spirit) which is without time and space. But then what happens next—evolution ‘back up’—makes it make even less sense.
But what if, before humans, were apes and angels? If involution precedes evolution, then we would have had angels at the level of soul, before spirit descended into mind and matter. There would be nothing retro-Romantic about it, in the pejorative sense Ken uses this label. Eden would, in fact, still be ‘higher’ than us, if involution precedes evolution; the return would be an ascent, up TO an Eden that existed before the universe was born.
Now consider Mirra Alfassa’s words (my emphasis):
So what if our starting points and directionality were something other than the higher/lower, descending/ascending, Big Banging, up-down, yo-yo narrative? What if our paths moved along different topologies, perhaps spherical (where all sides are simultaneous) or even stranger shapes, such as might be found here:
Mirra Alfassa again, on (necessarily) linear expression vs. non-linear (spherical) thinking:
Which is I think the poverty of any ‘systemic’ philosophy. We need curves, loops, quantum states, and much subtler poetry to describe the world.
It’s funny you say this, because I’ve often thought that Wilber is literally the reincarnation of Hegel…just like Steiner thought he was reincarnating Goethe. I think some Wilberians don’t really see the problems in Hegel. But Wilber is much more fun to read than Hegel, in my experience! Moreover, he emphasizes personal spiritual practice (individual development) in a way that’s not found in Hegel to my knowledge. He is obviously much more contemporary in his attitudes and aesthetics, too.
The above I believe begins to answer your beautiful question, Ariadne:
But I would have to actually write the poetry to expand on it! We could also study Aurobindo’s The Future Poetry, though it was written some time ago.
As for a future Future Poetry, I am both betting on, and a little terrified of, this: