The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #3 [6/14]


(Don Salmon) #84

Hi Guys/gals (any gals here?)

Geoffrey: The quotes are all mine - I was just imagining myself as an opponent of everything about Sri Aurobindo, or imagining myself as Osho, Eric (hope you don’t mind Eric!:>), Debashish, etc, and using what I imagine might be their words.

Darwin, glad to hear about the lack of push. I’m catching up on evaluation/reports today, but I can give you a quick socio-political overview.

  1. The fastest, briefest overview - in a way, the entirety of his book, “The Ideal of Human Unity,” is a review of different groupings throughout human history, from tribal through city-states to empires, the modern nation-state and a review of various possibilities for global cohesion, with a strong warning about a world-state and a conclusion about a world confederation, which is a kind of “spiritual localism,” one might say. Throughout the book, he reviews military, political, economic and social factors that would support or block in various ways the development of a unified world. There are implicit developmental (individual and collective) factors as well. To sum all of it up in the way I found most moving, he frequently alludes to the ideals of the French revolution, and says that humanity has barely but at least partially begun to recognize the values of liberty and equality, but simply has not (consciously, or collectively) understand the necessary foundation for fraternity - which is not ordinary brotherhood or sisterhood but the conscious recognition of one Self in all.

  2. Here’s my take on what he says about various political formations (this is from both The Human Cycle and Ideal of Human Unity) focusing particularly on the United States (sorry folks in Europe and elsewhere).

The beginning of the “Individual age” - the rationalistic age since the Enlightenment - highlighted the ideal of liberty (which, for most humans living egoically is mostly about getting more “elbow room” to do what their egos drive them to do - one can see the outcome of the most deficient form of this in modern right wing libertarianism). This was perhaps not so distorted in the early days of the most agrarian US, times when communities were small enough that groups could get together and individuals in the groups be heard. But by the decades after the civil war it was clear, Sri Aurobindo said, that pure unregulated capitalism was a “moral failure” and so the socialist and anarchist revolt set in.

Unfortunately, socialism in its most well known form became conflated with authoritarian statism, and the values of what Sri Aurobindo referred to as “intellectual anarchy” were lost. A rationalistic approach to equality (as the reaction to excessive egoistic liberty) led to a machine-like bureaucracy that if persisted in, would lead to the eradication of both liberty and equality. He gives a very hesitant positive appraisal of the experiments of the social democratic countries in northern europe, but again, without a spiritual - or at least, subjective - foundation - they would not likely be sustainable either.

As the rationalistic age comes to a close (possibly with massive destruction, though there may be ways out) various forms of “subjectivism” can be seen. By “subjectivism” Sri Aurobindo means the healthy, natural reaction to the extreme, materialistic 'objectivism" (think, “Ayn Rand” at her worst - if that distinction is possible!), BUT - with the problem that there are “false” and “True” subjectivism. So, the Nazis, who sometimes actually said “we think with our blood” took the life force to be the true self (a much modified form of this took place in the 1960s; this is what Wilber somewhat crudely calls the “pre-trans fallacy”).

What seems to be emerging in the last half century and perhaps particularly in the last 10 years, as various forms of panpsychism and idealism and to some extent a limited form of non-dualism become more prevalent at the not-too-extreme edges of science, is what Sri Aurobindo would call “mental subjectivism” - taking the mind to be the Self (I know all the non-dualists would object - but remember folks, I’m trying to present what Sri Aurobindo says - or what I understand him to say - and not necessarily my own opinion or view - I struggled for several decades with this, but Sri aurobindo often claims that many who think they have realized the Self are still in a rarefied region of the mind).

He said that a mental or psychic (“psychic” pertaining to the psychic being) subjectivism would lead to a society of undreamed of richness but also of great peril, as it would still be ruled by ego, and because it would open humanity to the vastly greater non-physical powers of the subtle worlds (see Eric Weiss’ paper that I think Durwin or Geoffrey linked to? No, Johnny, I think) it might make us nostalgic for minor problems like biological, chemical or nuclear weapons).

Ultimately, he has a very positive vision - though he may be talking about at least a 1000 years from now, when larger groupings of human beings actually awaken to the Self. Though the “gnostic society” he speaks of is vastly, almost unimaginably beyond that, and he is actually speaking of a new species far more different from the human than human beings are from most primates and mammals.

So, that’s just a tad. There’s so much more, and this is one of the most understudied areas of Sri Aurobindo’s writings. I’ve personally never found any socio-political writings as profound, though Gebser, Korten, Barfield and many many others have written so much more detail, and very helpful detail as that. Much to do!

Folks, I was delightfully away from the computer much of yesterday, and had planned to write something today specifically related to our chapters of Divine Maya and Supermind, playing off the VERY cool opening chapter of Owen Garfield’s “Saving the Appearances.” I’ve got a patient in about 20 minutes, and a LOT of analyzing of test results. If I have a free moment later this afternoon, I’ll write something up (heads up Geoffrey - I’m going to write FROM Sri Aurobindo’s viewpoint, which includes the idea of the vast non-physical worlds, as well as transcendence - so please don’t take it as being overly critical - just trying to do Sri Aurobindo justice in my very limited capacity).

BUT! I will say one thing that’s been on my mind for a few days about transcendence that might be helpful to you. When we hear that word, it seems to often evoke a kind of stark duality, like the theologian Rudolf Otto and his idea of God as “wholly other.” But here’s an incredibly down to earth example - I think it’s from David Hart Bentley (or is it David Bentley Hart, I can never remember:>).

Say you’re looking at a piece of paper, and someone has used an ink pen to write, “Today is a nice day.” As long as you’re looking at the words, you’re not consciously attending to the fact that what you’re “actually” seeing is simply shapes made in ink.

From at least one perspective, one way of using the word, the “ink” is “transcendent” to the words. Or, another way of saying it is the true “substance” of the words is the ink (there’s an opposite way of using “substance” which I won’t go into).

So you’re not talking about the transcendent as something separate. In fact, the words couldn’t exist without the ink. This is kind of what Sri Aurobindo meant in the chapter on the refusal of the ascetic when he said, “World exists because of That” (i.e. transcendent). And something after that like, the world couldn’t exist except because of That, yet That (transcendent) does NOT depend on the world.

This all can seem very confusing to the mind, but when you “see” it, it’s the most obvious thing in the world. It’s like the non dualists say. I look at a tree, or computer, or apple, or a shirt, and normally I am completely oblivious to the fact that I am “looking” at (“at” isn’t quite right here) a form in awareness. The awareness here is 'transcendent" to the tree, but the tree does not exist without the awareness, is made of awareness, is not separate from awareness, etc. I hasten to add, if you’re having trouble with this sounding terribly unscientific and a New Age version of quantum physics, I’m not taking about “my” awareness or “my” mind (Durwin, you know this from your non dual studies, I assume?), I’m talking about what Sri Aurobindo describes as Chit-Shakti - when he says “Consciousness is the fundamental thing in the universe, it is the movement, the energy of consciousness that creates everything in the universe.”

Ok, if time, later today some fun with Maya!

(Don Salmon) #86

just a note - my comment on transcendence was meant as a helpful addendum for Geoffrey.

(Ed Mahood) #89

Hmm … I thought Peterson was still waging his crusade against postmodernism. When did he get “spiritual” in any sense of the word?

(Douglas Duff) #90

Perhaps religion is a better word. @jfmartel mentioned in the Dojen episode of Weird Studies recently that (loosely quoted): “Successful philosophies often become religion.” Which expanded a bit further means (maybe) that successful philosophies often produce “religious” readers, followers and then believers… and then, if the philosopher happens to still be living, a messiah or (insert chosen religious figure term). The example in the podcast is that Dojen only left behind a few fragments of philosophical thinking, and this became Soto Zen, “the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism” according to Wikipedia. In the last recording of the Life Divine, i introduced “Auroworld,” a sort of spin off of this idea that I personally perceived had/has occurred with Aurobindo’s writings, and has physically manifested with Auroville.

Jordan Peterson, whom I have not been following much, does crusade still against postmodernism, and, for a few measley bucks, you can buy his book…and his latest book…and do some Self Authoring…and attend the sure to be sellout crowd of Peterson vs Harris…and so on! I say, “well, what do you expect…seems like a good opportunity to make a few bucks on the side,” but there is a feeling that he has lost some of the sincerity or perhaps novelty he once exuded in previous days.


(and this is just a comment, no need to discuss Peterson at length here)

(Durwin Foster) #91

Ed, I don’t know much of anything, bro. I’m focused on learning and action in the political context right now, and am definitely not in the ballpark of the Real-Idea-Will of Aurobindo where all of those are unified!

(Durwin Foster) #92

What I am studying today, in prep for conversation with Adam tomorrow:

(Don Salmon) #93

Ok folks, I found some time as promised. Here’s my final reflection on the “reading material” - the chapters on Divine Maya and Supermind"

I think some of you are familiar with Owen Barfield’s “Saving the Appearances”?

In the first chapter, he asks us to consider a rainbow. We frequently hear that the “rainbow” isn’t “real” (by “real,” meaning, it exists completely independent of any kind of mind or consciousness), that a rainbow is “really” nothing but the outcome of the interaction of sun, water vapor and human perception.

He goes on to say, now let’s consider a tree. As experienced, is it really any different from the rainbow? All that we directly know of a tree – the brownish or grayish color, the solidity, the movement of leaves, etc – is similarly, the outcome of light and perception. Without those two, there is nothing left of the “tree experience.”

“But you can’t be saying that the tree wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your mind?”

No, this is where you have to be VERY VERY careful, or you’ll fall into solipsism (remember the professor who announced, at a talk, that he was a solipsist? A woman in the audience shouted out, “Thank God! I thought I was the only one!!”)

If you don’t go even one tiny step beyond what Barfield is saying, he is VERY careful to say, “I’m not making any statement about what is “really” there – only about what we know about what is “there.”

Alan Wallace has a wonderful passage in which he says, (paraphrasing), consider the typical description of the beginning of the universe, explosions of stars, all kinds of reds and oranges and yellows, but then consider again – without some sort of perceiving activity, there is no red, nothing remotely like what we may think of when we see or hear an “explosion”, no orange, no yellow, no sounds – a Whitehead says, without experiencing, there is nothing, nothing, bare nothingness.

As Rupert Spira says, all we know, we know through experience.

What Sri Aurobindo refers to as the “lower maya,” – “Avidya” in traditional Sanskrit – is simply this tendency of our mind to take the experienced tree, or cup, or stone, or planet as something that exists entirely apart from any mind or consciousness whatsoever, There can never be, by definition, any empirical evidence of such a thing, because as soon as you present evidence for it, you are implicitly bringing some kind of awareness to the evidence (this is a tricky one to talk about – Paul Brunton spends several chapters in “The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga” making this point).

The “Higher Maya” is the creative power of what I’ll call for now, AWARENESS,” a power (Chit-Shakti or Consciousness-Force – for Geoffrey, that’s a “conscious” force or intentional, intelligent force, rather dramatically different from what physicists mean by the word) that creates “real” forms, not merely illusory ones. In this view, the Divine is just as much present in the rich diversity of the universe as in the utter Silence of the transcendent.

Finally, Sri Aurobindo says, “mind” – if we mean by that, essentially, a primarily differentiating power of Awareness, does not have the capacity to “hold together” the Infintie and the infinitely diverse manifestation. For that, a greater power of knowing, intelligence, willing, etc is needed – that superior knowing, intelligent, willing – is the Supramental.

People get confused by the word “supramental” (not a word I’m crazy about!:>) thinking, unwittingly that it’s some kidn of “Supermind” – that is, a mind raised to an almost unthinkable (pun intended) intensity. But it’s not “mind” at all. Neither is it the Absolute, as Wilber frequently asserts. It is “between” (if that makes any sense at all; it really doesn’t but we must use words, so) the “lower” world of mind, life and matter, and the “upper” world of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss.”

At some point on this infinite conversations forum, I’m going to make more of an effort to put this in middle school language, but obviously I haven’t succeeded yet. You’ll have to buy our e-course to see that (oops, sorry, commercial break:>))

(Durwin Foster) #94

no Wilber doesn’t assert that Supermind is the Absolute. Could you please provide a reference where Wilber suggests that? Sorry, I am not going to let “drive by” criticisms of Wilber go by. You need to give your references.

(Don Salmon) #95

Durwin, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, at least half a dozen - it may have been considerably more - of friends of mine in the Integral Yoga community wrote ken, repeatedly, each of us trying to explain - despite numerous charts in which he quite clearly equates “Supermind” to “Clear Light” - the difference. I remember at least one of his books, perhaps Eye of Spirit, where he changed this (I think it was in an appendix where he defended himself against critics from the Integral Yoga and showed that he did understand Sri Aurobindo’s terminology - as I recall, the last time I looked at it, there was not one single term he defined correctly. I’m sorry if this seems overly critical or harsh - but please at least think for a second - if what I’m saying is factually correct, then there’s no need to assume any negative reactivity associated with it, yes?)

Meanwhile, a brief search for “Wilber” + “Supermind” quickly yielded the following;

  1. Supermind = nondual (as in vision-logic – which has nothing to do with Sri Aurobindo’s “higher mind”) psychic, subtle, causal and nondual)

  2. Supermind = nondual suchness

  3.….Patt%20III_Infancy%20to%20Enlightenment_Postconventional%20Consciousness_DRAFT.pdf adapted from Wilber 2000-2006, Equates Supermind with clear light. (note in this particular document, there is not a single term from Integral Yoga that is described correctly)

  4. an excellent overview of the ways in which Wilber has equated “Supermind” with the Absolute

I see that since 2015, he has been talking about the Supermind as the highest structure of consciousness to have yet emerged; there’s an interesting dialog with Michael Murphy, for example, who has frequently told his friends in the Integral Yoga that he doesn’t really believe in the supermind, but perhaps this has changed as well.

I’m sorry if it seemed like a “drive-by” comment - it’s one that I’ve been familiar with, have talked numerous times with Ken an others about, and in fact, if I recall correctly (I think an essay at the website?) have written about as well.

Sri Aurobindo’s terminology and vision is VERY hard to understand. I started studying it in 1976, and it was only some time around 2003 or so that I felt I could say anything remotely intelligible about it. Looking back, I don’t think I really started grasping it sufficiently until maybe 2012 or so, and in the last year, I’ve had many moments where I felt, “I never understood it before, but I can see maybe in a few years I might start to get a glimpse of what he is saying.” Our book agent, John White, introduced Ken to Sri Aurobindo in 1980, and as far as I can tell from his own account, to my knowledge, he has not studied the original texts to any great degree but has relied mostly on quoted passages. I personally would say the best way to get into Sri Aurobindo is to take a paragraph or so and spend a few months living with it.

(Don Salmon) #96

sorry, I should have written “attempted to show that he understood Sri Aurobindo’s terminology”

(Don Salmon) #97

I guess in the interest of the clearest clarification possible, I should have said "Communicated about numerous times with a number of folks in the Integral yoga, including two correspondences with Ken in which if I recall correctly, in defending Sri Aurobindo seemed only to contradict himself.

(Durwin Foster) #98

"I see that since 2015, he has been talking about the Supermind as the highest structure of consciousness to have yet emerged; "

This is his most current position, outlined in 2017, Religion of Tomorrow:

“The Supermind (white or clear light --that’s an altitude marker, btw, doesn’t mean “clear light emptiness”; Fulcrum 12) is, as far as we can tell, the highest structure and View yet to emerge in evolution at all (and it is preciously rare). This makes it both the most infinitely complex and the utterly most simple occasion in existence.”

“As the Supermind comes online, it is busy translating the fundamentals of the Ultimate Nondual Reality (so you can see here, Don, he isn’t saying it is the Absolute), downward into the manifest realms, and receiving the evolving natures of the manifest realms “upward” into its own consequent nature (.p.239 Religion of Tomorrow, 2017).”

To me, the crux of the issue is that you don’t believe in stages, and so how will you explain the Supermind exactly as something in between, without making use of a stage conception of some sort?

(Durwin Foster) #99

none of those four links worked for me, actually.

(Durwin Foster) #100

I will go with this advice for now, thanks: “I personally would say the best way to get into Sri Aurobindo is to take a paragraph or so and spend a few months living with it.”. I am going to read Sri Aurobindo on my own, have my own experiences with the text, and come to my own conclusions about it, perhaps by comparing with Wilber’s Religion of Tomorrow.

(Durwin Foster) #101

huh…i have quite different results from Google search of “Wilber” and “Supermind”, including this:

the link is current.

It IS odd that he doesn’t properly cite Sri Aurobindo in Religion of Tomorrow, although he quotes him. I sent this feedback to Ken a few months ago, in fact, and can show you the email if you like. He responded in general but didn’t address that specific issue, unfortunately.

(Don Salmon) #102

Hi Durwin:

Yes, I’m aware of the latest. I was just trying to be helpful in terms of the overall 40 years or so, when he used the term differently, but yes, I see what you’re saying about his present use. I hope we don’t get bogged down with whether “I” believe in stages. I’m trying to offer some suggestions to the group for approaching Sri Aurobindo. It’s not that “stages” are correct or incorrect - it’s just that the way people have gotten used to thinking about stages in the integral community will prove to be very confusing in trying to connect that to Sri Aurobindo. I hope that’s clearer.

I’d love to enter tomorrow night’s conversation with an almost Krishnamurti-like simplicity (I’d say "Mira Alfassa aka the Mother type simplicity but I assume most folks don’t know her writings - or as my more bhakti friends would say, “Her” writings).

A simple feeling of being, spread out infinitely, in vastness. A power of knowing, also infinite, vast, boundless. That power can “Know” (as, shhh, don’t make this too complicated - “supermind”) both this endless, vast being and at the same time, endless, infinite possibilities, of trees, animals, people, water, stars…

and that “supermind” that vast knowing that embraces the boundlessness and the objects at the same time, has a specialized ability to distinguish what it knows and feels and wills…

still too complicated…

That comes down, lighting up the mind and the heart and life and body, at the same time lighting up this and all worlds, moving forward, yet staying infinitely here…

(Ed Mahood) #103

All of the links worked for me except no. 3, which is incomplete in the linked part (the remainder of the URL is in the first line of non-linked text). The post can be edited, Don, to correct that.

(john davis) #104

A rather straightforward overview of some postmodern trends by weird philosopher, Jason Jorjani. He calls himself post-modern but of the reconstructive kind, rather than the kind that got bent out of shape by meta-narratives. He is comfortable with the mythic and archetypal.

I have a feeling that our culture is steeped in post-modern wrangling and for good reasons. If there is not an Integral next phase of human development, then work with what we already have. Healthy forms of magic, mythic, rational should keep us all plenty busy. Seeking for a hypothetical second and third tier is just a bad metaphor driven by neo-liberal vanity to become king of the cognitive rock.

If we could define Integral properly, at our current level, we would surely fuck it up. But you will need some actual experience of subtle realms, as a practical matter, to make sense of these transcendent aspirations. Poetry, music, trance states, dream yoga, night rides home with a full moon, howling in ecstasy, falling into snake pits, these are the best ways to open up to that transcendent possibility, rather than discursive chat fests.

With art we can tune into the field of all possibility. It is more feel for language and entering the weave. I do appreciate that the terms are important and yet who cares? I read a philosopher, less for opinion, than for style. Rorty, the hyper-ironic, post-modernist, I believe, got it right when he called philosophy a branch of literature. Style is spirit. It dont mean a thing if it aint got that swing.

And it is an ever present danger that we can get lost in the field…and that’s another story…

(Durwin Foster) #105

Yes, Ed, I tried the links from within Infinite Conversations, rather than clicking on them from the email sent to me BY the system, and then they worked fine! (except for the one you mention)

(Durwin Foster) #106

And if it don’t mean anything, it ain’t got that swing either. Keats. I would say with Jeff Quintero over the past five years we have been working at from that angle — starting with meaning-making through semantic “architecting”.