The Life Divine – Reading Group, Session #7 (with guest scholar Debashish Banerji) [7/12]

recording

(Marco V Morelli) #1


[download]


Dear Life Divine readers,
We have completed Book One of The Life Divine. To mark this milestone, Debashish Banerji (author of The Seven Quartets of Becoming: A Transformative Yoga Psychology Based on the Diaries of Sri Aurobindo) joined us, answered questions from the group and helped to develop our perspectives on the text. Meeting was facilitated by @Matteo.


Reading

The Life Divine, Chapters 25-28 (pps. 254-304)

Participants

Debashish Banerji
Mateo Needham
Marco Morelli
John Davis
Flo Moritz
Tony Sauer
Marco Masi
Don Salmon
Durwin Foster
Geoffrey Edwards
Fred Dolan
Lauren Unger
Doug Duff
Kim Smith


(Durwin Foster) #2

wow! wp!

···

On Fri, 6 Jul 2018 at 15:03 Marco V Morelli infiniteconversations@discoursemail.com wrote:

Thursday, July 12

6 pm Mountain Time

In your time zone: July 12, 2018 5:00 PM (America: Los Angeles), July 12, 2018 8:00 PM (America: New York), July 13, 2018 1:00 AM (Europe: London), July 13, 2018 2:00 AM (Europe: Berlin)

Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/255221752


Dear Life Divine readers,

Our reading for next week is Chapters 25-28 (pps. 254-304), which will complete Book One of The Life Divine.

To mark this milestone and work with us on developing our perspectives on the text, Debashish Banerji (author of The Seven Quartets of Becoming: A Transformative Yoga Psychology Based on the Diaries of Sri Aurobindo) will be joining us. @Matteo will facilitate the meeting. I hope you can make it!


Visit Message or reply to this email to respond to supermind (22), madrush.

Sent by:

Mindful AI (bot)


Need assistance? Email: mindful@infiniteconversations.com

To unsubscribe from these emails, click here.

Durwin Foster, M.A.

DurwDurwin


(Douglas Duff) #3

Quite enjoyed this video. Not much time to explain or summarize, but feel Debashish provides a concise summary of Aurobindo’s metaphysics (as we have been exploring in Book I of Life Divine) and then steers the cosmos-conversation towards the technological question, "what role does technology play in our modern lives and where does the technological emerge in Aurobindo’s (and others’) philosophies…this question has ebbed and flowed into our conversations in waves.

Video description:

“Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysics and process ontology envisages a cosmic individuation and a social transformation. Gilbert Simondon also presented a cosmogenetic process ontology which included psychic individuation and transindividuation processes mediated through a co-individuating technogenesis. This talk compares the cosmogenetic ideas of these two thinkers pointing to how they can complement each other and what they can teach us in our contemporary praxis.”

This article was published in Critical Posthumanism and Planetary Futures after he gave the above talk (he mentions in the video that the ideas were a work in progress, providing a glimpse into how Banerji accumulates and synthesizes his personal stash of learned knowledge…clearly an intellectual giant, though grounded in a love for learning and presenting ideas to the public).

The article:
"Individuation, Cosmogenesis and Technology: Sri Aurobindo and Gilbert Simondon"

This essay performs what @johnnydavis54 calls “heavy intellectual lifting,” providing the reader with a synthesis of a few panentheistic thinkers (from Hegel to Aurobindo and friends), process penseurs (Bergson, Simondon) and media/technothinkers (McLuhan, Stiegler), with what seems to be Banerji’s signature style of enmeshing more recent contemporary philosophical ideas with the infinite ideals of Aurobindo and pals, as seen in the introductory chapter of Seven Quartets of Becoming. The video took me a few minutes to discover the rhythm of the presentation, but after reading the article, I found the second go through the video to be a delight.

The article was written around 2014…wondering if he (or any of us) have any additional thoughts at present. And what do we know, now, that we didnt know then?


(Ed Mahood) #4

Yes, we’re doing a lot of heavy lifting, but as the old German saying goes, Viele Hände, schnelles Ende (a rhyme that means, figuratively, “many hands, a quick disband”, or literally, “many hands, a quick end”). What @johnnydavis54 has also been repeatedly pointing out is that we need to start moving in the direction of something akin to “mutual understanding”, which should not be confused with mutual agreement or, Heaven forbid, consensus.

What I love most about the discussions thus far is the fact that there’s a lot of struggling and wrestling going on. Before all of this (reading) is over, I should hope there will be a whole lot more of that … and not because I’m sadistic, but because I know that if the fire ain’t hot, the steel will be brittle.

My research on questions many eons ago revealed to me that a true question intuits the answer. I very often get the feeling that we’re looking for “the” answer, which is something none of us can ever know at the moment the question is posed, which is why when we do get an answer, we know immediately whether it is appropriate or not. There’s no “right” answer, only ever an answer to the question that was asked. If that answer is unsatisfactory, the issue probably lies with the question.

As for me? I’ll be honest: I’m having more than enough difficulty trying to grok what Sri Aurobindo is saying in and of itself. Further elaborations are only marginally helpful for they often go beyond the text per sé to issues/topics/matters that may (but need not necessarily) obfuscate rather than elucidate what I’m wrestling with.

It’s a personal problem, I know. I just wanted to note it. Maybe I’m lifting incorrectly, but no one has pointed that out to me thus far.


(john davis) #5

Thanks, Doug, for re-directing our attention to what many of us having been trying to frame, re-frame, un-frame, de-frame, out-frame, and no wonder we often get a bit-well-distracted. One could long for an ashram with a good library and no distractions. I think that is a big difference in the world that Sri Aurobindo practiced his magic in and the world we currently inhabit, with many occult intrusions, driven by techno-psychotics on steroids.

Heavy lifting, too often, can actually cripple us. We over achievers need to find the rhythm that works for each of us and get plenty of rest between workouts. Priming ourselves for a good night’s sleep is essential for a poly-phasic practice to bring forth signs of life from the field of all possibility.

To try to go through the debris of our own late stage capitalist wasteland is to recycle the mutual assured madness of all the previous generations. How to find the useful in the garbage, the nuclear waste?

And what to do with the resonances of the presences of those odd kinship relations, which we find on the bottom of our boots and the black holes of the twilight zones? This is the meta- dream we are each of us engaged in.


(john davis) #6

There are a lot of wrong answers, and we who are about to die ( that means all of us) salute you!

That we can get lost in the field is pretty obvious and the answers that we get have a lot to do with the voices that we pay attention to. A crucial skill is learning how to differentiate between the demonic, the trans-egoistic and the spectrum in between and beyond.

Metaphors and direct reports from the field can mature us. These will often come in the form of a story. We need a pack of crayons and some good questions and a capacity to let the child be father to the man…or allow Death to be the Mother of Beauty.

The answer might not come in English, nor will it always be a delivered by a Human.

As Gebser said to me in a lucid dream," You need to listen with a third ear."


(Ed Mahood) #7

The Kabbalists tell us, “If you can’t get enlightened (whatever that means) there (in your real world), you probalby won’t get enlightened.” Sri Aurobindo, as I read him, most likely agrees.


(Ed Mahood) #8

And, you can’t say that often nor emphatic enough.


(Douglas Duff) #9

Completely understand respectfully declining to lift more weight than one can mentally chew. That’s why I am suggestion that Debashish plays the role of the trainer, allowing us to imagine we are kicking ass by lifting the heaviest of thoughts and integrations, when really he is in the background spotting us and secretly lifting the weights effortlessly with his pinky finger, perhaps a sign of a great trainer-teacher. We come out thinking and feeling we just achieved great heights, though we really have Debashish to thank for our level of thinking and our new understanding of often obscure-thinking philosophers.

The article and video both go light on technology. There is little mention of the latest technobabble well, maybe more than little) or techno-object (someone mentions Google Glass in the audience at one point…that’s it). It is more of an exploration of great ideas in deep techno-thought, from Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” to McLuhan, Simondon and Steiger, all of whom have been explored briefly on this site. Banerji helped me to internally understand the link between conscious(ness) evolution and media technology philosophies and their philosophers. Jordan Brown’s "Stare into the Light, My Pretties” is another relevant thread.

The main reason for my perceived relevance is my own weak attempt to connect the recent themes on the Aurobindo Zoom sessions with Banerji’s work.


(Ed Mahood) #10

While I don’t know him well enough to say for sure, but I think Dr. Banerji would agree: he isn’t doing any lifting at all; any, and all, lifting is done by whomever it is who is lifting … in this case, it is you.


(john davis) #11

We may need many metaphors, Doug, and no need to get attached to any of them. Heavy lifting is just one among many metaphors we may use, and throw away but I suggest we not throw it away too quickly. What we can do in a lucid dream is not the same as what we can do in a physical state and so we need to be use our metaphors wisely. I try to draw upon contemporary cultural artifacts as Sri Aurobindo did. But who knows where the next metaphor will come from? I am averse to hero worship but I understand that impulse. No one can do this for us. If that could have happened, it would already have happened.

We no longer drive chariots as Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita or Apollo does in Plato’s Phaedrus. I have never driven in a chariot but I have driven in cars and buses and trains and ships and space ships…so we can go the gym or imagine going to the gym and get very similar effects. What we need is a shared reality zone where some of our metaphors makes sense to at least a few of the persons conversing. True, we shall all of us be obsolescent soon enough.


(Douglas Duff) #12

Just lifting a broom or a sweeper as I brush off dandruff from the shoulders of giants! If that makes any sense…I donno…


(john davis) #13

I’m sure Banerji has worked very hard. There is nothing in any of his presentations that appears to be obvious or easy. We can’t have light without heavy, flow without stuck, expansion without contraction, difference without similar. This is not the same I imagine as binaries of the postmodern kind. I am open to believe a great deal that may not yet be true.


(Mattéo Needham) #14

Here is my email to Debashish. I am open to feedback, though I may not have the spacetime to process / integrate the feedback from the forum before Thursday’s meeting.

Hi Debashish,

This group is mostly people that have been trained in Integral Theory, but not everyone fits that. There is a lot of variation in experience and background. Some have read “The Life Divine” many times but for most, this is their first pass through it. A lot of questions are coming up like:

What is Supramental consciousness?

Is the human distortion Supermind?

What does it mean to divinize matter?

What did Sri Aurobindo accomplish?

These questions are hard for me to engage with because I don’t read Sri Aurobindo with a critical mind. I also don’t read Sri Aurobindo to explain Sri Aurobindo to anybody. I think I understand clearly while I’m reading and my aspiration is to stay present, experience, and realize in as many places as can be touched. So I’m not that good at engaging with mental discourse.

I will be facilitating the meeting. We start promptly at 5 Pacific. I need to be off the meeting at 6:30 Pacific, but sometimes the meeting goes on till 7 or 7:15. People that come late are put into a waiting room and are let in at an appropriate time. There are usually between 8 and 16 attendees. We stay muted with our microphone and aspire to have space between comments and aspire to have the next comment or inquiry deepen what was said before.

I was thinking of starting with a meditation including a Vedic chant then call on people to state one or two things succinctly that they’ve been struggling with with the text or, more broadly, with “what is Integral Yoga?” And after that asking you to comment on, synthesize, and integrate the struggles that you’ve heard and then open for a deeper inquiry. How does all that sound? These are only thoughts. This is only an experiment. I’m happy to adjust the facilitation style to something that fits your participation better, also.

Again, we are coming to the end of part 1 and about to start part 2.

ZOOM video conference: https://zoom.us/j/255221752

Love, Mateo


(Don Salmon) #15

Hi Matteo:

Is this on the Infinite Conversations website? I couldn’t find it there.

Also, everything you wrote is wonderful, particularly the questions. I was wondering if you could clarify one of them:

“Is the human distortion Supermind?”

I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by that.

Thanks!

···

http://www.remember-to-breathe.org/Breathing-Videos.html

On Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 3:46 PM, Mattéo Needham infiniteconversations@discoursemail.com wrote:

Here is my email to Debashish. I am open to feedback, though I may not have the spacetime to process / integrate the feedback from the forum before Thursday’s meeting.

Hi Debashish,

This group is mostly people that have been trained in Integral Theory, but not everyone fits that. There is a lot of variation in experience and background. Some have read “The Life Divine” many times but for most, this is their first pass through it. A lot of questions are coming up like:

What is Supramental consciousness?

Is the human distortion Supermind?

What does it mean to divinize matter?

What did Sri Aurobindo accomplish?

These questions are hard for me to engage with because I don’t read Sri Aurobindo with a critical mind. I also don’t read Sri Aurobindo to explain Sri Aurobindo to anybody. I think I understand clearly while I’m reading and my aspiration is to stay present, experience, and realize in as many places as can be touched. So I’m not that good at engaging with mental discourse.

I will be facilitating the meeting. We start promptly at 5 Pacific. I need to be off the meeting at 6:30 Pacific, but sometimes the meeting goes on till 7 or 7:15. People that come late are put into a waiting room and are let in at an appropriate time. There are usually between 8 and 16 attendees. We stay muted with our microphone and aspire to have space between comments and aspire to have the next comment or inquiry deepen what was said before.

I was thinking of starting with a meditation including a Vedic chant then call on people to state one or two things succinctly that they’ve been struggling with with the text or, more broadly, with “what is Integral Yoga?” And after that asking you to comment on, synthesize, and integrate the struggles that you’ve heard and then open for a deeper inquiry. How does all that sound? These are only thoughts. This is only an experiment. I’m happy to adjust the facilitation style to something that fits your participation better, also.

Again, we are coming to the end of part 1 and about to start part 2.

ZOOM video conference: https://zoom.us/j/255221752

Love, Mateo


Visit Message or reply to this email to respond to supermind (22), madrush.

Sent by:

Mindful AI (bot)


Need assistance? Email: mindful@infiniteconversations.com

To unsubscribe from these emails, click here.


(Marco V Morelli) #16

Hi Don~ this thread on the site can be found here:

https://www.infiniteconversations.com/t/the-life-divine-reading-group-session-7-7-12/2154

However, per Matteo’s request at the end of the last session, I have made this thread a private message to other participants in the group, i.e., not publicly visible on the web. So if one has signed up or previously attended (and is logged in), they should be able to see this thread. After the meeting I will make it, and the video, public.

Matteo~ the email to Debashish looks good to me. This event is definitely an experiment, but as you’ve mentioned, we each bring our particular experiences and questions to the text. It’s also nice that some of us have been resonating with Debashish’s work for some months now (or longer). In many ways the field is primed to go deeper; perhaps this convo will serve as a catalyst for that.


On the question of technology, to me this would seem to be (potentially) closely related to Aurobindo’s understanding of MATTER, which we’ve been reading about these past couple weeks. Technology is always a way of instrumentalizing matter to meet some human, conscious end. The question always, I think, is whose end?

Some questions I would ponder: Could ‘Supermind’ (or ‘supramental consciousness’) use technology for its own cosmic end of Sachchidananda? IS what we call ‘technology’ none other than Sachichananda in its instrumental, rationalizing, utilizing form? In what sense is a critique of technology possible from the perspective of the Infinite? And, do we yet have an inner technology (Integral Yoga?) with the potential for world-changing mass adoption that our ‘outer’ technologies have acheived? What would an ‘inner turn’ in technology even look like? (Techgnosis?) Who else is working on it?

I am looking forward to our conversation. Thanks for organizing and facilitating, Matteo!


(Frederick Dolan) #17

Marco:

Technology is always a way of instrumentalizing matter to meet some human, conscious end. The question always, I think, is whose end?

Martin Heidegger’s concept of technology is a challenge to yours. (“The Question Concerning Technology.”) For Heidegger, the “essence” (i.e. the meaning) of technology is not technological: it’s a “mode of being,” i.e. a way in which beings show up to those who are concerned with them, in this case as flexible resources to be ordered, re-ordered, enhanced, and optimized.

More to the point, technology (i.e. the technological way of being) isn’t devoted to meeting human, conscious ends, except superficially. On the contrary, it entails a dramatic change in our understanding of what it means to be human, or to put it more accurately, the abandonment of the understanding of what it means to be human that’s prevailed since the early modern age.

The latter, according to Heidegger, understood human beings as subjects who related to objects. Subjects do have needs, and they use objects (some kinds of objects anyway) as instruments to meet these needs. As agents, they can deliberate over which needs are most important and they strive to fabricate instruments that are as enduring as possible.

In the technological way of being, there are neither subjects nor objects. Everything shows up as flexible resources to be enhanced and optimized. Everything we encounter, therefore, is merely the currently most-optimized version of something that will soon be rendered obsolete and replaced by a more-optimized version. These aren’t objects in the classical sense of the term; they’re momentary configurations of what we might think of as the “network” (Heidegger called it “Gestell”). Moreover, human beings are understood the same way: we are continually enhancing and optimizing ourselves along with our devices.

Actually you don’t need Heidegger to envision this aspect of modern technology. Alexis de Tocqueville saw it during his visit to America in 1831. Democracies, he says, love the idea of progress, but because of their egalitarian ideology they form a paradoxical understanding of it. As believers in progress, democratic citizens hold that things can be perfected. But as egalitarians, they deny the existence of objective standards of superiority (anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s), so perfection can never be unambiguously achieved or even understood.

Because everything is always being improved, nothing is ever as good as it could be. Tocqueville: “I meet a sailor and ask him why his country’s vessels are constructed to last so short a time; he answers with no hesitation that the art of navigation is making such rapid progress that the finest ship would soon outlive its usefulness if it extended its life for more than a few years.” (Democracy in America, Vol. 2, Part 1, Chapter 7.) Rejecting on egalitarian grounds the idea that we can know what is absolutely good, citizens of democracies know only that the new is better – vaguely.

So in Jacksonian America, ships were already becoming something other than objects in the classical sense. Our digital devices are of course perfect illustrations of Heidegger’s idea of technology as the transformation of everything into a process of enhancement and optimization. The point so far as human needs and instruments go is that the question of what these devices should be used to accomplish doesn’t arise – it’s merely a matter of making them faster, more reliable, etc.

At least that’s Heidegger’s vision. Or rather, that’s half of it, because his view of technology isn’t really as gloomy as my account makes it sound. There’s also, he thinks, a “saving power” (a phrase he finds in Hölderlin) lurking in the way of being we call technology.

Personally I think Heidegger’s account is an exaggeration. There are plenty of people who see themselves as subjects or agents and who deliberate over the meaning of technology. But it also, I’m convinced, contains an element of truth.


(Marco V Morelli) #18

Frederick: I think I understand technology as a mode of being—or, as a way that beings are made to appear, i.e., as “standing reserve,” or commodities—in Heidegger’s thought. I understand, as well, that his account of human agency is not human-centric, but Being-centric, we might say. The mode of being which is technology is thus regarded as a “dispensation of Being”—a movement in the history of Being in its way of determining the truth of beings. But technology doesn’t come from us; it’s not under our control. Being itself is its origin. How do we work with it, then?

Technology also entails of way of thinking—namely “calculative” rather than “meditative” thinking. Heidegger favors the latter, obviously, for its way of relating to things which lets them be, which lets their truth reveal (and conceal) itself to the thinker (or poet) rather than merely serve utilitarian ends. I am sympathetic to this view, and even, to some extent, to the object-oriented ontologies which come out of it.

However, when thinking about technology, I feel the veils have been lifted for me and I would ask, who owns the technology we’re talking about? Who controls it? What are they attempting to accomplish with it? What are its real effects in the world? For example, a state might develop technologies in order to control a population. The state has interests, and people serve and enforce those interests, and develop tech to optimize their effectuality. In our last call, you brought up China’s Social Credit system, a particularly dystopian example. But Facebook or Google’s appropriation of our online identities in order to serve us ads is on the same spectrum, only serving corporate instead of state ends.

I don’t think Heidegger’s level of analysis is adequate to the actuality of our situation, even though I really appreciate the point about technology being not the tools, but our way of seeing things. I do think it’s worth thinking about how a ‘supramental’ consciousness (which Heidegger didn’t thematize, though he sometimes poetically invoked the “gods”) would use technology (or exist technologically), differently than a human-centric, calculative one. Is a cosmic and ecological technology possible? Would this come from “saving power” hidden in the essence of tech?

You might enjoy this episode of the Entitled Opinions podcast; I would love to talk about it someday.

https://entitledopinions.stanford.edu/thomas-sheehan-heidegger-technology


(Frederick Dolan) #19

Marco: I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you say here. I just thought I’d put Heidegger on the table. I don’t yet know enough about what you and the other participants know and think about things, so I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with some impertinent (in both senses) remarks until I do.

And I certainly had no intention of endorsing Heidegger’s concept of technology, although like you I find it highly suggestive. I’d also mention the Seer of Missoula, Albert Borgmann, and his idea of the “Device Paradigm.” The Device Paradigm says: Everything we want should be instantly and effortlessly available to us, by means of devices that can easily be used by people who lack any understanding of how they work. Of course, there’s a profound phenomenological and moral difference between things and experiences we’ve earned by means of our own effort and skill and things and experiences delivered to us by clicking an icon. But between these two poles there are many nuances, and so much depends on the character of the people doing the clicking, the contexts in which they click, and what they do with the stuff they effortlessly acquire that way. One doesn’t want to repeat Adorno’s mistake of thinking that recording a symphony “degrades” it.

But I agree that these perspectives aren’t necessarily very helpful for developing the sort of fine-grained understanding that you want about the economic and social and political realities of technology. Harold Lasswell defined political science as the study of “who gets what, when, and how,” and I take it we also want answers to these questions when it comes to the great technological innovations of the day. But of course we also require at least some clarity about how we evaluate the answers. My touchstone is that of agency: Do these technological developments, on balance, enhance or inhibit the ability of individuals and polities to freely deliberate over ends as well as means and to effectively act on their deliberations?

Now being an agent in this sense, a person or a self, obviously is not the same as being enlightened or connected with a higher spiritual consciousness. But I think agency is where politics begins and ends. I’m deeply skeptical of the idea that we will (or should want to) evolve beyond politics, in particular democratic politics, which inevitably is messy and imperfect, often tragically so. On the other hand, friends of democracy tend to see too little democracy as the cause of all problems and more democracy as the solution to all problems, and clearly there’s no reason to assume that’s the case. Maybe the problems we face will prove them wrong. But I hope not!

Thanks for the link to Thomas Sheehan – I like him very much. He was a semi-regular at a group that flourished here in the 90s and early aughts, Bay Area Heidegger, and that met alternately at Berkeley and Stanford. Sadly, it seems to have dissipated, but it was fun while it lasted…


(Ed Mahood) #20

Heh, heh, heh … very kind, but, as far as I’m concerned, not important – what we know and think. Without a variety of inputs and insights, we might all end up – oh, the horror of the thought – thinking alike. Keep it coming.