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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Universcale

Scaling the Universe by ebuddha on Fri 30 Mar 2007 11:56 AM PDT
An amazing view of the Universe here
- scales of distance. Props to Webware. Permanent Link Cosmos

I’ll still have something to do with Ken’s ideas, just not him personally

Edward Berge Says: March 30th, 2007 at 7:14 am I might’ve found this odd a while back but since then I’ve come to agree with Alan that the new journal is indeed just another step in the closed “cult.” You’re right, this is not academy, it’s religious parochialism. But that’s ok, this is also America (or democracy more generally). Ken and his votaries are allowed their church, and no one outside the believers any more falls for the notion that this is a “university.” Again, I've come to peace with it like I’ve come to peace with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They can have their church and their beliefs, and even think I’m going to hell or worse, a lower level of consciousness. I’ll have nothing to do with either. Although I’ll still have something to do with Ken’s ideas, just not him personally or his church.

Friday, March 30, 2007

What most of them offer is simply the suggestion: read my book on the new paradigm. This is deeply disturbing

Re: A Spirituality that Transforms: Translation vs. Transformation by Rich
on Thu 29 Mar 2007 07:24 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Ken W writes: "But in today's America, this is much more disturbing, because this vast majority of horizontal spiritual adherents often claim to be representing the leading edge of spiritual transformation, the "new paradigm" that will change the world, the "great transformation" of which they are the vanguard. But more often than not, they are not deeply transformative at all; they are merely but aggressively translative--they do not offer effective means to utterly dismantle the self, but merely ways for the self to think differently. Not ways to transform, but merely new ways to translate. In fact, what most of them offer is not a practice or a series of practices; not sadhana or satsang or shikan-taza or yoga. What most of them offer is simply the suggestion: read my book on the new paradigm. This is deeply disturbed, and deeply disturbing."
RC: So is Ken denouncing the Kettle for being black?

The U.N. was long ago taken over by leftists and has become the most illiberal institution on the planet

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Negrophobia and Cultural Genocide of the Left: Now, it seems to me that the left is King Midas in reverse, in that it destroys whatever it touches and reduces gold to excrement, whether it is institutions, countries, cultures, or individuals. I realize this sounds harsh, but I believe it is self-evident, since we can see the disastrous outcome of leftist ideas before our eyes. It's not as if the results are hidden, because whatever the left controls goes through a predictable process of degeneration and decline.
For example, we all know that our educational system is a mess, the reason being that the left has had complete control of it for some 50 years, to such an extent that neither political party can avoid using leftist assumptions to tackle the problem.
I'm guessing that the U.N. probably started out with noble liberal ideals and not completely cynical leftist ones. Perhaps not. But in any event, it was long ago taken over by leftists and has become the biggest and most illiberal institution on the planet. Imagine an even remotely liberal U.N. If such a thing existed, there would be universal condemnation of Iran or North Korea. They would be completely isolated from the civilized world. In fact, any country that sided with them would be tossed out of the U.N. and isolated as well. The big mistake of the U.N. -- which is the universal mistake of leftism -- was having no standards for membership. It is a sick joke that members of the U.N. are given rights and privileges that they would never grant their own people. Among the Saudis, only their diplomats are allowed to vote, drink, and patronize the most expensive blonde hookers in Manhattan.
The left has also controlled most of the major urban centers for the past 40-50 years -- including, most infamously, New Orleans. I frequently visited New York before Rudy became mayor, so I know what it was like when the left was in total control. It's not as if the differences could only be detected in abstract crime statistics and the like. The entire vibe of the city changed. And yet, I well remember liberals routinely referring to Giuliani as a fascist and cretin. Imagine if New York had been allowed to continue sliding down the path it was headed in the early 1990's, with more leftist solutions applied to the problems resulting from leftist solutions.
I am aware of no leftist who has apologized for the vast destruction that has been caused by leftism. The only exceptions are those who are no longer leftists, such as David Horowitz. I was thinking about this destruction last night while watching a very moving documentary on the history of gospel music, Say Amen, Somebody, because what the left has done to blacks and to black culture represents nothing less than cultural genocide.
Because of the thought-control of the left, one can hardly discuss these matters without being regarded either as racist or condescending, but I think that blacks made America's greatest artistic contribution to world culture in the form of the various idioms of music they produced during the 50 years or so between about 1925 and 1975 -- gospel, jazz, rhythm & blues, soul, and various sub-genres of jazz such as dixieland, swing, ragtime, boogie woogie, bop, hard bop, post-bop, modal, and other distinct variants. Not only is my life spiritually enriched every single day by this art, but it is difficult to imagine what my life would be like without it. It would be such a deprivation...posted by Gagdad Bob at 3/29/2007 08:26:00 AM 66 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Technology is not neutral and when we think it is, we are chained to it and its essence

3.31.07 Heidegger: Understanding the world and the effect of technology
Heidegger’s main point in his article is that human beings are trying to understand the world through understanding themselves/ourselves. However, Heidegger prefers using the term Da Sein over human beings because Da Sein accounts for more than just human involvement. Da Sein has to do with engaging in the world through active involvement.
With Da Sein trying to understand the world, Heidegger believes in two fundamental ways to interact with the world. The first way, which Heidegger sees as the basic way for Da Sein to interact, is ready-at-hand. In this fundamental way of interaction, the object in the project becomes invisible to the individual, and the individual does not need to think about working with or using a specific object during involvement with a project. Using the object becomes natural in the specific project leaving the individual free to think about the project itself. Projects also give a way to interpret oneself. The second fundamental way of interaction is present-to-hand. In this way of interaction, an object presents itself or asserts itself, causing the individual to pay attention to the object. For example, an object can break, such as the doorknob on a door. This would bring the attention from the individual away from their intended project and brings their focus to the problem. The object is no longer invisible, the project breaks down and the individual has to work with the project around the object.
Heidegger also describes authenticity and inauthenticity with our involvement or engagement in the world and our projects. The authenticity of a project means that you are true to your projects and thereby you are true to yourself. This gives way for some one to interpret oneself and understand oneself as well as the world. Heidegger states that authenticity is what Da Sein is after or focused on. Inauthenticity is when some one is involved in a project that they do not care about. Care is what drives authenticity and inauthenticity in our projects. Authenticity and inauthenticity are not better or worse than the other one, they are simply different.
Heidegger’s main focus is trying to understand the world, and technology is seen as another way of understanding the world and derivatively another way of understanding ourselves. However, he believes that our way of understanding the world has changed with modern technology. Modern technology is fundamentally different than older forms that we evolved with. Heidegger believes that technology traps us because we don’t understand its essence. Technology is not neutral and when we think it is, we are chained to it and its essence and unable to understand how it affects our lives. Modern technology is threatened to slip from human control. For an example from class, we can look at a river in terms of poesis or in terms of technology. Poesis teaches us a way of understanding the world and what is true. In poesis we appreciate the river and admire it, while in terms of technology, we look at the river as a source and we think of how we might be able to use it like it is a standing reserve.
Heidegger believes that technology prevents us from understanding the world and ourselves, and he says technology makes us think that the world reflects our own purposes, which is the danger of it. Technology makes it unable for us to see the world as it is, so Heidegger wants us to stop and think about all of this. With technology, he wants us to think for ourselves and stop being chained to modern technology and the belief that the world is in existence for our own use. I agree with what Heidegger is saying about us needing to look at things in the way of poesis more often. There really is nothing more for me to say with my opinion on the subject, just that we do not appreciate things in this world as much as we should and that all we do is pretty much just look at things in a way of how we can use them. I do think we need to start admiring things more and stop taking everything for granted. Posted by William Barrett on Tuesday, March 27th, 2007, at 21:57 pm Philosophy

Discipline and work or Freedom and Joy

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 New Perspectives on Paul (I) Chris Dierkes
Been reading quite a bit on (St.) Paul and his theology of late.[For a brief intro on some of these newer trends in Pauline theology here here and here]. These three links deal with the so-called New Perspective on Paul. The authors most associated with this trend are E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and NT Wright (the same Wright I wrote about on resurrection here). The Old Perspective is the traditional Lutheran strict duality between the Law on one hand the Gospel on the other. Or Slavery/Freedom, Judaism/Christianity, Works/Faith, etc. The Law is a religion of slavery, works, oppressive hardship, while The Gospel is a religion of Grace, Freedom, and Joy.
These ideas come directly from Luther and set a major backdrop to the Holocaust and German anti-Semitism. Luther's writings are also prophetic, mystical, and use the language of paradox, emotionally charged. The other great Reformer, John Calvin represented a different tradition. For him the main Biblical theme was election and covenant; Calvin had a much stronger sense of the unity of the Old and New Testaments. Luther and later Lutherans more especially at times bordered on Marcionism (the OT god=Evil, NT God=Good). Calvin and the Reformed (not Lutheran) brand of Protestantism also emphasized that after election, life in the Spirit was one of discipline and work (Protestant Ethic, Max Weber, etc.)...posted by CJ Smith @ 7:55 PM

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We would have lively discussions about the texts, analyzing themes, metaphors, symbolism, etc.

Larval Subjects Larvae are creatures in a process of becoming or development that have not yet actualized themselves in a specific form. This space is a space for the incubation of philosophical larvae that are yet without determinate positions or commitments but which are in a process of unfolding. Larval_Subjects@yahoo.com
Yesterday we began reading Mill’s Utilitarianism in my Ethics course. Do not worry, I am not a utilitarian. Rather, the course is a survey of ethical thought throughout the history of philosophy where we read selections from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Epicurus, Epictetus, Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre. As many of you, I’m sure, know, Mill draws a distinction between the quality of pleasure and the quantity of pleausre involved in making ethical deliberations. In other words, we must not simply evaluate the quantity of pleasure an action is likely to produce for those involved in making a decision as to whether something is right or wrong, but must also evaluate the quality of that pleasure and whether it is befitting of a flourishing human life. As Mill famously says, “It is better to be Socrates dissatisified, than a pig satisfied.”
Mill thought about ethical questions in their social context, and recognized that human beings must undergo a process of cultivation or development so that they might become capable of enjoying those things (literature, philosophy, art, science, mathematics, etc) that are open to human beings. As such, he recognized that it was not enough to simply transform oneself, but that social institutions must be transformed as well. Mill was a passionate advocate for reform in education, labor structures, economic structures, gender relations, etc. What seems implicit in Mill’s thought is the idea that humans always individuate, actualize, or develop themselves in a social environment such that we must think about their capacity (and limits) of happiness within such contexts.
This discussion led to a discussion of education in the United States, and I found myself horrified by what my students told me about their highschool education. These students related how all of their education had been organized around taking standardized tests, referred to here in Texas as “TAKS” tests. The entire curriculum during the school year was devoted to teaching what would be covered on these texts and developing strategies for effectively taking these tests. I found myself particularly bothered by what they said about their English classes. On the one hand, students were trained to write short, one page, five paragraph essays that summarized whatever material they were being asked to “analyze” (no critical interpretation). On the other hand, their literature courses focused on plot summary and they were told that this is the one interpretation of say Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet. Even where there was disagreement over interpretation or possibilities of alternative readings, the students were told that this is what the test graders would be looking for so this is what the students need to be able to repeat or replicate. Somehow this filled me with a sense of dread, sensing this was what Benjamin worried over in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” taken to its extreme. Some of my colleagues complain that students are today lazy, that they don’t know how to read, that they cannot write, etc. However, I think these judgments fail to take into account the ways in which students have been trained by the public education system and the way that they’re developing in our contemporary technological environment. We need to find ways to work with these challenges, not to blame students and teachers.
When I took English courses in highschool we would sit in a large circle and read whatever work we were studying line by line. We would have lively discussions about the texts, analyzing themes, metaphors, symbolism, etc., and how the text might resonate with contemporary issues. In engaging in these activities we learned how to read and learned that reading is not simply the ability to read the words on the page, but consists of actively engaging with texts, animating them, extrapolating from them, and drawing them out of themselves. Reading here became an occasion for theory building, where the students built sociological, anthropological, psychological, metaphysical, and ethical theories regarding the world. When we read Orwell’s 1984 we built a theory of ideology and attachment to power. When we read Sophocles’ Antigone we developed theories pertaining to why humans explain the world in terms of the concept of “curse” and other similar themes. Literature was a way of knowing the world.
However, literature also functioned as a way of shifting from immediacy, to tautological ground, to real ground. In immediacy objects, persons, and events are simply taken as they are, in their abstract immediacy without need of further explanation. The world is simply taken as it is. Tautological ground encounters objects, persons, and events as mediated or differing from themselves, requiring a ground of explanation. For instance, one says “objects fall because of gravity.” “Gravity” is a tautologous explanation in that it is identical to objects falling. It adds nothing more to our understanding of the object but merely repeats what it does. Or put more precisely, it changes nothing in our cognition of the content of the object. However, it does change the form of how we relate to the object in that we now recognize that the being must be grounded in something else, that it requires an explanation. Real ground then would add something to the content through giving an explanation. Literature took us through these stages of cognition, transforming the abstract immediacy of the world around us into something requiring explanation. The novel, the poem, the essay presented itself as an enigma to be explained and was thus a laboratory for “real world” thought.
Somehow the cynicism and cocerns of my students seem to resonate with a number of concerns haunting contemporary theory today. I am heartened that they could express cynicism towards this form of “education”, almost as if they instinctively sense that something is wrong here. Even though they have developed in such an environment, they still seem to recognize that alternatives are possible. The world of theory has taught us many dark truths in the last 100 years. Foucault has shown us how our relationship to ourselves and our relationship to others is pervaded by relations of power that give us form and identity. The structuralists have shown us how thought is governed by linguistic structures that organize how we think and relate to the world. Sociologists such as Bourdieu have shown us how or sense of self and interpersonal relations is organized by social habitus and power. Figures like Barthes, Baudrillard, and Lyotard have shown how signs and narratives organize our self understanding and world. Lacan and Freud have shown how the autonomous ego is a fiction in thrall of the unconscious.
In each case, the subject has become a sort of void or placeholder within a field of differential relations that contributes nothing of its own and which is buffeted like a small boat at sea by social forces beyond its control and comprehension. In this connection, I wonder what it could possibly be for a subject to be autonomous today.
  • What can autonomy possibly be given what we know now about the nature of subject formation?
  • How can we be self-directing humans when we are formed and actualized in this way?

Perhaps the most astonishing moment in Kant’s ethical theory comes when he argues that we ourselves are the legislators of the moral law. For Kant the moral law does not come from God, nor from parents or authorities, but we both create the moral law and bind ourselves with this law. This is necessitated by the formulation of the moral law that says “always treat rational beings as ends in themselves and never as means to an end.”

Were the moral law to come from elsewhere, we would become mere tools of the moral law. This suggests that there’s a perverse masochistic fantasy at work in the common religious belief that we’re a part of some unfolding divine plan, as we here see ourselves as tools or implements of Gods jouissance. Judge Schreber saw this clearly in his psychosis. That aside, given what we know about the nature of the subject today, is it possible any longer to think of ourselves as legislators or self-directing beings? Moreover, how can a pedagogy focused on rubrics and learning outcomes in this way possible promote the cultivation of autonomous, self-directing human beings? At the very least, a pedagogy that does not promote the division of the object from itself, its mediation and split nature, nor the division of the subject from herself– her lack of immediacy and identity with herself –fails to implement that void that would be necessary for acts of freedom and self-creation incalculable by social structure. ~ by larvalsubjects on March 27, 2007.

4 Responses to “Vague Thoughts on Education and Autonomy”
Perhaps a few separable issues here? One is the issue of technology, one the issue of the political push for “measurable” educational outcomes, and one the issue of how to conceptualise both the self, and context, such that we can more easily visualise potentials for autonomy within our present moment?
Personally, I’m still agnostic on the issue of whether recent technological shifts pose qualitatively new challenges for education - perhaps because I’ve been immersed in this stuff for so long, have worked professionally in the field, I may underestimate the significance of this shift… Not sure…
The focus on “outcomes-based” and easily measurable educational results is much more troubling to me - I don’t have a meaningful response, other than to say it was an issue I was heavily involved in when I was in the US, and that arises in a somewhat different form here, as well… At the individual level, I’ve focussed on trying to make my classes spaces where certain forms of reading, writing and thinking can be cultivated - resisting a distressing tendency I see in some other faculty to treat our students as “data” - as something given and unchangeable, as though our own practices and the relationships we develop in the classroom setting can’t have a meaningful transformative impact.
On the issue of self and context: I’m curious - from this post, but also from other comments here and there - at how strongly committed you are to the imagery you use here, which seems to suggest that the potential for the production of a free self resides, essentially, in the ability of that self to free themselves from context - to do something that lies fundamentally outside context? I’ve mentioned before that “context”, for me, is not something I perceive as a unitary thing, as something that contains only potentials for its own reproduction - I see context as shot through with contradictions and, as a result, I see room within context for the development of autonomous selves. I don’t, though, define autonomy in terms of the leap outside of context (to me, this always seems as though it points in the direction of abstract critique), but in terms of subjects positioning themselves actively in relation to the potentials we have collectively constituted in the complex and multilayered context we have generated, seizing the best of what we have taught ourselves is possible… Autonomy is thus contextual, for me - but its form is nevertheless far from predetermined…N Pepperell said this on March 27th, 2007 at 10:12 pm
I do think the sorts of writing technologies we use have an impact on us developmentally, though I only have anecdotal evidence for this. I think there’s a much different thought process involved in navigating hyperlinks and primarily visual technologies that differs markedly from what’s involved in reading a texting and composing a letter or essay. For instance, temporally you have to be able to retend what came before in a text and anticipate what comes next. Increasingly I’ve noticed that students have a very difficult time encountering texts as unities or wholes, seeing the text as a group of isolated moments. I don’t think this has to do with the intelligence of the students, so much as a certain way of experiencing time.
I think there are broader issues with outcome based assessment than what simply takes place in the classroom. Here I think Foucault’s analyses of micropower are really useful and that this is fertile ground for a Foucault-style genealogical analysis. What is taking place in these pedagogical approaches is a subjectivization, a certain structure of thought and experiencing the world. It would be worthwhile to analyze this subjectivization and the diagram of power it embodies.
I am open to the idea that there can be both autonomy and context, or that autonomy doesn’t necessarily entail a break from context. I am, however, trying to pose the question as starkly as possible. The motivation for this has to do with the theoretical moment we find ourselves in– or I find myself in –with regard to primarily French theory. The tendency has been to reduce the subject to “subject-positions” enacting scripts or narratives or to even reject the category of subject altogether (Althusser). In this connection subject is seen as simply seen as reproducing social structure (or whatever social body we care to evoke). larvalsubjects said this on March 27th, 2007 at 10:49 pm
This post was thrown together about twenty minutes before I had to teach, so the relations among the issues are a bit scattered. What I was thinking about was how the accountability and outcome assessment movement originally emerged in the United States. In my recollection this movement began to emerge about 10 years ago when it became increasingly evident that students were not performing as well as students in other countries. Now what’s interesting about this is that it was immediately assumed that teachers were the problem. Almost immediately there began to be calls for more educated teachers (now nearly all secondary school teachers are required to have master’s degrees) and “quality control” methodologies were drawn from the corporate world and applied to curriculum.
What’s interesting in this is that teaching methods and teachers hadn’t changed remarkably. Teaching methods current decades ago were still in use, yet it was teachers that were blamed for the decline in performance. In short, those analyzing the decline in performance did not examine whether something had changed culturally, socially, environmentally, or technology, producing a different type of student or subjectivity. My vulgar and simplistic hypothesis is that cognitively we develop differently in an environment saturated by communications technologies. Just as someone raised in a narrative culture as when Homeric poems were sung and known by heart thinks differently than someone actualized in a text culture, so too is the structure or “shape of consciousness” different in a culture saturated by communications technology. Of course, the weakness of my hypothesis is that it doesn’t explain why American students seem to be uniquely doing poorly in this way when other cultures that enjoy the pervasiveness of this technology are not encountering similar problems (and perhaps they are and I am just unaware of it). So that was the first point.
The additional issue surrounded looking at the “solution” itself and discerning the manner in which it is more a problem than the problem itself. The focus on rubrics and performance outcomes shares a number of similarities to theses in contemporary theory about subjectivization and interpellation that are worth taking a look at vis a vis issues of autonomy and what it means to be a free subject. larvalsubjects said this on March 27th, 2007 at 11:50 pm
Here: Increasingly I’ve noticed that students have a very difficult time encountering texts as unities or wholes, seeing the text as a group of isolated moments.
My reaction is probably too heavily conditioned by the fact that I spent a lot of time working with some fairly marginalised student populations - in my own work, this was an issue before it would have been plausible to blame it on the technology, but this doesn’t mean that exposure to technology doesn’t have its own impacts. I have a reflex scepticism that probably derives both from, as I mentioned above, my own embeddedness in the field at various periods, and also the tendency in many literatures to get (from my point of view) too caught up in the hype - not saying at all that you are doing this, just that the fact that there is enormous (positive and negative) hype, means that I’m very wary in how I approach empirical work in this area, as I think we’re in a period where it’s very easy to over-attribute shifts to technology that may not exist, or not be as strong as we think, or be due to other factors. But this is not an in-principle objection to your point - and I emphatically agree that, whatever may or may not have changed, we aren’t talking about anything related to the intelligence of the students.
I also agree with you that outcomes-based assessment isn’t something that should be addressed at an individual classroom level - apologies, this had occurred to me when I wrote the original post, but I was in a rush. The movement has been underway for longer than 10 years - in Texas specifically, there were early stages of this when I was in middle school, and this was a major issue in the work I was doing with educational institutions in the 1990s. (And, of course, things similar to outcomes-based learning are one pole in a dichotomy with a much longer history, but the issue at hand is how all this manifests more recently.) This was, in a sense, a “bottom up” educational “reform” movement that has more recently gained a heavy dose of “top down” pressure, as well… And it has generally been quite hostile to the teaching profession (and, in various periods, was related to some not-so-subtle attacks on the level of unionisation in the profession - at least in the skirmishes in which I was involved… A sort of deskilling and industrial mechanisation of the concept of education…)
I’m curious that you take for granted the “decline of performance” claims - I’ve been out of this field for some time now but, when I was still working in the area, discourses of educational decline often had a sort of “moral panic” status: you would disaggregate the statistics, for example, only to learn that what looked like a decline, when students were viewed in aggregate, was actually an increase in educational performance in most or all subgroups - but in a context in which the relative numbers of marginalised or educationally disadvantaged subgroups had increased - thus dragging performance “down” when the stats were viewed in a superficial way. So what, from one perspective, could be seen as the educational system dealing better than it ever had before with an increasingly complex economic and cultural situation, was reinterpreted as a decline, and mobilised to support a quite conservative narrative.
But my empirical knowledge is essentially Reagan and Bush I era - I couldn’t tell you whether anything similar underlies the “crisis of education” discussion now. It’s just that my earlier experience with this has left me with an entrenched impulse to scrutinise such claims very, very closely: it may, in fact, be that there might not be a problem to solve. This would, of course, then react back on how we might interpret the impact of technologies or other social shifts…
Apologies - I’ve just added several more layers of diffusion to the discussion. And my direct knowledge on these issues (other than as they arise immediately in the Australian context) is badly dated and rusty…N Pepperell said this on March 28th, 2007 at 12:36 am

Our freedom of will is a palpable fiction

March 27 Reincarnation or Life in the Hereafter?
By V. A. Mohamad Ashrof 08/07/2004 Courtesy: islamOnline.net
The result of the belief in this theory is, perhaps, best outlined by Sri Aurobindo:
At any rate, at least nine-tenths of our freedom of will is a palpable fiction. That will is created and determined not by its own self-existent action at a given moment, but our past, our heredity, our training, the whole tremendous complex thing called Karma, which is, behind us, the whole past actions of Nature on us and the world converging in the individual, determining what he is, determining what his will shall be at a given moment and determining, as far as analyses can see, even its action at that moment. [Ghose , Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Lotus Press, 1966, p. 200–01.]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

For both Harre and Vygotsky, language development is really the crucial territory

Both Vygotsky and Piaget knew that development is complex, that it involves the inside and the outside of existence and that it requires both individual transformation and collective emergence. But when one reads the works of these two theorists one can't help but be struck by the very different explanatory orientations that they each had in their research and their theoretical propositions. The point that concerns me here is that while Ken has incorporated the Piagetian approach into his model, he hasn't fully accommodated within the integral framework the insights from the Vygotskian tradition of developmental studies. This oversight impacts considerably on the way Integral Theory is currently used to treat the exterior aspects of topics such as politics, ecology, community development, education and spiritual development...
My objective in pointing this out is not to call into question Piaget's genius or contribution to developmental studies, or to be critical of Wilber's treatment and application of Piagetian ideas. I simply wish to draw attention to the importance that Wilber places on western European and American models of development, as exemplified in the Piagetian approach. A traditions that sees development generated by the active engagement of individuals and which results in interior structural transformations. Of course, Piaget is not the only developmental theorist who takes this perspective in the explanation of human growth. That development is the result of the rearrangement of internal schemas, moralities, cognitive structures, and mental capacities is a view that is shared by many theorists and is an assumptions that underpin most of the theories that come under the banner of developmental psychology. Freud, Loevinger, Kohlberg, Mahler, Graves, Kegan, Commons, Alexander and many other major figures in developmental psychology also belong to this tradition.
But there are other traditions that no not come from this individualist-interiorist-constructivist perspective and these schools of human development do not hold these assumptions about the source of developmental change. More to the point, the distinctive viewpoints of these alternative models have, unfortunately, not been fully integrated within the set of explanatory principles that Integral Theory draws on. In contrast to the prominence in Wilber's writing granted to Piaget and co, there is a relatiove lack of reference to, and application of models that take an exterior-centric perspective. These include the very well-known and well-researched cultural-historical and activity theory (CHAT) approaches. The CHAT models of human development have been active in Russia and Europe for at least 50 years and in America since the 1970's, however, their most eminent theorist, Lev Vygotsky, is not referenced in any of Wilber's writings...
Vygotsky via Hegel and Marx asserts that there is an intimate connection between the human habitats and the defining qualities of human psychological processes. Social environments are suffused with the achievements of prior generations in powerful forms. Vygotsky brought together the cultural means with the idea that people mediate their actions and those of all following generations through artefacts. This is the real source of development for Vygotsky...
Like Vygotsky, Harre sees the source of individual and collective consciousness not in the evolving interior structures of image, symbols, concepts and theories but in the social systems of hierarchical activity and scaffolding that surround, support, encourage each and all to the degree that they can experience and participate. Harre's book "Personal Being" is a fascinating read for any integralist who is familiar with Wilber's "Sex Ecology Spirituality. It predates Wilber's first exposition of the AQAL model by 10 years and yet it proposes many of the same insights in terms of the basic dimension of personal and public identity. In this book Harre puts forward the thesis that personal being has a social origin...
For both Harre and Vygotsky, language development is really the crucial territory to be explained in human development. Both of them saw language as moving from the exterior to the interior and that the ego-centric speech of the infant is a stepping stone in that exterior-to-interior progression. The genetic, organic and biological necessities must be present, of course, but they are not sufficient for the development of language, mature thought and stable self-identity (as the studies of feral and isolated children have shown). In this sense cognitive development comes out of the social world of language and gesture and not out of the self-generated emergence of cognitive structures. Social realms draw out the intention and the meaning through the basic processes of social learning. Mark Edwards, 2004 The Depth of the Exteriors Part 2: Piaget, Vygotsky, Harre and the Social Mediation of Development integral world

Shedding off the body-based egoism, individual as well as collective

Sri Aurobindo recognises the importance of body; but simultaneously he reminds us that this body should not be confused with the self, the innermost nature of man. In other words, the body-based subjectivity is false. The true subjectivity is spiritual, which takes due note of the body but does not get lost in it.

While Sri Aurobindo is not seeking the Kantian ideals of the transcendental self and autonomous will, he is clear about the advisability of withdrawing from man’s material environment, without, however, rejecting it totally. The true law of social development requires of man and nation to act and think universalistically, not egoistically, shedding off the body-based egoism, individual as well as collective…

True subjectivism is a confluence of transcendental self-affirmation and identification of self with all others in the world…Only by admitting and realising our unity with others can we entirely fulfil our true self-being. [p.286, Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx: Integral Sociology and Dialectical Sociology by D. P. Chattopadhyaya]

The occult details are made more explicit here than what we have in the tradition

Re: 08: A Shrine for the God of Love by RY Deshpande
on Mon 26 Mar 2007 05:52 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Thank you, Vladimir. I am glad to receive your response—otherwise I was kind of feeling lonely, lost to myself. Why Sri Aurobindo does not name the God of Death as Yama in his epic Savitri? That indeed is a puzzling question. He has named all the other characters of the Mahabharata but not Yama? Why? Nor did he explain the significance in his letter taken as the Author’s Note and put as the frontispiece. He tells that these “characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.”
I think the answer to your question is present in this frontispiece letter itself. Yama the immortal antagonist works through his instruments but does not, perhaps cannot, incarnate himself directly. He has his own ‘Vibhutis’ in the cosmic working serving his own purpose, but incarnation is another matter.
In the Mahabharata story we have together the double aspect of Yama, the dark fearful God and the benign Giver of Boons. He is the son of Vivasvata, the Sun-God himself, and is assigned the task of upholding the Law of the World, that is, he Yama; he is also the Upholder of the Dharma, Dharmaraja. He is the Destroyer of the Pride, Mānada. He is Rājan, the King, he is the Ordainer, he is the King-Father Lord, pitŗarājastām bhagavān, that is how Vyasa puts it in his story. But when he comes to pick up the soul of Satyavan, the Rishi describes him as follows: “His body, dark in hue, was lustrous, and his eyes were blood-red, and he had a noose in his hand which inspired great fright; standing close behind Satyavan he was steadfastly gazing at him.” Savitri takes him as some noble God who has a form other than human.
What I see in this double description is that, Vyasa has presented simultaneously both the aspects of Yama. In Sri Aurobindo it is the Power of Antagonism that first stands out mostly prominently, one who has taken a form, a form springing up from the Void, to present himself in order to meet the challenge thrown by Savitri. Later he gets transformed through the power of the Divine Shakti working through incarnate Savitri, and it is this transformed Yama who finally gives boons to her. The occult details are made more explicit here than what we have in the tradition. Perhaps this is also the Vedic sense of Yama, the Son of Vivasvan. But you are the best expounder of this, and we would like to profit from your reflection on it. May I request you to respond. Thanks, again. RYD

How groups and movements are formed that eventually transform balances of power and the field of discourse

Traxus, on the one hand I’m not certain that divisiveness is necessarily a bad thing. Over at I Cite I’ve occasionally made reference to Voltaire who was a divisive figure, yet ultimately that divisiveness and commitment to a set of principles produced profound results. There’s been a tendency in our current socio-political context to suggest that divisiveness should be avoided at all costs. Conservatives seemed to recognize that this was counter-productive and, up until more recently, have been fairly successful in their willingness to be divisive. I think the left could learn from this.
I am not willing to go all the way with Latour and suggest that truth claims should be entirely bracketed or that they’re entirely irrelevant, so I should moderate or soften my claims a bit. What I’m trying to do is draw attention to how group formations and movements are formed that eventually transform balances of power and the field of discourse. Consequently, I’m interested in any movement that’s managed to do this, positive or negative, true or false, to see what they did that was successful. As I said in the post, I’ve increasingly come to feel that ideology critique, while of value, is perhaps asking the wrong set of questions where concrete change is concerned. This is one of the reasons I think both Badiou and Deleuze and Guattari have been such a breath of fresh air: All three thinkers focus on how assemblages are formed rather than the critical evaluation of assemblages. larvalsubjects said this on March 26th, 2007 at 6:18 pm
Adam, as I see it these are distinct issues. On the one hand, there are my own ontological commitments or my commitment to materialism and immanence and what I believe this entails. On the other hand, there are those questions of how group formations or assemblages come to emerge and transform the social field. For instance, I’m very interested in how the early Christian church went from being a minority fringe bordering on a cult, to overturning dominant Rome.
  • How did they organize? What communications did this involve?
  • What were the material social conditions that fostered the attractiveness of this way of life, and so on?

These things can be evaluated, I think, without making judgments about the truth or falsity of these claims or where these questions are bracketed. And, I believe, such analyses are of value for both enhancing strategies in the present (clearly this is what Badiou is interested in with Paul) and understanding group dynamics. I find that there’s a sort of tragic tone in a lot of continental political theory, as if nothing can change. Yet when you look at history you discover that all sorts of things have changed that seemed impossible to change. How did they do it? I said the post was inspired by the discussion, not that it was necessarily about the exact themes of the discussion. larvalsubjects said this on March 26th, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Monday, March 26, 2007

The State, religion, Enlightenment, reason

Religion Again and Material Infrastructures of Communication March 26, 2007 • Over the last couple of days an interesting discussion surrounding religion, Enlightenment, reason, and a host of other issues has been unfolding over at I Cite between me, Adam Kotsko, Anthony Paul Smith, Discard, N.Pepperell and a few others. I’ve been approaching the discussion from the perspective of religion as a material social reality, bracketing questions of whether or not it’s true, and how that reality might come to disappear within the social field. But the discussion has touched on a number of interesting issues surrounding history and the nature of reason and grounding that are worth, perhaps, taking a look at. As always the discussion has been heated, at points less than noble, but I would say that it’s been more productive than other discussions we’ve had in the past.
I’ve found myself inspired by a number of the themes in this discussion, which led me to write the rather underdeveloped post on populations today. I have a difficult time articulating clearly what I’m trying to get at in these meditations. Perhaps it could be summed up with the word “infrastructure”. Increasingly I’ve come to find myself dissatisfied with ideology critique and forms of political theory that search for the “right theory”. In this connection, I’ve begun to focus on the material dimension of how movements are formed and maintain themselves in time, and also how they pass away… That is, the material dimension of communication. Here I’m thinking about communications that circulate around the public sphere: Political pamplets, newpapers articles, public email exchanges, discussion lists, regular group meetings, blogs, certain repetitive phrases like “I’m an Oscar Myer weenie” that stick in ones head or “Gore said he invented the internet”, media stories, etc., etc. What has interested in me is not so much the content of these things, but the way they become formative of certain ways of conceiving the world and certain identities. I’ve tended to notice– with the help of N.Pepperell –that theorists coming out of the Frankfurt school and contemporary French political theory tend to suffer from a kind of sickness: Theoretical pessimism. Here I wonder whether this doesn’t arise from thinking about politics in abstraction and at the level of content, and ignoring the material dimension of how messages are produced and disseminated throughout the social sphere, how movements and groups are formed, and how institutions have successfully been short-circuited in the past, allowing for new institutions to be formed in their stead.
These thoughts have been on my mind for a long time… Since prior to the 2004 elections. But they also resonate with me personally having just witnessed such a transformation within my own neck of the woods. While I cannot go into details, here an utter transformation was made possible through public email exchanges that galvanized a group of people and which had the effect of leveraging a tremendous amount of pressure on higher management, demanding a significant degree of change. Here the form of communication– email –had a massive impact on what was and was not possible. Had the very same complaints been levelled in private to management in this organization, no change would have occured as the complaints would have been seen as 1) personal, and 2) as easily swept under the rug and ignored. It was the rendering public that allowed for a collectivization of identity that had to be recognized and responded to, lest the business explode. This was all made possible by mediums of communication, but also by forms of rhetoric that created a particular collective identity and that worked to transform concerns that might have been seen as personal into systemic problems requiring organizational change. As a result of this encounter, a new identity was formed that didn’t exist prior to this and that is now capable of things that it wasn’t before capable of.
When we treat any institution as a monolithic fact that cannot be changed, we are ignoring the manner in which this institution must perpetually reproduce itself through time through the agency of those that belong to the institution. We forget that the institution or form of social life is just as much produced by these agents as they are produced by them. We then resort to ideology critique and other forms of ingenious analysis, hoping to awaken these subjects from their attachment to the institution. What we don’t do is begin forming other institutions and subjectivities that get discourses on the table in a very public way– not academic, public, accessible –that force existing institutions to acknowledge them and into becoming through that very force. For a long time protests were able to do this but their messages are now too dilated by being filtered through media machines. More recently blogs have been very effective in doing this by getting information and certain themes out there to millions of people through linkages among blogs, raising money, organizing boycotts, and organizing letter writing campaigns that are very difficult for politicians and major media outlets to ignore. The impact of these media technologies on major media and politicians has been palpable and profound for anyone who has carefully followed how major stories have been broken and brought front and center in the last three or four years. This is transformation through viral infestation and contamination. I’m beginning to think there needs to be more concrete analysis, almost case studies like what Hallward is doing with his book on Haiti, or what Foucault did, or what Deleuze and Guattari allow us to theorize, and less abstract theorizing detached from context such as we find in Zizek, Ranciere, and Badiou. We need to look at those small skirmishes where profound change has been produced, and look at the mechanisms that allowed for the production of new identities, new institutions, and significant shifts in distributions of power.
The Withering Away of the State March 25, 2007 • 1 Comment The State can be conceived as a series of institutions, but also as a system of categories through which members are named and identified as belonging to particular social categories. In the latter case, the State functions to homogenize and minimize difference by transforming differences into mere noise that can be easily ignored. For instance, we come to talk of “Christians”, “The Enlightenment”, “Men”, “Women”, “Blacks”, “the United States”, etc., as if these groupings all had one monolithic and identical content. All we can think of here are instead tendencies that happen to be more or less dominant in a situation. The question then becomes that of a concrete praxis devoted to intensifying other tendences within a population.
Discussing the process of individuation or the movement from the virtual to the actual in the process of actualization, Deleuze writes,
A living being is not only defined genetically, by the dynamisms which determine its internal milieu, but also ecologically, by the external movements which provide over its distribution within an extensity. A kinetics of population adjoins, without resembling, the kinetics of the eg; a geographic process of isolation may be no less formative of species than internal genetic variations, and sometimes precedes the latter. Everything is even more complicated when we consider that the internal space is made up of multiple spaces which must be locally integrated and connected, and that this connection, which may be achieved in many ways, pushes the object or living being to its own limits, all in contact with the exterior; and that this relation with the exterior, and with other things and living beings, implies in turn connections and global integrations which differ in kind from the preceding. Everywhere a staging at several levels. (Difference and Repetition, 217)
Perhaps one of the central contributions of Darwinian evolution is the shift from thinking in terms of abstract species, to thinking in terms of individuals and populations, where individual difference precedes difference in the species, serving as its condition. Geography here becomes an individuating factor, where relations among different populations, environment, geographical isolation or accessibility, all figure into thinking about the emergence of molar aggregates. That is, the idea of a species functions as an abstraction that covers over all these dynamic relations, such that we must conceive species as only ever being dominant statistical aggregates that “leak around the edges” rather than as being unchanging and self-identical units.
A similar structure is at work at the level of the social. In some inspiring pages early in his A People’s History of the United States, Zinn makes some observations that resonate nicely with Deleuze’s remarks about populations and geography. There Zinn writes,
‘History is the memory of states,’ wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen’s policies. From his standpoint, the “peace” that Europe had before the French Revolution was “restored” by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everwhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation– a world not restored but disintigrated.
My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interests (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners. (9-10)
Zinn’s sorting here is a bit too neat and dualistic (victims and victimizers), but the interest of this passage is the way in which it undermines the legitimacy of molar unities such as “nation” and “state”, instead allowing us to see dynamic and divergent populations pulsing beneath. The problem with these molar categories is that they suggest homogeneity and unity where there are none. Quoting Deleuze once again,
There is a crucial experience of difference and a corresponding experiment: every time we find ourselves confronted or bound by a limitation or an opposition, we should ask what such a situation presupposes. It presupposes a swarm of differences, a pluralism of free, wild or untamed difference; a properly differential and original space and time; all of which persists alongside the simplification of limitation and identity. Oppositions are roughly cut from a delicate milieu of overlapping perspectives, of communicating distances, divergences and disparities, of heterogeneous potentials and intensities. Nor is it primarily a question of dissolving tensions in the identical, but rather of distributing the disparities in a multiplicity. Limitations correspond to a simple first-order power– in a space with a single dimension and a single direction, where, as in Leibniz’s example of boats borne on a current, there may be collisions, but these collisions necessarily serve to limit and to equalise, but not to neutralise or to oppose. As for opposition, it represents in turn the second-order power, where it is as though things were spread out upon a flat surface, polarised in a single plane, and the synthesis itself took place only in a false depth… In any case, what is missing is the original, intensive depth which is the matrix of the entire space and the first affirmation of difference: here, that which only afterwards appears as linear limitation and flat opposition lives and simmers in the form of free differences. Everywhere, couples and polariteis presuppose bundles and networks, organised oppositions presuppose radiations in all directions. (DR, 50-51).
What Zinn approaches without quite reaching it are these free and untamed differences, these networks, populated by antagonisms where identity is a principle become, and where the identities and institutions that we see all about us and which we experience as being eternal and unchanging– such that we can scarcely imagine a different world –are riddled with antagonisms and ripe with potentialities for both passing-away and becoming something other. Such a way of thinking suggests a very different mode of analysis, but also a different form of praxis aimed at touching upon these networks rather than playing upon the surface oppositions. Above all it is a form of praxis geared towards producing populations. ~ by larvalsubjects on March 25, 2007.

I was overall discomfited by this aspiring utopia, its aura of neocolonialism and strange inhospitability

It is tempting to be skeptical of these various shrubs with their various healing properties. After all, few if any have been subjected to the rigorous system of trials that we use to create the evidence base upon which we practice medicine. And yet, i like to keep an open mind. After all, these remedies have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. As has Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Accupuncture, massage. Allopathic medicine and its pharmacopia are relatively new. The aurovillians, in particular, made sure that i understood that and they seemed to size me up with a certain suspicion. What could i, a western medical student, want to know about this stuff? Surely i wouldn't understand that herbal remedies, barks and flowers, energy and prayer could heal. Ironically, their skepticism of my open mind revealed something more about how closed their own minds seemed to be.
I was forced to defend allopathic medicine many times over the weekend to those that had great confidence in any number of alternative therapies but none in those that i will someday soon have to offer. It was as if, ironically, the type of science upon which my education is based was not welcome there, too much a part of the status quo to have any status in an alternative world. I think all this fighting about who is right and who is wrong when it comes to healing is silly and potentially harmful. It is a clash of egos that benefits least he or she who needs healing. Shouldn't we learn to cater a treatment to the individual rather than an individual to the treatment? Can't we all just get along?
I left Auroville this afternoon and returned to Vellore. I'm happy to be back. While some of the work that is taking place there is encouraging, I was overall discomfited by this aspiring utopia, its aura of neocolonialism and strange inhospitability. I am disappointed because i felt like my open mind has been stepped on - how many times have i been told not to open one's mind so much that it falls out. As I rode my bike through the dusty lanes of Auroville the afternoon, a thought recurred in my mind, a salve to my wounded idealism: It's okay to have one's head in the clouds, as long as one's feet are firmly planted on the ground and one's hands are meaningfully occupied somewhere in between. I'm looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. Hope you all had a nice monday. justin
ps. i have so many thoughts about this weekend and my short time in Auroville, i've found it difficult to focus this evening. I'll attribute it in part to long and jarring bus ride. Hell hath no fury like an Indian country road. pps. The literal definition of "utopia" is "no place." Posted by doubejsanders at 11:48 PM

Often an honest atheist or a courageous agnostic is much closer to Godhood than a loud devotee

the stumbling mystic God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep.
No More Divisions ~ by ned on March 25, 2007.
Truth cannot be formulated in words, but it can be lived provided one is pure and plastic enough.– The Mother
What the new consciousness wants (it is on this that it insists) is: no more divisions.– The Mother
These two quotes from Mirra are for me pivotal to the integral yoga. The first statement indicates that Truth is not something that can be reduced to an intellectual construct or mantra that is to be chanted or preached to anyone. It is a concrete transformative Reality that one can only live integrally. Every intellectual or mental description of this Reality will always be partial (this does not mean one should not try to systematize knowledge or truth, just that one needs to remember that all intellectual systems and syntheses are by their very nature transitory and temporary). The second statement refers to what Mother and Aurobindo considered the consciousness that would set off the next stage in the evolution of the universe, a singularity. I confess that I do not understand this very much myself, but from my own experiences in which my consciousness has expanded somewhat (though only temporarily), I do now think that our terrestrial divided consciousness is a very inferior mode of being compared to the state of unity that some people have attained with the universe.
I will elaborate on these topics more as I continue to write about my personal journey. For now I merely want to note one thing: that it is possible to turn the most sublime truths into tools of division by reducing them to mere intellectual constructs, rather than actually carrying out the difficult process of self-transformation and surrender to what is.

For example, Ken Wilber, the latter-day bridge-builder between the worlds of exoteric and esoteric knowledge, and the popularizer of the term “integral” (though not in the Aurobindoan sense), has built up elaborate colour-coding and labeling systems to identify people at different stages along the spiritual path. I can understand the need for a psychological typology, but one would always have to keep in mind that no typology is every applicable across the board, nor is any typology final. Moreover, every individual is unique, and every group, however apparently ignorant, could have something to teach us regardless. The subject of a spiritual hierarchy is a very subtle topic indeed, because the sage does not see the world in terms of dualities, so hierarchy and equality are, from the sage’s perspective, totally consistent with each other. As Sri Aurobindo writes:
I heard a fool discoursing utter folly and wondered what God meant by it; then I considered and saw a distorted mask of truth and wisdom.
When thou callest another a fool, as thou must, sometimes, yet do not forget that thou thyself hast been the supreme fool in humanity.
The consistency of equality and hierarchy in the spiritual worldview is a difficult topic to write about and perhaps I will devote another post to this after giving it more thought. But the point I was trying to make in this post was that people who reduce spiritual to a set of mental formulas become stuck in just another fundamentalist religion. Wilberian integral philosophy is a clear example of this, and most people within that movement use his labels and his typologies to put down and denigrate other people with different belief systems. To me it just looks like an excuse to not take a closer look at someone.
According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, often an honest atheist or a courageous agnostic is much closer to Godhood than a loud devotee, whose proclamations of faith are merely a mask for his or her intellectual and spiritual laziness. In other words, appearances are misleading, and labels are inherently prejudicial and divisive. Therefore, one must tread very carefully and never, ever pass judgment, which is just egoic...
The task at hand is the annulment of one’s ego-mind so that all that remains is the Divine. This means no longer holding on to any fixed mental formulas or labels at all. In other words, true faith is beyond belief. It is not a change of mind, not a mere intellectual change. It is a change of consciousness entirely. It is transformative.
What, then, are the indicators that one is making progress on the spiritual path? In my experience, the only thing that really shows one is making progress is when one starts to lose their personal preferences and personal agendas, and starts accepting others more and more as they are. One starts to unconditionally accept what is. One is less jarred by the happenings in one’s surroundings. One reacts less. One loses their resentment and anger towards other beings. The look turns more and more inward: one takes responsibility for their inner state and stops blaming others for it. Increasingly, one responds equally to all beings and all phenomena. When everything one is and does is consecrated to the Divine, the distinction between the agreeable and the disagreeable starts to blur. At the summit of this, there is no distinction at all, and one feels neither pleasure nor pain, but a synthesis of both, that Sri Aurobindo calls “a purely fiercer form of Delight.”

Giacinto Scelsi was particularly influenced by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and La Mere

Since the 1940s, Giacinto Scelsi had been deeply involved with Eastern religions. He practised yoga as well as other religious disciplines and studied the works of, for example, Blavatsky and Gurdjieff, but he was particularly influenced by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and La Mere. He believed that various meditation techniques, such as intoning the “OM”, enabled him to enter into a different vibratory realm. For him, sound in its purest vibration was a potent force that has an extremely powerful influence on people. He was convinced that, through meditation and improvisation, he could become a channel for higher forces which would enable the creation of works that were otherwise impossible through ordinary composition. this article origiinally appeared on francess-marie-uitti’s website Filed under: african noise foundation — ABRAXAS @ 11:30 pm

Sri Aurobindo's prose is extraordinarily intoxicating

I've started reading/re-reading Aurobindo's The Life Divine. To be perfectly honest with you, my pain makes it too difficult for me to do a lot of reading right now (including reading other blogs). But when I can manage, Aurobindo's prose is extraordinarily intoxicating. posted by Joe Perez at 3/25/2007 A few random notes Until

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yogachara Buddhism, Gaudapada Karika, and Kashmiri Shaivism

Nonduality revisited March 24th, 2007 (posted by Edward Berge)...Alan seems to agree with some of what I said above regarding Ken’s mixing and matching of various kinds or schools of nonduality, at least when he wrote the following on The Atman Fiasco at this link:
Irrepressible contraries wreck Wilber’s Atman Project from the outset: evolution ( however “spiritual” it may be, and in whichever guise-Hegelian, Theosophical, Teilhardian, Aurobindoan) and the radical unitary monist idealism of Ch’an/Zen or Tibetan Mahamudra schools are mutually exclusive.
In short: Wilber continually uses the semantics of the differentiated monism ( or Theosophy ), but, since it is juxtaposed on the extreme unitary monism grand blueprint, it momentarily loses its coherence and meaning.
This entry was posted on Saturday, March 24th, 2007 at 2:11 pm and is filed under Integral Metatheory. Edward Berge Says: March 24th, 2007 at 2:16 pm kela had this to say from the Lightmind forum at this link:
To get the gist of what Ken is on about here in terms of the two ‘forms’ of non-duality, we need to go back to Da. And from there we need to backtrack, yet once again, to the contrast between trancendentalism and immanentism found in traditions like Mahayana Buddhism, Vedanta, and Shaivism. In fact, if we follow this line of thinking in detail, there are three structurally distinct forms of the “non-dual.”
alan kazlev Says: March 24th, 2007 at 9:36 pm Hi Edward, Thanks for continuing to so clearly elucidate the Wilberian post-modernist-inspired position. Even if I disagree with it, I still find it very interesting! Unfortunately I cannot take the credit for the superb scholarship of “The Atman Fiasco”, that essay is by my friend Arvan Harvat.
Also I got a lot from the very interesting and learned post by Kela from Lightmind forum, the analysis ofvarious forms of nondualism, and the way Da uses polemic to push the superiority of his own insight. And yes it is as Kela points out an old tactic - e.g. in Radha Soami previous teachings regarding the Godhead and Liberation are consigned to intermediate spiritual planes. I was also interested to read Kela’s statement that Ken follows Da’s account because he combines “formless samapatti, the state of “nothingness,” with nirodha…and calls them both “causal.” ”
This supports my own hypothesis that KW’s Wilber-II and all following stages (i.e. his developmental psychology stages, including all the AQAL levels) are based on (essentially just an elaboration of) Da’s “7 stages of Life”; Wilber becoming aquainted with Da and thus rejecting his earlier (Wilber-I) Transpersonal Psychology material. So the above is another example of evidence of this connection. So even though Ken wants to distance himself from Adi Da because of the latter’s contrroversial behaviour, there is no denying his intellectual dept to him. Even in his current (Wilber-V) post-modernist stage he hasn’t yet broken free of the Daist physico-psycho-spiritual developmental “narrative” story.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Some of Auroville can feel quite colonial with rich westerners utilising dirt cheap local labour and help

Eyes Open Photography The Photography of Bob Rose Village Relations
Although Auroville has a radius of around 3km, it has not yet managed to buy all the land within this area. Also within Auroville are local villages which causes many interesting issues. Some of Auroville can feel quite colonial with rich westerners utilising dirt cheap local labour and help. This is definitely not encouraged by the constitution, but it is easy to rationalise that the villagers need jobs and money. There can sometimes be a very uneasy relationship here!
When many of the Aurovilians boast that they came here and built their houses, what they can mean is that they came here and ordered villagers to build their houses! There are cultural and racial issues which obviously arise out of all this and it can be a somewhat taboo issue for many Aurovilians. As well as employing them, other Aurovilians take the time to volunteer in the villages to build up trust and communication, and also highlight importand social and environmental issues. As Aurovile expands and grows, it will be interesting to see what happens here! Filed under Uncategorized by Bob Rose at 5:14 Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds

It was no surprise to read Professor Terry Eagleton’s acidulous observation: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.” John Cornwell From The Sunday Times December 24, 2006

The fractal and aporetic nature of human life

Zygmunt Bauman From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For Bauman the postmodernity has never been seen as in any way teleological, or relativistically, but rather he characterized it as the posthumous form of modernity. That is, for Bauman's modernity, society was seen as a process of ordering and progress to a rationalized society. This however disavowed the fractal and aporetic nature of human life, and thus its teleological illusions came to be, with the collapse of colonial enterprise, deposed. Bauman's idea of the postmodern therefore takes two forms.
  • Firstly, as the drive to an ordered goal that is no longer recognizable, set amidst the collapsing of the 'insiders' and the 'outsiders'/'strangers' (a milieu in which the processes of cognitive ordering of the strange and different and the aesthetic appreciation of the strange and different are in continual conflict).
  • Secondly, as a way of life in which such inherent human differentiation is accepted and reckoned with. His conception of social life is therefore not one of opposing the modern to the postmodern, but of interpolating two different logics within social life. (Hence, his present characterization of these two logics as being the dualistic 'solid' and 'liquid' modernity.) 1978: Hermeneutics and Social Science: Approaches to Understanding. London: Hutchinson.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sri Aurobindo provides not just theory, but a practical Yoga of not just transcendence but transmutation as well

alan kazlev Says: March 22nd, 2007 at 5:50 pm It is true KW includes meditation, but let’s “deconstruct” this. Wilber’s concept of meditation, enlightenment, spirituality etc is based on what he has learned from Adi Da, Advaita, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism; all of which teach a nondual level of attainment equivalent to the the starting point of Integral Yoga. Ken’s perspective regarding enlightenment is therefore limited because it is still based on the old “yoga of ascent”, not the new yoga of descent. This is not to say he is wrong, only, to use his own words, he has is partial, he has a partial truth, not the whole picture. The Aurobinbonian perspective transcends and includes the Wilberian, but not vice-versa. It is therefore impossible, that’s right, impossible, for KW to accurately critique Sri Aurobindo. In his own terminology, the lower holon cannot apprecuate the higher.
I have already disscussed all this on Integral World, and so far not one person has been able to refute the arguments in that particular section of my essay. If you say this is just my relative perspective, I would ask you to read Aurobindo in the original, not just read but deeply meditate and contemnplate and attune to that spiritual transmission, and then come to your own conclusions. Without accessing the source, it is nothing but mental relativism. Moreover, KW either has no conception of occultism or magic (beyond his misunderstanding of it as being an archaic magical stage that precedes the rational formop etc), or if he has he has not mentioned it in any of his thousands of pages. And obviously, Wilber has no conception of supramentalisation, or if he has he says the literal opposite in his voluminous writings.
Unless one has read Sri Aurobindo in the original, read Gebser, and for that matter read The Mother (who Wilber never once mentions, despite her close co-working with Sri Aurobindo), read Teilhard, and read William Irwin Thompson in the original, how can one understand, appreciate, or critique, these and other visionaries? Or arrive at an Integral worldview that is not slanted to the Wilberian? Of course, I have equally not read Derrida. We are limited by our partial interests, and from that poiont of view I agree with you. But to reduce Wilber and Aurobindo to the same level can at best arrive at a soppy ecumenicalism where everyone is respected and everyone is equal.
imho (and this is only my own biased opinion) your EI, which is based on your own mental conceptions, which in turn can be deconstructed to their Wilberian and Derridian roots. So it reflects your own pov, which is fair enough, it is a valid perspective, one among many. But it cannot serve as a meta-explanation, because it is still based on the relativism of the rational-mental-perspectival approach. My thesis is that it is indeed possible to transcend this sort of relativism, but that requires profound spiritual experience and gnosis. Once one has passed beyond words and relative-mental foremations, one realises the limitations of all these theoretical approaches. Thus Sri Aurobindo provides not just theory, but a practical Yoga of not just transcendence but transmutation as well. This Yoga truly begins where all the others end, at Enlightenment. But Enlightenment itself is still far beyond relativism.

Our giant cities and skyscrapers will be in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon

Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life is a short book by Oswald Spengler. It was published as Der Mensch und die Technik in Munich in 1931. The twelfth and final part of the book
IN reality, however, it is out of the power either of heads or of hands to alter in any way the destiny of machine-technics, for this has developed out of inward spiritual necessities and is now correspondingly maturing towards its fulfilment and end. Today we stand on the summit, at the point when the fifth act is beginning. The last decisions are taking place, the tragedy is closing. Every high Culture is a tragedy. The history of mankind as a whole is tragic. But the sacrilege and the catastrophe of the Faustian are greater than all others, greater than anything Æschylus or Shakespeare ever imagined.
The creature is rising up against its creator. As once the microcosm Man against Nature, so now the microcosm Machine is revolting against Nordic Man. The lord of the World is becoming the slave of the Machine, which is forcing him — forcing us all, whether we are aware of it or not — to follow its course. The victor, crashed, is dragged to death by the team. At the commencement of the twentieth century the aspect of the "world" on this small planet is somewhat of this sort. A group of nations of Nordic blood under the leadership of British, Germans, French, and Americans commands the situation. Their political power depends on their wealth, and their wealth consists in their industrial strength...
This machine-technics will end with the Faustian civilization and one day will lie in fragments, forgotten — our railways and steamships as dead as the Roman roads and the Chinese wall, our giant cities and skyscrapers in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon. The history of this technics is fast drawing to its inevitable close.. It will be eaten up from within, like the grand forms of any and every Culture. When, and in what fashion, we know not. Faced as we are with this destiny, there is only one world.outlook that is worthy of us, that which has already been mentioned as the Choice of Achilles — better a short life, lull of deeds and glory, than a long life without content. Already the danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that to cherish any illusion whatever is deplorable. Time does not suffer itself to be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or wise renunciation.
Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice. We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honourable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A keen exploration of major and marginal figures and schools

Genealogies of Difference combines critical engagements with modern and postmodern theories of identity, difference, contingency, and time with strategic forays into ancient, early Christian, and medieval philosophy. Without losing sight of complex contributions from the past, Nathan Widder provides the philosophical underpinnings for a politics and ethics of difference crucial to our present day. Lucid and distinctive, this volume is an important, in-depth contribution to contemporary debates on pluralism, multiplicity, and community.
This deft study establishes the failure of Hegelian dialectics to come to terms adequately with the problem of difference. Drawing from the works of Nietzsche, Lyotard, Deleuze, Foucault, and Blanchot, Widder demonstrates the need to rethink the nature of difference and the categories of thought that have dominated Western philosophy. The author then provides a keen exploration of major and marginal figures and schools in the history of Western thought--including Aristotle, Epicureanism, Augustine, Gnosticism, and medieval Scholasticism--to illustrate the relevance and relation of these perspectives to contemporary issues and thought.
Widder addresses the substantial body of theoretical discourse on difference without neglecting the history of political thought or the contemporary criticisms of the tradition. His genealogical endeavor develops a concept of difference indispensable to a postmodern world of blurred boundaries and hybrid forms that exceed our traditional categories of understanding.
"A pertinent and instructive contribution to contemporary thinking in the area of philosophy and political theory." -- Keith Ansell-Pearson, author of Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze Nathan Widder is a lecturer in political theory in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter. Home Books Journals

The question of epistemology now becomes a question of immanent ontology

It seems to me that Hegel’s argument here applies to a wide variety of skepticisms common to thought today. Thus, for example, there are versions of linguistic philosophy that argue that we are unable to know reality as it is in itself beyond language. In making this claim, these linguistic philosophies unwittingly reveal their Kantian commitments. Social constructivist thinkers such as Niklas Luhmann claim that we can only ever know the world as a function of our distinctions (which are not in the things themselves), and never the world as it is in itself. Others, perhaps vulgar forms of cognitive psychology and neuropsychology, will claim that we can only ever know the world as we perceive it, not as it is.
Hegel’s entire point is that there is no world as it is, but rather there is only these inter-relationships between being-in-itself and being-for-other. That is, being-in-itself only discovers what it is in relation to being-for-other; for it is being-for-other that evokes the properties of being-in-itself. For instance, iron only reveals its oxidation properties in relation to oxygen. Why should it be any different with mind and world?
The epistemological question is thus poorly posed, abstractly posed, stupidly posed, so long as we think of it as a question of how an independent mind (a mind-in-itself) can know an independent object as it-itself is (a being-in-itself). It is in these interrelations that both the properties of subject and the properties of object come-to-be. Hegel’s conception of the in-itself will thus be one of becoming or coming to be. As Hegel puts it in an important Zusatzen from The Encyclopedia Logic...
Elsewhere Hegel argues that it belongs to ground to erase itself. Returning to my previous example of rusted iron, this simply means that the specific interrelation among existents that produced this property disappears in the result. However, Hegel’s point is that if we wish to understand the being of the existent at all, we must understand its “reflection-into-another” or concrete interrelationships with other existents in a world. In short, Hegel’s conception of essence is not that of an abstract and unchanging form common to a plurality of diverse instances (what all particular dogs share in common, for instance), but rather is a theory of individuation conceived in terms of the concrete contextual embeddedness of existents and the manner in which this situation actualizes these potentialities.
Here Hegel shows, very surprisingly, a tremendous proximity to Deleuze’s account of individuation. Indeed, later in the Doctrine of Essence, Hegel will discuss these interrelationships in terms of relations of force, thereby foreshadowing Deleuze’s discussion of force in relation to Nietzsche in his brilliant Nietzsche and Philosophy...
There is thus nothing behind or beyond the thing, but rather the thing, as Hegel will go on to show, is a negative unity of these properties evoked or summoned in and through dynamic and ongoing interrelations among things. The question of epistemology now becomes a question of immanent ontology, and that of how actualities are evoked in and through interactions in webs of related existents, producing this specific state of affairs here. To overcome abstraction is to think these interrelations in their historical and present contextualities. Things become events and emergences, rather than static substances. But perhaps most importantly, any approach that would heirarchialize one element of these interconnections such as signs, power, economy, language, history, the social, system, technology, nature, brain, etc., is here undermined insofar as each of these moments only discovers what it is in being reflected-into-its-others. ~ by larvalsubjects on March 21, 2007.
Anthony, I think so, though I would have to do some digging to determine their differences. I suspect that Hyppolite’s Logic and Existence played a pretty decisive role in the formation of Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. Deleuze reviewed this book very favorably and it’s pretty clear he studied it closely. There Hyppolite argues that Hegel’s ontology is a logic of sense that rejects any transcendence in favor of absolute immanence. larvalsubjects said this on March 21st, 2007 at 1:03 pm
I’m not the first to notice this parallel. In his book Genealogies of Difference, Nathan Widder very convincingly shows strong parallels between Deleuze’s account of force and Hegel’s account of force by focusing on a close reading of Nietzsche and Philosophy and Hegel’s “Force and Understanding” chapter in the Phenomenology. Like Deleuze, Hegel’s understanding of actualized phenomena refers back to a play of forces. Further, like Deleuze, Hegel’s conception of force necessarily involves a play of at least two forces, where one is the soliting force (active force) and the other is the solicited force (passive force) that produces the actualization. Much of the Doctrine of Essence is a careful working out of these relationships between appearances and their grounds, where interrelationships among existents, plays of forces, complexes of causality (Hegel distinguishes a number of different types of causality), etc., are mobilized to account for actualized phenomena in their specificity. I haven’t read the entire book, only what he shared with me, but Widder’s work is well worth a look. He does an especially good job with the relationship between Deleuze and Scotus.
larvalsubjects said this on March 21st, 2007 at 1:36 pm