Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A discourse expands through fragmented realities being forced to share a world

Re: Reflections on THE IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY By Debashish Banerji
by Debashish on Thu 12 Oct 2006 11:48 PM PDT Permanent Link
Sri Aurobindo is anything but a liberal rationalist in his understanding of human unity. In a sense, yes, of course, Sri Aurobindo is speaking to those who are calling out to him with their own doxa, as a variety of Homi Bhabha's mimicry - the language of the "west", but "not quite/not white," his alienness perturbing subtly from below the surface the smooth texture of his Victorian-sounding Overmental prose. What unites then is hardly a structure, a religion, a rational convention however encompassing, but rather the supra-human sources of integrality which culturally he has a right to assert both through his experience and through the Indic discourse within which equally if not more properly he situates himself and which he extends.
Our hopes, dreams, ideals may be speculative nonsense masquerading as Truth and forcing themselves onto others through strategies of power which is why any foundationism is looked suspiciously upon by most anti-foundationist post-structural thinkers. But the discourse of darshan begins by asserting its non-speculative basis in supra-rational experience and a subjective objectivity. To situate Sri Aurobindo in a western discourse it is first necessary to take him on his terms, and he spells these out in the chapter "Methods of Vedantic Knowledge" in The Life Divine. This does not make it unaccountable to anything other than its own assertions of relative experience. Darshana based philosophies (and yogas) have succeeded one another without displacing or invalidating any throughout Indian history using a method of vitarka (argumentation). It is interesting to note that the grounds of such a process are not restricted to "reasonableness."
When Chaitanya sat in debate in the centers of Indian scholarship, what made his philosophy fly was not just the coherence of his interpretations of the Vedas and the Upanishads, but the fact that his speech and his appearance connoted something far greater than their content. This invisible component of language spoke to the supra-rational faculties of knowledge latent within the human, awakening him/her to visions, experiences and spontaneous understandings which can best be called overmental. I believe this is the case with Sri Aurobindo too, which is what makes those who are open to his word, bypass the grammatology and awake to the Truth-validity behind its address.
Regarding Foucault and the construction of the personality by intersecting and contested discourses, it is not true that Foucault takes the human being as fully determined by these and nothing outside of them. In his later writing and particularly in his essay "What is Enlightenment?" where he engages with Kant's essay of the same title, he makes a strong case for practices of individual creativity in everyday life arising out of a critical consciousness stretching the limits of the discursive determinants and thus pushing them towards rupture or innovation. To think of creativity in this manner, I believe, is certainly to give subjectivity an incalculable dimension beyond the constraining power of discourses.
Sri Aurobindo is no stranger to the radically fragmented nature of the human personality, and though he may have emphasized more its psychological than its social constitution, the social is never far from his analyses. In practical terms, though, what I think Sri Aurobindo is saying in his chapter "The Religion of Humanity" is that the psychic element in humankind is pushing through processes both of painful struggle and rapturous communitas for emergence and disclosure of its supra-rational integrative capacity and only when this makes itself properly recognizable and functional can the ideal of human unity become a reality. However, as you say, this may be effectuating itself through unpredictable ways.
In cultural processes a discourse expands through fragmented realities being forced to share a world. These processes forge new vocabularies, if not of translation, at least of doublespeak, so that doxa are dislodged from reified states and move towards universalities of understanding while maintaining specificities of taste and life-ideals. Such creative acts of intersubjective practice may also further the emergence of the psychic element in humankind. And yes, I agree, that the beliefs of the faithful in the apotheosis of privileged spaces and times may be a dangerous anodyne and substitute for growth of consciousness through critical and creative practice. Debashish
Re: Reflections on THE IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY By Debashish Banerji
by Rod on Thu 26 Oct 2006 06:29 AM PDT Permanent Link
Nonetheless, Sri Aurobindo has claimed a divine sanction for his work, and he has written thousands of pages of primarily metaphysical and psychological statements based on a firm foundation of fundamental concepts and assumptions, such as an evolving cosmological order of distinct principles and planes of consciousness, and the prophetically revealed knowledge of supramental truth-consciousness, immanent and yet destined to be realized by human beings. Moreover, he has prescribed a process of psychological transformation based on bakti (devotion to a divine person), tapas (personal yogic effort), and shastra (study of sacred texts).
The first things that have to be said about Sri Aurobindo’s work, as he would agree, are that these texts are characteristically foundational and contain all of the classical elements of a religious system. It will there be very difficult to avoid facing the fact that the evolving social context and doxa that contextualize this work are not characterized by impartial critical or academic discourse, but by religious faith and practice. What other meaning could the phrase “Sri Aurobindo’s master-idea” possibly have? RH

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