Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sri Aurobindo’s visions on spiritualized human society

The early Egyptians mummified their dead bodies and built pyramids in quest of immortality. Their entire religion was in search of a spirit imperishable and immortal. They dreamed of living eternally and desired that life should not cease. The ancient Chinese did intensive research to invent the elixir of life for longevity and immortality. This quest for immortality or prolonging of life is being carried out incessantly throughout ages across the world both by science and metaphysics. […]

In spite of great advancements in all spheres of life, we see around the world today extreme discontentment, disharmony, conflict and mutual hatred between different groups that often compel us to think pessimistically about the possible annihilation of human species. The combined egos of different people based on ethnic or religious groupings are expanding enormously. The clash of these egos is creating disharmony in human societies preventing their very peaceful coexistence and joy of life.

On the positive side, simultaneously there is also growing awareness about the spiritual oneness of humanity and a conscious aspiration for a spiritualized society as envisioned in last Mantra of Rigveda (10-191-4) ‘Samani Vha Aakuti, Samana Hrudyani Vha, Samanam Astu Vo Mano, Yatha Vha Su Saha Asti’ (Unite your resolve, unite your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long together dwell in unity and concord).

Note: Sri Aurobindo’s first article on human society written in his weekly ‘Dharma’, in 1909, gives us an initial glimpse of his visions on spiritualized human society expressed in ‘Human Cycle’ and ‘Ideal of Human Unity’. - Sundari KBT (

from ASPIRATION - Aspiration is a call to the Divine. — The Mother Reply by kalpana on April 24, 2010 at 2:56pm
Namaste all! All the answers have in common the recognition of the limitations of the human mind to grasp what is beyond its reach, and how the Divine in Her Infinite Compassion allows each to reach for Her, in the way that is appropriate for each.
As long as we are training our instruments to be receptive, sincere, aspire, we will without doubt receive Mother's energy as She sees fit for our personal journey. Whatever helps us to stay in touch with Her is good.
 Reply by kalpana on April 25, 2010 at 1:03pm

Debates have their place, but imho, they can distract one's energy. Quietly, with perseverance, it is better to hold fast to what one believes in, and it will be that aspect of the Divine which will accordingly reveal itself, [or even in the contrasting model!]. Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita also states that whatever form/formless aspect a devotee approaches the Divine, it is in that aspect that the Divine responds.

I also think there is a big difference between the Greek/Roman pantheism [many gods] and the panentheism [all gods [and demons and whatnot are only forms of the One Divine Energy] of the Hindu tradition. In the Hindu tradition, the enlightened/knowledgeable worshipper recognises the symbolic [example a particular goddess might represent love and harmony] and energetic [like a battery charger for a particular handset] aspects - which is not the same as idol worship.

The human mind-field when concentrated is very powerful - so concentrating with faith invokes the latent power in a particular image. Ultimately it is an interaction. For example 10 people might gaze at a picture of the Mother, and only one person might experience a powerful effect. This is due to receptivity, humility, sincerity, perseverance etc. [some of the 12 powers stated by Mother for manifestation of the Divine, as represented by the outer petals of Her symbol]. Whatever. The main aim we are all agreed on - may our aspirations for the Divine on Earth be fulfilled!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Freedom is a false hope given the finite nature of our reality

One of the predominant themes underlying much of postmodern political philosophy is that of freedom. If the practice of mainstream political discourse is the application of power as a means of molding the parameters and contours of reality itself into autopoetic dance of self-referentiality, then the role of the postmodern political actor is to fight back against the conforming embrace of that power via acts of true and novel freedom and creativity. […]
The problem; however, is that the pre-eminent postmodern philosophers fall prey to a subtle version of the very essentialism their own critiques are designed to counter. In the case of both Foucault and Delueze, the whole purpose behind any political action/discourse is to escape the panopticon of power and achieve a state of freedom and authenticity. […]

This trajectory of sincere political action assumes that just such a state exists and is possible to attain, a variant on the Manichean theology that supplants good and evil for power/oppressed and freedom. Experience, on the other hand, tells us that things are not so simple.
In reality, the ability to gain a degree of freedom is a sense of false hope held tight by those who have articulated the context bound nature of our understanding and, indeed, existence, but are unwilling to grapple with the ultimate and logical conclusion of those realizations. Not only our understanding of the world, but our very experience of and existence in the world are bound within the context of a particular set of experiences. We can seek to expand the boundaries of our experiences, but the finite nature of our reality makes the kind of omniscience required to overcome our contextual circumstances both physically and logically impossible.
To suggest that we can somehow escape the context of power accumulation and application is to suggest that, on some level, we are not involved in or a part of the fluctuations of that power, that our identities are not, in some senses, made up of and of the same confluence of forces that generate that power. But, as the postmodernists realized: context is king -- and those contexts that act as incubators for power and its machinations are the very same contexts that give birth to our own understandings and identities. (example? see above)
Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with -- or, perhaps, within -- those contexts. Us, our notions of authenticity and freedom, power, and the banalities of our every day lives, all part of the same basic process and intimately interconnected because they are in a constant and necessary state of interaction. This is the grizzly and natural conclusion of the postmodernist critique, Nietzsche's proclamation denotes it in no uncertain terms: God, and all his promises of salvation, are dead.

What Is Modernity?- A Sketch by Trevor Malkinson Thursday, 17 December 2009
But the relationship between Eros and Thanatos is a complicated one, as only a handful of philosophers have recognized. For it’s the perturbing agitating force of Thanatos that spurs and opens up Eros into further and further growth. Eros is thus the sublimation of the powerful destructive forces of Thanatos up and into creative emergence. As Freud says, Eros and Thanatos “never appear in isolation from each other, but are alloyed with each other in varying and very different proportions and so become unrecognizable to our judgment” (42). Or as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze has put it- “Destruction, and the negative at work in destruction, always manifests itself as the other face of construction or unification… Beyond Eros we encounter Thanatos; beyond the ground, the abyss of the groundless; beyond the repetition that links, the repetition that erases and destroys. It is hardly surprising that Freud’s writings should be so complex” (43). Every system has three possibilities when it comes to responding to the disturbance of Thanatos: it can succumb to system dissolution; it can cling to its current organization in a fierce conservatism, and/or externalize the pressure outward in acts of aggression; or it can release into trans-formation and higher order levels of complexity. It’s crucial for modern civilization to accept that it will never evolve beyond this disturbing ‘dark side’ of our makeup- no matter how successfully we think we have banished it- for it’s the very engine of our own creative evolution. If we don’t admit to and accept the constant presence of Thanatos we’ll continue to suffer the ravages of its untamed release, which has been such a devastating feature of the modern era. As Terry Eagleton points out, “history is dependent upon powers that are perpetually capable of sinking it without a trace…In the forging of civilizations, the death drive is harnessed to soberly functional ends, growing strategic and astute; but it continues to betray a delight in power and destruction for their own sake, which continually threatens to undermine those ends…Civilization must pay homage to its other, not least because there is a sense in which it lives off it.” (44) […]

But when the Faustian bargain for growth and development is put in the service of only our own individual separate-self desires, we get mired in an endless chase that the Buddha called dukkha, or suffering (47). We end up inevitably in the realm of the hungry ghosts, always starving for more, trying vainly to fill the infinite emptiness exposed by separation. Unable to withstand the force of the inner pressure(Thanatos) demanding that we open up- that we move from our current evolutionary moment of individualism back toward a re-integration with the broader whole(s) of culture, earth and cosmos- many have turned to diversion, addiction, and excess in order to dispel the inner torment and be freed of this unsettling power. Massive amounts of energy has also been expelled outward into the business of profit making, endless accumulation, and bald personal ambition. Reason and order have often given way to disorder and chaos. “Reason can restrain our disruptive desires only by drawing its own energies from them, fuelling itself from this turbulent source…Being too aloof from those powers, it will fail to shape and inform them from within, and so will allow them to run riot” (48). Modernity has been convinced that it is a vehicle for Eros, bringing progress and prosperity to all through its spectacular growth and development; this is the ideological mask it has proudly worn. However, its emphasis on the individual and its devotion to a strict rationality have left it vulnerable to a fierce Thanatos, a profound and destructive nihilism that is eating at it from within. More and more, disintegration and demise have come to rule the day as the refusal to answer the evolutionary call continues (49). Eros is struggling to maintain a hold on the human story.

Postmodernity—in its later mostly European philosophical versions anyway—has had a significant interest in religion. Martin Heidegger awaited the god who was to come.  Emmanuel Levinas reformulated traditional Jewish Rabbinic religious and ethical concepts toward an experience of transcendence and care though he was still an atheist.  Famed father of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida wrote movingly in his later years on grief, friendship, and negative theology—again all within an officially atheistic framework.  Neo-Marxist thinker Slavoj Zizek calls his philosophy a (atheistic) materialist theology.  Jurgen Habermas—one of the philosophers who embodies a transition from postmodernity to post-postmodernity—has dialogued with The Pope recently and written on the ways in which secular minded and religious minded folk can live and work together in the future.
In other words, postmodernity argued forcefully that transcendence/salvation—were there to be any—must be found in this world not out of it.  The technical term for the divine within is called immanence.  Immanental transcendentalism is the great goal of postmodern religion—that means merging or finding transcendence within the world not through escaping it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sri Aurobindo opened up my eyes about the connection between the material and the spiritual world

Edison Dudoit: Hi, my name is Eddie. When you were downstairs voting, we had a discussion with your assistant about the spiritual and philosophical essence behind your answers and explanations to our questions, and we’re all very curious where that sort of consciousness developed in you.

Dennis Kucinich: From literature; from the English romantic poets; from Roman Catholicism; from mysticism; from the writings of Gandhi; from an understanding of Hinduism and Buddhism – and as I mentioned earlier – Catholicism, of theism and atheism; from studying quantum physics; playing baseball, football; from being a father; from asking questions; from coming to an understanding that my life doesn’t belong to myself alone; from realizing that I am by reference anyone else. That we are multidimensional beings; that there is a physical element to who we are, there is an emotional element, intellectual, spiritual; that we exist simultaneously in so many different levels as beings; that our thoughts matter, our words matter, our actions matter, they need to be integrated.
And so it’s not the province of any one religion – although my thinking derives from many different religions – or of any particular type of political philosophy. There is a Hindu writer and statesman by the name of Sri Aurobindo; when I started to read his works, it kind of opened up my eyes about the connection between the material and the spiritual world. Now, my study of Roman Catholicism also reflected on that, and I saw it in a different light when I started to study Aurobindo. I see this constant interplay between the material and the spiritual world going on all the time. I believe that without spirit we’d just be empty shells, and spirit infuses us and helps us quicken and elevate the material world; helps it ascend. So I try to put that in to every moment. And you know what? It works. And it makes life interesting and fun. …That’s a partial answer. …

There’s a sense in which when we talk about having vision, we put it in the context of time. I find that if we are in touch with our timeless nature, if we can understand that time truly is an illusion, not simply in an existential way, but in a way in which we are universal beings, we are connected to everything and all. And when you stand for something, there are principles that are timeless. Human unity is a timeless principle. Interconnectiveness – timeless principle. Interdependence – a timeless principle. Peace – timeless. Love – timeless. Hope – timeless.

So when you look at the expanse of the universe and you try to draw forth from that universe the possibilities into this present time – whether it arrives, whether those hopes are realized in 2006, ‘08, ‘12, ‘16, ‘20, on and on – is not the point! It’s that you connect your aspirations with a dream and move towards it. And that’s what counts. It is the journey, not the destination. We don’t always know where things will lead, but we have the right to make the choice to take the trip. And so I choose to take a journey of hope, and that in itself is its own reward. Where it leads, I can’t tell you. …

Keats once wrote that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” We have the opportunity of creating a more joyful world by reaching for the beauty that’s in the world and the beauty that’s inside of each one of us. And so you have a chance of connecting with that and sharing it with the world and it’s really in a sense an obligation. So I invite you to participate. This idea for a Department of Peace is really about creating a culture of peace and a structure to help facilitate the culture. So I invite you. I’ll be out in your area again. There are things that we can do, things you can do now, like start connecting with people across the country and around the world.

Dennis Kucinich: I think it was Joseph Campbell in some of his writing about mythology, writes about how sometimes kingdoms are saved by the protagonist asking the right question. First question: who are we? Next question: what are we here for? You can take it from there. These are questions with answers. What does it mean to be a nation? Is war inevitable? Are we innately aggressive and those impulses can’t be changed? …

Dennis Kucinich: There is an evolutionary process that we participate in. If you look at… If any of you have studied evolutionary biology, you’ll know that there is an often slow and steady upward spiral in the growth of a species, but there’s also a point in evolutionary biology called “punctuated equilibrium,” where there is a break in the evolutionary process and a sudden upward spiral in the transformation of a species. We need to start thinking about our own ability through self-awareness to transform ourselves, to be more than we are and better than we are as a species, to catch that impulse of a quickened evolutionary growth. We cannot even imagine who we could be! We cannot even imagine the type of beings we can become, once we get attuned to an alignment with a higher vibration, which is really love in its fullest expression. It’s about realigning with that, just suddenly become far beyond anything you ever thought you could be. And the operative word is “be,” as opposed to just having.
Years ago, a writer by name of Erich – who I think may have come from Santa Cruz – wrote a book called “To Have or To Be,” exploring the dichotomy of an advancing materialistic addiction overwhelming people’s sense of ethicacy (sic) and actualization. He also, in a book called “The Art of Loving,” talked about how love is this transformative force in our lives and in society. He wrote a later book called “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” which talks about how the impulse to love is also constantly in a conflict with destructive impulses.
I mean in the Hindu religion, you have Vishnu – the god of creation – and Shiva, destruction, existing simultaneously. The beauty of this and of being aware that these forces are always at play is to ask, “Okay, what are we signing up for here? Are we letting these destructive impulses play through us, because they can… or are we letting the force of creation move through us, because that can happen too.” Those things are always happening. In a way, that’s what goes on at a cellular level in our own bodies. So when we speak of aligning ourselves with an evolutionary impulse, we have to have an understanding of our own ability to self-actualize our progression as a species. That’s what we have to be able to do, and when we understand that, there’s no telling what we can become. The only limitations we have are those that we impose on ourselves; are those where we chain ourselves in a prison of our own lack of awareness. That’s our own limitations – otherwise, we don’t have any limitations. None.