Monday, November 26, 2007

Ibn al-Arabi

The Self is without attributes or qualities
It is one without the the quality of oneness
It is many without the attribute of multiplicity

By Itself the Self seeks Itself
By Itself the Self realises Itself
By Itself the Self adores Itself

There is no other
and there is no existence for any other than the Self.
There is no existence save Its existence.

Self and world are one and the same
Revile not the world
for you are the world.

Your actions are not your actions,
they are the actions of the world.
Your thoughts are not your thoughts
they are the thoughts of the world.
Your self is not your self
but the Self of the World

Withersoever thou turnest
thou seest the face of thyself.
Nothing that seems to perish perishes,
for all things appear only in the face of the
Imperishable Self.

You are unborn and deathless,
You gave birth to birth itself,
and you are the death of death itself

Know thyself and thou knowest God.

Inspired by a reading of Ibn al-Arabi

Thursday, November 22, 2007


"[Iris] Murdoch's ethical vision was based upon a concept which she, after Simone Weil, called attention. Attention, Murdoch proposed, is an especially vigilant kind of looking. When we exercise a care of attention towards a person, we note their gestures, their tones of voice, their facial expressions, their turns of phrase and thought. In this way, by interpreting these signs, we proceed an important distance towards understanding the hopes, wishes and needs of that person. This attention, Murdoch noted, is the most basic and indispensable form of moral work. It is effortful, but its rewards are immense. For this attention, she memorably wrote, 'teaches us how real things can be looked at and loved without being seized and used, without being appropriated into the greedy organism of the self'. Murdoch's ideal of attention, of a compelling particularity of vision, obtains to landscapes as well as to people. It is harder to dispose of anything, or to act selfishly towards it, once one has paid attention to its details. This is an environmentalist's truth, as well as a humanist's."
- Robert Macfarlane
Paying attention is, in itself a moral act. The purest form of attention is to attend to the Self beyond ego and conditioning.
In Indian philosophy this capacity is called Chitta, and is considered one of the three most important aspects of the supreme Self: Sat (truth) Chit (attention, awareness) and Anand (joy). Chitta is intrinsic to Selfhood.
One of the negatives of consumerist society is that the attention is continually being dragged away from the Self, towards objects of consumption. Western society prides itself in being a theatre for self-actualisation, but in many respects it is becoming increasingly destructive to the pure attention without which Self-realisation is impossible.
Imagine a man who has fallen into an underground granary with no ladder to get back out. He sees that there is still some grain scattered about on the floor of the granary. If he gathers this grain together and puts it into sacks, he finds he can pile up the sacks and use them to climb out. Attention is like this - concentrated, it is a means of ascent; scattered, it is useless.
Attention deficiency disorder affects adults as well as children. We could be heading for a world in which most kids have some degree of ADHD and never grow out of it.

"Saccidānanda or Sat-cit-ānanda (Sanskrit: सच्चिदानंद) is a compound of three Sanskrit words, Sat (सत्), Cit (चित्), and Ānanda (आनंद) (the ā is of longer vocal length), meaning True Being, Pure Consciousness and Bliss respectively. The expression is used in Yoga and other schools of Indian philosophy to describe the nature of Brahman as experienced by a fully liberated yogin. Orthography may differ depending on whether the word is treated in its compound form and therefore subject to sandhi: saccidānanda, or split into its elements: sat-cit-ananda, sac chid ananda, etc. The compound always sounds like: Sach-chid-ānanda, regardless of spelling. Saccidānanda may be understood as the energetic state and 'stuff' of non-duality, a manifestation of our spiritually natural, primordial and authentic state (sahaj or compare nirmanakaya) which is comparable in quality to that of deity."

- Wikipedia

The great music educator Nadia Boulanger said of her mother: "There was one thing she could not tolerate: lack of attention." "From the first I grew up with this absolute attentiveness, which is vital to self-awareness. People often seem to lack it now, yet it's essentially a form of character."

"It seems to me that attention is the state of mind which allows us to perceive what has to be. It is a form of the vision experienced by the great mystics, on days when they were granted a profound concentration... I believe that everything depends on attention. I only see you if I pay attention. I only exist if I pay attention to myself."

- Conversations with Nadia Boulanger, by Bruno Monsaingeon.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"All religions first postulate three principles, the world, the soul and God. To say that one principle alone appears as the three principles or that the three principles are always three principles is possible only as long as the ego exists."
-Shri Ramana Maharshi

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bladerunner and Cartesian Selfhood

A dystopian vision - a future Los Angeles reflected in an eye.

I saw Bladerunner The Final Cut recently, with two old friends -Artneuro and GJ, at a packed cinema theatre. It's a film packed with symbolism.
A major motif is that of the eye and the act of seeing or being seen.

In the opening scene, LA of 2019 is seen reflected in a human (or replicant) eye. Chew, the maker of artificial eyes, hopes the rogue androids will leave him alone when he insists that he knows nothing about how to get them into the Tyrell corporation - "I only do eyes". Recognising that Roy Batty is a Nexus Six replicant, Chew tells him that he has made his eyes. Roy responds, "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes", while Leon intimidates the poor man by festooning him with spare part eyes. Roy appeals to Cartesian optics in his claim to selfhood. "From the Cartesian perspective, what I see is my property; I own it in the sense that I experience it personally in the privileged realm of the interiority of the subject. Lacan will invert the Cartesian triangle and in doing so show how the subject is dependent upon the outside for his/her sense of self."

"Rachel wants to discuss the possibility of being a replicant since Tyrell refuses to see her. She shows Deckard a photo and says, 'Look it's me with my mother.' Deckard explains the memory implants from Tyrell's niece. Photo-sight-memory-subjectivity all work into Rachel's claim to being human and having a 'person' or self. This self includes a privileged interior - memories that no one else has access to."
Later on in Sebastian's apartment, Pris applies spray-on makeup to her eyes, and Roy clowns around by holding toy eyes over his own. After discovering that there is no way of reversing the use by date built into him, Roy gouges out the eyes of his creator - Tyrrel. (Leon is about to do the same to Deckard when he is shot by Rachel)
Again at the end of the film, Roy refers to his eyes and the wonders he has seen with them off-world. Other eye images are the pupil dilation test and the owl in Tyrell's apartment, also Tyrell's conspicuous glasses. The Geisha on the advertising blimp gazes down through the skylight of the derelict building where Sebastian has made his home. Pris and Zhora alter their appearance, the way others see them. "Being seen and who is doing the seeing affects the 'selfhood' or human-ness of the replicants."
Roy is offended by Sebastian's request that the replicants demonstrate some of their superhuman abilities. Roy seems to consider this an insult to his sense of being a self, not a machine. "We're not computers." Then, to Roy's approval, Pris invokes the Cartesian conception of self in terms of cognition - "I think therefore I am". But Roy does not achieve selfhood through thinking; if he does, it is by overriding his inbuilt combat programming and saving Deckard's life at the end of the film.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gibran on the Singularity of Self

"Should you really open your eyes and see,
you would behold your image in all images.
And should you open your ears and listen,
you would hear your own voice in all voices."
- Kahlil Gibran