Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Christmas



Here's an icon I painted not long ago, modelled loosely on the
composition of the Mother of Kazan (Russian).

I will be travelling for a month or so, with limited internet access,
so probably won't be posting much.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Honest Obe

This is a rather well-done photoshop meld of Barack Obama and Honest Abe Lincoln, found on the internet.

American astrologers are excited by natal chart comparisons which show evidence of a metempsychotic link between the two leaders from Illinois.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wind in the Trees

If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.
— C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, page 139


Lewis is arguing against scientific materialism from a Christian dualist point of view: if minds are nothing but material interactions they cannot have any subjective meaning (there can be no self to which they can mean anything).


He is right about the necessity of a Self to ascribe meaning to experience; however, in Eastern Non-dualist philosophy individual minds have no significance or existence, only a single Mind can have significance or existence. There is no reason for this single Mind to be considered distinct from the 'material' world. There is no need for dualism.

In ancient Greece the leaves of the sacred grove of Dodona were said to produce oracular utterances through the rustling of their leaves in the wind. But who can say who is speaking? The wind might say that the leaves are speaking, and the leaves might say that the wind is speaking. The priests of the masculinist classical period would say that Jove was speaking. But the oracle was originally considered the voice of the Goddess Gaia: the Earth, or the entire material world, Itself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hafiz




I have learned so much from God
That I can no longer call myself a Christian,
a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me
That I can no longer call myself a man, a woman,
an angel, or even a pure soul.
Love has befriended Hafiz.
It has turned to ash and freed me
Of every concept and image my mind has ever known.
- Hafiz, 1320 c.e to 1389

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mysticism in Dune



New Scientist recently polled its readers for their favourite Science Fiction works. Frank Herbert's classic Dune came in first. It's the best selling SF novel of all time, but it's a little surprising that scientific types chose a book that is so mystical. One could argue that Herbert used a speculative distant future chapter in the history of humanity in order to make a critical analysis of the effects of mystical experience on geopolitics, but, though this may have been part of Herbert's motivation for writing the book, one also gets the sense that he was personally influenced by, and sympathetic to, mysticism.

"Early in his newspaper career, Herbert was introduced to Zen by two Jungian psychologists; ever after, Zen and Jungianism influenced him. Throughout the Dune series and particularly in Dune, Herbert employs concepts and forms borrowed from Zen Buddhism as a further religious influence on his characters; the Fremen are Zensunni adherents, many of his epigraphs are Zen-spirited."
-Wikipedia

"The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas. We possess only this moment in which to dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence which we share and create."
— Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

"What do you despise? By this are you truly known."
— Frank Herbert

Its a well known fact in psychology that the ego projects its own unacknowledged failings onto 'others'.

"The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man."-Frank Herbert

"the sleeper must awaken" — Frank Herbert (Dune)

There's another film version of Dune in the pipeline. The plan is to make it more faithful to the book than the David Lynch version. Lynch's film was visually interesting but probably incomprehensible without having read the book.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Blog on Art

We've added a new blog which gathers many of the posts from Ownerless Mind concerned with the Subtle/Spiritual aspect of world art through history. Plus some new stuff. See links.

City of Joylessness

Yesterday I listened to an interview on the National Broadcaster with a doctor who spent many years in Mother Theresa's order. She has written a book that describes why she left the order. She had not been comfortable (I'm not surprised) with the self-torture (wearing barbed belts etc), extreme, cult-like submersion of personality, and the fanatical prohibition of birth control even for women in situations of abject poverty for whom more children would mean intolerable suffering. But the turning point came when she was censured for admitting a critically ill child during the nuns' prayer period. She wrote to headquarters in Calcutta, saying that even Christ healed on the Sabbath, and that this strict rule meant the death of many children. The letter she got back was a dry enforcement of the rule of obedience, and a warning that "the Devil can quote scripture" (This is also a quotation from scripture; why do the people who use it against others never see the irony of this?). She was told that she was proud and conceited for listening to her own conscience. She recalls Mother Theresa saying that any joyfulness one might display was only a cover for the fundamental misery at the core of one's being. Her remark points to the danger of surrendering oneself to any organisation that is not based on the ideal of Self-realisation. Those who experience the Self experience It as Joy.
A friend once told me of his own experience of going as a volunteer with a group of friends to Calcutta to work with the order. Of the dozen or so who went, several have killed themselves, and others are deeply scarred by their experience. It should be said that this is not the case in general with people who work with the poor.

True egolessness means obedience to the universal Self, not to an organisation or hierarchy. Humility does not mean erosion of personality and Self-esteem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Black Stone


Self, Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear (born 1941) is an African American sculptor. He is considered one of the foremost sculptors of the present day, and the leading African American sculptor. He works in media such as wood, stone, tar, and wire, and his work is a union of minimalism and traditional crafts. The work shown above is called 'Self'. The Washington Times describes it as "a smooth, black monolith, [which] suggests the unknowable truth within a person."


For thousands of years black monoliths have been seen as sacred symbols of the mystery of the Self, from the black Shiva lingam stones of India to the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca (MukteshwaraShiva).



Shiva Lingam from the Narmada River, India
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In the 1968 Kubrick Science Fiction film 2001 A Space Odyssey, an apeman touches a black monolith that has mysteriously appeared in a prehistoric landscape, and this sparks human consciousness. Aeons later, Bowman, an astronaut, comes into contact with another monolith near the planet Jupiter, and receives a state of cosmic rebirth. Before he can reach it however he must overcome Hal, the spaceship's self-conscious computer. Hal represents the ego and the paranoia and fear that comes with it. "I'm afraid" it says just before Bowman finally shuts it down, after it kills the crew it's supposed to be looking after.
Each time a monolith appears it is accompanied by scenes of planetary alignments. The black screen at the beginning and end of the film is the viewer's own close encounter with the monolith of Self.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Net of Indra



Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism,
2007, Josiah McElheny, American, born in 1966
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You would assume that this image was created using computer graphics, but it's not a virtual reality.

The American artist Josiah McElheny created this installation which comprises an array of hand-blown glass objects which he has coated with silver on the inside so that they become mirrors, each reflecting those around them. Additionally he has housed the array within a box mirrored on all sides (even the pane through which we view the objects is one way glass) to create infinite reflection.
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Conceptual art is often too theoretical and ideological, and not enough about the sheer enjoyment of vision; this is not only a very clever concept but very interesting to look at. This visual attractiveness is one of McElheny's stated aims.
It reminds me of the Net of Indra from Buddhist philosophy, a model for an infinite Self comprised of an infinite number of gems in a multidimensional lattice, each reflecting all the others.
McElheny has said that he uses mirrors in his works because he recognises that the act of looking at an art object is also the act of looking at oneself.
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The metaphor of Indra's Jeweled Net is attributed to an ancient Buddhist named Tu-Sun (557-640 B.C.E.) who asks us to envision a vast net that:
at each juncture there lies a jewel;
each jewel reflects all the other jewels in this cosmic matrix.
Every jewel represents an individual life form, atom, cell or unit of consciousness.
Each jewel, in turn, is intrinsically and intimately connected to all the others;
thus, a change in one gem is reflected in all the others.
This last aspect of the jeweled net is explored in a question/answer dialog of teacher and student in the Avatamsaka Sutra. In answer to the question: "how can all these jewels be considered one jewel?" it is replied: "If you don't believe that one jewel...is all the jewels...just put a dot on the jewel [in question]. When one jewel is dotted, there are dots on all the jewels...Since there are dots on all the jewels...We know that all the jewels are one jewel"
The moral of Indra's net is that the compassionate and the constructive interventions a person makes or does can produce a ripple effect of beneficial action that will reverberate throughout the universe or until it plays out. By the same token you cannot damage one strand of the web without damaging the others or setting off a cascade effect of destruction.
A good explanation of the Hindu/Buddhist myth of Indra's net can be found in
The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra: "...particles are dynamically composed of one another in a self-consistent way, and in that sense can be said to 'contain' one another. In Mahayana Buddhism, a very similar notion is applied to the whole universe. This cosmic network of interpenetrating things is illustrated in the Avatamsaka Sutra by the metaphor of Indra's net, a vast network of precious gems hanging over the palace of the god Indra." In the words of Sir Charles Eliot:
"In the Heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else. In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number."
The similarity of this image to the Hadron Bootstrap is indeed striking. The metaphor of Indra's net may justly be called the first bootstrap model, created by the Eastern sages some 2,500 years before the beginning of particle physics.
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Read more about the Net of Indra here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Market

Paul Stiles is a former Merrill Lynch bond trader and the author of "Is the American Dream Killing You?", a passionate outcry against the ravages that the pace and pressure of the market can wreak upon life and society. In particular, he cites urban sprawl, obesity, and depression as the collateral damage of the American addiction to the helter-skelter rhythms of the stock market. Now living in the Canary Islands, Stiles is part of the American diaspora of those fleeing what they see to be a great cultural implosion caused by over-inflated self image, ruthless competition, and the polarisation of a society divided into predatory sellers and passive buyers. Seven million Americans live outside the US at the moment and much fewer of them than one would think are expats for work related reasons.
Stiles is not attacking 'Capitalism' per se. Capitalism and the Market are two different things. The former is an ideology, the latter an emergent property of human economic activity.
"The Market" is an elusive entity, difficult to define. Stiles compares it to an immaterial "mind" belonging to the physical body of the economy. Like the human mind, the Market does not exist in any physical sense; it is a poor basis for identity and the allocation of 'value' to things.
He argues that the Market has caused many of the major disasters of modern times: in its Great Depression form precipitating fascist reactions that led to WW2, polarising East and West into the Cold War, and by its corrupting influence on traditional cultures, contributing to the reaction of Islamism that brought about 9 11.
One reason people are moving away from areas dominated by the Market is that they are tired of feeling that they're being driven by it. Like the mind, there is no doubt that we need a market, but we should drive it, not let it drive us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Out of Many, One. Out of One, Many

E Pluribus Unum!!!
Out of Many, One.
And out of a single Self
the richly variegated people
that are America,
the Visshuddhi Chakra of the World.

The motto 'E Pluribus Unum" was chosen by the founding fathers of the United States to mean a single nation formed from the union of various colonies, but it has come to encapsulate the concept of a single nation forged from many cultures and colours. At last the promise of this motto has born fruit.

One of the main qualities of the Visshuddhi, or throat Chakra, is collectivity and inclusion of 'others'. Let's hope, with a new government, the USA will move away from the unilateralism of recent years.

Shri Krishna, the ruler of the Visshuddhi Chakra, is described in the Hindu scriptures as "blue-black". In paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, He is often depicted as light sky-bluish in complexion, but this may be due to the influence of British rule with it's practice of dividing and conquering India, by highlighting differences in skin colour between north and south.

Below are two black images of Shri Krishna: left - ShriNathji (Nathdwara, Rajasthan), right - Shri Vitthala (Pandharpur, Maharashtra). Note the light blue-complexioned infant Krishna superimposed over the original indigo-complexioned, Self-manifested image type of ShriNathji.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Builder of the House

At dawn, after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha said:

"I have had numerous births.
In vain have I sought the builder of the house.
Oh, the torment of perpetual rebirth!
But I have seen you at last,
O builder of the house.
You no longer build the house.
The rafters are broken;
the old walls are down.
The ancient mountain crumbles;
the mind attains to nirvana;
birth is no more for desire is no more."

Twelve times the earth shook;
the world was like a great flower.
The Gods sang:

"He has come, he who brings light into the world;
he has come, he who protects the world!
Long blinded, the eye of the world has opened,
and the eye of the world is dazzled by the light."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Owner of the House



The power that has created you, the power that has given you all these three powers: Ida Nadi, Pingala Nadi or Kundalini Shakti, the one which is the desire of all that. We can take a simile just to understand it: the owner of the house... supposing the owner of the house walks into the house with his money and creates everything he wants to do about his house. Now the master goes out, he’s not there, when you see a house, you see the power of all the workmen who have done the job, somebody who has established everything. But you don’t know whose desire it has been. In the same way you have seen your body being created, you even see the mind that you have got, you can see your emotions that are there, of course, you can also see you’re a human being, you can also see you’re much far away from the animals. And if you have some wisdom, you understand also you’re much wiser than anything that is created so far. But the power of desiring, desiring power, or we can say the projecting power, or the one who is the owner of all that, the owning power, He is… And then His power of desire, Maha Kali’s power, is His desire, then manifests everything else. His desire, He manifests, His Maha Kali power, that you see here on the left-hand side, manifested in the human being as Ida Nadi, creates all the rest of the universe and everything later on. But first it’s only the desire. But the one who desires, in us He is placed in our heart, away from all this. And He just desires. We do not know Him, but He knows us. We know one thing, definitely, that He knows us. There is someone who is definitely watching us, as in the Gita, the one who is the Knower of the field. The Knower of the field is that. Once you also become the knower of your field, you are Self-realized. This is Self-realization.
...Till you reach the state of Self-realization you’re not aware of it, you cannot control it, you cannot work it out; it works by itself. That part the doctors call it as autonomous nervous system, and the psychologists as unconscious.
After realization only the whole thing becomes your own, in the sense, you change sides. So far you have been looking at things from there, but this principle of Brahma, It can be in such a mood that It has no duty, It just exists. It has no duty. It is not the duty of an owner of a house to do something about it, it is his whim, if he wants to do it, he’ll do it, otherwise he’ll live like a hermit. He has no duties. I hope you understand the meaning of the owner, because the human laws are funny - whatever, you may be the owner, still you can’t do many things. But if you can think of an absolute owner of the place, absolute owner.
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, 1978, England

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ego and attention


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With the ego orientation, with the ego working, the worst thing that has happened to a human being is that his attention is disturbed, is spread out. His attention is not concentrated. The ego orientation has brought about such a disturbed attention, we cannot keep our eyes at one point. Either we look at others, or we want others to look at us. All our attention goes about like this. We cannot look at ourselves, where the attention has to move. And this is the worst thing that ego has done is to spread your attention around.
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

This blog has a loose theme: the non-duality of the Self, and the illusory nature of the ego. Therefore the quotations chosen from Shri Mataji's discourses reflect this; however, this topic is only a tiny part of the vast ocean of wisdom she, and other great teachers, have imparted over the centuries.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Innocence


Song Ling, Innocence

Innocence shows us what needs conserving
and what needs liberating.

Without innocence liberalism is permissiveness,
and conservatism is fascism.
Fascism destroys the innocent quickly;
Permissiveness destroys them more slowly.
That is the only difference.


Point of View


Las Meninas (the Maids of Honour), Velasquez, Prado Museum.
Some argue that, because it seems to depict perception itself, Las Meninas is the greatest painting in Western Art.

"All experience is had from a point of view, which is not represented in the experience itself, but is, as it were, its inner limit. Its outer limit is equally elusive, like the boundary of the visual field. beyond which there is nothing else on the same level." Wittgenstein takes up this Schopenhaueresque idea.

Wittgenstein argues "in the Tractatus that, when the solipsist claims that all experiences are had by his ego, he fails to connect his ego with his body and so there is no justification for calling it 'his'. It lacks a criterion of identity and it may just as well be the collective ego of the whole human species - an interpretation which points to idealism rather than solipsism. There is a dilemma here. For if the solipsist does tie his ego to his body, his claim will be self-refuting, because his body is placed in the world among other bodies, each with its own field of consciousness. This shows that the solipsist's field of consciousness cannot be a breakaway world.

The solution to the problem of the ego is implicit in the Tractatus but it is worked out in detail in Wittgenstein's early middle period. The ego itself vanishes without our feeling any sense of loss. My field of consciousness, like the field of vision that it contains, is self-authenticating: if a sensation occurs in it, I do not even have to ask myself whose it is. There is no inner owner for me to point at and I may as well drop the word 'I' and say, 'there is pain'."
- David Pears, Wittgenstein.

Self-knowledge

"In the act of knowing myself, I become subject and object simultaneously. This peculiar sort of knowledge also dismantles the dichotomy between thought and action, or fact and value - for to know myself is to alter myself in that very act, and to grasp the truth of my condition is to know what I would need in order to be free."
- Terry Eagleton on Georg Lukacs

Wisdom

I pay homage to the Perfection of Wisdom.
She is worthy of homage.
She is unstained,
and the entire world cannot stain Her.
She is a source of light,
and from everyone in the triple world
She removes darkness.

-Ashta Sahasrika 7, 170 (1st Century)

Augustine

"I slowly moved from seeing this man as an anguished spiritual genius of theological profundity to a pervert who has had a more malign effect on Western culture than probably any other individual. I still find breathtaking his ability to distort scripture - also noted by his contemporary St. Jerome - as well as the persuasive rationality with which he twists reality. But it is when one has to deal with people who have been traumatised by the crass application of his teachings (bereaved mothers who were told that their unbaptised children would be eternally damned) that the time comes to say enough is enough."
- Dominic Kirkham, London Review of Books.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Hebrew Goddess


The Hebrew Goddess
is a book by Jewish historian and anthropologist Raphael Patai. In this book, Patai argues that the Jewish religion historically had elements of polytheism, especially the worship of goddesses and a cult of the mother goddess. The book supports the theory through the interpretation of archaeological and textual sources as evidence for veneration of feminine beings. Hebrew goddesses identified in the book include Asherah, Anath, Astarte, Ashima, the cherubim in Solomon's Temple, the Matronit (Shekhina), and the personified Shabbat Bride. The later editions of the book were expanded to include recent archaeological discoveries and the rituals of unification (Yichudim) which are to unite God with His Shekinah.
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If, as the mystics say, the Self of the universe is not different to the manifest universe, It must have feminine aspects amongst it's infinite aspects. In abolishing the idols of the old cults, the monotheistic prophets were, quite rightly, seeking to liberate in humanity a sense of unlimited Being, unlimited to particular forms. But those who call themselves monotheists often limit God, making Him in their own ego image.

Holst




Music, being identical with heaven,
isn't a thing of momentary thrills,
or even hourly ones.
It's a condition of eternity.
-Gustav Holst

The English composer Gustav Holst was interested in Hindu mysticism and spirituality, and this was to influence his later works, including Sita (1899–1906, a three-act opera based on an episode in the Ramayana), Sāvitri, a chamber opera based on a tale from the Mahabharata, and Hymns from the Rig Veda, in preparation for which he took lessons in Sanskrit at University College London and acquired enough understanding to be able to make his own adaptations of Sanskrit texts. Holst was also interested in socialism, astrology (he regularly gave readings for people) and the gnostic gospels.

I Vow to Thee, My Country is a British patriotic song created in 1921 when a poem by Cecil Spring-Rice was set to music by Gustav Holst, who adapted the music from a section of Jupiter from his suite The Planets. Though some have criticised the song's apparent nationalism, the final part is a call to a loyalty beyond that for ones' country; it evokes the heavenly realm of the Goddess, whose 'king' is Lord Shiva, the unseen, Eternal Self. The last two lines are from the Book of Proverbs, ascribed to King Solomon, which describe Wisdom as a Feminine aspect of God.

And there's another Country
I've heard of long ago,
Most Dear to them that Love her,
most Great to them that Know.
We may not count her Armies.
We may not see her King.
Her Fortress is a faithful Heart;
her Pride is Suffering.
And Soul by Soul and silently,
her shining Bounds increase
And her ways are ways of Gentleness
and all her paths are Peace

Friday, October 24, 2008

Consciousness and Social Being


Shri Krishna and Gopis, Indian temple hanging (pichvai) c.1840
National Gallery of Australia.

"Human consciousness is not located in the head, but is immanent in the living body and the interpersonal social world. One’s consciousness of oneself as an embodied individual embedded in the world emerges through empathic cognition of others. Consciousness is not some peculiar qualitative aspect of private mental states, nor a property of the brain inside the skull; it is a relational mode of being of the whole person embedded in the natural environment and the human social world."
-Evan Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto.


Consciousness is associated in particular with the Visshuddhi Chakra (subtle centre located on the throat but which is also the origin of the brain). It is believed that play evolved in order to develop consciousness in living creatures. Intelligent creatures, such as dolphins and apes, tend to be playful. There are many stories about the playfulness of Shri Krishna, the aspect of the Divine who rules over the Visshuddhi Chakra, and whose life exemplified social being, the interplay of collectivity.

Materialism

Dualist religious thinkers, who believe in a soul separate from the 'material' brain, point to evidence from brain scans showing that people can alter their patterns of neural firing at will, and argue that since the mind can change the brain, the mind must be something other than the brain, something non-material. In fact such experiments are entirely consistent with mainstream neurology - the material brain is changing the material brain.
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Advocates of Science and religion fight over whether or not 'materialism' is right, but the conflict turns on definitions. What is matter? What do we mean by 'material'?
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"At one time it looked like all physical causation was push/pull Newtonianism", says Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy and neurobiology at Duke University, North Carolina. "Now we have a new understanding of physics. What counts as material has changed. Some respectable philosophers think that we might have to posit sentience as a fundamental force of nature or use quantum gravity to understand consciousness. These stretch beyond the bounds of what we today call 'material', and we haven't discovered everything about nature yet. But what we do discover will be natural, not supernatural."
New Scientist 25 October 2008
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For thousands of years, non-dualist philosophers have stated that the natural origin of the world is the Self, pure Existence. It is not 'supernatural' in the sense that it is separate from the world. It is not only a fundamental characteristic of the world (like space, time and energy) but the underlying characteristic, the substrate of reality. They have said that, from the viewpoint of the Self, there is no distinction between 'matter' and 'spirit', 'material world' and 'Self'. Perhaps It is superior to the world (super-natural) in the sense that it is the origin - the world emerges from Self, not Self from world - but when we are talking about a non-dual, beginningless, endless continuum, even the distinction between origin and emerged manifestation is probably meaningless.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weard


Painting by American Artist Will Wilson
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This wonderful image brought on a poem:
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Wearying, wearing -
the tides of mind, the push and pull,
the endless 'tractions of the world:
de-, con-, dis-, at-, in-, ex-,
whether it's grit's irritation
or enamour of pearl.
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Closed eyes close out the world
but not the mind.
A deep breath may extinguish it for but a minute.
How to push away that intractable tractor?
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Who is distracted, weary, or worn?
"We are weary", say bodies, say minds.
But who wears them?
(in both senses of the word)
Who is the moon of their tides?
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Who decides to pause and be gathered
or be pulled away and scattered?
Who if not the world itself?
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All dis-tractions
are our own,
each one happens
in the tractless Self,
which is both
tractor and tractee,
breather and breathed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Stubborn Goat of Mind

This I-ness has to go away. That is what meditation is –
where you are no more ‘I’ but it is ‘You’.
Kabirdasji has written a beautiful poem about it:
when the goat is living and kicking, she says “Mein, mein” -
that is “I, I”.
But then she dies and her intestines are drawn out into wires
and some saint fixes them on the ‘Tutari’ –
that instrument that they have –
‘Ektari’ as they call it, and he goes on pulling it with his fingers,
then it says “ Tu hi, Tu hi, Tu hi” –
that is “You are, You are, You are”.

- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
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Kabirdasji
A weaver by profession, Kabir (1398—1448) ranks among the world's greatest poets. In India, he is perhaps the most quoted author. The Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib, contains over 500 verses by Kabir. The Sikh community in particular and others who follow the Holy Granth, hold Kabir in the same reverence as the other ten Gurus. Kabir means 'great', das means servant of the Divine, and ji is a suffix denoting respect.

Ektara
The ektara, or ektari veena, is a string instrument of the wandering bards and minstrels of India. 'Ek' means 'one', and 'tara' means 'string', so it is usually single stringed. It is often used in Kirtan - a Hindu devotional practice of singing the divine names and mantras in an ecstatic call and response format. The ektara is used by Sadhus, or wandering holy men, and in Sufi chanting, as well as by the Bauls of Bengal.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hey, my turn Ginge!


It's kind of fun to project human egoistic foibles onto animals, but the reality is that they do not have ego at all. They are, what is called in Hindu philosophy, pashu - completely bound to, and integrated with, the Self. However, this doesn't mean they don't have personalities. The difference between ego and personality is that the former is illusory while the latter is a real manifestation - a facet - of the singular but multifaceted Self. Ego is not a component of the true personality, it occludes the real personality.

Pentecost


The manifestation of tongues of flame on the Day of Pentecost, El Greco.
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As indicated in most depictions of this scene, the presence of the Virgin Mary was central to the Pentecost Event as the Kundalini is a Maternal Divine Force. El Greco was a Self-realised artist, many years ahead of his time stylistically, who must have himself experienced the emergence of the Kundalini from the fontanel at the crown chakra. There is nothing hysterical about his interpretation, rather there is a sense of profound calmness and depth.

The Pentecostalist or Charismatic Churches have entered the limelight with the YouTube video of the involvement of Republican politician Sarah Palin in this radical sect. Pentecostalists are biblical literalists who place particular emphasis on the gifts received by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost from the Holy Spirit: which were said to include the ability to heal and to communicate in foreign tongues. This is how the event is described in the New Testament:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The true meaning of the Day of Pentecost is the awakening of the healing Kundalini energy (the Divine Breath or Wind, described in the Koran as the Rukh), and awareness of the chakras in the inner, subtle body. In ancient yoga texts it is recorded that when the Kundalini rises and passes through the various chakras, it makes different subtle sounds: the syllables which make up the Sanskrit language. This is probably the unknown language that the apostles learned on the Day of Pentecost. The hysterical gibberish - 'speaking in tongues' - and collapsing into trance states, practised by pentecostalists has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit or the Kundalini; it is a dangerous psychological regression into the subconscious.

Kundalini awakening gives the yogi an understanding, not only of their own inner being but that of others. It confers peace and self-possession, not hysteria and hypnosis. It engenders tolerance and empathy for other peoples and cultures. In the realm of the subtle body, we are all built the same, and all speak the same language. In contrast to this, the Charismatic churches are characterised by hystrionic fundamentalism, literalism, exclusivism and intolerance.
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See the YouTube Video of Sarah Palin - it's scary stuff:

Friday, October 03, 2008

the owner of a head

On his commentary page in the latest issue of New Scientist Magazine, the philosopher A.C. Grayling discusses the mystery of how consciousness emerges from the brain. The brain has physical properties - mass etc - but thoughts do not. He writes that hardly anyone now accepts the dualistic concept that mind and body are separate things. But then he goes on to discuss the encounter that obviously occurs between a flower and the "owner" of the head perceiving the flower.
Exactly what is he referring to when he talks about an "owner" of a mind or body? A self or soul separate from the body?
Even scientific magazines, it seems, are not immune from the dualistic thinking perpetuated by the religions they often criticise.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
"According to one influential school of thought, some of the ways we think about our minds have to go beyond our investigations of what is inside our heads to include the physical and social environment surrounding our heads. This idea is prompted by the thought that what we know when we understand a concept has to involve a connection between a brain event and something in the world. Here is an obvious example: to understand the concept of a flower, and to be able to distinguish between flowers and other things - trees and buildings say - the relevant physiological occurrences inside the head have to stand in a determinate relationship with flowers and non-flowers outside the head. This relationship, again obviously, is empirical: an actual perceptual encounter between the head's owner and flowers (or at least pictures of flowers) must have taken place at some point.
But a less obvious aspect of having a concept of flowers is that whenever we think of flowers, the relationship between what is happening inside our heads and flowers outside our heads has to remain in some form, in order for our discourse to be about flowers rather than some other thing. Nothing mysterious or magical is implied by this; it just means that to explain the thought of a flower as distinct from a thought of anything else, reference to flowers out there in the world is unavoidable.
The notion that thought is thus essentially connected to the outside world is intended to illustrate the more general idea that "mind" is not describable in terms of brain activity alone. Instead, it must be understood as a relationship between that activity and the external social and physical environment. Philosophers give the name "broad content" to thoughts that can only be properly described in terms of their thinkers' relationship to the environment. Some even argue that there can be no such thing as "narrow content" - that is, thoughts that are specifiable independently of their thinkers' environments and just in terms of what is going on inside the skull.
If it is right that all content is broad content, then the implications are very great. It means that understanding minds involves much more than understanding brains alone. It involves understanding language, society and history too."
- A.C. Grayling
New Scientist, 4 October 2008
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The implication is also this: if a self exists, it must be singular, and it must be co-extensive with the entire world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Devi



The Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Creator, Sustainer, Destroyer/Renewer) are themselves believed to be created, sustained and renewed by the Great Goddess and Mother of the Universe, the Devi.

"Maya, the legendary Goddess, sprang from the One,
and Her womb brought forth three acceptable disciples of the One:
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva."

-Hymns of Guru Nanak, eka mai (16th Century)

Though Sikhism is often seen as a patriarchal religion,
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, did talk about the Goddess.

Myth, Religion and Culture




Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the
cosmos pour into culture.
-Joseph Cambell

Myth is the ark which carries the knowledge of what it takes
to remain human, set loose upon the vast sea of time.
-William
Sullivan

Mythology, religion and culture are inextricably intertwined. Because of this, rationalists often point to what they call the sheer absurdity of myths in order to ridicule the world's religious traditions. However, it could be argued that it is the very preposterousness of the stories connected to the origins of the world religions that makes them so valuable. They are a kind of antidote to rationalism. They are not realistic; they are hyper-realistic. They present us with hypothetical situations that we could never experience, in a literal sense, in the 'real' world but without the contemplation of which, we cannot be fully human. Perhaps the great myths are the most precious dreams of the Self which dreams the world. Through these dreams we start to doubt our ego-selves and become real.


Religious fundamentalists are literalists: they are unable to absorb the poetic, speculative, imaginative dimension of mythological and religious texts. Rationalists who ridicule the sacred mythologies from which the world cultures sprang, are often guilty of the same literalism.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In Defence of the Bard


The powerful spirit Ariel (the imagination), no less than Caliban (the passions), is mastered by Prospero (the Self)


A book has been published recently by a well-respected Shakespeare 'scholar' claiming that the Bard was a racist. The argument hinges on the misconception that the character Caliban, in The Tempest, the slave of the magician Prospero, is black.
It's amazing that someone considered to be an expert on Shakespeare obviously hasn't read the play in depth. There is no evidence anywhere in the text that Caliban is black. To the contrary, he is described as 'freckled' - a trait that could indicate 'Celtic' origins. Caliban's mother Sycorax is from Algeria. Many Algerians are fair-skinned and blue-eyed, indeed Shakespeare describes Sycorax as 'blue-eyed'. Super-Saharan North Africans are not generally categorised as 'black' even in racist demographics.
At the End of the play European, 'white' Prospero virtually admits that Caliban is his son. Prospero earlier calls Caliban a "thing of darkness", but this is a reference to his moral state not his skin-colour. Caliban inhabits an island somewhere in the Mediterranean, and was himself a castaway there. To say that he is a black native of an island colonised by European Prospero is a bit of a stretch. European characters in the play are also described as 'slaves', so even if Caliban is black, which he almost certainly isn't, it can't be argued that the play characterises only black people as slaves.
Having said all this, the plays attributed to 'Shakespeare' were probably written by several different people; so who are we talking about here anyway?


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The difference between intellectualism and scholarship is highlighted by this case. Scholars delve conscientiously into the truth behind texts; intellectuals hitch a ride on academic bandwagons by regurgitating other people's writing out of context.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"If you learn how to make fun of yourself your ego will go down."
-Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"it was myself"




"... one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called 'petites madeleines,' which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory--this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it? I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the object of my quest, the truth, lies not in the cup but in myself. The tea has called up in me, but does not itself understand, and can only repeat indefinitely with a gradual loss of strength, the same testimony; which I, too, cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call upon the tea for it again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down my cup and examine my own mind. It is for it to discover the truth. But how? What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day. And I begin again to ask myself what it could have been, this unremembered state which brought with it no logical proof of its existence, but only the sense that it was a happy, that it was a real state in whose presence other states of consciousness melted and vanished. I decide to attempt to make it reappear. I retrace my thoughts to the moment at which I drank the first spoonful of tea. I find again the same state, illumined by no fresh light. I compel my mind to make one further effort, to follow and recapture once again the fleeting sensation. And that nothing may interrupt it in its course I shut out every obstacle, every extraneous idea, I stop my ears and inhibit all attention to the sounds which come from the next room. And then, feeling that my mind is growing fatigued without having any success to report, I compel it for a change to enjoy that distraction which I have just denied it, to think of other things, to rest and refresh itself before the supreme attempt. And then for the second time I clear an empty space in front of it. I place in position before my mind's eye the still recent taste of that first mouthful, and I feel something start within me, something that leaves its resting-place and attempts to rise, something that has been embedded like an anchor at a great depth; I do not know yet what it is, but I can feel it mounting slowly; I can measure the resistance, I can hear the echo of great spaces traversed."




This 'soggy cake' excerpt is the most famous part of the immense text by Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
Proust's personality is what in yoga philosophy would be described as tamasic, predominantly of the lunar channel of the subtle body. In his writing he dwells on sleep, memories, the past - characteristics of the Ida Nadi. In this passage, the narrator experiences a momentary awakening of the Kundalini energy, in which he feels the sense of invulnerability and joy resulting from the cessation of thought, but because of his tamasic nature, this awakening subsides as his awareness moves from the eternal present into the past.


Each of us has a tendency towards either the tamasic (lunar, passive, of the past) or rajasic (solar, active, futuristic) temperaments. One of the most important techniques of yoga is the balancing of the human psyche so that it operates less in the tamasic or rajasic channels, and more in the satvic channel -the centre/present/reality.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Being




Progress has peopled history with the marvels and monsters of technology but it has depopulated the life of man. It has given us more things but not more being.

- Octavio Paz, Mexican writer/poet and diplomat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Machine of the Mind



In an article in the latest issue of Parabola magazine, the writer Nan Runde explores a theme recurring in Science Fiction - the collective machine mind.
In the TV series Star Trek: the Next Generation, the crew of the starship Enterprise is repeatedly beset by The Borg - a collective machine entity that is also an agglomeration of humanoid automatons sharing one consciousness, one will, one mission: to assimilate the technologies and biological distinctiveness of other races.
As we see human ingenuity increasingly transferring power from human beings (subjects) to objects, we fear a near future in which the individual will be assimilated by an artificial intelligence, a machine consciousness that will usurp our humanity.
For Teilhard de Chardin, the increasing mechanization and mass-mindedness of our race are signs of regression: a sinking into matter instead of the 'upsurge of consciousness' of which humans are capable. This regression is a movement towards the evolutionary dead end of the insect hive mind.
The antithesis of the hive is what Teilhard calls the Hyper-Personal. In his view, our most important contribution to the human community is not our scientific discoveries or our ideas or our works of art, much less the material acquisitions of our lifetimes, but 'our very selves and personalities'; not what we have done or made but the centers of our consciousness, from which our actions and creations spring. When asked why he did not devote himself to karma yoga (good works) Sri Ramana Maharshi replied that the greatest good deed one can do for the world is to attain Self-realisation oneself. This seems selfish until one realises that Self and world are one, and the idea of separate individual agency is an illusion produced by ego.
The ascendancy of the collective [in the negative sense of mass-mindedness, fads etc] in our culture is due in large part, paradoxically, to an overemphasis on the individual, since egoism, as Teilhard remarks, inclines us to confuse individuality with personality.
We tend to assert our individuality by setting ourselves apart; but only in community can we become truly ourselves, only by transferring the center of our being outward, from self to other.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Healing Force




This is a photo of a massive gilded statue of Athena Parthenos (Parthenos means 'virgin' in Greek) in a full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon, built in the US (where else could they afford to do that?).

The serpent is a symbol of wisdom and healing, often associated with the Goddess in the ancient world, but the association between serpents and healing is found even in the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition. Moses healed the sick with a brazen serpent, here depicted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling:




Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has explained that the healing Kundalini energy, which ascends the spine during the experience of Self-realisation, is a serpent-like energy but not literally a serpent. The innate healing force of the body has been symbolised in humanity's collective unconscious by the serpent, because it lies dormant in the sacrum bone at the base of the spine as a coiled energy and, when awakened, moves in a serpentine manner. Also, snakes were once thought to have regenerative powers because they shed their skins. This echoes the rebirth experienced by the yogi through Kundalini awakening. These, however, are simply symbolic associations. Similarly, the Holy Spirit may have dove-like qualities but is not a bird.

The Kundalini is also considered to be a feminine divine force, a reflection of the Adi Shakti, the primordial creative manifestation of the supreme Self. Adi Shakti is the wife of Sadashiva, who is the embodiment of the Self in Hindu mythology. Hence the connection between the Goddess and the serpent.



The Caduceus - entwined serpents symbolising western medicine.

Read more about the realtionship between the Goddess, the serpent and healing here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygieia


Medicine, Gustav Klimt

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Solzhenitsyn 1918 - 2008

When he defected to the West in the 1970s, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (who died recently) was expected to embrace Capitalism wholeheartedly, and endorse the West's program of pursuing the great Enlightenment dream. Instead, it seemed as if he opposed Bolshevism, not because it differed from the West, but because it is western. He saw Bolshevism and Capitalism as two versions of the same thing - materialism.


The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -
but through all human hearts.

- A. Solzhenitsyn
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Of their mystical experiences, mystics report that the duality between matter and spirit dissolves. While in the state of mystical union, even the most commonplace object is perceived as the Self. There is, therefore, nothing instrinsically negative about matter itself, negativity comes from the mind's attachment to matter. This is materialism.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ananya Bhakti

Sanskrit Ananya means "without other"; bhakti means "devotion, love directed towards the Divine". The idea of a single Self - One without an other - is resisted by those who feel that, without a fundamental division between the individual soul and the Supreme Being, bhakti would not be possible (there must be an other to be the object of devotion).
The singular Self has no sense of subject or object, yet in It bhakti is not diminished at all, on the contrary, it is magnified infinitely, because the Self is nothing but pure devotion.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The left lobe



Jill Bolte Taylor was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana. Dr. Taylor says the right, creative lobe can be used to foster contentment. But she did it by having a stroke. On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.



The left lobe of the brain is necessary for many important functions, including the ability to use verbal language; however, the interior monologue that most of us have running continuously in the left brain, and which is the basis of the ego, can make life joyless and limited.

The Kundalini, the energy awakened in the process of Sahaja Yoga, lifts the awareness out of both the left and right hemispheres and into the limbic area of the brain, without damaging its physical structure, and the capacity for language or analytical thought, unlike Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke.

You can watch a video of Bolte Taylor talking about her egolessness experience here:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meta-personhood


Indian tribal painting of marriage dance

"... our civilisation is breaking down not because of a lack of independent reasoning, but of this re-linking step that forms a synthesised larger reasoning, perceiving and acting unit - a meta person."
- From a letter to New Scientist by Wade Schuette, USA

The word "re-ligion" means "re-linking" the individual to the whole. Instead, organised religion has become a divisive force.

Examples of meta-persons are: marriages in which neither partner dominates, and cultures. Schuette suggests that scientific rationality/reason must take this wider sense of personhood into account.
What seems irrational for the individual may be rational for the meta-person.
He also points out that the concept of meta-personhood is likely to be misconstrued as leftist ideology.

Universal Being




"You are a universal being."
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mysticism

The word 'mysticism' sounds similar to 'mysterious', 'misty' or 'mythical', and because of this has become associated with things obscure, even obscurantist; however, a mystic is one who has a direct experience of the Self.
There can be nothing less obscure than the Self; after all, the Self is the seer, the experiencer, of all phenomena. By virtue of the fact that one 'inhabits' the Self, it is more concrete, in a sense, than the material world.
Mysticism is not occultism or parapsychology, it is simply the realisation of the advaita (non-dual) state.



The eye with which I see God
is the same with which God sees me.
My eye and God’s eye is one
eye,

and one sight, and one knowledge,
and one love.

- Meister Eckhart (medieval Christian
mystic)



Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oil Painting not invented in Europe

It's been discovered recently that oil painting was not invented in Europe, as previously thought. The division between Asia and Europe is largely an arbitrary one, and perhaps it doesn't matter where things originate; however, Eurocentrism is still alive and well, and blinding a lot of people to the cultural importance of 'Asia'.

Read more at:
http://www.linesandcolors.com/2008/04/26/news-flash-oil-painting-invented-in-asia-not-europe/
The comment with the idea about the European Renaissance being a knock-on effect from developments in Asia, is worth investigating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Feminine Aspect of the Trinity


Unusual depiction of a feminine Holy Spirit, flanked by Father and Son,
in a medieval church fresco.

Crosspost from:
http://notmyplans.blogspot.com/

"I recently ran across an interesting piece by a Baptist about his research and work with Biblical languages and his startling conclusions about who the Holy Spirit is revealed to be in Scripture. I think it is particularly interesting because of the conservative theological bent of Southern Baptists. It seems to echo some of the same things that Dr. Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian minister and now Roman Catholic theologian has been saying.Here are some thoughts from R.P. Nettelhorst of the Quartz Hill School of Theology associated with the American Southern Baptist Convention. He asks on his site http://www.theology.edu/journal/volume3/spirit.htm :

Is There a Question About the Gender of the Holy Spirit?

In my graduate Semitics program at UCLA, one of the languages I had to study was Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic written with rounded letters reminiscent of modern Arabic. Syriac was the language of people living in northern Mesopotamia, from at least 300 BC until the time Arabic became dominant in the region, around 1000 AD. Most of the Syriac documents available today were produced by a Monophysite branch of Christianity, today known as the Syrian Orthodox Church (monophysitism is the belief that Christ had but one nature). One striking puzzlement of the texts, at least to me, was the constant reference to the Holy Spirit as "she". I was aware, of course, that in Aramaic (and hence in the dialect known as Syriac) the natural gender of the word "spirit" was feminine; however, I was surprised to discover that this accident of grammar had resulted in a whole theology constructed around the femininity of the third person of the Godhead.
An example of Syriac theology is found in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas; it is usually assumed that this particular work was influenced by speculative gnostic Judaism because it contains the notion, that associated with God was a wisdom, or creative power - a spirit - which was feminine. In an invocation accompanying baptism, Thomas calls for the Holy Spirit:

Come, holy name of Christ that is above every name;
Come, power of the Most High and perfect compassion;
Come, thou highest gift;
Come, compassionate mother;
Come, fellowship of the male;
Come, thou (f.) that dost reveal the hidden mysteries;
Come, mother of seven houses, that thy rest may be in the eighth house.
(Acts of Thomas 2:27)

Come, silence that dost reveal the great deeds of the whole greatness;
Come thou that dost show forth the hidden things
And make the ineffable manifest;
Holy Dove that bearest the twin young;
Come, hidden Mother;
Come, thou that art manifest in thy deeds
and dost furnish joy and rest for all that are joined with thee;
Come and partake with us in this Eucharist
Which we celebrate in thy name,
and in the love-feast in which we are gathered together at thy call.
(Acts of Thomas 5:50)

After reading such materials I decided that Syrian Orthodox Christianity was somewhat heretical (though perhaps only through an accident of grammar), and so I wanted nothing to do with Syriac literature. I would find something else on which to do my dissertation. Then came the Spring of 1986. I was teaching advanced Hebrew, and I had decided to take the class through the book of Judges. As we read along, I noticed something odd about Judges 3:10: The Spirit of Yahweh came upon Caleb's younger brother...
In English, this passage from Judges doesn't appear startling, but in Hebrew something strange leapt out at me: "came upon" was a third person FEMININE verb, indicating it's subject "Spirit" was being understood as a feminine noun. Hebrew is not like Aramaic in its use of the word "spirit". While the word is exclusively feminine in Aramaic, in Hebrew it is sometimes masculine. Therefore, the question that came to mind was why had the author of Judges chosen here to make the Spirit of Yahweh feminine, when he could just as easily have made it masculine? Oh well.
I just shrugged my shoulders and went on, not overly concerned. Occasionally, I thought, one finds something inexplicable in the Bible: no big deal. But then came Judges 6:34. Again, "Spirit of Yahweh" was feminine.
At this point I decided to consult the concordance. Much to my surprise, every occurrence of "Spirit of Yahweh" in Judges is feminine. As I pondered that, I recalled Genesis 1:2, the first occurrence of "Spirit of God" in the Bible, and realized to my shock that it too is feminine.
Back to the concordance. Out of 84 OT uses of the word "spirit", in contexts traditionally assumed to be references to the Holy Spirit, 75 times it is either explicitly feminine or indeterminable (due to lack of a verb or adjective). Only nine times can "spirit" be construed as masculine, and in those cases it is unclear that it is a reference to God's Holy Spirit anyway. (Please see Appendix 3 for a complete list and detailed discussion of the usages.)
The New Testament references to the Holy Spirit are not helpful for conclusively deciding on the gender of the Holy Spirit, since "spirit" in Greek is neuter, and so is referred to as "it" by the New Testament writers.
The conclusion of all this is that our traditional assumption of a masculine Spirit is questionable; in fact, the evidence seems overwhelming that the Spirit should be viewed as "She", which does seem to make sense, since the other two members of the Godhead are labeled "Father" and "Son".
What are the theological implications of a feminine Holy Spirit? There are four:
A feminine Holy Spirit clarifies how women can also be said to be created in the "image of God". It has long been recognized that he Godhead must include some feminine aspects, since Genesis 1:26-27 explicitly states that both men and women were created in God's image.

A feminine Holy Spirit explains the identity of the personified wisdom in Proverbs 8:12-31:

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear Yahweh is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have understanding and power.
By me kings reignand rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing wealth on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his work,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning,
before the world began.
Where there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;
before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the earth or its fields
or any of the dust of the world.
I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon
on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind....

Some commentators have tried to tie this personification of wisdom to the idea of Christ as divine "Word" [Gk. logos]. Unfortunately for this theory, the genders of the words in question get in the way. The gender of the word "wisdom" is feminine, and is therefore personified as a woman. This makes a direct identification of "wisdom" with "Christ" virtually impossible.
Other commentators have pictured "wisdom" as a created being, like an angel; better have been those who argue that the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8 is simply a literary device, without objective reality.
However, if the Holy Spirit is feminine, then the identification is relatively easy: Genesis 1:2 pictures the Spirit of God hovering over the deep, active in creating the world, just as Proverbs describes. Both the Old and New Testament connect the idea of teaching and imparting wisdom with the function of the Holy Spirit (Ex. 31:3; 35:31; Acts 6:3; Ephesians 1:17; Luke 12:12; and John 14:25-26).
The third benefit of recognizing the femininity of the Holy Spirit is that it explains the subservient role that the Spirit plays. The Bible seems to indicate that the Spirit does not speak for itself or about itself; rather the Spirit only speaks what it hears. The Spirit is said to have come into the world to glorify Christ (See John 16:13-14 and Acts 13:2). In contrast, it should be noted that the Scripture represents both the Father and Son speaking from and of themselves.
Finally, a feminine Holy Spirit, with a Father and Son as the rest of the Trinity, may help explain why the family is the basic unit of human society."

In Hinduism, the Trinity is formed by Shri Shiva (Father), Shri Shakti (Mother) and Shri Ganesha (Son). ShivaShakti is described as a completely integrated whole - the word "subservient" implies a separation.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Victor

The Buddha - it is written - was once asked whether he was a man or a god.
He replied: "I am neither a man nor a god, I am a victor".
He was referring to the fact that he had been victorious over his mind and it's constituents: desire and ego.

The one who realises the Self, does not become a god, nor does he remain an ordinary man, for he is identical with Infinite Being, which is beyond all categories. The individual cannot become 'God'. That which is unreal cannot become real.
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The Bhumisparsha Mudra (Touching the Earth Gesture)
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At the moment the Buddha attained victory over the ego, He touched the Mother Earth with His hand, signifying that the victory belonged to the Goddess. Enlightenment cannot be attained without Her Grace.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Rationalism


Newton by William Blake


The Enlightenment movement advocated rationality as a means to establish an authoritative system of ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge. The intellectual leaders of this movement regarded themselves as a courageous elite, and regarded their purpose as leading the world toward progress and out of a long period of doubtful tradition, full of irrationality, superstition, and tyranny (which they believed began during a historical period they called the 'Dark Ages')
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Enlightenment philosophers was the idea that one should have the courage to find out things for oneself, rather than blindly accepting received knowledge; "Dare to know", declared Kant. This attitude has freed humanity from a lot of suffering caused by superstition, intolerance and misplaced faith. But many artists and poets, such as William Blake, recognised that the increasing emphasis on rationality has a darker, unenlightened, side. Rationality is often the rationalisation used by the ego to justify and disguise its self-interest. Neuroscientists, such as Chris Frith, point out that very few mental processes are conscious. Most decisions are arrived at unconsciously and are justified afterwards (rationalised) by the conscious mind. This is largely a good thing - if we had to think about every little part of our lives, life would be impossible. But it means that a lot of what it considered rational thought is illusory.


Many apparently irrational decisions humans make on a day to day basis, turn out to be sensible when seen in a broader social context, for example. The rationalism of the ego is often irrational in the bigger picture. The equation: rational = good, depends on whose rationality we are talking about: the individual, society or the natural world. Einstein said that without religion, science is lame; and without science, religion is blind. But also science is blind without religion in it's true sense of joining (Latin religare) the individual with the universal Self. Without Self-knowledge, science is blind to the prejudices of the ego. But Self-knowledge is a frightening prospect to the ego, for it is the prospect of discovering it's own fictionality.




"In the 21st century, we are discovering more and more about the brain and the role of emotion, and challenging old ideas about how we learn, make decisions, act and remember. This is already beginning to make us revise our notions of what constitutes reason - and that, in turn, is bound to have consequences for our attitudes to reason and to the endeavours of scientists." -Chris Frith



In their book The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno wrote a penetrating critique of what they perceived as the contradictions of Enlightenment thought: Enlightenment was seen as being at once liberatory and, through the domination of instrumental rationality tending towards totalitarianism.