Monday, July 28, 2008

Possessorship of Self

The Goal of Eastern practices is the same as that of Western mysticism: the focus is shifted from the "I" to the Self, from man to God. This means that the "I" disappears in the Self, and man in God. A similar effort is described in the exercitia spiritualia, in which the "personal property", the "I" subjugate to the highest possible degree to the possessorship of Christ.

- Carl Jung

Einstein and God

For a long time there has been a debate about whether or not Einstein believed in God (whatever that word means). Many years ago, when I was a student, I attended a lecture by a famous physicist who had been an associate of Einstein. A Christian student asked him if he knew what Einstein's opinion was on the existence of God. The physicist replied, with a great deal of irritation at what he obviously thought was an irrelevant question, that Einstein did not believe in God. A rather biased recent article in New Scientist magazine came to much the same conclusion. But to say that Einstein did not believe in 'God' is simplistic, and ignors the many statements made by Einstein that evince a deep and lasting conviction that the Universe has a Self. The physicist who gave the lecture was an extremely dry, 'left-brain', individual; probably Einstein felt it was a waste of time sharing his pantheistic ideas about God, or a universal Self, with those who were unable to go beyond very limited definitions. Attempts to categorize his convictions, or to appropriate them for conventional theistic or atheistic purposes, miss their subtlety and their apophatic resonances. (Apophatic:
Here's a letter New Scientist published in reply to their article:

The interesting thing about Einstein's take on God and religion is not that he considered god to be impersonal, but that he recognised the vast and intense intelligence inherent in the universe. Perhaps in the first half of the 20th century it was easier to think of personhood as a separate thing to physicality, and to associate the idea of a personal god only with the abuses of that concept perpetuated by those in power. But compartmentalisation has broken down and the disciplines of physics, biology, psychology and philosophy are more integrated than ever before. Just as we ascribe personhood to the complex animated system of energy, mass and chemistry we call the human body, it is not unscientific to ascribe personhood to the universe. Science is at a crucial point, where we are finding that most of the mass in the universe is something we know nothing about and where we can look so closely at subatomic matter that it disappears before our eyes. At the same time, our ability to reconcile ethics with scientific capability is being challenged in many areas, from genetic design to space exploration. This is no time to write off god as an impersonal force of nature, nor to write off our fellow human beings as expendable units. Einstein, genius as he was, may have thrown out the baby (a personal god) with the bath water (abuses of religion), but he didn't get rid of the bath.
- Andy Smith, Ashford, Kent UK

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Great Forest Teaching

Forest in the highlands of Kerala, South India

Maitreyi was confused about the idea of a Self in which individuality is dissolved. She asked her husband, the sage Yagnavalkya, to clarify. He replied: "As long as the dualism of the mind is operating, one senses and knows things and people as others, but for those who have realised the Self, in which all things are dissolved, who is there to be sensed by whom, who is there to be known by whom? By whom shall the Senser be sensed? By whom shall the Knower be known? The Self is described as not this, not that. It is incomprehensible, for it cannot be grasped by the tongs of dualism."
(Adapted from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad by Jeronimus )

The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad (which translates as the Great Forest Teaching) is one of the oldest of the Upanishads (possibly the oldest), dating to approximately the 8th to 7th centuries BCE. It figures as number 10 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads and was notably commented upon by Adi Shankaracharya. T S Eliot based one of his poems on it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Intuitive and Rational Mind

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honours the servant
And has forgotten the gift
- Albert Einstein

Einstein with Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Link

We've created a new blog called
'Images of Lord Ganesha'
(see links)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Martin Luther King

"Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity,
while one wise man forgets himself into immortality"

- Martin Luther King

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

'I' Consciousness

"May our 'I' consciousness fade away"

- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
(From a letter in Marathi)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Selfhood and Human Rights

We express our own individuality through the word ‘I’. Without an ‘I’, there is no moral freedom, no distinction between good and evil, and thus no politics either. But what exactly is this individuality, which we normally refer to as ‘I’? The ‘I’ must clearly be distinguished from its ‘possessions’. I ‘have’ a body, a gender, and a native language. I experience pleasure and pain. I have memories and ambitions. However, the word ‘I’ makes it clear that I am not all of this – but can place myself as subject in distinction to it. To begin with, then, the word ‘I’ indicates a kind of void, an empty space. This void is identical in all humans – as identical as only two voids can be. In this fact we discover the objective basis for the principle of equal rights, for equality before the law, regardless of any differences people possess. People have differences, but people are equal. However, the ‘I’ is not a ‘no-thing’. Like the ‘superposition of quantum theory, the human ‘I’ is a void full of potential, of expectancy and creative power; it is the emptiness of the moral will, before that moral will has yet brought forth a moral judgement. What lies dormant in the void is the as yet undifferentiated capacity for involvement. The human ‘I’ is nothing other than the manifestation of involvement in the world. And it is precisely involvement that distinguishes freedom from licence. Without involvement, I am as free as an astronaut who alone, and with nothing to hold onto, tumbles slowly around his or her centre of gravity in the weightlessness of space. The astronaut can perform voluntary movements, but cannot affect the position of his or her centre of gravity relative to other objects, because all connection to the surrounding world has been severed. If I do not get involved with other people, even the most exalted deed will not touch me internally; it will leave me ‘disconnected’. Without commitment and involvement, I am not free to change. Only by virtue of my involvement do I change myself through what I do.

Verhulst, J., & Nijeboer, A. (2007). Direct Democracy: Facts and Arguments about the Introduction of Initiative and Referendum. pages 37-38. Democracy International, Brussels.

Thanks to John Noyce for sending me this. Check out his blog:

It's interesting that the question of selfhood - once left to mystics and philosophers - is now seen as worth inquiry by scientists, and even legislators.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Shri Shankaracharya on the importance of Self-realisation

"Let people quote the Scriptures and sacrifice to the gods,
let them perform rituals and worship the deities,
but there is no Liberation without the realisation of one’s identity with the Self,
no, not even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahmas put together."

- Shri Shankaracharya, Viveka Chudamani (8th Century CE but possibly 1000 years earlier)

Shri Shankaracharya's Viveka Chudamani (which translates as: The Crest Jewel of Discrimination) expounds the significance of Self-Realisation and the ways to attain it, methods of meditation (dhyana) and introspection of the Atman (Self). It concludes with the denial of Pluralism of Self, and the description of the state of Self-Realisation.

A jewel is symbolic of the Non-dual Self,
which is both single and at the same time multifaceted.