The Concretion of the Spiritual: A Summation

In one of his prefaces to The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser acknowledges Sri Aurobindo and his “reformed Hinduism”. What Gebser doesn’t fully acknowledge is his own approach as being “reformed Catholicism”, although that can be inferred from a few of his statements in the second half of the book (his apologia for, and defence of, the Christian world outlook as well as his preference for “the Mediterranean way of life”). Most of Gebser’s innovations or insights actually have precedents in theology.

This may come as a complete surprise to fans of Gebser’s work, but Gebser’s credentials as an “apocalyptic thinker” (as well as Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and grammatical method) are owing to an allegiance to a reformed Catholicism. Also, when he speaks of a new “universal way of looking at things”, that is the very meaning of the word “catholic” (cata-holon).

We need to be very clear on this, for what Gebser means by the “concretion of the spiritual” is “secularisation”.

My last few posts addressing Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Cross of Reality” and “grammatical method”, have been attempts to put flesh on the skeleton structure of the Cross of Reality, which is a kind of new “scaffold” that is intended to replace the Newtonian “Frame of the World”. It should be appreciated in that sense. It was Rosenstock-Huessy’s very ambitious attempt to displace the Newtonian-Cartesian “Frame of the World” (paradigm, framework) with a new “Frame of the World” — a quadrilateral logic. And that also accounts for his full frontal attack on the Newtonian-Cartesian model in his essay “Farewell to Descartes“. It’s a very important essay. It’s very “militant”. It’s a call to take up arms against the “deficient mental-rational” in Gebser’s sense, and every student of Gebser should familiarise themselves with it.

Gebser was also acutely aware that his powerful intuitions and insights into consciousness, history, and civilisations as “structures of consciousness” lacked a robust methodology. He looked forward to a champion who would provide that methodology to justify his intuitions, and especially of the “integral consciousness.” The Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm was not adequate to the task (in that sense, then, “deficient” also).

I’m persuaded that Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method and Cross of Reality provide that rigorous methodology. Oddly, even though both men wrote principally in German, were contemporaries, and even died in the same year (1973) they appeared not to know of each other’s work (except for one very brief footnote referencing Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Age of the Church in Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin).

My last few posts, therefore, have been an experiment in the “concretion of the spiritual” by also attempting to demonstrate where Rosenstock’s “metanoia” or “New Mind” and Gebser’s “integral consciousness” intersect and illuminate each other, and in much broader terms the meaning of the “spiritual” and the “concretion of the spiritual”. I hope I’ve shown that the Cross of Reality is truly the “open sesame” to the spiritual life of humankind, as Rosenstock-Huessy claimed for it, and as it is revealed in William Blake (the fourfold vision), the Dance of Shiva (Hinduism), the “Guardians of the Four Directions” (Buddhism), in Rumi’s “four nafs” (“animal souls”, Islam and the Kaa’ba), and, of course, in the Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel (Lakota, et alia. And in a future post, I’ll demonstrate how the aboriginal “Sweat Lodge” is also a concretion of the spiritual and of the Cross of Reality, as a performance of the Sacred Hoop).

I have claimed that both Jean Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy are “catholic thinkers”, inasmuch as they are also “apocalyptic thinkers” or “time thinkers”. Rosenstock-Huessy is more explicit in acknowledging that influence in his writings. Both also wrestled with Nietzsche and with Nietzsche’s announcement of the “death of God” and the attendant problem of nihilism, and of Nietzsche’s forecast of a human tragedy of “two centuries of nihilism”. Incipit tragoedia, Nietzsche once wrote towards the end of his productive life  — “the tragedy begins”. And indeed, it did. For him and for us as well.

So, again, one can’t fully appreciate the meaning of Gebser or Rosenstock-Huessy without appreciating the meaning of Nietzsche, too. The “revaluation of values” that Nietzsche advocated as a corrective to nihilism (or “devaluation of values”) is what Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy are about. I think I’ve demonstrated that “devaluation of values” and the problem of nihlism pretty thoroughly and convincingly in earlier posts in The Chrysalis. Certainly in the former Dark Age Blog. The Chrysalis is also an experiment from beginning to end in the “revaluation of values” and in “the concretion of the spiritual”. But I also consider this “trans-Christian”, if you will. And Nietzsche’s philosophy is also shot through with Christian themes. That’s what I’ve called “the irony of Nietzsche”. Nietzsche’s philosophy is not so much “anti-Christ” as it is “trans-Christian”, and what I mean by that is somewhat similar to what the Buddha said about his dharma in comparing it to a raft. Once you “cross over”, what need to do you have for the raft? Even the dharma is impermanent, and is meant to serve only as a springboard or a raft.

Once you really know, you have no need for mere belief. That is to say, “the truth that sets free” and the “facts of the matter” differ as knowledge and belief differ. “Same but different” as it were. “Nirvana and samsara are the same”, and yet not the same at all. The “integral consciousness” is also “trans-Christian” in the same sense, and is largely what people are trying to articulate in a fumbling sort of way when they say that “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. But what that means is, the secularisation of the spiritual. Nietzsche’s “revaluation of values” actually has the same meaning as the term “leavening” used in the New Testament. Seeding the secular order with the kiss of the Infinite and Eternal. Or, as William Blake put it, “eternity is in love with the productions of time”.

No one was truer to the message of Jesus than Nietzsche. But in following that faith to its ultimate logic, he transcended Christianity itself. His amorality in that respect is exactly equivalent to that enigmatic saying in Buddhism: “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”.

The real test of a new consciousness structure lies in the detection and perception of surprising, startling and oftentimes delightfully meaningful relationships and connections between things that were not perceived before, and were perhaps even seen as absolute “opposites”. Nietzsche’s philosophy is likewise not “anti-Christ”. It’s trans-Christian, and in that sense Nietzsche was a prophet of the integral consciousness, a kind of “John the Baptist” to the trans-Christianity of Jean Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy. That’s what is means to be areligious.

Now, by “concretion of the spiritual” we mean “actualisation” or “realisation”. They are equivalent terms. By this is meant also “secularisation of the spiritual”. I have already pointed out how the four principle political ideologies of our time in terms of liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism all started life as theological controversies and sectarianisms of the Protestant Reformation, as various interpretations of the four Gospels of the New Testament — Mark, Matthew, Luke or John. The end of Christendom was the fracture and disintegration of the Cross — of the four arms of the Christian crucifix.  That’s reflected in the four European Revolutions — the Lutheran or German Revolution, the English “Glorious Revolution”, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. Their theological precedents are all very apparent to anyone who cares to trace their histories. What we today call “conservatives” and “liberals” were originally referred to as “primitivists” and “libertines” in relation to their interpretation of the Gospels and the Church.

The “death of God” began with the dissolution of the cross as loss of the vital centre, ie “the Word”. Marx (who was a Jewish convert to Lutheranism by the way) in trying to make socialism “scientific” was working with raw material that had its precedents in theology. Making socialism “scientific” meant, really, secularisation of the theological category. The “comrade” of communism had its precedent in the communion of Catholicism, and in the Gospel where Jesus announces “no longer do I call you servants, but friends”. The precedent for Marx was Luther. When Luther dissolved the monasteries, and sent thousands of monks and nuns into the secular world to make their way, they “leavened” or seeded the secular order with their theological convictions. Before there was “scientific socialism” there was “the social gospel“.

The disintegration of the crucifix and of “the Word on the Cross” coincided with the transition of the name — from Christendom to “Europe”. “Europe” was the pagan Greek name for the West. That also coincided with the displacement of the crucifix symbol by the now familiar “illuminati” symbol or symbol of freemasonry, the pyramid surmounted by an “all-seeing eye”. The “all-seeing eye” of the rational intellect replaced the symbol of “God on the Cross”

Logo of the DARPA "Total Information Awareness" Programme

Logo of the DARPA “Total Information Awareness” Programme

This “all-seeing eye” is an interpretation of “the Logos” (hence “logic” or our various -ologies). The Logos is no longer “the vital centre” or integrating and unifying “Word on the Cross”, but a specialisation of one arm of the cross of reality.

One of the main influences on Gebser’s thinking was the University of Munich’s Catholic theologian Romano Guardini. Guardini’s book The End of the Modern World not only informs much of Gebser’s thinking, but also has influenced the present Pope. Guardini is the surprising common link between the Pope’s Laudato Si and Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin. And it’s very significant indeed that Pope Francis opens his encyclical not with an appeal only to the Catholic world, but beyond that and inclusive of other faiths and the secular order. That’s “catholicism” in its authentic sense as “universal”. And in that sense, Laudato Si is not a “religious” text at all. It is also an experiment in “the concretion of the spiritual”.

This is Gebser’s “double-movement” of the times. Secularisation or “concretion” brings with it the danger of corruption. At the same time, it holds the promise of spiritualisation of the corrupted. This is what Gebser means by “transparency of the world” or “diaphaneity”. This “concretion” is the danger recognised by what I call “Khayyam’s Caution” — that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. In effect, the secularisation of the spiritual, and the attendant dangers of that, is what is meant in the New Testament as “throwing pearls before swine”, but also “do not hide your light under a bushel basket”.

Healing the wounded cross, and restoring the Word or Logos to the centre of that cross — that’s almost entirely what Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy are about, and which makes them such (small-c) “catholic thinkers”. And yet, because it is “universal” in that sense, it is also “trans-Christian”. It does not depend upon the authority of Church or Bible for its validity, but on a genuine insight into the more universal meaning of the cross and “the Word on the Cross”, which, as we have seen, is also universally represented in the sacred symbols of humankind.



45 responses to “The Concretion of the Spiritual: A Summation”

  1. donsalmon says :

    Glad to see you have so much respect for the Pope’s writing – I think this Pope is radically different from any that have gone before, at least in recent history. Truly part of the transformation going on all around us.

    as far as “method”, do you see any validity any more in yogic practices? It seems that the 4 fold “method” you speak of could be an aid in “intuitivising” our consciousness, but I don’t quite get how it could lead to the radical transformation that Gebser speaks of (of course, if you’re guessing I’m wondering about what you think of Sri Aurobindo’s “integral yoga’ as a means of facilitating this transformation, yes:>)

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s something I’m hoping to address in more depth later. Of principle interest, particularly as it bears on Aurobindo, is Gebser’s statement that “evolution is the unfolding of a pre-existent pattern”. Gebser wasn’t really clear, I find, about what he meant by that “pre-existent pattern”, except that it was evidently connected to the “fourfold”, and even Aurobindo speaks of a “fourfold Self”.

      Rosenstock-Huessy provides the rationale for Gebser’s intuition about that. The cross of reality is that “pre-existent pattern” for the simplest of all reasons. Consciousness must come to occupy space and time. But space and time are fourfold in character — past and future, inner and outer. “Survival” in physical reality for any living creature means, in some ways, shaping the spatio-temporal environment, taking possession of it as it were, to be amenable to life, and not just “adapting” to it. It means learning.

      Human consciousness thrusts backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards in that same quadrilateral pattern. It tries to penetrate the darkness of the past, the opacity of the future, the mysteries of Nature, and inwards into the darkness of the so-called “unconscious”. That’s why the cross of reality is also an image of fire, and why it is dynamic. It is about “throwing” the light of awareness into the darkness of the Great Mystery of existence itself. But to exist, that means to take one’s place at the centre of the cross of reality, because everything takes time to take place.

      Human consciousness is therefore in a dialogical relationship with the cosmos, or “physical reality” or the spatio-temporal, which is fourfold. So that’s your “pre-existent pattern” in a nutshell. So the “cross of reality” is simultaneously representative of the cosmos as well as the shape of consciousness. And that’s what “God on the Cross” was intended to portray. “God” is the light of consciousness itself.

      • donsalmon says :

        Interesting stuff, Scott. I must confess I still am quite ignorant of Rosenstock-Hussey’s ideas and terminology, though I’m appreciating your efforts to educate us!

        In terms of the pre-existent pattern, Sri Aurobindo coined the term “Real-Idea to refer to the “pre-existent patterns” in what he called the “Supermental” consciousness, or “Vijnana” in Sanskrit.

        The “seed”, so to speak, of all we “see” or experience “here” on this plane, in this moment, “pre-exists” in the “higher hemisphere” (As Above, So Below” – perhaps the ‘4-fold’ here would be the space-time axis – horizontal; and the vertical axis – above and below; though perhaps another way of putting it would be subject-object or knower-known polarity on each plane, physical, vital/energetic, mental, supramental and “bliss’ or “Ananda” plane, beyond which is Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

        All of this is “reflected” in every aspect of even the most mundane experience. Here looking at this screen, there is an underlying, non-individual Real-Idea which at this “moment” in time is manifesting as Don-Scott conversing, in the context of the internet, in the context of the present geo-political-cosmic moment, and the Real-Idea is in turn shaping our every thought, feeling and sensation.

        Another way to look at it is the inner-outer (knower-known) polarity manifests within a space-time matrix differently on each plane – on the physical, the vital, mental and so on, but all held as One (though permitting, or really, ecstatically celebrating an infinite multiplicity) in the embrace of the highest Supramental consciousness, the purest Vijnana.

        I don’t know if I could say any more about this, but to paraphrase the pianist/theologian Gabriel Marcel, if I had an accordion (or could send you an mp3), i might be able to play it for you.

        • donsalmon says :

          Here’s a passage from the Life Divine that I think expresses this idea of the pre existent pattern quite beautifully. As far as method, the only ultimate method is the quieting of our minds and hearts and a 100% “surrender” (opening?) to the Shakti, the Divine Energy which descends from the upper hemisphere. Put in much simpler, experiential language, if you are aware of a deep longing in your heart to be an instrument of this world-wide evolutionary transformation, just allowing that longing to take over is, to my understanding, sufficient (simple, though not necessarily easy!).

          From The Life Divine: (don’t worry about “understanding” – but it can help to read this VERY slowly, out loud)…. VERY VERY slowly, feeling each word more than trying to understand it.


          This indivisibility of the comprehensive Supermind which contains all multiplicity without derogating from its own unity, is a truth upon which we have always to insist, if we are to under- stand the cosmos and get rid of the initial error of our analytic mentality. A tree evolves out of the seed in which it is already contained, the seed out of the tree; a fixed law, an invariable process reigns in the permanence of the form of manifestation which we call a tree. The mind regards this phenomenon, this birth, life and reproduction of a tree, as a thing in itself and on that basis studies, classes and explains it. It explains the tree by the seed, the seed by the tree; it declares a law of Nature. But it has explained nothing; it has only analysed and recorded the process of a mystery. Supposing even that it comes to perceive a secret conscious force as the soul, the real being of this form and the rest as merely a settled operation and manifestation of that force, still it tends to regard the form as a separate existence with its separate law of nature and process of development. In the animal and in man with his conscious mentality this separative tendency of the Mind induces it to regard itself also as a separate existence, the conscious subject, and other forms as separate objects of its mentality. This useful arrangement, necessary to life and the first basis of all its practice, is accepted by the mind as an actual fact and thence proceeds all the error of the ego.

          But the Supermind works otherwise. The tree and its process would not be what they are, could not indeed exist, if it were a separate existence; forms are what they are by the force of the cosmic existence, they develop as they do as a result of their relation to it and to all its other manifestations. The separate law of their nature is only an application of the universal law and truth of all Nature; their particular development is deter- mined by their place in the general development. The tree does not explain the seed, nor the seed the tree; cosmos explains both and God explains cosmos. The Supermind, pervading and inhabiting at once the seed and the tree and all objects, lives in this greater knowledge which is indivisible and one though with a modified and not an absolute indivisibility and unity. In this comprehensive knowledge there is no independent cen- tre of existence, no individual separated ego such as we see in ourselves; the whole of existence is to its self-awareness an equable extension, one in oneness, one in multiplicity, one in all conditions and everywhere. Here the All and the One are the same existence; the individual being does not and cannot lose the consciousness of its identity with all beings and with the One Being; for that identity is inherent in supramental cognition, a part of the supramental self-evidence.

          • Scott Preston says :

            The Supermind corresponds to what Gebser calls “the Itself” as well as the ever-present origin, and the Itself corresponds to what is called “the vast sea of awareness” in Castaneda.

            All awareness is connected to the vast sea of awareness, which is itself formless and so we call that “infinite” and “eternal”. The spatio-temporal order is the mirror of that awareness reflecting upon itself, as the enactment (actus) of its potentialities (potens). The “pre-existent pattern” is what we describe as “potens”, and the realisation (or concretion) is what we call “actus”.

            The centre of the cross of reality is like a prism. It is what is called “Eternal Now”, and eternal now is what we call “omphalos” — the navel of the world and is called “ever-present origin”. When the light strikes the prism, it is refracted. The arms of the cross of reality are the refraction of the one light. The one light is what Blake calls “the fountain”, or what Rumi calls “the deep well of love inside us”.

            The prism is the ego-consciousness, which is associated with what is called “the assemblage point” in Castaneda’s writings. The “enlightened ego consciousness” is what is called “the jewel in the lotus” or “diamond mind” or “ruby”. It is a clear prism when it is functioning properly.

            The problem being, of course, that it isn’t functioning properly, as Aurobindo attests above. That’s what Gebser also refers to as a consciousness structure functioning in “deficient mode” also. Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” is intended to provide a map of the proper functioning of the ego consciousness. As does the “Sacred Hoop” or Medicine Wheel.

            • donsalmon says :

              Well, not quite – the Itself, or vast sea of awareness, corresponds to Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss. The Supermind is the Mahat Atman that Arjuna glimpsed, the Cosmic “Mind” (though not really “Mind” at all) which mediates between the Transcendent Itself and the manifestation. It is somewhat related to the Nous of Plotinus.

              Basically, again to put it in much simpler language, That – the Awareness which we are in essence, beyond Space and Time – “Knows” all phenomena; this “knowing” is not passive but an action. “mental” consciousness provides the form, “pranic” or life consciousness energizes the form, and what we call “matter” is simply the Being-Awareness as perceived by our senses.

              So in an even simpler way of putting it, this letter – “A” = which we Ignorantly take to be an “object” which appears separately from us – is nothing but Being-Awareness (supra mentally) “Knowing/Willing” – (mentally) forming (vitally) energizing) an aspect of Itself.

            • Scott Preston says :

              The objections to “mysticism” by reason are quite well-founded. A consciousness which is “enlightened” but which remains trapped in itself is no different really than the problem of Blake’s “cavern”. The real issue is to be “a light unto the world”, as Jesus put it — ie “deeds”, acts.

              That is the problem of Eastern mysticism and why it remained stagnant. “Standing water breeds pestilence” as Blake put it. That was its deficiency. Hence Aurobindo’s “reformed Hinduism” and now what is called “engaged Buddhism”.

              The position of Jesus was essentially this — enlightenment is useless and worse than useless if it is not enacted in deeds, and this is called “service”. And that’s really what distinguished Christianity largely from the esoteric ways of Eastern mysticism, ie, creativity is more important than “enlightenment”, but better if it is fully enlightened.

      • davidm58 says :

        In other words, the dance of energy that is expansion/contraction (encompassing both outer/inner and forward/backward).

        “…Consciousness must come to occupy space and time. But space and time are fourfold in character — past and future, inner and outer. “Survival” in physical reality for any living creature means, in some ways, shaping the spatio-temporal environment, taking possession of it as it were, to be amenable to life, and not just “adapting” to it. It means learning.

        Human consciousness thrusts backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards in that same quadrilateral pattern. It tries to penetrate the darkness of the past, the opacity of the future, the mysteries of Nature, and inwards into the darkness of the so-called “unconscious”. That’s why the cross of reality is also an image of fire, and why it is dynamic. It is about “throwing” the light of awareness into the darkness of the Great Mystery of existence itself. But to exist, that means to take one’s place at the centre of the cross of reality, because everything takes time to take place.

        Human consciousness is therefore in a dialogical relationship with the cosmos, or “physical reality” or the spatio-temporal, which is fourfold. So that’s your “pre-existent pattern” in a nutshell….”

        • Scott Preston says :

          Yes, exactly. That’s the “dance of Shiva”, the pulsation, the expansion/contraction is what is hidden in the phrase “creative destruction”, but which has become somewhat perversely interpreted.

          • davidm58 says :

            Or even in Prigogine’s concept of “dissipative structures.”

            And in regards to your earlier comment, which is a great summation: “And that’s really what distinguished Christianity largely from the esoteric ways of Eastern mysticism, ie, creativity is more important than “enlightenment”, but better if it is fully enlightened.”

            Theologian/philosopher Henry Nelson Wieman’s life work was devoted to this pattern of Creativity.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Wieman’s work might be interesting. I’m always on the lookout for potential exemplars of the new consciousness structure in the various departments of social life, so I’ll have to look into him.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I started reading a ways into that book online. Did you note the persistent recurrence of foursomes in the early pages? Channing and Lockean empiricism, Emerson and Kantian transcendentalism, Creation as Evolution, Dewey and “democratic pragmatism”.

              Then the foursome recurs again a page later in terms of the “flavours” of recent theologies: as feminist, creation-centred, liberation, or scientific accents.

              More closely examined, they are all recent attempts to restructure some aspect of the cross of reality, as “articulations” of that. Typically the change in one direction of the cross of reality necessitates a corresponding adjustment in the other directions. This is the “rebalancing”, so change will always itself have four components or aspects to it.

              And the mightiest of changes, the Lutheran Revolution, set off a chain of events that terminated in the Russian Revolution. These were all “modernising” revolutions made necessary by the precedents and innovations of Lutheranism. IE. “the sins of the fathers are visited down to the third and fourth” is a sociological rule, not a moral precept.

            • davidm58 says :

              I’ve been on a H.N. Wieman kick for the last year. I’ve read the online excerpts of that book a while ago. What’s really interesting is that Wieman characterized Creativity as a four-fold event. Briefly stated, they are (1) the emerging awareness of qualitative meaning through communication (2) the integration of these new meanings with those previously acquired (3) the expanding of quality in the appreciable world and (4) the widening and deepening of community.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, the suspicion may naturally arise (it certainly did with me, initially) that Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy are disguised reactionaries, agents fighting for a lost cause — the “Counter-Reformation” and for a restoration of the status quo ante in that sense.

    I will address that in the next post, and why I had to overcome my initial suspicions that they were really “primitivists” in disguise. Their commitment to secularisation is, I think, quite genuine. They’re real battle is with the exaggerated and unbalanced analytical attitude that dissolves and disintegrates and consumes.

  3. donsalmon says :


    this letter – “A”

    which we Ignorantly take to be an “object” which appears separately from us – is nothing but Being-Awareness-(supra mentally)-“Knowing/Willing”-(mentally)-forming-(vitally)-energizing-an-aspect-of-Itself.

    (without the parenthetical):


  4. Scott Preston says :

    A further issue should probably be addressed here in the context of referring to potens and actus. The translation of a potentiality into actuality (or pre-existence into existence) is a four step process. Rosenstock-Huessy uses the example of “love”

    The first stage is the imperative stage: “Love (thou)!
    The second stage is the optative stage: “May I love”
    The third stage is the narrative stage: “We have loved…”
    The fourth stage is the indicative stage: “Love Is…”

    To get to the “real” stage — the indicative, a potentially must pass through three prior stages. The modern mentality proceeds from the wrong end of the stick. It begins with the definition, ie the “objective” and then analyses the hell out of it until it dissolves into “nothing but…”

    The cross of reality restores the proper order of realisation in time and space.

    • donsalmon says :

      “The modern mentality proceeds from the wrong end of the stick. It begins with the definition, ie the “objective” and then analyses the hell out of it until it dissolves into “nothing but…””

      yes so beautifully put!

      • donsalmon says :

        Scott: The objections to “mysticism” by reason are quite well-founded. A consciousness which is “enlightened” but which remains trapped in itself is no different really than the problem of Blake’s “cavern”. The real issue is to be “a light unto the world”, as Jesus put it — ie “deeds”, acts.

        That is the problem of Eastern mysticism and why it remained stagnant. “Standing water breeds pestilence” as Blake put it. That was its deficiency. Hence Aurobindo’s “reformed Hinduism” and now what is called “engaged Buddhism”.

        The position of Jesus was essentially this — enlightenment is useless and worse than useless if it is not enacted in deeds, and this is called “service”. And that’s really what distinguished Christianity largely from the esoteric ways of Eastern mysticism, ie, creativity is more important than “enlightenment”, but better if it is fully enlightened.


        Scott, I’d be curious to know where you got your ideas about eastern mysticism. i’m not aware of many (perhaps the most extreme Advaitan or Theravada Buddhist yogis) Eastern mystics who were anywhere near as world denying as most of the Christian mystics (thomas de Kempis is one of the most extreme). Julian of Norwich was a great activist, and I suppose St. Francis was partially (though he condemned the body as “brother ass”)

        the Mahayana Buddhists have always held King Ashoka as their ideal – the sage who can act in the world as a leader; very much as Krishna in the Gita held up King Janaka as the ideal “karma yogi”.

        The Tantrics in Tibet and Kashmir were even more insistent on transforming the mind, heart and body to integrate the spiritual realization, and one might even suggest the Neo Confucians in China and the Taoists were even more adroit at bringing their spiritual realizations to bear on practical matters.

        • donsalmon says :

          And I wouldn’t call Aurobindo “reformed Hinduism” – someone who said “The age of religions is over” would be quite taken aback by this label. As far as “engaged Buddhism” – the materialist/physicalist underlying assumptions in their writings are so pervasive it hardly is more than “engaged Unitarianism” – at least, it seems so to this former Unitarian.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Movements for reform in the East are now quite active, as for example in Thailand


            The corruption of “Imperial Way Buddhism” or “National Buddhism” in Japan during the fascist period are pretty well documented now.

            The deficiencies of the East mirror those of the West — too much mystical inwardness and self-absorption versus too much outwardness in the West. For that reason “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” was true at one time. Mysticism and logic were strangers to one another.

            Aurobindo’s “reformed Hinduism” was the result of his engagement with Nietzsche, especially. But Aurobindo was Western educated more generally, and he brought that influence into his “evolutionary spirituality”.

            The reintegration of consciousness is a global and planet-wide process, because no region had the whole truth of the full human experience. The weaknesses of one were often the strengths of another.

            • donsalmon says :

              Aurobindo actually had very little passing acquaintance with Nietzsche. He studied in England from age 7 to 21, but was much more interested in poetry than Western philosophy (he found most European philosophy terribly boring and Kant, unreadable) or religion (he read the Bible as a child but never thought much of it – he was interested enough in poetry and literature to teach himself, as a teen, German to read Goethe in the original, and Italian to read Dante in the original).

              To the extent he had any written inspirations, his work was largely inspired by the Upanishads (mostly the Kena and Isha – – particularly the Isha, which he saw as containing the seeds of an integral consciousness – nearly 2800 years ago), the Gita and much more than either of these, the Vedas, which he saw as utterly unique in modern history in terms of being prophetic of an integral understanding of spiritual evolution. His evolutionary philosophy – which I’m aware almost everyone attributes to his “Western” education – is (again, to the extent it wasn’t based on inner inspiration) drawn almost entirely from the revelations he gleaned from the Vedas.

              Regarding other traditions, I’m familiar with the reform movements you’re talking about in the last 2 centuries – I was referring to several thousand years of extremely varied Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese spirituality, which varied from the kind of negative, world denying mysticism you’re referring to and quite integral movements of varying kinds. You might be interested in looking gat Georg Feuerstein’s history of yoga which goes into this in much more detail.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I should think being educated in Western ways from age 7 to 21 is not an insignificant detail in Aurobindo’s curriculum vitae. There’s another thing he owed to the British — his imprisonment for his anti-imperialist activities. Apparently, he received his enlightenment in prison, and afterwards quipped he couldn’t thank the British enough for their injustice.

              Rosenstock-Huessy demonstrated in one of his writings, also, how the “universal religions” actually form a “cross” as well. The deficiencies in one were compensated for by the others: Buddhism/Hinduism, Taoism, Christianity and the Abrahamic faiths aren’t worlds unto themselves. Only together, where they “articulate” or join, is the full truth of the human experience revealed. They are like branches of the spirit, not the root of the tree. And only in that respect is a “universal history of the human experience” possible. What is missing in one, is completed in another. Each one has its deficiency which is compensated for in another.

              And it makes perfect sense.

            • donsalmon says :

              Scott, it sounds like you’re trying to fit Eastern traditions into a certain framework, when they’re much much more varied than you’re making them out to be. I really would recommend taking some time – at some point; I realize you’re weighed down by lots to read – looking again as much of it just wouldn’t fit into the particular framework you’re using.

            • Scott Preston says :

              That, by the way, is in his book The Christian Future, or the modern mind outrun.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I can only suggest that you read the pertinent chapter in Rosenstock’s The Christian Future and come to your own conclusion about whether the various world religions are actually complete unto themselves.

              The real question of Aurobindo’s “reformed Hinduism” is this: who does he see in his writings as his audience, and what in his writings he may owe to his Western upbringing or which is not indigenous or native to Hinduism itself. The same question may be put about the writings of Krishna Prem.

  5. davidm58 says :

    Very interesting post. Apocalypse means “unveiling,” or, as translated by the English New Testament, “Revelation.” A very interesting alternate translation might be “transparency” or “diaphaneity.”

    Do you happen to know of a good commentary on the Book of Reveleation? Guardini’s “The End of the Modern World” looks to be a worthwhile book, but I don’t know how much he discusses the biblical concept of apocalypse.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I don’t know of a good commentary on Revelation. I once read a short book called “Fear Not!” which took issuance with the fundamentalist understanding of Revelation, but it didn’t go much into exegesis. Anything I’ve learned about the enigmatic vision of John I learned by reading Blake’s poetry.

  6. donsalmon says :

    sorry, that reference to the Vedas should have been “utterly unique in recorded history”

    • donsalmon says :

      “And that’s really what distinguished Christianity largely from the esoteric ways of Eastern mysticism, ie, creativity is more important than “enlightenment”, but better if it is fully enlightened.”

      Is there any basis for this claim? Are you familiar with the Tantric literature at all, dating back, several thousand years? It is pervaded with celebrations of Divine creativity – or the Sufis, or Bauls, or Taoists, or Kashmir Savites?

      It sounds like you may have been overly influenced by the very popular “non duality” literature which itself is a perversion of Advaita Vedanta, which is a very small, limited school popularized in the 19th century by Vivekananda but hardly representative of even a small fraction of “Eastern mysticism.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        The emphasis in Christianity is on futurity, not recovery of a lost paradise or going inwards. In the East, time is an illusion. In Christianity it is sanctified as the process of god-man making. So people are correct to say our notions of “progress” and futurity we owe to Christianity and the prophetic influence of Judaism.

        But what we call “the West” was influenced by four streams of speech — the prophetic voice (Judeo-Christianity), the philosophic (the Greek, logic), the political voice (Rome and “law”), and the poetic voice (the Age of the Tribes). These have become our own “Guardians of the Four Directions” — poetics, prophetics, philosophics, and politics.

        • donsalmon says :

          Scott, you keep making blanket statements about the “East” but don’t give any sources. i’m having the feeling that you’ve read this from Rosenstock-Huessy but perhaps aren’t actually familiar with any textual sources? The Advaita Vedanta – which is closest to what you say about time and lack of concern about creativity and futurity – is only a tiny fraction of the vast mystical/yogic literature of the “East”, much of which has a far more complex, multi-dimensional view of both time and space than you’re describing here.

          I’ve read hundreds of books by Western scholars saying these things about the East and the West, but most of them don’t seem to have any actual acquaintance or understanding of the Eastern texts they’re criticizing.

          I think it would be helpful in the future, rather than making broad, sweeping statements about “the East”, to refer to specific texts or at least, specific traditions. You might, for example, refer to the Advaitin (which at least minimally relates to what you’re saying) vs the Tantric, which is just dramatically different – one of the translations of the word is “creativity” – dynamic creativity” and its view of time goes beyond both the linear one dimensional view of at least the Greeks and classical physics and the “cyclic” caricature which to my understanding simply does’t exist anywhere in the world, but is actually a Western misinterpretation of shamanic, mystic and yogic texts. Except for Nietzche’s silly “eternal return”, there’s just nothing like the kind of logocentric mechanical hellish “over and over” again cyclic vicious circle that European scholars have created in their rather substantial misreadings.

          • Scott Preston says :

            The mainstream of Eastern mysticism places the accent on personal emancipation, on escaping samsaric existence, the cycle of birth and death, and the karmic law.

            If you want to know the difference, compare Krishna or Buddha to Prometheus. The Promethean spirit is Western. It’s not about escaping samsaric existence but of actively and creatively shaping time and space. That’s “Promethean”.

            It’s not scholars or intellectuals who shape the social order. It’s normal people’s reproduction of their understanding of sacred texts or significant figures — Krishna, or Buddha, or Prometheus (Faustian Man). The fruits count as much as the roots, and Christianity has definitely been more interested in “fruits” moreso than “roots”.

            That seems to me a good way of marking the difference — fruits and roots. It’s probably not coincidental that in that article on ‘reformed Hinduism’ it cites the influence of “western members” in more actively and consciously shaping the social environment to accord with the inner vision.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    There’s a brief online article on “reformed Hinduism” which does reference Aurobindo

    • donsalmon says :

      I really don’t mean to sound too rude about the link, but if I was teaching a class on world religions, that would be a good page to use as a template for how not to understand Indian spirituality (starting with the word “Hinduism”). Sorry, it would take too much time to go into detail – there’s not one sentence I would consider worthwhile on that page. Really, I would stop altogether looking at Western scholars’ views of India, China, etc. Robert Thurman is a VERY rare exception. One or two others come to mind, generally those who have devoted their lives to contemplative practice.

      Rajiv Malhotra is a very complex and difficult individual in many respects (in his attempts to defend Hinduism he makes almost as many mistakes as the Europeans) but one thing he noted really got to the core of how absurd the views of the religious scholars are. He actually went to dozens of religious studies departments and asked them, “If the Buddha were to apply to teach a class on Buddhism, would you accept him?” The answer was universally no, because he wouldn’t have the requisite “objectivity.” Similarly, most religious studies professors I’ve talked to have to hide their interest in contemplative practices. I’m sorry, but you can’t understand the first line of the Bible or Gita or any genuine mystic text if you only have the mindset of an academic. In fact, my general experience is that whatever someone like Zaehner or Ian Barbour or even Stephen Phillips, who is the “Aurobindo” expert in the US says about mysticism or yoga, if you take the opposite view, you won’t be as far from understanding as you would if you actually tried to see things their way.

      From now on, before saying a word about anything to do with “the East”, look at the source. (well, the Divine Source would be best, but I meant simply an actual text. I would start with Ahbinavagupta, whose writings would completely turn upside down most of what you’ve written about “the East”

  8. Scott Preston says :

    I think Donne’s “No man is an Island, entire of itself” is especially true in relation to the figures of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus of Lao Tse. What marks them as similar? What marks them as different? Compare and contrast is, after all, the prime function of discerning reason.

    The daily reproduction of social relations is often owing to the simplest of questions: “what would Krishna do?” or “What would the Buddha do?” or “What would Jesus do?”.

    As don Juan put it to Castaneda: “what’s the point of knowing things which are useless?” That is to say, that don’t bear fruit?

    • donsalmon says :

      Scott, your comments on Krishna are as far as can be imagined from what the “common” man and woman over the last several thousand years (at the very least, to have any remote chance of understanding, from before the Muslim and British innovations) have understood. To find that, look at the Puranas, the collection of myths of Krishna gathered over centuries. Krishna is always the joyous, active, leader, the inspirer, the creative trickster, the “leader of the evolution”, the one who brings humanity forward. As Avatar, he comes down and incarnates when the evolution, the Dharmic manifestation of Brahman, has been almost overwhelmed by the asuric forces (not at all equivalent to the mainstream dualistic Christian “evil” – though very close to what mystics in Christianity understood).

      Again, I would say, stop reading secondary sources, or at least, take a break from wildly inaccurate generalizations about “the East” and look at some original sources.

      Here is a short section from the Gita, followed by Sri Aurobindo’s commentary. Now, if you wish, you can say Sri Aurobindo had no idea what the earlier people of India thought because he was influenced by his childhood in England, but then we could say you have no idea what Rosenstock-Huessy is talking about because you’re Canadian! I don’t think that carries any weight about you, nor should it about Sri Aurobindo. In fact, if you say that about Sri Aurobindo, it applies even more to you, Rosenstock and all the scholars you’ve cited (not that Carolyn Myss is by any stretch of the imagination a “scholar”!).

      Krishna is speaking of himself here as a direction Incarnation, Avatar, of Brahman. I accept the evidence that the whole idea of Jesus as an incarnation was heavily influenced by his familiarity with Mahayana Buddhism (which is almost identical to much of the gospel teaching and which has little similarity to the Jewish teachings Jesus would most likely have been taught as a child)

      Yadyad aacharati shreshthas tattadevetaro janah; Sa yat pramaanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate.
      21. Whatsoever a great man does, that other men also do; whatever he sets up as the standard, that the world follows.
      Na me paarthaasti kartavyam trishu lokeshu kinchana; Naanavaaptam avaaptavyam varta eva cha karmani.
      22. There is nothing in the three worlds, O Arjuna, that should be done by Me, nor is there anything unattained that should be attained; yet I engage Myself in action!
      Yadi hyaham na varteyam jaatu karmanyatandritah; Mama vartmaanuvartante manushyaah paartha sarvashah.
      23. For, should I not ever engage Myself in action, unwearied, men would in every way follow My path, O Arjuna!
      Utseedeyur ime lokaa na kuryaam karma ched aham; Sankarasya cha kartaa syaam upahanyaam imaah prajaah.
      24. These worlds would perish if I did not perform action; I should be the author of confusion of castes and destruction of these beings.
      Saktaah karmanyavidwaamso yathaa kurvanti bhaarata; Kuryaad vidwaam stathaa saktash chikeershur lokasangraham.
      25. As the ignorant men act from attachment to action, O Bharata (Arjuna), so should the wise act without attachment, wishing the welfare of the world!
      Na buddhibhedam janayed ajnaanaam karmasanginaam; Joshayet sarva karmaani vidwaan yuktah samaacharan.
      26. Let no wise man unsettle the minds of ignorant people who are attached to action; he should engage them in all actions, himself fulfilling them with devotion.

      This then is the sense of the Gita’s doctrine of sac- rifice. Its full significance depends on the idea of the Purushottama which as yet is not developed, — we find it set forth clearly only much later in the eighteen chapters, — and therefore we have had to anticipate, at whatever cost of infidelity to the progressive method of the Gita’s exposition, that central teaching. At present the Teacher simply gives a hint, merely adumbrates this supreme presence of the Purushottama and his relation to the immobile Self in whom it is our first business, our pressing spiritual need to find our poise of perfect peace and equality by attainment to the Brahmic condition. He speaks as yet not at all in set terms of the Purushottama, but of himself, — “I”, Krishna, Narayana, the Avatar, the God in man who is also the Lord in the universe incarnated in the figure of the divine charioteer of Kurukshetra. “In the Self, then in Me,” is the formula he gives, implying that the transcendence of the individual personality by seeing it as a “becoming” in the impersonal self-existent Being is simply a means of arriving at that great secret impersonal Personality, which is thus silent, calm and uplifted above Nature in the impersonal Being, but also present and active in Nature in all these million becomings. Losing our lower individual personality in the Impersonal, we arrive finally at union with that supreme Personality which is not separate and individual, but yet assumes all individualities. Transcending the lower nature of the three gunas and seating the soul in the immobile Purusha beyond the three gunas, we can ascend finally into the higher nature of the infinite Godhead which is not bound by the three gunas even when it acts through Nature. Reaching the inner actionlessness of the silent Purusha, and leaving Prakriti to do her works, we can attain supremely beyond to the status of the divine Mastery which is able to do all works and yet be bound by none. The idea of the Purushottama, seen here as the incarnate Narayana, Krishna, is therefore the key. Without it the withdrawal from the lower nature to the Brahmic condition leads necessarily to inaction of the liberated man, his indifference to the works of the world; with it the same withdrawal becomes a step by which the works of the world are taken up in the spirit, with the nature and in the freedom of the Divine. See the silent Brahman as the goal and the world with all its activities has to be forsaken; see God, the Divine, the Purushottama as the goal, superior to action yet its inner spiritual cause and object and original will, and the world with all its activities is conquered and possessed in a divine transcendence of the world. It can become instead of a prison-house an opulent kingdom, which we have conquered for the spiritual life by slaying the limitation of the tyrant ego and overcoming the bondage of our gaoler desires and breaking the prison of our individualistic possession and enjoyment. The liberated universalised soul becomes \ self-ruler and emperor.

      The works of sacrifice are thus vindicated as a means of liberation and absolute spiritual perfection, sam ̇ siddhi. So Janaka and other great Karmayogins of the mighty ancient Yoga attained to perfection, by equal and desireless works done as a sacrifice, without the least egoistic aim or attachment. So too and with the same desirelessness, after liberation and perfection, works can and have to be continued by us in a large divine spirit, with the calm high nature of a spiritual royalty. “Thou shouldst do works regarding also the holding together of the peoples, lokasan ̇grahameva ̄pisampas ́yankartumarhasi.Whatsoeverthe Best doeth, that the lower kind of man puts into practice; the standard he creates, the people follows. O son of Pritha, I have no work that I need to do in all the three worlds, I have nothing that I have not gained and have yet to gain, and I abide verily in the paths of action,” implying, I abide in it and do not leave it as the Sannyasin thinks himself bound to abandon works. “For if I did not abide sleeplessly in the paths of action, men follow in every way my path, these peoples would sink to destruction if I did not works and I should be the creator of confusion and slay these creatures. As those who know not act with attachment to the action, he who knows should act without attachment, having for his motive to hold together the peoples. He should not create a division of their understanding in the ignorant who are attached to their works; he should set them to all actions, doing them himself with knowledge and in Yoga.” There are few more important passages in the Gita than these seven striking couplets.

      But let us clearly understand that they must not be inter- preted, as the modern pragmatic tendency concerned much more with the present affairs of the world than with any high and far-off spiritual possibility seeks to interpret them, as no more than a philosophical and religious justification of social service, patriotic, cosmopolitan and humanitarian effort and attachment to the hundred eager social schemes and dreams which attract the modern intellect. It is not the rule of a large moral and intel- lectual altruism which is here announced, but that of a spiritual unity with God and with this world of beings who dwell in him and in whom he dwells. It is not an injunction to subordinate the individual to society and humanity or immolate egoism on the altar of the human collectivity, but to fulfil the individual in God and to sacrifice the ego on the one true altar of the all- embracing Divinity. The Gita moves on a plane of ideas and experiences higher than those of the modern mind which is at the stage indeed of a struggle to shake off the coils of egoism, but is still mundane in its outlook and intellectual and moral rather than spiritual in its temperament. Patriotism, cosmopolitanism, service of society, collectivism, humanitarianism, the ideal or religion of humanity are admirable aids towards our escape from our primary condition of individual, family, social, national ego- ism into a secondary stage in which the individual realises, as far as it can be done on the intellectual, moral and emotional level, — on that level he cannot do it entirely in the right and perfect way, the way of the integral truth of his being, — the oneness of his existence with the existence of other beings. But the thought of the Gita reaches beyond to a tertiary condition of our developing self-consciousness towards which the secondary is only a partial stage of advance.
      The Indian social tendency has been to subordinate the in- dividual to the claims of society, but Indian religious thought and spiritual seeking have been always loftily individualistic in their aims. An Indian system of thought like the Gita’s cannot possibly fail to put first the development of the individual, the highest need of the individual, his claim to discover and exercise his largest spiritual freedom, greatness, splendour, royalty, — his aim to develop into the illumined seer and king in the spiritual sense of seerdom and kingship, which was the first great charter of the ideal humanity promulgated by the ancient Vedic sages. To exceed himself was their goal for the individual, not by losing all his personal aims in the aims of an organised human soci- ety, but by enlarging, heightening, aggrandising himself into the consciousness of the Godhead. The rule given here by the Gita is the rule for the master man, the superman, the divinised human being, the Best, not in the sense of any Nietzschean, any one- sided and lopsided, any Olympian, Apollonian or Dionysian, any angelic or demoniac supermanhood, but in that of the man whose whole personality has been offered up into the being, nature and consciousness of the one transcendent and universal Divinity and by loss of the smaller self has found its greater self, has been divinised.

      To exalt oneself out of the lower imperfect Prakriti, into unity with the divine being, consciousness and nature, is the object of the Yoga. But when this object is fulfilled, when the man is in the Brahmic status and sees no longer with the false egoistic vision himself and the world, but sees all beings in the Self, in God, and the Self in all beings, God in all beings, what shall be the action, — since action there still is, — which results from that seeing, and what shall be the cosmic or individual motive of all his works? It is the question of Arjuna,but answered from a stand- point other than that from which Arjuna had put it. The motive cannot be personal desire on the intellectual, moral, emotional level, for that has been abandoned, — even the moral motive has been abandoned, since the liberated man has passed beyond the lower distinction of sin and virtue, lives in a glorified purity beyond good and evil. It cannot be the spiritual call to his perfect self-development by means of disinterested works, for the call has been answered, the development is perfect and fulfilled. His motive of action can only be the holding together of the peoples. This great march of the peoples towards a far-off divine ideal has to be held together, prevented from falling into the bewilderment, confusion and utter discord of the understanding which would lead to dissolution and de- struction and to which the world moving forward in the night or dark twilight of ignorance would be too easily prone if it were not held together, conducted, kept to the great lines of its discipline by the illumination, by the strength, by the rule and example, by the visible standard and the invisible influence of its Best. The best, the individuals who are in advance of the general line and above the general level of the collectivity, are the natural leaders of mankind, for it is they who can point to the race both the way they must follow and the standard or ideal they have to keep to or to attain. But the divinised man is the Best in no ordinary sense of the word and his influence, his example must have a power which that of no ordinarily superior man can exercise. What example then shall he give? What rule or standard shall he uphold?
      In order to indicate more perfectly his meaning, the divine Teacher, the Avatar gives his own example, his own standard to Arjuna. “I abide in the path of action,” he seems to say, “the path that all men follow; thou too must abide in action. In the way I act, in that way thou too must act. I am above the necessity of works, for I have nothing to gain by them; I am the Divine who possess all things and all beings in the world and I am myself beyond the world as well as in it and I do not depend upon anything or anyone in all the three worlds for any object; yet I act. This too must be thy manner and spirit of working. I, the Divine, am the rule and the standard; it is I who make the path in which men tread; I am the way and the goal. But I do all this largely, universally, visibly in part, but far more invisibly; and men do not really know the way of my workings. Thou, when thou knowest and seest, when thou hast become the divinised man, must be the individual power of God, the human yet divine example, even as I am in my avatars. Most men dwell in the ignorance, the God-seer dwells in the knowledge; but let him not confuse the minds of men by a dangerous example, rejecting in his superiority the works of the world; let him not cut short the thread of action before it is spun out, let him not perplex and falsify the stages and gradations of the ways I have hewn. The whole range of human action has been decreed by me with a view to the progress of man from the lower to the higher nature, from the apparent undivine to the conscious Divine. The whole range of human works must be that in which the God-knower shall move. All individual, all social action, all the works of the intellect, the heart and the body are still his, not any longer for his own separate sake, but for the sake of God in the world, of God in all beings and that all those beings may move forward, as he has moved, by the path of works towards the discovery of the Divine in themselves. Outwardly his actions may not seem to differ essentially from theirs; battle and rule as well as teaching and thought, all the various commerce of man with man may fall in his range; but the spirit in which he does them must be very different, and it is that spirit which by its influence shall be the great attraction drawing men upwards to his own level, the great lever lifting the mass of men higher in their ascent.”
      The giving of the example of God himself to the liberated man is profoundly significant; for it reveals the whole basis of the Gita’s philosophy of divine works. The liberated man is he who has exalted himself into the divine nature and according to that divine nature must be his actions. But what is the divine nature? It is not entirely and solely that of the Akshara, the immobile, inactive, impersonal self; for that by itself would lead the lib- erated man to actionless immobility. It is not characteristically that of the Kshara, the multitudinous, the personal, the Purusha self-subjected to Prakriti; for that by itself would lead him back into subjection to his personality and to the lower nature and its qualities. It is the nature of the Purushottama who holds both these together and by his supreme divinity reconciles them in a divine reconciliation which is the highest secret of his being, rahasyam ̇ hyetad uttamam. He is not the doer of works in the personal sense of our action involved in Prakriti; for God works through his power, conscious nature, effective force, — Shakti, Maya, Prakriti, — but yet above it, not involved in it, not subject to it, not unable to lift himself beyond the laws, workings, habits of action it creates, not affected or bound by them, not unable to distinguish himself, as we are unable, from the workings of life, m i n d a n d b o d y . H e i s t h e d o e r o f w o r k s w h o a c t s n o t , k a r t a ̄ r a m akarta ̄ram. “Know me,” says Krishna, “for the doer of this (the fourfold law of human workings) who am yet the imperishable non-doer. Works fix not themselves on me (na limpanti), nor have I desire for the fruits of action.” But neither is he the inactive, impassive, unpuissant Witness and nothing else; for it is he who works in the steps and measures of his power; every movement of it, every particle of the world of beings it forms is instinct with his presence, full of his consciousness, impelled by his will, shaped by his knowledge.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Nonetheless, I stand by what I said. The problem of the West is power without clarity, and the problem of the East is clarity without power. It is exactly as don Juan characterised the problem of the “enemies” of of the full man of knowledge.

        This is even acknowledged by the leading representatives of both traditions. The Western “Journey to the East” is scientists like Bohm and Ricard now engaging in dialogue with the East, and if Krishnamurti and the Dalai Lama are agents of the East, they have readily acknowledged the need to engage with the scientific and technical successes of the West. In fact, aren’t you yourself an example of that dialogical process? And are you yourself not attempting to reconcile your own heritage with the insights of Eastern mysticism?

        Aurobindo didn’t refer to his philosophy as “Integral Yoga” for no reason. If it was already “integral” there’s no need to insist upon a name change.

        The dialogue is not a one-way street. It’s reciprocal. Haridas Chaudhuri, who was probably Aurobindo’s chief disciple, made it explicit in his boo “The Evolution of Integral Consciousness” that it hinged upon bridging the divide in value systems between East and West.

        I don’t see how it could be any clearer.

  9. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, the East-West dialogue has had to be supplemented latterly by the North-South dialogue as well. That’s globalism in the making.

  10. donsalmon says :

    Hi Scott:

    I don’t want to add any more ot the content of this exchange but I thought it might be worthwhile to add a brief “meta” comment. My last few comments on this exchange left me with an uneasy feeling – I felt that I got caught up in that infamous online miscommunication loop that can occur at times (remember my dialogic mantra; “Assume miscommunciation” – well, I clearly hadn’t kept it in mind when I was writing). In any case, I just wanted to say whatever our disagreements (or miscommunications?) I appreciate your thoughtfulness and always look forward to your posts.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Not a problem at all, Don. I think this post set a record on The Chrysalis for the number of responses, and that pleases me no end.

      I think we’ll both agree that Aurobindo isn’t defending the cruelties of the caste system, or the vulgarities of the karmic law or the reincarnation doctrine as is popularly or official interpreted. Even Buddha attacked the caste system and the Brahmins in his day. And it’s in that sense I think Gebser is justified in speaking of “reformed Hinduism”, which is certainly not the “nationalist Hinduism” that seems in vogue presently, and which makes me quite uneasy because it calls to mind the “National Buddhism” of the Japanese fascist era.

      I have no doubt we agree on that — that these are cases of a persistent “deficiency” in the mystical approach, as much as “rationalism” represents a deficiency of the mental-rational. “Perverse outcome” plagues us all.

      • donsalmon says :

        99% agreement:>)) (‘ll leave you guessing as to which I disagree with – not that important, i think.)

        More important is seeing through the persistent deficiencies in the mystic approach.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    It’s my view that the number one export of the Modern Era (or the West) to the rest of the world has been “revolution” — revolution against fatalism, the revolt against history, the willingness to reject aspects of traditions that have become deficient. But we need to take the violence out of revolution by consciously discovering the art & science of revolution — change at the right time.

    In the end, it didn’t matter much whether the Buddha denounced the caste system and the corrupt rule of the Brahmins. It has outlasted Buddhism in India, in fact. David Loy’s “Buddhist revolution” (or what is called Western Buddhism) adds something to Buddhism that isn’t inherent to it — a willingness to actually shape time and space (samsaric existence) to reflect the dharma, what we might call “applied dharma”. But that’s the “Promethean” element in the Western tradition — the active shaping of space and time, but hopefully with the aid of “enlightened ego consciousness”, as Seth put it.

    I have Buddhist friends that are so caught up in going to “retreats” that they’ve lost complete connection with social reality itself. They’re always “retreating”. But the point is to transform it. Knowing is useless if it’s not realised knowledge. That’s what “concretion of the spiritual” amounts to.

    • donsalmon says :

      Someday you may enjoy reading “The Secret of the Veda” by Sri Aurobindo – it will give you a very different sense of what the “East”, and India, in particular, are really about – personally, I think if we don’t recover that original fundamentally spiritual sense of what it means to reshape time and space, we’re doomed. That was essentially Sri Aurobindo’s entire mission – to recover that Vedic “spiritual/social activism” and recast it for modern times. it had nothing to do with “Hinduism.” (the Gita, Upanishads and Vedas all existed long before the word “Hinduism” was dreamt up – “Sanatana Dharma” is something entirely different, and has existed throughout the world for a minimum of 40,000 years).

      You can trace some interesting developments from alchemy back through Sufism to certain texts of Mahayana Buddhism, the Gita, the Vedas, and back further – i believe – to the Atlantean tradition – a Promethean tradition suited to make the Greek Prometheus look like the ultimate slacker – and further to the shamans of 400 centuries ago.

      Though of course, this is all in terms of mental time. There really isn’t any such thing as “40,000” years ago, or even “40,000 years” in the sense we usually make of it.

  12. abdulmonem says :

    All religions in their purity are global in orientation, overview in outlook and integral in consciousness,then human perverted interpretation takes over to pollute the purity . we live in an era of widespread perversion, as if no prophets have delivered the divine word to humanity, as if the communication is a human invention and nor a divine establishment, as if truth talk without action and the abuse of words is progress. It is simple what we need is honesty and the Pope has said it.

    • donsalmon says :

      “All religions in their purity are global in orientation, overview in outlook and integral in consciousness,”

      This is so beautifully said. It’s been so many decades since I stopped thinking in terms of “East/West” or “North/South” that I actually find it slightly jolting to hear references to it. I’m always curious how old people are who use such phrases. I’m generally quite surprised when people under 50 years old refer to such distinctions, and truly amazed when people under 30 do.

      Most people I communicate with regularly are so accustomed to either physically traveling East/West/North/South to such an extent they no longer think in such terms, or so easily and readily and frequently communicate online around the world, that to think of this as other than One planet seems an anachronism.

      It is true, I’ll admit, that one might speak of the past as having some East/West (much less so for North/South which was mostly relevant for part of the 20th century) distinctions, but I don’t see that it has at all been relevant for at least 30 years, and really, for at least a half century.

      Thank you. Beautifully said.

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