Sri Aurobindo on Metaphysics, Reason and Logic

Logical reasoning is useful and indispensable in its own field in order to give the mind a certain clearness, precision and subtlety in dealing with its own ideas and word-symbols, so that our perception of the truths which we arrive at by observation and experience, or which physically, psychologically or spiritually we have seen, may be as little as possible obscured by the confusions of our of our average human intelligence, its proneness to take appearances for fact, its haste to be misled by partial truth, its exaggerated conclusions, its intellectual and emotional partialities, its incompetent bunglings in that linking of truth to truth by which alone we can arrive at a complete knowledge.  We must have a clear, pure subtle and flexible mind in order that we may fall as little as possible into that ordinary metal habit our kind which turns truth itself into a purveyor of errors. That clarification the habit of clear logical reasoning culminating in the method of metaphysical dialectics does help to accomplish and its part in the preparation of knowledge is therefore very great. But by itself it cannot arrive either at the knowledge of the world or the knowledge of God, much less reconcile the lower and the higher realisation. It is much more efficiently a guardian against error than a discoverer of truth, – although by deduction from knowledge already acquired it may happen upon new truths and indicate them for experience or for the higher and larger truth-seeking faculties to confirm. In the more subtle field of synthetical or unifying knowledge the logical habit of mind may even become a stumbling-block by the very faculty which gives it its peculiar use; for it is so accustomed to making distinctions and dwelling upon distinctions and working by distinctions that it is always a little at sea when distinctions have to be overridden and overpassed. Our object, then, in considering the difficulties of the normal mind when face to face with the experience of cosmic and transcendental unity by the individual, must be solely to make more clear to ourselves, first, the origin of the difficulties and the escape from them and by that, what is more important, the real nature fo the unity at which we arrive and of the culmination of the individual when he becomes one with all creatures and dwells in the oneness of the Eternal.      .

Sri Aurobindo – The Life Divine

Chapter III The Eternal and the Individual




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Faculty of Philosophy – Fantasy Press Release

University of Western Thought – Faculty of Philosophy

Press Statement

July 2017

No embargo

It has come to the attention of the Faculty that the central claim of mystics and sages throughout history, regardless of geography and culture, has been that all partial or positive metaphysical positions are false. They report from experience that the Universe is a Unity such that all distinctions are conceptual categories, these being emergent thus reducible for a fundamental theory.

Over the two millennia that have passed since Plato we have worked to directly falsify this claim or at least identify an alternative solution for metaphysics that would work. Our failure in this endeavour is famous. What we have discovered over time, not a little ironically, is that logical analysis proves that all partial metaphysical theories give rise to fatal contradiction, a result that strongly implies they are indeed false.

Accordingly, we would like to offer our apologies to the mystics and sages for a misunderstanding and would belatedly recommend their writings to every student of philosophy. The view that metaphysics is inconclusive has been damaging to the discipline and we are excited to announce that it is not, after all, the case. Philosophers in our tradition have established beyond doubt that it is only be when we reject the Unity of the Universe that philosophy becomes interminable and incomprehensible. It has been hard work, and perhaps if we had not been so convinced that mysticism is nonsense we might have saved ourselves a lot of it, but all’s well that ends well.


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The Marketing of Philosophy – A Preliminary Report

Here’s another guest essay for the blog of Bernardo Kastrup, this time addressing the marketing problems troubling professional philosophy in the West at this time. Departments are closing, jobs are being lost, respect is at an all time low and many scientists are asking  what philosophy is for and receiving no effective reply. External consultants recommend an urgent review of the product, now unchanged for twenty centuries.

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Aristotle, Nagarjuna and the Law of Non-Contradiction in Buddhist Philosophy

I have a recently published guest essay up on the site of Bernardo Kastrup discussing the relationship between Aristotle’s ‘laws of thought’ and the logic of Buddhist philosophy as explained by Noble Nagarjuna. It proposes that few philosophers in the self-styled ‘Western’ or ‘Rational’ tradition of thought use the laws of thought correctly and even fewer of the general public, and that this renders philosophical problems intractable and causes Buddhist philosophy to appear paradoxical.

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An Ontological Solution to the Mind-Body Problem

We seem to come ever closer to a time when we can ‘join the dots’ between the natural sciences and religion and make more sense of them both, and this may be in part the consequence of a growing understanding of  the Perennial philosophy. Modern science and philosophy allow this relationship to be described and discussed in great detail and also require that we do so, and gradually a language is developing that can bridge the gap. A prominent contributor to this discussion is the scientist and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup. Below is a link to a typically clear and concise article about ontology and the operations of consciousness by which we forget that we made it all up. Kant would approve.

He comments, “It contains an analytic, rigorous articulation of the ontology of idealism—according to which reality is entirely mental.”  I don’t think this should imply that the  Real is not real. ‘Reality’ here would mean ‘everything we could ever think is real’, ‘anything we could ever think’, ‘anything that thinks’ or indeed any ‘thing’ at all.  It can seem a daft idea, but it is found to be impossible to make sense of ontology when we assume that space and time are any more than conceptual phenomena.

If you find it interesting and worthwhile then please pass it on. Science and clear thinking has ruled out most interpretations of religion, mysticism and metaphysics for being redundant, logically indefensible or contrary to the observed facts, and as a consequence have ever more precisely identified and revealed the correct interpretation. It turns out to be the one that is endorsed by the ancient Upanishads and Middle Way Buddhism, the only one that can survive close analysis and that is even capable of explaining Existence.

Other links.

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Extracts from the Literature 3: Mysticism and Oneness: From ‘Mysticism’ F.D. Happold

“A common characteristic of many mystical states is the presence of a consciousness of the Oneness of everything. All creaturely existence is experienced as a unity, as All in One and One in All. In theistic mysticism God is felt to be in everything and everything to exist in God.

In ancient Chinese philosophy the creation of the phenomenal universe is envisaged as coming out of Tao, the Primal Meaning and Undivided Unity behind everything, by the pulling asunder of polar opposites. Out of Tao sprang the principles of phenomenal reality, the two poles of yang (light) and yin (darkness), which are evident throughout the whole of the universe as it appears to us. We cannot conceive of light except as the opposite of darkness, of above except as the opposite of below, of before except as the opposite of after, of goodness except as the opposite of evil. Our perception is conditioned by the existence of these polar opposites. Yet, they are only active in the realm of phenomena.

In this realm of polar opposites man is imprisoned. He is conscious, therefore, of a division in his soul. His deepest spiritual instinct is to break through the polar opposites and find again the Primal Meaning, so that he may once again be restored to the Undivided Unity which he has lost.

God is to be found, said Nicholas of Cusa, beyond ‘the coincidence of contradictories’. There can, however, be no escape from duality through sense perception, for sense perception is conditioned by the presence of polar opposites, nor through discursive thought, which is bound by the same dualism. For to the mystic is given that unifying vision of the One in the All and the All in the One.

There is little doubt that this sense of the Oneness of everything in the universe and outside it is at the heart of the most highly developed mystical consciousness. All feelings of duality and multiplicity are obliterated, including the duality between man and Deity. Though it may be expressed differently, this is equally true of Hindu and Sufi mystics, of Plotinus and of the great contemplatives of Christianity.”

F.C.Happold, Mysticism, Penguin 1965

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Extracts from the Literature 2: On Simplicity, Unity, Firstness and Secondness: The Enneads of Plotinus

“Standing before all things, there must exist a Simplex, differing from all its sequel, self-gathered not interblended with the forms that arise from it, and yet in some mode of its own to be present to those others: it must be authentically a unity, not merely something elaborated into a unity and so in reality no more that unity’s counterfeit; it will debar all telling and knowing except that it may be described as transcending Being – for if there were nothing outside all alliance and compromise, nothing authentically one, there would be no Source. Untouched by multiplicity, it will be wholly self-sufficing, and absolute First, whereas any not-first demands its earlier, and any non-simplex needs the simplicities within itself as the very foundation of its composite existence.”

Plotinus, Enneads, V. 4, How the Secondaries Rise from the First: And on the One, 1.

“That awesome Prior, The Unity, is not a being, for so its unity would be vested in something else: strictly no name is apt to it, but since name it we must there is a certain rough fitness in designating it as unity with the understanding that it is not the unity of some other thing.

… Think of The One as Mind or as God, you think of it too meanly; use all the resources of understanding to conceive this Unity and, again, it is more authentically one than God, even though you reach for God’s unity beyond the unity the most perfect you can conceive. For This is utterly self-existent, with no concomitant whatever. The self-sufficing is the essence of its unity. Something there must be supremely adequate, autonomous, all-transcending, most utterly without need.

Plotinus, Enneads, VI. 9. On the Good, or the One, 5-6.

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Extracts from the Literature: Hell, Fear, the Ego and the Holy Instant – from ‘A Course in Miracles’

“The Holy Spirit teaches thus: There is no hell. Hell is only what the ego has made of the present. The belief in hell is what prevents you from understanding the present, because you are afraid of it. The Holy Spirit leads as steadily to Heaven as the ego drives to hell. For the Holy Spirit, Who knows only the present, uses it to undo the fear by which the ego would make the present useless. There is no escape from fear in the ego’s use of time. For time, according to its teaching, is nothing but a teaching device for compounding guilt until it becomes all–encompassing and demands vengeance forever.

The Holy Spirit would undo all of this now. Fear is not of the present but only of the past and future, which do not exist. There is no fear in the present when each instant stands clear and separated from the past, without its shadow reaching out into the future. Each instant is a clean untarnished birth, in which the Son of God emerges from the past into the present. And the present extends forever. It is so beautiful and so clean and free of guilt that nothing but happiness is there. No darkness is remembered, and immortality and joy are now.

This lesson takes no time. For what is time without a past or future? It has taken time to misguide you so completely, but it takes no time at all to be what you are. Begin to practice the Holy Spirit’s use of time as a teaching aid to happiness and peace. Take this very instant, now, and think of it as all there is of time. Nothing can reach you here out of the past, and it is here that you are completely absolved, completely free, and wholly without condemnation. From this holy instant wherein holiness was born again, you will go forth in time without fear and with no sense of change with time.

Time is inconceivable without change, yet holiness does not change. Learn from this instant more than merely hell does not exist. In this redeeming instant lies Heaven. And Heaven will not change, for birth into the holy present is salvation from change. Change is an illusion, taught by those who could not see themselves as guiltless. There is no change in Heaven because there is no change in God. In the holy instant in which you see yourself as bright with freedom, you will remember God. For remembering Him is to remember freedom.

Whenever you are tempted to be dispirited by the thought of how long it would take to change your mind so completely, ask yourself, “How long is an instant?” Could you not give so short a time to the Holy Spirit for your salvation? He asks no more, for He has no need of more. It takes far longer to teach you how to be willing to give Him this than for Him to use this tiny instant to offer you the whole of Heaven. In exchange for this instant, He stands ready to give you the remembrance of eternity.”

A Course in Miracles (Ch15, p214, pp8)

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The Best Glastonbury Gig Ever?

Please follow this link to the blog of Jessica Davidson and watch the video. Buddhism getting down with the kids.

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My s/h bookshop came through for me again. I have just picked up a book by Philip Carr-Gomm called In the Grove of the Druids, discussing the druidic teachings of Ross Nichols. The author is the current Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, an order founded by Ross Nichols. It is a wonderful exploration of symbol and myth.

With its origins tracing back to ancient Persia I expected to see a vague outline of the perennial doctrine, nonduality, esotericism and so forth, probably garbled almost beyond recognition into some sort of Nature worship. What a dunce I am. I did, I must admit, skip most of it as being irrelevant to a Zen practitioner, who needs no heavy soup of symbolism and myth to sugar the truth-pill or find it, and to metaphysics, which is impossible when it is overlaid with so much psychological trickery, but it has its nuggets of straightforward no nonsense talk and these reveal that modern Druidic thinking is not much if at all at odds with the writers of the Upanishads or the Buddhist and Sufi teachings.

Here is an extract from a short essay by Ross Nichols that is included. I have omitted a few sentences as unnecessary.

 The Creation of God 

The shaping-out of God by man is a profound truth – as well as a shallow one for fools: …

…We all make God. The deific force inheres in us creatively and that is the intention. Perhaps also it is well to feel that He is there only, within me and you. Yet this cannot be objectively true, and cannot be accepted philosophically except as solipsism. The only possible conception, to me, is one of a sort of hierarchy of nodes of Godhead inhering at a number of levels in beings and masses that we hardly recognise as god-recognisant, such as the actual globes of earth and planets, or the planetary system as a whole – down to the atomic levels and the infinitesimal, which so far as we can perceive have vigorous movements meaning life of some sort. And wherever is life is consciousness, and consciousness is God…

…Those nodes moreover, if they are gone out of living conscious memory, are still there for the recalling: the Egyptian Godform in particular can embody startlingly almost as soon as called upon…I have experienced, so have others… However these are of the more outer perception, whether psychic or ‘real’, and we were discussing the realism of God within…

…The omni-competent and everlasting God cannot be enclosed in our little concepts. It is both many and one, as completely present in our most distant node as in the first. There is a veil of time and matter at the rhythmic intervals of the Great Breath, when an outgoing into previously emanated matter (breath) of patterns of which the above is an image occurs through the aeons.

As spirit we are present through all these aeons: we have witnessed and we have created, God is in us so far as anywhere. All that semi-infinite scheme is us, of course, and naturally creative power breaks through us.

From time to time to the larger units their nodes have special manifestations and there are teachers, revealers, saviours, whom the race-aspiration have created, as much as deity has given them from the non-apparent. Their teachings are all for their ages equally true, and equally poisonous for successive ones that need something else. The gods were poison to the philosophers, the Hebrew ritualism poison to Christianity.

There is a point in all outbreathing of return to inbreathing, a point of nadir and maximum density. It may have been reached for humanity in the systematic materialism and sensuality of the Roman Empire: which was why a maximum counter-demonstration had to be released in the force called Christ, which came down to earth in several senses – brought teaching down to emergency levels, gave it ‘low’ as well as ‘high’, and created a ‘person’ to be revered, to counter the persons of gods and emperor. This is hardly the highest manifestation that can be made, but was the best for a period, perhaps for 2000 years as astrology suggests…

And all this is within us –the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the first and purest utterance of the Christ-manifestation, before it descended to personality and the crucifixion image that did so startlingly ‘save’ in that gross world.

Now it is for us to give out a new kingdom. We pass as our ritual says through kingdom after kingdom. Indeed, we make the kingdom daily, on several levels. To do so perpetual problems need tackling. And to respond completely to the day’s problem, without ‘attachment’ to it in the Buddhist sense, is in fact the maximum building of the kingdom, outward and inward…By one and one are the stones laid in the temple.


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