Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to reconcile networks with hierarchies

Post-Capitalism by Paul Mason review – a worthy successor to Marx? Saturday 15 August 2015 David Runciman

The unifying idea with which Mason attempts to tie together his various schemes is “networks v hierarchies”. He rightly thinks that earlier theories of class struggle and revolutionary politics are too narrow to encompass the range of political possibilities now available (especially as he thinks that the move towards gender equality is the fundamental social shift of the modern age). But “networks v hierarchies” is too broad as a slogan to explain anything.
Mason never tells us how or why networks can be expected to overcome hierarchies. After all, hierarchies still have the advantage that they are hierarchical, which means they are much easier to control. Mason himself is not averse to embracing some aspects of hierarchical politics when the occasion demands. His own solution to the challenge of climate change is to push for action that is “centralised, strategic and fast … it will require more state ownership than anybody expects or wants”. Adaptable states will have to make use of networks – including “smart grids” for regulating energy supply – but it is impossible to believe that these states will themselves be nothing more than networks. The central challenge of contemporary politics is to discover new ways to reconcile networks with hierarchies through the institutions of representative democracy. You won’t find the answers in this book.

However, a short review can barely do justice to the range of sources Mason enlists in his search for a solution. We get Shakespeare as well as Marx, Rudolf Hilferding along with Richard Hoggart. On top of everything else, he overlays his account with Kondratiev’s long-wave theory, which says that capitalism goes through generational cycles of stagnation and innovation. Mason believes the current wave is different from the ones that have gone before, because we are now essentially stuck. New technology has given capitalists the ability to adapt without innovating, by providing them with the tools to seek out new forms of value. At the same time, it has given the rest of us the ability to innovate without adapting, by allowing us to explore new lifestyles without having to think about the political implications.
Something has got to give. Mason builds a wholly plausible case that the present situation is unsustainable. But what will give, and how, is not something he can tell us.

As a slice of futurology this book is no better than its many, equally speculative rivals. But as a spark to the imagination, with frequent x-ray flashes of insight into the way we live now, it is hard to beat. In that sense, Mason is a worthy successor to Marx. David Runciman’s books include The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, published by Princeton.

C. James Townsend
Suddenly I saw the entire steam of economic ideas, Marxist and classical liberal, unite into one stream leading to the same Omega Point, the event horizon of a coming economic singularity where all prices drop down an asymptote toward zero as technology advances exponentially.  It was this that really inspired me to write the book. I had to share that vision, that there is a way forward using “valid” economics to reach, for lack of a better word, utopia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Clarity hinges on accuracy in the use of terminology

50 psychological/psychiatric terms to avoid: inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, confused terms
The goal of this article is to promote clear thinking and clear writing among students and teachers of psychological science by curbing terminological misinformation and confusion. By being more judicious in their use of terminology, psychologists and psychiatrists can foster clearer thinking in their students and the field at large regarding mental phenomena.
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.”
(Confucius, The Analects)
Scientific thinking necessitates clarity, including clarity in writing (Pinker, 2014). In turn, clarity hinges on accuracy in the use of specialized terminology. Clarity is especially critical in such disciplines as psychology and psychiatry, where most phenomena, such as emotions, personality traits, and mental disorders, are “open concepts.” Open concepts are characterized by fuzzy boundaries, an indefinitely extendable indicator list, and an unclear inner essence (Pap, 1958Meehl, 1986).
Many writers, including students, may take the inherent murkiness of many psychological and psychiatric constructs as an implicit license for looseness in language. After all, if the core concepts within a field are themselves ambiguous, the reasoning goes, precision in language may not be essential. In fact, the opposite is true; the inherent openness of many psychological concepts renders it all the more imperative that we insist on rigor in our writing and thinking to avoid misunderstandings (Guze, 1970). Researchers, teachers, and students in psychology and allied fields should therefore be as explicit as possible about what are they are saying and are not saying, as terms in these disciplines readily lend themselves to confusion and misinterpretation.
For at least two reasons, issues of terminology bear crucial implications for the education of forthcoming generations of students in psychology, psychiatry, and related domains. 
  • First, many instructors may inadvertently disseminate misinformation or foster unclear thinking by using specialized terms in inaccurate, vague, or idiosyncratic ways. Six decades ago, two prominent psychiatrists bemoaned the tendency of writers to use “jargon to blur implausible concepts and to convey the impression that something real is being disclosed” (Cleckley and Thigpen, 1955, p. 335). We hope that our article offers a friendly, albeit greatly belated, corrective in this regard. 
  • Second, if students are allowed, or worse, encouraged, to be imprecise in their language concerning psychological concepts, their thinking about these concepts is likely to follow suit. An insistence on clarity in language forces students to think more deeply and carefully about psychological phenomena, and serves as a potent antidote against intellectual laziness, which can substitute for the meticulous analysis of concepts. The accurate use of terminology is therefore a prerequisite to clear thinking within psychology and related disciplines.

Psychology has long struggled with problems of terminology (Stanovich, 2012). For example, numerous scholars have warned of the jingle and jangle fallacies, the former being the error of referring to different constructs by the same name and the latter the error of referring to the same construct by different names (Kelley, 1927Block, 1995Markon, 2009). As an example of the jingle fallacy, many authors use the term “anxiety” to refer interchangeably to trait anxiety and trait fear. Nevertheless, research consistently shows that fear and anxiety are etiologically separable dispositions and that measures of these constructs are only modestly correlated (Sylvers et al., 2011). As an example of the jangle fallacy, dozens of studies in the 1960s focused on the correlates of the ostensibly distinct personality dimension of repression-sensitization (e.g., Byrne, 1964). Nevertheless, research eventually demonstrated that this dimension was essentially identical to trait anxiety (Watson and Clark, 1984). In the field of social psychology, Hagger (2014) similarly referred to the “deja variable” problem, the ahistorical tendency of researchers to concoct new labels for phenomena that have long been described using other terminology (e.g., the use of 15 different terms to describe the false consensus effect; see Miller and Pedersen, 1999).
In this article, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and allied fields that should be avoided, or at most used sparingly and with explicit caveats. For each term, we 
  • (a) explain why it is problematic, 
  • (b) delineate one or more examples of its misuse, and 
  • (c) when pertinent, offer recommendations for preferable terms. 
These terms span numerous topical areas within psychology and psychiatry, including neuroscience, genetics, statistics, and clinical, social, cognitive, and forensic psychology. Still, in proposing these 50 terms, we make no pretense at comprehensiveness. We are certain that many readers will have candidates for their own “least favorite” psychological and psychiatric terms, and we encourage them to contact us with their nominees. In addition, we do not include commonly confused terms (e.g., “asocial” with “antisocial,” “external validity” with “ecological validity,” “negative reinforcement” with “punishment,” “mass murderer” with ‘serial killer’), as we intend to present a list of these term pairs in a forthcoming publication. We also do not address problematic terms that are restricted primarily to popular (“pop”) psychology, such as “codependency,” “dysfunctional,” “toxic,” “inner child,” and “boundaries,” as our principal focus is on questionable terminology in the academic literature. Nevertheless, we touch on a handful of pop psychology terms (e.g., closure, splitting) that have migrated into at least some academic domains.
Our “eyeball cluster analysis” of these 50 terms has led us to group them into five overarching and partly overlapping categories for expository purposes: inaccurate or misleading terms, frequently misused terms, ambiguous terms, oxymorons, and pleonasms. Terms in all five categories, we contend, have frequently sown the seeds of confusion in psychology, psychiatry, and related fields, and in so doing have potentially impeded (a) their scientific progress and (b) clear thinking among students.
  • First, some psychological terms are inaccurate or misleading. For example, the term “hard-wired” as applied to human traits implies that genes rigidly prescribe complex psychological behaviors (e.g., physical aggression) and traits (e.g., extraversion), which is almost never the case. 
  • Second, some psychological terms are not incorrect per se, but are frequently misused. For example, although “splitting” carries a specific meaning as a defensive reaction in psychodynamic theory, it is commonly misused to refer to the propensity of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and related conditions to pit staff members against each other. 
  • Third, some psychological terms are ambiguous, because they can mean several things. For example, the term “medical model” can refer to any one (or more) of at least seven conceptual models of mental illness and its treatment. 
  • Fourth, some psychological terms are oxymorons. An oxymoron is a term, such as open secret, precise estimate, or final draft, which consists of two conjoined terms that are contradictory. For example, the term “stepwise hierarchical regression” is an oxymoron because stepwise and hierarchical multiple regression are incompatible statistical procedures. 
  • Fifth, some psychological terms are pleonasms. A pleonasm is a term, such as PIN number, Xerox copy, or advance warning, which consists of two or more conjoined terms that are redundant. For example, the term “latent construct” is a pleonasm because all psychological constructs are hypothetical and therefore unobservable.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

William James, Schrödinger, and James Watson

Business Insider - Richard Feloni | Aug 13, 2015
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's 2015 New Year's resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community. Zuckerberg's book club, A Year of Books, has focused on big ideas that influence society and business. For his 16th pick, he's gone with "The Varieties Of Religious Experience" by William James (1842-1919).

During his tenure at Harvard, James became the most famous American philosopher and psychologist of his time, and is still "considered by many to be the most insightful and stimulating of American philosophers," according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. From 1901-1902, James gave a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh on why humans adhere to religion, and these were collected as "The Varieties of Religious Experience."
His writings explore the religious consciousness and the mechanics of how people use religion as a source of meaning, compelling them to move onward through life with energy and purpose.
Zuckerberg explains his latest book-club pick on his personal Facebook page: When I read Sapiens, I found the chapter on the evolution of the role of religion in human life most interesting and something I wanted to go deeper on. William James was a philosopher in the 1800s who shaped much of modern psychology.
Zuckerberg added that he's currently on vacation with his wife Priscilla and that James' lectures on religion seemed like "some light vacation reading!" Considering the heaviness of nearly all of his other book-club picks, it's hard to tell if he's being sarcastic. A Year of Books so far:
"The Muqaddimah" by Ibn Khaldun
"The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks
"Energy: A Beginner's Guide" by Vaclav Smil

On Schrödinger's birthday, how his talk "What is Life?" captivated DNA researcher James Watson -
Schrödinger’s What Is Life was delivered in 1944 and was later published in book form. Watson read it two years later as a third-year student and was captivated. “I realised it was very important and it was the book that turned me towards biology.” [

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ethical commands need to change in response to time and space

Dr. Chitta R. Goswami
At this age of science, a little scientific attitude could go a long way to deliver the mind from being occupied by unexamined postulates gotten from second hand sources. Science encourages us to question everything; it shows us the process of arriving at a conclusion. Another great thing of scientific culture is that it never fails to admit mistakes; it is always ready to accept new discoveries. Knowledge is boundless, nobody can claim that one person or one tradition has exhausted all knowledge. Of course, scientific knowledge and method of inquiry may differ from the knowledge and method of inquiry of spiritual verities. For example, existence of God or the soul may not be established the way the existence of magnetism can be established. All the same, even where external proofs are not feasible and quantification is not applicable, reasoning can help to establish the validity of supernatural verities. Of course, things of other dimensions, even if established indirectly through reasoning, cannot satisfy us till these verities come to our experience directly. Here lies the difference in the method of pursuing two different types of knowledge. Still, we may not give up the scientific approach. Depth psychology is not truly a material science; it should not be tethered to the process followed by material sciences. That is why Biofeedback has been developed as a tool of measuring inner psychological changes. However, biofeedback may not be applied to all the phenomena of inner psychological states or processes; still the scientific approach should not be discouraged. How deep has been one’s state of meditation can be ascertained by checking his/her rate of heart beats, brain waves, body temperature etc. Similarly, it may not be easy to ascertain the depth of some one’s creative inspiration by the use of tools; the product of inspiration would be the measure of the inspiration. It may be more difficult to measure cosmic consciousness somebody might have entered into. Here again, we may have to be satisfied by indirect proofs.
Scientific attitude may help us in many other ways. If we take up the doctrines of different religions, we encounter many contrary statements. For example, Early Buddhists do not believe in a permanent soul, which survives our physical death. On the other hand, Hindus believe in a permanent soul, which takes individuals from birth to birth.How do you reconcile these two propositions? Mere intellectual belief in either of the propositions may make us behave differently; but the objective of both Buddhism and Hinduism is to have the experience the truth since through such experience of the other dimension of truth, one can be liberated from the limitations of knowledge and imperfections of life in general. Can both the statements be equally true? If you cannot reconcile the two, do you accept the Hindu statement just because you are born in a Hindu family? Scientific attitude prompts you to keep your mind open, not bound by a particular doctrine. If you have the urge to verify both the statements, you may have to experiment with the methods attached to either of the doctrines. Thus, it may be possible for you to come to reconciliation. Obviously, a vast majority of people does not have either the ability or the inclination to undertake such a job.These people are urged by the priestly class to stick to their hereditary belief system to avoid sin. This is how solidarity of a common faith is built; this is how antagonistic groups are formed, which at times may lead to communal riots or holy wars. Votaries of truth cannot accept this situation. They need to expose the irrational bigotry of religious enthusiasts.
Religion and the Spirit of Science
The spirit of science may go a long way to relieve human mind of the burden of carrying a load of unexamined dogmas.
Another difference between the scientific and the religious attitude is that science looks for new findings and it is always ready to correct or modify its position in the light of new findings. Religion, on the other hand, sticks to ancient books or beliefs even though these may sound opaque, antiquated and unsuitable for present time and mode of life.Religion tries many devices to validate its stance, sometimes by apologetics, sometimes by fabricating tortured interpretation of the tradition. The world has seen a superb example of this kind of falsehood in Taliban regime of Afghanistan. That regime did, among many other atrocious things, van music and enslave women.
It is depressing to note that the scientific spirit is spurned even in the most advanced country in science and technology. Feverish religionism is most manifest, among modernized countries, in the United States. Thousands of churches in this country are devoted to evangelicalism; they want to convert the rest of the world to their type of enthusiasm for Jesus without whom, they aver, there is no salvation.
Am I suggesting that America has to espouse Indian spirituality? By no means. All that I advocate is that at this age of Globalism, it is necessary to open oneself to different models of other cultures. I have made it clear that Indian spiritual tradition emphasizes the ideal of experiencing the truth by an expansion and deepening of one’s consciousness; whereas Semitic religions have given pivotal place to principles of ethics. I am not claiming that all Indians are striving for the realizing the highest truth. Everybody, not excluding the spiritual aspirants, has to follow certain ethical principles. The West has to realize that ethical commands, however hallowed, may need to change in response to time, space and other factors. posted by Dr. Chitta R. Goswami @ 10:56 AM

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Violence in the political sphere is not going to disappear

My first reread of Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy in nearly 30 years. The refreshing thing about Russell, whatever his faults, is that he is so damn clear. A publisher once remarked that Russell still sells big even now, and it’s actually not hard to see why. Posted by doctorzamalek

A parallel biography of Giordano Bruno and Francisco Suárez.

Both were born in 1548, but they could hardly have led different lives, even though both started out in the priesthood. Bruno’s professional existence was picaresque: beginning with murder accusations in Italy, and extending through humiliation by Calvinists in Geneva and Aristotelians in Paris, the provocation of his hosts in England (where Bruno did his best work), and ultimately arrest and execution after years in a dungeon. He was a literary genius of not much lesser magnitude than Plato or Nietzsche, and heralded a modern philosophy that he was not quite centered enough to piece together in his own mind.

Suárez was initially rejected by the Jesuits for being insufficiently bright, but stayed with the Church and was eventually the hero of the (philosophically underrated) neo-Scholastic resurgence in Spain and Portugal. His multi-volume Metaphysical Disputations was read like adventure novels by the young Leibniz, and thus passed into the heart of modern philosophy along a different path. Presumably he approved of the burning of Bruno in 1600 if he ever heard of it.

Yet there is also a powerful philosophical connection between them on questions of matter and form, and this could be made just as interesting as the striking contrast in the lives and fates of these two children of 1548. Posted by doctorzamalek

For anyone who reads German, the article has now been posted HERE.

As has already been widely discussed in the blogosphere, Günter Figal will not be replaced when he shortly retires from his historically important Freiburg chair.

Admittedly, the story of Heidegger’s politics only gets uglier over time. Some say that we knew it all along, but not really: in the recently published Black Notebooks Heidegger reaches previously unfamiliar lows.


(a) the Freiburg chair was Husserl’s before it was Heidegger’s, and would be historically important through its link with Husserl alone.

(b) Heidegger cannot be airbrushed out of the history of philosophy, and if there is any university chair in the world well-positioned to address the problem posed by this crucial but strangely repellant figure, it is the old Husserl/Heidegger chair in Freiburg.
Posted by doctorzamalek

Eric Schliesser in Amsterdam (who is a leading expert on Adam Smith, among other things) offers THIS POST in response to my Sonic Acts interview in Amsterdam, which touched on politics a bit. Schliesser seems to agree with me on a number of issues, and also adds Frank Knight and J.M. Keynes to the disussion (two figures I never mentioned in Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political).

Schliesser makes at least two possibly useful criticisms of my position. First, he thinks I am wrong to associate public caution with Socratic ignorance; let me think about that one for awhile. Second, he seems to wonder whether it’s true (as I tacitly claim) that academic groupthink is a bigger danger than bad politics of the Rightist variety. I think that depends on the sphere in which one is operating. On specific political issues (the environment, workers’ rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the Egyptian Revolution in its early stages) I often feel drawn to the Left position. The big exception for me is that I’ve never been impressed by the often knee-jerk reactions against the use of violence: e.g., depicting police as primarily and essentially a force of oppression, or reflexive anti-Americanism. It’s easy to take the moral high ground against racist cops or the U.S. military, but I’m more interested in hearing people talk about how they would like to see violence employed. Violence in the political sphere is not going to disappear, and even if the hard Left gets its way, that violence will not consist exclusively in expropriating ill-gotten wealth from Wall Street. You’ll still need to deal with violent criminals, and you’ll still need to deal with genuinely unresolvable violent international conflicts. These sorts of factors are too often missing from Left programs in politics. You have to keep yourself honest in discussing the proper use of force in human affairs, and not just denounce the strongest forces each time they act. That’s just another way of passing on the hard issues of politics by installing oneself on the throne of superior morality.

An anecdote: some of the most thoughtful political thinkers I’ve met in my life have been high-level military officers– in Egypt, in Turkey, and in the United States. Now, it would be easy to denounce that entire profession as a bunch of unhinged aggressors and war-mongers. Yet it has been remarkable to me how un-ideological these officers have been: how in tune they tend to be with reality, and how able to cut through media hysteria and sort true threats from illusory ones. I listened as a right-wing American officer disgustedly dissected the failings of the Bush Administration for which he worked, and from which he eventually resigned. I heard a Turkish officer prudently weigh the various threats along Turkey’s borders in a manner that, while completely convincing, bore no resemblance at all to any account of the region that you’ll find anywhere in the mainstream or even non-mainstream media, but which was based in factual assessments. I even listened in astonishment as an Egyptian general, one of the architects of the surprise 1973 Suez Canal crossing, offered grudging respect to none other than Ariel Sharon: “He defended his people, just as I would defend Egypt.”

What I admire about the military profession as a whole is the way it is constrained by realities instead of by moralisms, including moralisms dressed up as science. Disclaimer: it is not my claim that morality is irrelevant to politics, as some hardcore political realists tend to think. This is why I have critiqued the excessive Hobbesianism of the early Latour. But since the confusion of politics with morality is the bigger excess in academia than right-wing notions, it is just as important to counter Left ideologies in academia as it is to cheer for resistance in the public sphere. This can change as circumstances change. Posted by doctorzamalek

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Orwell and Huxley were right after all

The Romantic Movement itself arose as a reaction against Newton’s materialism as promulgated by advocates of 18th century scientism, but they ended up in the end becoming conservatives longing for a great man like Napoleon and the total state, a secular messiah, to arise. Hegel was just another in a long line of Romantics uniting Hermetic philosophy and the mystical ideas of such seers as Jacob Boehme with Imperialist sympathies. The so called Modernist Movement did the exact same thing in the early 20th century. What we are witnessing today is just another cyclical round of the same anti-science, anti-technological, neo-mystical Medievalist romanticism that we saw at the turn of the 19th century, the early 20th century, then again in the 1960-70’s and now in the early 21st century. In the face of tremendous change and the upheaval brought about through technological advancement it seems human nature likes to turn to an imaginary glorified past, an Eden in which everything was Golden and we lived in a utopia among the gods. 
Hesiod, the ancient mythmaker, in the Theogony spells out this longing for antiquity and Plato takes it up as well. It was thought that the closer to the source of creation you approached, the truer and more golden the age is seen to be. Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s pinning for the tribalist primitive ideal man is just more of this phantasmagorical nonsense that today’s greens spout ad nauseam. Evolution is a One Way Street to the future, there is no going back for humanity, no return to the Garden of Eden which our desire for knowledge kicked us out of, for to try to return would spell disaster. Here’s a fascinating fact: transhumanism is actually an extension and a longing to complete the Hermetic, gnostic and Alchemical vision of antiquity only now it is through the full and complete evolution of science and technology itself that humanity will be transformed and given eternal youth and life. [...]
Utopia lies ahead of us, but it will only come about through evolutionary processes and that was Marx’s and the Classical Liberal’s genius, that they saw this fact, which the techno-optimists have actually proven. That is why my book is so new as it is a corrective to show that in order for the left to be a vital force again, ultimately it has to rediscover elements in its roots. It has to reclaim the Promethean ideal of humanity which Marx, Marxists, the Classical liberals and especially Ayn Rand once espoused and free itself of the nihilism, pessimism, irrationalism and conservative undercurrent that presently infests it and has sapped it of all of its real strength and vitality. [...]
As I state in the book, in the realm of abundance there is no need for the political state as we have known it. It is an old social technology that may have been needed in the realm of scarcity, but will soon not be necessary any longer. The withering away of the state is finally at hand. The natural evolutionary rise of a new distributed system of management gives more and more power and control back to individuals and society. Omniarchy, the rule of all by all, becomes at last feasibly possible due to advancing technology. Here is another area of convergence where the ideas of Marx and libertarians like A. J. Galambos converge, [...]

With prices and profits falling and the possibility of greater technological unemployment, what can the welfare state tax to then redistribute? For example look at New York City’s loss of taxi cab medallion revenue from ride sharing, or loss of state and federal governments taxing and controlling energy as solar power becomes more affordable and efficient. If everyone can become energy independent, or if you can produce more and more of your own products in your own home, and do more and more business with other people directly worldwide, what power does the political class wield anymore? Why do we need any international treaties on trade when the internet is bringing global trade with each other to the fore as a natural evolutionary process? The nation state is also beginning to wither away by this very process; the post office itself is teetering on the brink of dissolution. If the welfare state turns to inflating the money supply to meet its expenses we have an even greater disaster in store. [...]

So what we need to do first I think is to do what Marx said we should do, “Question Everything!” and to take his next sage advice, “That which is leaning, deserves to be pushed!” The worst thing that we could do is to help steady and re-right the leaning political and legal structures of our time, to pour fresh cement into their crumbling foundations.  That would be to support the status quo and that would be disastrous for us, the world and humanity.

What I feel that we must do today to be truly revolutionary is to free ourselves of the baneful ideological poison that comes from the right-wing Hegelians, like Lassalle who worshiped the State, and get back in touch with the left-wing Hegelian’s who foresaw that the State was destined to wither away and a new holographic system, a holoarchy, would arise that would allow individuals to perfect themselves and to become the best they could be in a social and economic structure that gave them the time and abundance to do so.
Techno-progressives understand the need for a clean and healthy environment, But we see the process as evolutionary. As science and technology evolves it becomes more efficient, cleaner, smaller and using less resources per unit. This is upheld by every historic statistic. The neo-primitive ideological narrative is thus a resurgence of Romanticism in modern culture that unfortunately, the way it is portrayed today, threatens humanity's very evolutionary advance to the stars. At ebb tide, where change is happening quickly in society, many humans fear change and long for the very stable and static past. It is a delusion fueled by fear of the unknown, of change, of what the Future requires of us.

India in the post-Marxist era is now free to rediscover its own cultural ethos says @davidfrawleyved in @DailyO_.
Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda provided the foundation before the Marxists. It is time to bring back their influence.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Gandhi's brahmacarya was a kind of feminism

by Veena R. Howard (March 1, 2013) 

Even though the scholarship on Gandhi is vast, this book takes a unique approach to understanding his life and methods. Through a comprehensive study of Gandhi's own words and cultural and historical context, this book probes the role of Gandhi's ascetic practices, specifically his unconventional brahmacarya, in nonviolent activism. Since the beginning of his career as a political activist, Gandhi's revolutionary techniques in the field of social and political conflict resolution have drawn the attention of the international community. Despite scathing appraisals of some of his political ideologies and personal idiosyncrasies, Gandhi's life and methods continue to capture the popular imagination through a variety of media—books, films, plays, and a recent opera. Each year popular and academic volumes are added to the ever-expanding literature on Gandhi's philosophy in a number of areas and disciplines. In recent years, many mass movements across the globe confronting religious, political, and social injustice, environmental and food crises, and economic inequality have generated a renewed interest in Gandhi's life and nonviolent methods, affirming their relevance to contemporary challenges.

During one of the seminars on Gandhi that I cotaught at the University of Oregon, Gandhi's frank autobiographical recollections of his “experiments with truth” intrigued the participants. However, the sections on Gandhi's vow of brahmacarya, which exposes his obsessive and antagonistic feelings toward sex, generated a different kind of reaction in the class: a feeling of palpable discomfort, even awe. A wide variety of questions emerged: Why was Gandhi so preoccupied with sexual control? What about love, and, more importantly, what about his wife's feelings and desires? What does a personal sex life have to do with political activism? These inquiries immediately stirred my thoughts, and I realized that these responses are not limited to Western students, but have been part of a worldwide scholarly discourse on Gandhi.

Gandhi's brahmacarya and his views on sexuality continue to draw attention and cause suspicion among scholars who search for the reasons behind his unusual interest in sexual renunciation and its centrality in his political activism. Yet there exists no comprehensive study that systematically explores Gandhi's own explanations and actions—documented in his thousands of pages of writings—for this nuanced practice, which might help us understand the broader questions of the value of sacrifice, discipline, and ritual and mythical performance in activism.

However, in the current era, poetic and artistic expressions of sexuality have taken on new license. The everyday barrage of sexual imagery, the overt obsession with sex by youth and contemporary culture, the fixation on sex exhibited by many powerful adult celebrities (in varied fields from politics to sports), Internet pornography, as well as the ever-growing research on the powerful effect of sex on our daily lives, have overpowered the parallel strand of virtuous self-control that until now was common in human societies for much of history. In this contemporary cultural setting, even a discussion of celibacy seems odd.

Celibacy has come to represent an antithesis of life affirmation: it is viewed as denial of the body and emotions; world-rejecting, unhealthy, the solitary pursuit of a few religious men and women, an oddity, and an impossible expectation. Sex, on the other hand, is perceived as an affirmation of all that exists: central to physical, emotional, and social well-being; the foundation of creativity and constructive behavior; the essence of life and the life of love. Unlike Saint Augustine and Swami Vivekananda, who warned their followers against the snares of sex, modern media gurus, including Oprah and Dr. Oz, recount to the masses the benefits of sex and guide them to experience its power. Against this background of an overtly sex-oriented society, on one hand, and the Indian religions' classic bifurcation between this-worldly aspirations and spiritual goals, on the other, Gandhi's celibacy appears on the surface to be a misplaced fixation, particularly as he advocated its practice for nonviolent social and political activism.
Gandhi's celibacy also appears odd due to modern views on female sexuality, which have been profoundly influenced by the sexual revolution of the West. The sexual revolution, which ushered in the belief in the right to sexual satisfaction for women, altered the psychological landscape of sexuality for both men and women. Conventional perceptions of “normal” sexuality shifted from a view of sex as a simple act of physical fulfillment for men, or a necessity for the production of children. It became, instead, an expression of “free love” and equality between both sexes. These new sexual mores, which notably went hand in hand with the women's liberation movement of the latter twentieth century, exist in the subconscious erotic culture of the Western (and now global) mind. But Gandhi lived in an era when this revolution had not yet taken place. From Gandhi's writings, it is apparent that sexuality in his era fit the more stereotypical model. For Gandhi, the constant need for male sexual satisfaction could be viewed as aggressive and violent. It could be seen as an endangerment to women's lives due to the hazards of childbirth; an obstacle to their well-being; and an impediment to their fuller participation in society and emancipation. In this way, Gandhi's brahmacarya was a kind of feminism.
Gandhian celibacy can thus be viewed as a sexual counterrevolution, of sorts, arising out of his indigenous views of sexuality. This reformulation of existing traditions included an attempt to pacify men and channel their sexual energies toward nonviolent resistance to injustice, while empowering women and liberating them to engage in a more active and activist lifestyle. No doubt, Gandhi was a complex figure, and his celibacy can be studied using different hermeneutical lenses. But if we are to take Gandhi's methods seriously, it is important to trace the self-representation of his austere practices and his cultural context while weighing his intent. It becomes clear that most of the ascetic principles Gandhi utilized for constructing his method—svarāj, satyagraha, and swadeshi, for example—carried both ascetic and political values, and they helped create a coherent narrative for moving the hearts of the masses toward action.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There is very little purity in belief

Re: Whose evidence to believe Ian Johnstone-Bryden
The difficulty in discussion of Abrahamic religions is that only the fundamentalist models are completely secure and fixed. Many of those following these religions are not fundamentalist and do not have any desire to be evangelical. The Christian religions are a large family of faiths that share some aspects but can be very different. Logically the same is true of some flavours of Islam because the position that 'no man should come between another and God', implies that each Muslim is controller of his or her own beliefs and therefore that there must be as many forms of Islam as there are followers.

Probably, an overwhelming majority takes a very pragmatic view of their particular religion. However, those same pragmatists can rapidly form up behind the fundamentalists against another religion, in the same way that those following religions that may not be classed as fundamentalist can show very similar intolerance and discrimination.

Unfortunately, most people build a picture in their own mind of what another religion is and that then becomes a box into which all who say they follow that religion are conveniently placed. It makes life simple and provides a clear focus for discrimination even though it is not logical and unfairly condemns.

To a fundamentalist Christian, only the Creation Theory is valid and this has led to conflict in the US where creationists fight to exclude Darwin's theories from schools. Some Darwinists are equally determined that creationism should not be taught, but may also consider themselves Christian. As Darwin's Theories are now widely accepted by many Christians, logic says that these individuals are not fundamentalist Christians but cannot argue with the individuals that they are not Christian.

There is very little purity in Christian belief because the faith prospered by absorbing festivals and beliefs from pagan religions and in some parts of South America, there are Catholic Christian communities that that would be considered heretical and pagan by some Christians. This pragmatism can apply to Hebrews. A colleague, who in his forties still obedient to his mother, a very orthodox Jew, enjoyed bacon sandwiches and enthusiastically enjoyed Christian festivals but was the model of orthodoxy at the Synagogue.

Usually what happens is that some very anti-social people hide behind religion and quote only those parts of the faith that support their positions. That applies to a great many religions. In Liberal Christianity, senior priests no longer believe in many of the teachings that were once followed blindly and some show little sign of even accepting God.

During the last forty years, we have been able to observe a new faith emerging that claims to be based on science. How far that proves to be a false faith will only be seen at some point in the distant future and even then there may be followers of the belief who refuse to accept any proof of fallibility. The Global Warmers who became Climate Changers may have deliberately distorted or hidden inconvenient facts to suit their beliefs, but their new faith includes correctly observed phenomena. The questions for debate are in the interpretation of the observations and the accuracy of conclusions drawn from observation and interpretation. As climate science is still a very long way from being a settled science, there will be observations that prove to be very accurate but interpretation may be shown to be seriously flawed.

As the new faith started out with a belief that human activity was causing a new Ice Age, it already has a questionable history. Those predicting a new Ice Age 40 years ago discovered that reality was not cooperating with their computer model predictions and they started to change their belief to blame human actions on increasing global temperatures. When the rate of warming slowed and then stopped, some scientists deliberately concealed data and deliberately misrepresented other data and produced new computer models that were designed to distort data to support earlier trends as a continuing and increasing trend. More recently, a new group of climate change believers have expressed horror that human activity is delaying and may halt the development of the next Ice Age which they claim should otherwise arrive in 1500 years time.

What this area of belief demonstrates is how a new faith can develop on the basis of accurately observed conditions that are interpreted to fit a pre-conceived belief and then for later observations to be distorted or suppressed to avoid the faith being discredited. In itself, it might form a part of a healthy debate of the environment and identify actions that many might wish to support for very sensible reasons. What makes it an extremely dangerous religion is that it includes a very aggressive proselytizing element. What makes it even more dangerous is that it coincides in various parts of the world with other older religions that are actively proselytizing. 

In much the same way, very few individuals ever chose a religion, but accept the religion of parents, extended family, the society in which they live. That also means that the views of those few individuals who have studied a specific religion may be significantly different from the general view of a religion by its followers. For a great many people, religion is only lightly accepted. It is used as the setting for celebration of a birth, the coming of age, marriage, and death. Outside those occasions religion is not a great consideration but that may not reduce the value of belief, just position it as a background guide. 

Dear TNM, A discussion on the topic of Religion in the context of Sri Aurobindo's and The Mother's Integral Yoga is welcome, if deemed necessary. However, we are of the opinion that it is better to establish and lay down the facts before engaging in unending debates.
With regards to the Supreme Court Judgment, one can keep arguing about matters of Religion and Spirituality forever as these are merely a play of words. But for those who choose to play with words and the Law that is defined by these words, the Supreme Court Judgment establishes that enough has been said and argued on this subject and this matter can now be laid to rest, unless this Judgment is now sought to be reviewed or challenged.
Moreover, in the interest of Truth let us not get distracted by the never-ending arguments of legal experts or the polemics of self-appointed custodians of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Let us instead pay heed to the words and actions of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother who have: - Clearly stated that the ideals, teachings and the institutions they founded were not part of any religion whatsoever. They also acted according to these principles. - Have clarified that it is not their purpose to propagate any religion, new or old. - Unequivocally discouraged their followers from being religious. These are the undisputed facts and the only ones that matter. But in case there is any information that is to the contrary, you or others are invited to present it here, as the purpose of this website is to present information that is factual and truthful.
However, we would like to add that we are of the opinion that if some of Sri Aurobindo's and The Mother's followers wish to establish a new religion in the name, ideals or teachings of their Masters, they are of course free and welcome to attempt it. It is entirely up to them to try and reconcile their preferred personal beliefs and intentions while going against the directions and guidance of their Masters. If this is the path that these followers choose, so be it.
But there is absolutely no reason or justification for the rest of the followers to get misled by a few individuals who wish to further their personal views and preferences by creating the Myths of a non-existent religious movement. Editors, Auro Truths. February 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sri Aurobindo recovered the lost mind of India

Sankaracarya's influence on the Indian religious mind--A bird's eye view
Sri Lanka Guardian - Basil Fernando - Aug 25, 2011(August 26, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian)
India became a society having replaced religion with humanism quite early. The Western world came to this stage only after the greater acceptance of Darwinism. Even so, until today, finding a basis for morality outside a belief in God remains one of the West’s main concerns. This issue was resolved early in India however, through the rejection of religion, which had created enormous chaos in many parts of the country due to practices such as large scale animal sacrifices—causing serious problems for farmers—and through other modes of exploitation of the people by priests. Anti-priest and anti-religious attitudes thus grew among the people. The replacement of religion was led by movements of Jainism and Buddhism, which introduced a new mode of social cooperation with reason as the basis of morality. …
In the 20th century, Sri Aurobindo lamented the death of the Indian mind and devoted the latter part of his life to recover the lost mind of India. Living in Pondicherry, he tried to motivate young people to regain their lost heritage. Another great Indian, Dr B R Ambedkar, attempted to pursue the same goal as Sri Aurobindo through attempts to reawaken the Untouchables, renamed Dalits by him. In an attempt to reclaim India’s lost glory, he publicly became a Buddhist together with a large gathering. …
The man who was destined to bring about the death of the Indian mind, (which Sri Aurobindo later vowed to revive), was intellectually a brilliant Sankar known as Sankaracarya, who brought about the revival of religion with his poems and hymns. He introduced a kind of theism, complete with myths and rituals. Indians of later generations were indoctrinated and immersed in such ritualism and worship. Whether there is any other nation as deeply enslaved to its rituals and religion as India is hard to tell. …
In the West, replacement of religion took place mostly due to science, and particularly due to Darwinism. In the Christian West, the belief in one God was established and all explanations regarding the world and society were based on this belief. When the belief that God created the world was lost, these religious explanations lost their validity.
The acceptance of science in India has unfortunately not led to the same result. The internal process influencing the mind has not changed due to science. Perhaps the manner in which Indian religion has affected the Indian mind is different than in the West. The kind of religion that was established in India needs to be understood better if the enterprise undertaken by Sri Aurobindo, Ambedkar and other modernizers, including the country’s first prime-minister Jawaharlal Nehru is to succeed. … ( W.J. Basil Fernando is a Sri Lankan born jurist, author, poet, human rights activist, editor. He can be reached at [Indian Idea of Political Resistance: Aurobindo, Tilak, Gandhi, and Ambedkar Ashok S. Chousalkar - Dec 1990)] [God Market: How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu Nanda, Meera - Mar 1, 2009)]