Letters Concerning Time, Complexity, Ecology, Buddhism, Astrology, etc..
As I am reading Lawlor’s book, which is all about the yuga system, I am wondering more about the relationship of the yugas to the zodiac, the vedic system to the western system, sidereal to tropical, etc. So I will be diving into that soon. Up till now I have been more focused on understanding and situating ideas within evolutionary and historical developments in consciousness and culture and have been less impressed by the cyclical theories that have been so contradictory and conflicting. It has made more sense up until now to look at more broad trends in the changes of man’s conception of time than specific correlations through a single frame. Spengler is interesting to me because of the historical detail but when I tried reading more explicitly astrological books before I found Rudhyar, it seemed too narrow. I tried reading Cosmos and Psyche a number of years ago and found it to be too much like a list of correspondences that misses the richness of someone like Spengler. Rudhyar is already proving my assumptions about astrology wrong, and maybe I will give Tarnas another try once I am a little more familiar with the astrological lens. I loved his book on philosophy. Maybe I just wasn’t ready.
It helps me to see things in a larger framework before I get too into someone’s particular theory. I recently read Joscelyn Godwin’s book on Atlantis and the Cycles of Time, which is an exhaustive account of the history of theories on ages. It is quite clear in the book how much a product of their times all these theories have been. Compared to the endless speculation on historic ages, the shorter timescales of astrology are probably on much firmer ground.
I also believe complexity theory is a sign of an new cosmology. And I think it has interesting links with post-modernism in that post-modernism deconstructs the metaphysics that would otherwise distort acausal complexity into deterministic chaos. I part ways with deterministic models of chaos at pretty foundational levels and I even have some major problems with the post-structural complexity of Deleuze and Paul Cillier. Though I want to read Paul’s book soon. It does look worth reading. There is much to learn from everyone tackling these issues. Wolfram is certainly interesting.
Another theorist, Douglass A. White calls his approach “observer physics” which is a term I like. He is way over my head mathematically in many of his papers, but he is building off of Miles Mathis who has helped me a lot lately learn some of the foundational issues with mathematics. There are some other people using Mathis and combining him with Dewey Larson’s reciprocal systems theory: http://rs2theory.org/
Being less mathematically inclined, I draw more from Mae Wan Ho and Dan Winter who are more concretely fleshing out the physics. Also I really love Susie Vrobel’s book Fractal Time. She is leading a whole fractal institute and interdisciplinary culture in Europe and they call their approach “endo-physics”. Physics of the inside. They have connections to Notalle, the main theorist of fractal space-time, and Mohammed ElNaschie, the infamous theorist of fractal cosmology. Vrobel’s book has summary articles by both these men in the back of her book and Mae Wan Ho uses them in the third edition of her main book, Rainbow and the Worm, both of which, together have become my bible.
These are the pioneers along with many other people involved with those I mentioned. Mae Wan Ho covers many of them in her books. Dan WInter is connected to a lot of interesting people working in the more New Age camp. Though he is a terrible writer, occultist Vincent Bridges summarizes his key points well. Check it out:
“1. The universe is made of one substance. The compressibility of this universal medium stores form and memory in wave shape. Einstein’s famous equation E = MC2 shows that energy and mass are the same thing, in different forms. 2. The universe has one wave shape, the sine wave. This principle of frequency signatures called “Fourier”
means that even the most complex shape is a simple sum of sine waves of different lengths. 3. The universe can be described as a geometry of
pressure. Geometry produces symmetry, which allows waves proceeding from opposite directions to meet each other and stand (to phase and phase-lock.) Standing waves give the illusion of stability, segregation of momentum, and make possible the birth of matter. Pressure occurs where waves meet. Ratio is sacred; scale is profane. If the geometry of replication is embraced in a seed of any scale,it is ratio that has the power. Size is unimportant where information is concerned, since information can travel to any scale via the wave guide, and be manifested. The universe is a hologram; even the tiniest part contains information about the whole. 4. Focus is the only medium that creates, in a universe made of waves. Focus creates a pathway, or gravity, for waves to meet. According to the “Attractor” theory in mathematics,focus converges the harmonics (waves which fit into each other) into nests which stand, called matter. 5. Shape is the only thing the universe has to conserve. Naming, and memory, ring out only from differences in shape, not substance. 6. The only way to conserve shape along a path is to maintain the ratio of length, area and volume (a nest of ratios.) 7. The best pathway
to maintain a nest of ratios is the golden mean (Phi). Phi squared and Phi cubed are represented by the ratcheted dodecahedron (DNA). This pathway enables information (shape) to be moved without loss of momentum (mind). The closer a material comes to forming this shape and path, the greater its conductivity. Think of superconductivity that is super-coherence of resonance or wave shape. 8. Coherence at any level is coherence at every level. An orderly relation between wave lengths establishes a connection between frequencies and fields, which cannot persist unless it resonates to ALL frequencies and fields. This harmonic cascade (Jacob’s Ladder) establishes the connectedness called holography, and also ecstasy. 9. DNA is a four-dimensional dodecahedron, in the sense that adding one spin to three dimensions adds a harmonic and a nest for memory. (The pressure envelopes of the little bubbles of light which make up the matter of the gene are enfolded or enveloped with another harmonic, with each successive axis of spin, or symmetry.) The DNA double-helix keeps a set of wavelengths evenly spaced on a path through time and space, thus conserving the wave shape.
10. Light, when folded back on itself, comes to know itself. The spiral-within-a-spiral-within-a-spiral creates genetic material at all levels. Light causes an extra axis of spin, which superimposes a harmonic of frequencies upon a nest of frequencies in an envelope of pressure we call light as matter. This creates extra mind, because the universal mind meets itself at every wave intersection. So the denser the intersections, or nodes, the greater the self-knowingness, or sense of identity.
Thus identity in the cell (immunity) and coherence are the same thing, metabolically and emotionally”.
While that may sound far out, I think it is a good distillation of what more serious scientists are finding out. Mae Wan’s work with water is talking about the same stuff in more technical terms. Dan Winter is a new age electrical engineer that is good at making metaphors, but him and his pals are busy designing technology on this stuff. My work is bringing critical philosophy to bear on this stuff. I respect the post-modern attempts, but as I mentioned they have certain drawbacks. Deleuze’s theories of morphogenesis are antithetical to the key metaphors of organism and coherence. Post-modernism can’t help but see any kind of hierarchy or causality as being repressive. But I have to say I think Jung and archetypes are a dead end in the other direction. Tarnas and Swimme follow Bohm and Jung too strongly in looking for arche-structures that have been outdated by post-modern epistemology or what my favorite critic of classical and neo-classical science Arkady Plotnitsky calls “anti-epistemolgy”.
Charles Muses speaks of “resonant causality” which is closer to what I speak of. Whatever metaphors you want to use, I think what is important is to understand that context is infinite and any model depends on analogical abstractions into dualistic/digital codes that track the symmetry breaks. In Mae Wan’s terms, incoherence creates time and entropy, and in Vrobel’s terms, nesting into greater coherence increases temporal depth (qualitative time)and reduces temporal length (linear quantitative time). At any rate, one of the key things to visualize is how systems don’t cause anything as much they organize patterns that determine how waves meet. There are seemingly continuous, causal connections as well as discontinuous breaks because there is no ontological system as such. Systems create their own “being” as ontological ground by determining the phase of waves and connecting with other influences in novel ways through their constructive interference. So if one were in some multidimensional space one could follow the connections as they twist through time, space and infinite dimensions. It still wouldn’t really be causal because there are no real “initial conditions”, which is obviously dependent on a very limited context and linear time. But it could seem continuous. Stuck in linear time, or just “one level of description” as Vrobel calls un-nested time, one would see many “acausal” breaks in symmetry which could then by “synchronistically” correlated. But I think recent advances in quantum physics are pointing to what is really going on. Its all about coherence, or the break in coherence that determines quantum effects. Things seem causally connected and correlated when they are in phase, but phase is relative. Simultaneity is relative. Mae Wan Ho is right to make quantum coherence the central principle. It is the magic of phase correlation that each oscillator appears independent, though one can construct any world of correlations out of them. Everything is caused by everything. But really there is only one thing, so nothing is really happening. 🙂
I am really looking forward to reading Complexity and Post-Modernism. I ordered it yesterday but I have been looking through the sample text on amazon and am very impressed. I had assumed he would be following Deleuze or Latour which has been the trend in post-structural complexity theory, or otherwise following suit with network ontology. Instead it looks like he is relying more on Derrida and Connectionism, which I think open us up to the kinds of phase conjugate dynamics that I suggested to you in my last message. Derridean quasi-transcendence and the distributed information of the neural networks of connectionism I think are important precursors to the non-local dynamics of true consciousness, that is, phase conjugation. It looks like he even gets into cellular automatons, and Shannon’s information theory. If you ever want to read some excellent popular style books on this stuff, I highly suggest Jeremy Campbell’s books from the 80’s. “Grammatical Man:Information Entropy Language and Life” is the best book on information theory around, and the two books after that “Winston’s Churchill’s Afternoon Nap” and “The Improbable Machine” are on Chronobiology and Connectionist theories of AI respectively.
Also, I just wanted to clarify my hasty comments on Jung and archetypes. After so many years of reading alternative theory books, I admit I am a bit short tempered when I ever smell the touch of Jungian archetypes or Bohmian implicate order. I read too many bad boring books before I figured out why they seemed so wrong to me. Now I have much more appreciation, but I can do so with a measured critical context for the way that lineage of thought goes about things. I ended up reading alternative books even while still in college where I was told structural typologies were dead yet in the conservative atmosphere at the U of Illinois, they never told me about post-structuralism. Bored with the mere celebration of difference that had become cultural studies in the late 90’s (before it had become the almost insane commitment to identity politics it is today), I started reading Joseph Campbell after being told my anthropological hero Claude Levi-Strauss was no longer taken seriously. I wanted to study the universal structures. I got corralled in “perennial philosophy” and all that goes along with it which has become the New Age. It wasn’t until I found post-structuralism that I was able to get the critical tools from the Nietzschean post-modernists and the more historically situated traditions of Hegel and Marx, to reconnect with the universal without falling into the traditionalist trap. And when it comes to science, I think the neo-classical determinism of Bohm is even more of a dead end. I think there is a greater danger in literalizing the Gods and archetypes into scientific “objective” structures and implicate orders than there were in traditional accounts of the transcendental.
But like I said, I am critical of post-modernism for many of the reasons those in the New Age are. I don’t think Tarnas’s treatment of it in his philosophy book showed much of an understanding, but his critiques are right on. Marxists have had similar things to say about the reification of difference in post-modernism since before there were any post-labels on all the hyper-critical deconstructions of traditions in post-war theory. Deleuze who, to his credit, tries to move past all the language games into a real engagement with complexity theory and even attempts an ontology, I think ends up in a dead end himself. In following the post-modern logic, which leftist critic Fredric Jameson rightly calls the cultural logic of late capitalism, Deleuze ends up fetishizing difference, creativity, immanence, and destruction of any ordered system beyond the network logic of simple emergent correlation. It is in short, materialism, albeit a virtual materialism so reflective of the astral/etheric matrices of late capitalist digital media.
My point being, I think these differences are important. On one hand, you have a New Age longing for traditional structures and archetypes to help order and “re-enchant” the cosmos as Tarnas and Swimme are fond of saying. But what you get with them is an attempt to merely “heal” the classical/romantic divide and create a religion out of science. Swimme turns the obviously self-reflexive big-bang theory and makes it a nice traditional myth for the new science religion. I am all for creating coherence, but if it is not understood to be a process of mediation than your holism is just another foundationalism with metaphysical violence on the horizon.
On the other hand, you have post-modernism, which has become so stubbornly anti-metaphysics, anti-archetype, or in Deleuze’s case even anti-organism, that any stable structures are impossible. And we desperately need stable structures if we are to confront the immense global problems emerging on the horizon this century. But I don’t think the eco-science religion that Swimme and Tarnas teach at CIIS is up to the task. For once I agree with Ken Wilber. Though his hierarchical systems theory is frightening. In both cases, you have the same New Age obsession with structural typology. Maps are a dangerous substitute for communication.
But I am not putting down traditions. I am very interested in history, myth and symbolism. Astrology is fascinating, and I agree with Rudhyar that it can help form a language for a new culture. But he was very clear that this could easily slide into what Spenglar considered the degenerate cycle of romanticism that embraces decontextualized ideas from old or foreign cultures, ossifying into new cults as the larger culture loses legitimacy and meaning. The promise of organized knowledge has always been spoiled by the naturalizing of its structures. What post-modern science and theory have done for us is make us aware how contingent all meaning is.
Using traditional symbols, building historical context is helpful and important, just as cataloging the stars and our genome has been. But the stars, like our genome are meaningless outside a context. To say this implies absolute immanence, I think is an overstatement. Derrida, my favorite post-structuralist, makes the point of saying that there is no way to avoid metaphysics, and while absolute transcendence may be an illusion, some kind of quasi-transcendence is crucial. I go from there and say, knowledge depends on building a coherent context with each other and our world. We create structure (mind) and use it to mediate the always changing phase differences. The kind of knowledge we need, the kind that occultists have symbolized since the beginning, is what science is now rediscovering: how to create constructive interference. Because there is no objective structures, no implicit order to represent. Every cause, every model, is a bid for power, and only through the right relations and mediation can we find that golden mean and connect with larger and larger systems of creative power. Maps are meaningless. Language, reality, meaning is co-created.
I haven’t read her or Maturana or Varela. Though I did recently read Bateson after going through much of William Irwin Thompson’s work and realizing Bateson was clued into the importance of symmetry breaking. They all have interesting versions of the same thing, but I am not a big fan of Buddhism so I have stayed away from Varela and Thompson’s son Evan. Maybe I will give Maurana a shot. I am sure there are insights there. Just as there are in Buddhism. I just think the future is along a different path–that there is only so far we can go along a network model. I gravitate more to the esoteric side of those people (like Lawlor and others that were part of Thompson’s Lindisfarne) just as I do with spiritual figures for I think esoteric science has the way forward. Buddhism and systems theory both tend to naturalize and objectify their models rather than underscoring the the power dynamics and ethical issues of framing/modeling/ and the creative force itself. One can see the downslide towards “re-enchanting” a cosmos by making subjectivity just an effect of natural systems. And right now we desperately need to decide what kind of world we are going to create and understand how we can harmonize systems. This is the wisdom the west has been trying to formalize since Pythagorous and the pre-socratics. The science of creation.
I spent the last couple days getting better acquainted with astrology. Reading Rudhyar and Tarnas. Cosmos and Psyche really is an admirable work. Tarnas really grasps that there is something on the other side of post-modernism, but I still think he retreats into romanticism, despite his efforts to the contrary. I remember sending him an email a few years ago suggesting he check out Paul Laviolette’s Genesis of the Cosmos. Paul is one of the new aether theorists that takes a system theory approach to fundamental physics. In addition to his fully fleshed-out cosmology, he reads mythology and astrology into fundamental stages in sub-quantum processes. I thought Tarnas might like him, but I never got a response.
I actually like the word archetype. Much better than Plato’s “forms”. My favorite spiritual thinker Sri Aurobindo uses the phrase “real-ideas” to connote they are concrete powers not abstract forms, but it doesn’t have the nice ring of archetype. What I have a problem with is the way they are understood in western metaphysics. Tarnas devotes considerable space in Cosmos and Psyche struggling to unhinge the word from its problematic associations. But again, despite his many astute hedges and qualifications, he ends up characterizing them in ways that are very open to deconstruction.
I think Cillier’s book will help you understand what I mean. Derrida’s deconstruction isn’t anti-metaphysical as Tarnas might claim. Tarnas recognizes the insights of post-modernism but I don’t think he really understand the more nuanced metaphysics that emerges out of post-structuralism and deconstruction. If I had to quickly characterize the difference at issue, I would say for Derrida, there is an arch-process that logically precedes any structure. Laviolette similarly in his cosmology critiques Bohm’s implicate order in similar terms. Though being a scientist, he is less hip to the subtleties of metaphysics and completely falls into a reification of his abstract categories of processual staging. I still think he is a genius, but his model is idiosyncratic as all models are.
The new cosmology should definitely have astrology and meta-patterns of time and space, but they need to be understood as our creative interface with other systems and signs. Everything is an analogy of everything else, traced through symmetry breaks into new contexts. What the new ether science is exploring is how contexts (systems) are created in the first place. Tom Bearden calls the scalar technology built on this “causal engineering”. One can interfere waves at a distance and cause people to exhibit any “astral” pattern you want. There are not only scalar or “torsion” healing devices but Bearden argues scalar weaponry that has been used for decades by the intelligence communities. The esoteric tradition even has some pretty far out theories about planetary bodies themselves (read Gurdjieff and you will never look at the moon the same way again). The more ascetic forms of Eastern mysticism bow out of the astral power game that fuels the causal economy, but following Aurobindo’s in depth critique of this austere attitude from within the Eastern tradition, I think this is the wrong move. And I don’t like it when the west follows suit. Whether Enki, Prometheus or an alien gave us the fire, I think we are destined to use our knowledge to grow our DNA out of this astral matrix and into the larger systems of creative power.
Sorry if I was being vague. These things require a lot of context and explanation. Which is why I am writing a book! Though I enjoy the practice and challenge of writing a more succinct explanation, especially in dialog with someone already familiar with some of this stuff. So thank you.
I think calling what I am arguing against “a network model” was perhaps a misleading short hand way of talking about a lot of different models at once. I also don’t see Buddhism or Eastern philosophy as one thing and don’t mean to simply dismiss whole cultures and their contributions. I am not interested in merely listing my likes and dislikes or putting up a flag in one school of thought or another. I have spent my life thinking and reading everything I can find and have naturally come to many opinions. For the sake of brevity I tend to make sweeping judgments, but I think everything has value, even if it is just a critical value. But there is only so much time, so I often make judgments on material without reading everything. All the more so the more I learn and can spot certain patterns and influences. But I try to understand the things I disagree with.
I do think Buddhism is fascinating. The differences between schools and vehicles and the way it spread and melded with the cultures it came to, makes for interesting contemplation. I admit though I never found it very attractive. I remember telling a college professor in a pretty cool class I was taking on Buddhism that life isn’t all suffering and him telling me flat out in his German accent while we smoked cigarettes after class that life was most assuredly and essentially, suffering. I thought I was a shaman at the time and was taking way too much LSD. I was probably pretty annoying to this guy who was fluent in every major Buddhist-culture language and was obviously miserable in academia. I didn’t like, like many arrogant passionate men do not, being told I was merely a cog in a karmic machine. Though I have always enjoyed learning about Buddhism.
And I loved the vipassana retreat. Free meditation camp 🙂 And I eventually came to understand the more esoteric currents in Buddhism that transcend the simpler strains that grew out of an ascetic reaction to the vedic priesthood.
But I still to this day think much of the development in Asia comes off like so many patches on an essentially ascetic, monastic, and solitary discipline that at its heart is not compatible with broader social theory. Therein lies an important point. What are we debating when we compare theories? If it was purely a matter of taste then it would hardly be worth our time to debate ideas if they were only there as solitary frames for a spiritual practice. Aurobindo’s convincing critique of the ascetic turn in vedic philosophy applies to Buddhism too, which he considered an even more ascetic form than vedanta. I do not agree with Spengler and other Western critics that Buddhism is essentially nihilistic. It influenced Shopenhauer’s nihilism and it it certainly has its nihilistic strains and tendencies, but I think as part of the “axial age” transformation, its negation of its cultural matrix had its liberating potential, its power of generality and individualism that allowed it to spread and help grow the rational powers of Asian cultures. I especially respect Tantric Buddhism which has more in common with the Tantra traditions of southern India and the shamanistic and esoteric lineages of the region that predated the coming of Buddhism. In a strange way it was the Buddha’s social egalitarianism that made it progressive, just as other axial developments eventually allowed Christianity to bring progressive ideas into the middle-east matrix. There too, as Nietzsche never tired of pointing out. there was a nihilistic change, that nevertheless I think was an important development. Christ’s death might not have been the cosmic event that Steiner makes it out to be, but I follow Jane Robert’s Seth in feeling that the Christian drama was merely a materialization of an important “axial” point in history, where the old pagan order was forever left behind. Even atheist philosophers like Zizek see this as an important event that made later egalitarian politics possible. Zizek is a brutal critic of Buddhism and New Age paganism because they both miss the radical opening that the death of God and a natural order opens up for us. I would more say that both Buddhism and Judeo-Christianity were fledgling steps humanity was taking towards shifting our focus from the Gods and a natural order to social responsibility and an order that depends on us.
It is now curious to see Buddhism joined with ecology and other neo-pagan styles of thought in an attempt to bridge the gap and recapture a lost order, but I see it as a dead end for the following reason. It merely formalizes the assumptions and mistakes of these mythologies, that while they may have been more ecological in ancient times are precisely what is wrong now- namely, “living in the moment”, “going with the flow”, or in some sense always attaining harmony and coherence through what Aurobindo called “cutting the knot” of karma. There are definitely trends in Buddhism that buck the original lower vehicle tradition and advocate social responsibility, dialectical thinking and the like, but without a more radical creative ontology, the best they can do is advocate for “compassion” in some non-dual framework. It is all well and good to start admitting that the world matters and that it is not just an illusion, but part of reality, but it is another to say how we are going to organize these illusions if we are going to have a more pleasant stay here in this non-illusion illusion. Buddhism not only falls short here, but it has fallen into deep error, with simple things like simple Thach nit whatshisface simply getting pissy when the politics of his country got not so simple, to Zen monks being passionate advocates of the Japanese invasion of China in WW2, or just Ken Wilber’s attempt to make system theory Buddhism work as a hierarchical ranking of rightful rule.
Ken couldn’t take post-modernism because it questions all hierarchies and he wants a dependable system. Tarnas too, like all of us, wants a dependable order, but whereas Tarnas looks to a neo-pagan model, a natural order, Wilber tried to settle for an evolving construct. But when people pointed out that any model has its biases that should be evaluated, and that his had some very questionable ones, he told everyone to suck his dick, stopped writing or even making public appearences to what had become a cult of his personality. What neither of them get is that while some post-modernists can come off as extreme relativists, the real insight of 20th century thought, and really everything in Nietzsche’s wake, is that models are not value-free representations or even harmless partial constructs for personal spiritual enjoyment. The hair splitting of philosophy actually holds lives and worlds in its grasp. Not so much in professional philosopher’s grasp as in the metaphysical choices we all make. So rather than having us talk as if you and I are two people discussing our idiosyncratic preferences, which is how cultural capitalism has rendered our discursive power, let us speak with the moral weight that haunts a post-modern discourse like deconstruction (which is ironic because it is held up as being the quintessential relativistic paradigm). Let us speak aware that we are negotiating what kind of world we want to create and what kinds of world we can expect from our metaphysical choices.
So calling something “esoteric science” isn’t really my preferred term. I was merely referencing a tradition. Steiner loved that term but given how aware he was of the vast diversity of interpretation in Theosophical circles, I find it a bit insincere that he made his ideas out to be objective scientific discoveries. He was well aware that a mystic was “an artist in the realm of ideas”. He should have stuck with that. And while I may argue for judging ideas based on their moral or practical consequences, following deconstruction I don’t presume that these things can ever be known, which then precludes any kind of program or trenchant methodology. We cannot become any more utilitarian than we already are in this Americanised global market culture. The Frankfurt school had it right to criticize “instrumental reason”. We cannot be focused on ends. We cannot frame everything as objects and means, no matter how lofty the ends. What I meant more was esoteric interpretations of science. A tradition which has long held reality to be a construct that is created and manipulated by powerful beings. Now we are becoming those beings and we need to understand the larger cosmic game we have long just been pawns in. Biology is a phase conjugate dielectric. It is the most advanced technology in the cosmos. Space and time aren’t the primary reality, but they aren’t mere illusions. Merely admitting it is nondual get us nowhere. Yes form is emptiness, but how so? Space time structure generates consciousness too, but what consciousness generates space-time? I understand the appeal of self generation. But what is the Self? It seems clear to me the answer depends on what level or scale we want to zoom in on. What esoteric researchers like Laviolette or Joseph P Farrell are finding is that yes matter self generates out of the ether, seeds do indeed grow naturally, or shall we say are planted by a more lofty intelligence, but there are many other beings out there that are adept at growing and harvesting their own worlds. Whether one buys into esotericism or not, the fact remains that questions of design and power in life are becoming crucial, whether its aliens or just Monsanto we are dealing with.
To me it is obvious where this leaves us. Everything falls right out of Nietzsche, which is to say, out of the death of God and the whole development of rational thought and civilization. Things are uncertain. They are always changing. There is no order that exists outside the mind. Take it away and all you have is the spirit without relation. There is a greater truth of creative relation, which in principle Aurobindo calls Supermind, but all mind is a broken symmetry group of this infinity. The truth can be known in Supermind because all is in harmony. Everything is in phase, so you know all the beats. We all have a piece of that creative truth. He calls it the psychic being. Rather than cut the knot of karma as in lower Buddhism, the psychic being unties the knot and works to bring all closer to harmony. In Tibetan Buddhism they make a similar distinction: the foe destroyer follows one line of reasoning into emptiness. The true Buddha follows all lines into omniscience. But Aurobindo develops this further to a Nietzschean level. Omniscience is omniscience because it is omnipotent. But absolute power over another is impossible unless all is one and coherent. If one wants to get past Derrida’a undecidable dilemma, an act with true knowledge, one needs to have the power to create the world. Though the Tibetan tradition itself has done little to effect the world in any exoteric sense, they did have a hand in creating Theosophy which has done so much to revive spiritualism in the west. Blavatsky was little more than a tool for Tibetan sages, and who knows how they may have influenced all of us on some subtle plane.
In any case, the actual culture of Buddhism is pretty sparse on the worldly details, and esoteric elitism is hardly what we want to go back to. Being ruled by wise sages is hardly what we want to go back to, if it ever really existed in the exalted state like the right wing traditionalists like Guenon and Evola claim. Whether we are truly fallen like they claim, or this cycle is a progression like Aurobindo, Yukteswar and Steiner claim, I think it depends, like everything on your point of view. There are certainly cycles. There are certainly progressions. Everything is developing, but in many directions and always through the medium of other developments.
I said before that process precedes structure. But what goes through process if not structure? What entities are there to develop if structure is only an effect of process, Being of Becoming? We have gotten to the point where we question the old assumptions about Being preceding becoming, what Derrida calls Ontotheology, Phallogocentrism,etc. But how do the two relate? I have always like Taoism, and I think the I Ching is helpful here. The Creative Process (Yang) is logically higher than the receptive form or structure (yin), but they are both equiprimordial. The whole problem of time as process that is relative needs to now be understood with quantum concepts of coherence to understand that form or structure, that is entities themselves are also relative, they are themselves a product of overlapping developments that take on different forms depending on perspective. Just as what is simultaneous is not necessarily so in a different frame, also what is one entity might by another or two or nothing, if the phase relations are shifted. Which is far out, but it all falls out of post-modernism: Meaning and reality are context dependent, and context is infinite. Derrida is at pains to show that things are never “in context”, as much as in different contexts. There is no proper context, no natural order, and when we say there is we cease looking at other contexts, other ways of ranking relations. While this leads Derrida into indecision, I think it should lead us to to cooperate and build knowledge/power to put things in harmonious coherent contexts.
Post-modernism often slides towards a rehash of liberalism, but I think we need a new left. I think we need to create knowledge communities and design our ecosystems with sustainable models. There is no nature if there ever was one. The age of biopolitics is on us, and rather than following Foucault and Deleuze off into anarchic liberalism, recreating our bodies outside of all laws, we desperately need to modify how we understand laws. Like the neural networks in Connectionist computer modeling that I think Cillier’s book covers, intelligence is all about modelling in feedback with the environment. To design a healthy ecosystem, we need to follow Mae Wan Ho’s lead and talk about designing interlocking cycles with models to mediate and organize difference like an organism. This requires large scale coherence and local freedom generated not out of subservience to a set order, which given the current political environment, New Age ecology is set up to fulfill, but out of collective cooperation and political organization.
In short eco- theory has become a conservative force, and along with NGOs, it has become a clean up operation for Capital, desperately trying to shore up and preserve local ecosystems and freedoms instead of building a collective movement. But this falls out of seeing human subjectivity as something that needs to be cleansed and put back in some natural order. In contrast I advocate building a more coherent subjectivity and healthy coherent ecosystems will fall out of that. If we really trust nature we have to trust ourselves. Too many people want to cleanse themselves and humanity instead of growing into a more complex organized state. The best hope I see is in the scientists and engineers who are learning how to formalize what the pagans and esotericists have been encoding in myth all along. That there is a way to create order out of chaos, to join and constructively interfere different systems so that they produce new effects that spread globally to reorganize and create a more harmonically inclusive system; one able to contain more and more worlds and beings as more and more phase relations are allowed to pass through and converge in the system. As coherence increases, all worlds become one and we have what Aurobindo considered to be the goal of all development, to reach the Supramental plane where everything is in phase, where Being and Becoming are fused into an infinite creative dance, a dance we are all portions of even though we have broken into more isolated incoherent experiments that generate and reflect new worlds and beings.
I did want to address why I used “network model” to refer to various theories I disagreed with. As I said it was a poor choice of words. But it it gave a nice visual of the way certain kinds of systems theory and Buddhism and even post-modernism create an ontology of material and semiotic systems all linked together in a web of relations that even in the anti-essentialist versions of post-modernism(like actor network theory), easily slide into a belief they are modelling an objective reality, however incomplete — a belief that can repress ambiguity into a kind of liberal panopticism, with all the political implications such a notion brings up.
While most of these approaches are aware of the problems of representation, reductionism, and hierarchy, when they respond by merely mapping relations, even if these maps are considered provisional constructs, they misunderstand the incommensurable gaps of quantum physics as merely indeterminism, free will, emergent properties, or deterministic chaos, rather than boundaries of incoherence in an essential creative act of world making.
I originally had equated Deleuze as an example of post modern versions of this because he has a type of vitalism that in its efforts to subvert all entrenched hierarchy uses many metaphors and images that favorably contrast lateral networks with the demonized vertical organization of the State and the organism. In his main work of complexity theory A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze with Guattari emphasizes the rhizome over the plant as an image of free association over constrained signification. Another hierarchy of course. One Ken Wilber never tired of pointing out about post-modernism, which gave him the excuse to construct his own.
Wilber’s solution was much more problematic though because of his basically Buddhist approach. For Deleuze at least was always using ideas to break open, connect and subvert any structure that would aim to damn up flows of creativity. Like his friend Foucault, he was very sensitive about any kind of panoptical totality, but in the end I think he had to fall back on the necessity of metaphysics, of some kind of program, or at least pragmatic rules to keep from sliding into complete anarchy. He was not afraid to be a metaphysician and made many connections with traditional metaphysical thinkers like Spinoza and Leibnitz. He saw something liberating in complexity theory, relativity and Riemannian geometry, where there is no global panoptical phase space, but local euclidiean spaces connected rhizomatically without any unified totalized perspective.
In a way, Deleuze, having absorbed the lessons of post-modern critiques of metaphysics and totalizing narratives, realized there was no escaping metaphysics and so was looking for an ontology of difference and a virtual model of phase space that wouldn’t ossify all relations into a single framework.
Wilber on the other hand completely missed the point of post-modernism
and fell back on a single map of perspectival space. People link him with Aurobindo and Gebser because he used the word “integral”, but anyone who actually reads either of these geniuses knows Wilber misses the point of what they meant by the term.
Wilber is much more in the Buddhist tradition, especially No Boundary and other early work. He eventually came to realize his essentially Zen attitude was incompatible with his approach, but he remained a Shankara-esque thinker to the end (assuming he is done which seems like a fair assumption at this point).
My joke when it comes to Buddhism is that Buddhists say personality is an illusion because they don’t actually have much of one. Which is mean and unfair but it gets peoples attention. What is more true is that Buddhism is attractive to people who feel oppressed by their mind. They tend to want a spiritual simplicity, an understandable temptation in such a complex world. Wilber was initially a Zen guy, which is why his early models were all about transcendence. He says he always had the Zen-esque assumption that concepts were bad and so philosophy is just there to help us transcend it, (which one could argue is the same for the world itself in Buddhism, its just there to be transcended). He later realized that ideas and the world may have a purpose, so they should be more than just supplements for private spiritual practice. But because he still retained that ascetic two truths doctrine, despite the non-dual veneer, his accounting of the world had to be linear and hierachical, since he could not accept the greater truth of how consciousness creates the world, since he took offense to its implications on his wife’s death and his chronic illness. Suffering had to have some greater abstract purpose rather than having personal meaning which he called New Age bullshit.
In contrast to his earlier ascetic model, his later work has everything evolving towards a singular divine purpose, in pseudo-Hegelian fashion. He admits his model is relative, but to him that just means it is about the relative world, in contrast to the absolute world, which of course are said to be really one. He still retains the assumption that the world is a means to an end, whether it be to enlightenment or evolution of consciousness. The result is the same: a lot of people doing ascetic meditation and tacking on a belief structure that privileges a single solid framework, a mind that can turn off and escape itself, but cannot really open the heart to the psychic and occult dimensions of cosmic activity- which is the most interesting and important aspect of the universe. I find peering into other layers of reality with a poetic/philosophical vision to be much more interesting than samadhi, which Aurobindo called falling asleep in the infinite. I would fall asleep too if there weren’t infinite beings and stories and connections going on right behind the veil. We are all really free anyway.
Granted transcendence is important. It is our true ground. Enlightenment is crucial if we don’t want to get lost in occultism. Aurobindo considered it the necessary first step. But he points out that most people never even reach full enlightenment, let alone start the spiritual transformation process, all of which are a precursor to anything supramental, because they have a soul, a personality that has no interest in cutting its ties to the world.
So for Aurobindo, establishing a path where the enlightenment can be reached through transformation of the personality in what he called the psychic change, is a better option for people, since most people don’t want to let go of the world, and those that do reach enlightenment in meditation seldom then want to come back and transform the lower personality once they have access to emptiness.
I think of this in biophysical terms now. Coherence can be achieved through
reduction to a singular awareness, but that coherence (enlightenment) depends on that awareness not engaging with relations, or at least reducing them to a single uniform substance. This is a natural result of focusing on form. Here is Derrida: “Form fascinates when no longer has the force to understand force from within itself. That is, to create.” And the mistake often gets made that that silence is primary and the violence of force and form is merely a shadow, because without resonating the creative soul and its dance with difference, it appears that way. But in reality it is itself an effect of coherence. Here is Derrida again: “Peace is found only in a certain silence that is determined and protected by the violence of speech”. In a book called Derrida and Indian Philosophy, the author echoes Derrida’s insistence that deconstruction not be understood as negative theology. The author connects Derrida with Aurobindo and contrasts him with the negative theology of Nagarguna. Derrida critique of “presence” and “purity” are important to consider with Eastern thought, which is why Aurobindo focus on a positive purity through a harmony of interlocking powers and systems is key to a larger spiritual world.
Attaining a dynamic worldly coherence requires quantum coherence, a phase discipline over the whole range of relations, an impossible task that is never complete, because there is always change, but which can reach an infinite limit in supramental consciousness. Aurobindo saw yoga as an extension of his early political work because there is only so much coherence one can achieve as long as we live in an incoherent world and society. To evolve this world to greater coherence was the secret yoga of nature and the desire of every soul.
Contrary to Wilber though, and closer to what might be considered a kind of post-modern Hegelianism, Aurobindo didn’t see this as some transcend and include non-dualism, but a restructuring of the the world and the natural being to make it a more perfect instrument of the spirit. Debashish Banerji, who was my teacher for a while, wrote a book putting Aurobindo and integral yoga in post-modern context. To me this is all about shifting from a view that sees both the methodological approach of science and the traditional view of spirituality as offering serious limitations.
Early on in Cillier’s book, he makes a great point: “we can do with technology what we cannot do with science”. Which I would reframe: we cannot capture the world in any symbolic or methodological system. We can understand that our models operate on our consciousness and so we can build networks of knowledge and communities of discursive exchange with a mind to negotiating and deciding what kind of world we want to create.
As Heidegger pointed out, science is the new religion and technology is the central issue of the post-metaphysical age. Those that cling to or revert to traditional metaphysics can certainly have nice enlightenment experiences. But as Aurobindo pointed out, without the psychic change, their nature, what he calls our “instrumental” being remains an instrument for forces of the ignorance, and although their mind and body can receive some light and peace from the internal coherence of liberation, they cannot become the potent powers of the divine without a tantra — which is basically the Indian word for technology. It has its asuric and its divine forms. (Dan Winter is fond of saying if your alien comes to you in metal ships, he is from the wrong side of the tracks). And we are all in danger of falling into the asuric technological forces, what Steiner termed Ahrimanic. But the way through is not to mimic science in the sense that Wilber and the New Age do: creating a methodological and instrumental approach to spirituality, where everything is merely a means to an end that has been categorically figured and decided, ready for implementation by the capitalist consumer.
What is central to a better approach is the very sacrifice, the very renunciation your Buddhist personality mentioned–the offering up of our self as means, as instrument to a Divine life. As Steiner and Aurobindo both emphasized: we are all here for a unique purpose. We are all here to model, to interpret, to become a creative iteration of the divine personality in ways that are like no other being. We all have unique gifts. I realize many people are helped by Buddhism. Its strength is also its weakness. Its simplicity allows for anyone to take it up and make it their own. I critique it harshly because it has become merely a tool for personal experiences, and what little social philosophy it has is so vague as to be compatible with anything. Suzuki- the famous Zen teacher- was calling the Japanese invasion of China in WW2 an act of “compassion”. CEO’s practice Zen while they compassionately privatize the collective commons, all with the best intentions, at peace with the world that is really “empty” of any lasting value.
Right now we need more emphasis on sustainable systems not on the transitory nature of everything. And certainly not a spiritual practice that makes an already anti-intellectual, liberation obsessed western population feel more justified in dismissing the communal discursive activity that really determines our world and the possibilities for changing it.
Granted Aurobindo can be verbose, which is why I usually recommend Seth Speaks as a better introduction to the esoteric tradition. Jane Roberts was ignorant of this tradition (on a conscious level), but became its most in depth and readable voice in our times. Suffice it so say, esoteric thought might seem like so much muddled Theosophy, but it is the decayed tradition of an essentially techno-tantric approach to knowledge. To the extent that we can reclaim knowledge from the black magic of a science that perpetuates a system of signs controlled by an elite, and make it a creative spiritual discipline, I think we should understand the historical context of science, of western tantra — of a tradition going back to prehistory when culture and language were seen as the vehicle for manifesting the gods, the forces which would control our fate.
This is of course where astrology came from as well. As modern science took over for the esoteric traditions, we came to see all forces as impersonal; and now as we try to reclaim the knowledge of spiritual forces and beings, we merely anthropomorphize forces by referring to them as “archetypes” yet still retain the image of an objective field of forces, where personality is merely an emergent effect, a strange attractor in phase space which may have a “character” but is really just a flux in a void. The truth is that we are all one being that grows and changes, as an idea grows and changes, as Seth has put it. The void of potentiality is not more fundamental than being, it is what is left when one withdraws the power of creation from substance, which nonetheless has a supporting form. But the creative consciousness is fundamental, and form is its eternal historical body that births it and receives its seed. The ideas we choose, or more accurately, the ideas that are created out of the the ever changing flux of relationships, are not just maps or models of some relative reality that is a mere form of a consciousness that prefers its pure solitude. They are the reality itself, the overflowing expression of bliss that is the universe: satchitananda, the triple aspect of reality that pours outs its being into what Aurobindo terms creative knowledge/force, the fourth aspect and intermediary between the divine trinity and the trinity of ignorance of mind life and body. Of course as Harold Bloom once said, theology is usually bad poetry, but all great poetry is theology. Aurobindo’s real work is Savitri, one example of the the ultimate technology, the music and poetry of language and its dance with being that can create worlds, set order to the infinite, and build a society where, as the Vedic Rishi singers described, no tune is repressed, but all are sacrificed to the evolving narrative/song of what Mae Wan Ho might call quantum jazz.
I don’t want to get stuck talking about Buddhism, or turn you off with my inappropriate jokes about it. I just want to clarify that I think it has done more good for the world than just about every other religion, or at least, less bad, which is impressive given its extensive influence. And there are so many great souls who have been influenced by it, that I realize my comments might have seemed out of proportion. But again, I think those souls with more passion and interest in the world are the ones most confused by Buddhist attitudes towards the soul (and its nature: the mind and passions). Trungpa and Alan Watts come to mind, who both struggled with alcoholism. Watts, after his years as a Christian minister, I think still found some guilt in relation to his nature that Zen did not help transform. Buddhism has little to guide people in transforming their nature and evaluating the character of forces. The I Ching is much more helpful in this regard, but honestly it can feel repressive at times. After years of neurotic consultation with it, I barely ever use it these days. I always know what it is going to say anyway and I find it better to learn my own lessons. I no longer feel like I need to avoid mistakes at all costs, since they are the way I learn. Consequently I make less mistakes. Though I owe much to Taoism and especially Carol K Anthony’s I Ching. They definitely helped me through rough times.
But despite the Taoist influence on Asian Buddhism, I think it retains a disconnect between the spirit and nature. The image of the Yin Yang gets distorted and replaced through the lens of Buddhism with an image of mere formal equivalence. Theosophical thinkers used to say that the Western mind needed a Tantra– that ascetic thought was inappropriate for our active intellects. Though I think their attempts to blend Eastern and Western thought was muddled by contradictions. Steiner was much more coherent and productive of so many lines of thought and culture with his own Theosophy shorn of the Eastern influences. So much of what is hopeful in current counter culture, he anticipated or directly founded. Though I think he could have benefited from the aniconic power of Eastern thought. He takes his images too literally; and in all those lectures there is nothing on sex, which has contributed to much speculation on his sexual orientation.
Rudhyar takes the Goethean-Spenglerian image of every culture as a plant with a growth cycle and instead of talking about decay as Spengler did, seeing every formalism as a degeneration of creative thought, he spoke of the seeds that every culture plants in future generations. Spengler thought the Buddha signified the decay of Indian culture, but in Rudhyar’s light, he was reducing it down to a more formal structure that could be exported and sprout new life… which it did.
Aurobindo and the Mother I think take the seeds of both East and West and created a planetary, sexually balanced, modern spiritual body of work, but their main work wasn’t visible. It was the path they hewed in the collective psyche for a transformed and integrated human being and most importantly, spiritual relationships (for what is an integrated person besides one in harmony with his relations). Though reading Aurobindo truly saved my soul from being at war with my self. And I think more people should read him, for it is exactly his way of evaluating active forces and pushing the boundaries of manifestation, that excites the Western soul and can make for much more rapid progress, since the intellect and passions are used together with the will instead of the will be used to separate the intellect from the passions. This was NIezsche’s vision that he knew he could not fulfill. And everything since him has been struggling to find the path to a critical creativity, a soul that answers to the spirit.
Western artists have been starving for a new vision that is both critical and creative, that unites the masculine and feminine, but have not gotten past the last man of Nietszche’s twilight of the idols, and despite Deleuze’s attempts at a new ontology that can really make the transition to the ubermensch, one artists and thinkers have tried to make work, it has yet to emerge from the morphogenetic stew of incipient forms and abstractions. And the images that have been produced are either pop culture reactionary forms, or high-art and scifi tragic narratives of decline and collapse.
(I highly recommend John David Ebert’s work on this subject)
An artist these days must be a critic if he is to truly be a global visionary for a new culture. Ashberry is a great poet and art critic, but he is little more than another post-modern intellectual, as Derrida is also an artist of sorts trapped in a philosopher, or Deleuze the artist-scientist. Post modernism collapses the boundaries, it tries to deconstruct and construct forms at the same time but it cannot find a new vision. The three most popular figures that have tried to move beyond it while embracing its insights, Wilber, Deleuze, and Zizek all fail. WIlber is popular with spiritual folk and has little more than a intellectualized return to religion. Zizek is popular with activists and has little more than a post-post modern psychoanalysis and a post-marxist class struggle. Deleuze is popular with intellectuals and is little more than a intellectualized mirror of counter cultural obsessions with personal expression. Out of all of them Zizek at least has a cogent critique of the problem.
Aurobindo was a critic and his analysis of Western literature(The Future Poetry and many of his letters) serves as an example to me of what a spiritual critique looks like. I have extended his style of characterizing the consciousness dynamics behind poetry to music. Music was the beginning of western science and esotericism, though poetry was almost always involved as well. In fact science was music, was poetry. It was all about harmonizing cultural forces and steering the ship of community. This became corrupted into a managerial philosophy by Plato as online critic Drew Hempel erratically argues. The great musicologist that recently died, Ernest McClain however sees Plato firmly within the Pythagorean tradition, which of course was an axial age formalizing of the Orphic tradition, seeded by Egyptian and Near East occult science. All ancient cultures were involved in the game of tuning theory, McClain argues in his earlier book.
He builds off of Antonio deNicolas’s work dictating how the Vedic seers would alter the tune to balance the male and female aspects of number, which whenever it is formalized, sacrifices some aspect since not all (pure)intervals can be used in a single tuning. They made that sacrifice a holy act that needed to be revisited and repeated, since if it was taken for granted, then repression and formalized hierarchy ensued. While McClain seemed to celebrate Plato and the standardized repression of equal temperament (that was only later fully theorized in explicit form, something the Greeks couldn’t do, or wouldn’t do within their philosophy of harmonics that doesn’t so much fear irrationals as it is often said, as much as they didnt want to subject them to quantification), many esoteric thinkers saw this as the beginning of repression.
Aurobindo, likewise saw the axial formalization period in India as a repression of this more fluid dynamic of ancient vedic culture. The Buddha did as many did in this time; he reacted by striking a new note for individualism and freedom. It was the right thing to do at the time. But the ideal is a culture that can improvise on its themes and not have to die just to get a new start. The formalization and individualism the axial prophets set off now can be a base for us to build more stable cultures while we simultaneously critique them from within. The technology that is being discovered and discussed by Dan Winter and Mae Wan Ho amazes me everyday. It makes sense out of astrology, alchemy, and all the things that esotericism encoded in myth. The astral plane is returning, and we need more than a return to myth if we are to understand it. The myths tell us something new in light of the science. The game isn’t just tuning theory. It is a science with deadly applications as Joseph P Farrell explores amusingly. More than ever we need an immanent critique.
Thanks again for turning me on to Complexity and Post-modernism. Reading it really helped me clarify some things in my mind and is helping me begin to answer some questions that have haunted me for a while. I am now doing some further reading along similar lines, a couple books by a David Byrne that go into some interesting applied detail. Though Cilliers’ integration of different deep theoretical approaches is definitely more helpful for my project, whereas Byrne is much more a scientific realist.
One of the key points for me was towards the beginning of the book with Cilliers’ brief discussion of information theory. Claude Shannon’s equating of entropy and information has intrigued and bothered me since I first was exposed to his work. Cilliers’ connecting of entropy, information density, randomness and compression through Chaitin’s work really started something for me connecting this stuff with what alternative theorists discuss as torsion and Dan Winter’s ideas about harmonic inclusiveness and charge/information compression.
I agree that Dan is hard to take sometimes. He is obviously a bit of a huckster and charlatan. But his metaphors and visuals have really helped me start to understand and grasp the wave patterns I have intuitively felt my whole life. Developing a language and culture that understands and works harmoniously with nature is what I want to contribute to while I am here, and I appreciate all the help I can get.
Certainly complexity will figure heavily in the educational framework we are discussing. In fact I have been so excited by the book I have been reading because it is formalizing a theoretical framework that is pretty much what I have been looking for and trying to piece together these past few years.
“Complexity and the Social Sciences: The State of the Art” by David Byrne and Gillian Callaghan, really is filling in the final pieces in my vision, and I found it because of you, so thank you so much. Cilliers was the tip of the iceberg. This book heavily references him and extends his approach, integrating it with a huge swath of social theory. I have been reading it carefully because every page has jewels of wisdom, little critical insights that are putting things into place in my mind, fleshing out the vague critiques I had on other approaches with a very powerful, politically charged pragmatics and research framework.
Granted I am extending it way beyond the “complex realist” philosophy it promotes, but it is giving me a way of integrating some of the spiritual visions and ideas I have had for a long time: how I can use the physics concept of phase to explain the reciprocal relationship of space and material beings with time and immaterial beings (which I am indebted to Douglass A White for some of the first physics/mathematical insights along these lines:
Complexity, or more specifically Callaghan and Byrne’s Complex Realism, takes the concept of the reality of phase space emergents to a conceptually brilliant place that I am so excited about. I finally feel like I can stop piecing together pieces of post modernism, Marxism, and systems science, and start applying a single critical vision to the more speculative sciences that are my real passion and that desperately need coherence. I can see how all the different alternative and esoteric science theories and fields can be put into dialog with the right complexity approach.