Monday, February 04, 2008

World-Historical Interior Evolution, or Earthlings, Get Over Yourselves!

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's non-post about yoga and Christianity, I dug up this early one about the world-historical significance of the developing Anglo-Hindu alliance. It strikes me as pedantic. But at least it's long. I wouldn't recommend it. I'll just post part one and see if anyone expresses interest.

***

Under the radar of the MSM, the Bush administration has been working to create a new Anglo-Hindu alliance. It is now the policy, or "Grand Strategy of the United States," to assist India in becoming "a major world power in the 21st century." I consider this a development of potential world-historical significance, which I would define as a point in which vertical energies pour down from above, either to assist mankind in evolving to the next phase or breaking through an evolutionary impasse whereby human beings cannot rise above themselves. My fellow Subgenius readers might think of these as celestial "bursts of slack" that have appeared from time to time, and without which the Conspiracy would be in total control of our lives and destiny.

For example, one world-historical moment is known as the Axial Age, a period of general spiritual awakening between 800 and 200 BC, when all of the initial major revelations of mankind were downloaded: the Old Testament prophets, the Greek mystery schools, the Vedic seers of the Upanishads, Confucius, and Lao Tzu's original Tao te Slack.

If you are Christian, you probably have no difficulty understanding the incarnation of Jesus as a kind of depth charge dropped down into history from on high. The temporal reverberations from that spiritual shaktiwave continue to wash ashore over the present. After all, even if you don't believe in Christ, you are nevertheless the benefactor of his presence, say, in the decisive manner in which he affected the thinking of the American founders.

In Hinduism, an "avatar" refers to an incarnation of the divine. Unlike Christianity, they believe there have been many avatars, and yet, this principle is not really at odds with either Christianity or Judaism. That is, you can think of an avatar as something short of a literal manifestation of the one God; many righteous rabbis and saints would qualify as avatars, not necessarily as a literal descent of the divine, but perhaps as embodiments of an ascent to holiness or to the divine.

Some people are born with a divine mission to accomplish, even if it isn't explicitly spiritual, say, Charlemagne or Alexander. Sri Aurobindo refers to them as vibhutis -- figures who appear on the world-historical stage at precisely the right time and place to either "rescue" mankind or advance it to a new level of moral, political, or aesthetic understanding. These people are often consciously aware of being seized by a transcendent power in order to accomplish a mission. The American founders would obviously be prime examples. Other examples might include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and many others, both detected and undetected by written, "daytime" history (vibhutis often work anonymously, under cover of darkness, so to speak; people become aware of them only on a "need to know" basis).

Evolution requires time and experimentation but also a telos, or meaningful endpoint. If you stand back from world history and view it in the widest possible coontext, you can think of it as a journey out of Africa that began some 60,000 to 75,000 years ago, with various search parties setting out to discover what they could. Diverse cultures and civilizations may be thought if as the embodiments of the discoveries and solutions these groups came up with, some good, some bad, some perfectly awful. Only now are we in a position to call a new meeting to order and compare and contrast what these different groups found in their world-historical journeys. Importantly, this would represent the exact opposite of the U.N., which functions to justify and perpetuate the very worst in mankind.

What I am advocating represents multiculturalism in a positive sense, because it doesn't mean accepting any and all cultural nonsense as beautiful and helpful, as does the left. Rather, our task is to critically examine what various human groups have discovered or developed, and keep the good and throw out the bad. For example, Chinese Maoism? Bad. Chinese Taoism? Good. Chinese food? Even better! The Hindu Upanishads? Sublime. The caste system? Good in principle if allowed to express itself spontaneously, very bad if imposed from the top down. The American constitution? Unsurpassed. American materialism? Troubling, e.g., metaphysical scientism, addiction to fleeting pleasures, etc.

Now, an existential fork in the road took place in mankind's evolutionary journey sometime after the 10th century BC, when both the Torah and Upanishads appeared, signifying a split between what might be called the Abrahamic and Brahmanic traditions.

Since we are wading in it, we are pretty familiar with the path the Biblical stream took, winding its way through Jesus, the late Roman Empire, Western Christendom, the scientific revolution, the American founding, etc. Many if not most readers may not know much about the other stream that began with the Vedas. The reason why this split is so important is because it represented two differing conceptions of ultimate reality, one seeing it as more radically transcendent (the Judeo-Christian stream), the other as immanent in the person (the Vedic stream). (There is actually more than a bit of both in each, but it is a matter of emphasis.)

WARNING: PEDANTRY AHEAD

The word "veda" simply means knowledge. Each of the four Vedas is divided into two parts: work and knowledge. The former deals with myths, hymns, prayers, and instructions for rites and ceremonies -- mantras, incantations, ritual formulas, etc. The second part concerns itself with the highest experiential basis of religious truth. These latter, more metaphysical Vedas are collectively known as the Upanishads (I suppose this is my favorite translation; like the King James Bible, it may not be the most faithful, but it the most beautiful.)

Vedanta represents the esoteric core of Hinduism. Veda-anta actually means "end of the Vedas," and can be taken both literally and metaphorically. That is, the Upanishads not only appear at the end of the Vedas, but also represent the "end" of relative knowledge -- they represent a special kind of knowledge that transcends both ordinary and scriptural knowledge. It is knowledge of the direct experience of ultimate reality.

There are one hundred eight Upanishads, but only ten have come to be known as the principal Upanishads. The literal meaning of Upanishad is something like "sitting near devotedly," but may also be understood as "secret teaching," for this is a kind of oral knowledge that may only be handed down from "one who knows," from a guru who has experienced the ultimate reality to an earnest disciple who seeks it. This is a kind of knowledge that is very much bound up with a radical notion of liberty, for it "destroys the bonds of ignorance and leads to the supreme goal of liberation."

The Upanishads are different than the scripture of the Bible, in that they do not record historical events, revelations, or prophecies, but the direct experiences of the Vedic saints and seers (but sometimes presented in story form, such as a conversation with Death). Their main conclusion -- or "I-witness" testimony -- is that the ultimate reality beyond name and form, or Brahman, the Self of the universe, the eternal I AM, abides deep within each individual, or Atman. Ultimately, Atman and Brahman are One. Well, not exactly. It is perhaps more accurate to say that they are not-two. Importantly, the Atman is not to be confused with our surface ego. Rather, it is the indestructible and changeless Self behind the superficial personality. It is actually located not in the mind but the heart. A Vedantin would consider it the beating heart of the living cosmos.

END PURE PEDANTRY HERE

One of the reasons why the United States represented such an evolutionary advance is that it was the first to consciously embody Judeo-Christian principles. That is, there had been Christian nations, but never before an explicitly Judeo-Christian one. I won't outline the entire argument here, but an excellent book that summarizes the evidence is On Two Wings, by Michael Novak. In total contrast to the crude anti-Semitism of Europe (which continues to this day), the American founders were deeply influenced not just by Christianity but Judaism. For example, John Adams wrote, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation." Thomas Jefferson saw the United States as "God's American Israel," leading human beings out af a decadent Europe to a new way of life.

I believe America and the world are at another evolutionary crossroads, or perhaps even impasse. Yes, the modern children of Israel successfully escaped the decadent world of Europe for the new American frontier. That frontier expanded westward, until there was no frontier left, so it expanded upward into space, downward into the oceans, and "beneath" or "behind" the illusion of solid materiality, into the subatomic world. Where is the new frontier for the American children of Israel?

It is into the only truly infinite frontier -- the inward frontier explored and mapped out by the forgotten little search party with whom we parted ways three thousand years ago: the lost tribe of the Brahmanic peoples. This does not imply a blending of the two traditions, only that our exteriorized western religion must recover its own rich interior dimension, which already exists, but has rarely been emphasized in the institutional forms of Western Christendom.

19 Comments:

Anonymous dloye said...

Listening, thinking. Plenty of thoughts bubbling up to the surface, filtering still required. Please continue in this vein?

2/04/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For some of us, the remedial pedantry is actually very helpful on occasion :)

2/04/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

"Under the radar of the MSM, the Bush administration has been working to create a new Anglo-Hindu alliance. It is now the policy, or "Grand Strategy of the United States," to assist India in becoming "a major world power in the 21st century.""

Come next January, I predict a lot of peeps are going to miss George Bush.

And What Dloye and Julie Said.™

And Thank Godde Van's OK.

2/04/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

As I was struggling to follow Bob's line of thinking, I stumbled over this comparison of Hinduism and Christianity by Catholic Christian apologist Peter Kreeft. I particularly like the simplicity of his paraphrase of C.S. Lewis:

"When C.S. Lewis was converted from atheism, he shopped around in the world's religious supermarket and narrowed his choice down to Hinduism or Christianity. Religions are like soups, he said. Some, like consomme, are thin and clear (Unitarianism, Confucianism, modern Judaism); others, like minestrone, are thick and dark (paganism, “mystery religions”). Only Hinduism and Christianity are both “thin” (philosophical) and “thick” (sacramental and mysterious). But Hinduism is really two religions: “thick” for the masses, “thin” for the sages. Only Christianity is both."

FWIW

2/04/2008 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking only for myself, the mass Christianity to which I was exposed was exceedingly thick.

2/04/2008 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

I'm currently reading Lucy Beckett's chapters on Augustine in her bookIn the Light of Christ. If you are familiar them or with his City of God, you can imagine my horror when I read this quote in the American Spectator:

>>"What a wonderful and benevolent government Jesus could have set up. How exemplary justice would have been. Maybe there would have been Habitat projects all over Israel for anyone who needed a home. And the proud, the rich, and the powerful could not have dominated their fellow citizens. As a twentieth-century governor and president I would have had a perfect pattern to follow. I could have pointed to the Bible and told other government leaders, "This is what Jesus did 2000 years ago in government. Why don't we do the same?"<<

The person who said that will be no surprise, I just had no grasp of the extent of his looniness til now. Yes, the institutional forms of Western Christendom need to thin the soup.

2/04/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

You're right, Mizze, it wasn't a surprise. Doesn't change the fact that I'd like to whack him over the head with the business end of a good sized Bible, though.

2/04/2008 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob,
Terrific use of background/foreground, and multiple angles in looking at these subjects!

The result is a real aid to "understanding"!

I thought I had read all the back issues, but didn't recognize this one.

2/04/2008 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

"Speaking only for myself, the mass Christianity to which I was exposed was exceedingly thick."

I'm pretty sure that most so called Christians still have the "unclean" pagan substance that Christianity was suppose to--in part--cure. Most Christians that I know are vital beings to the core, and it's not just a "vitalism," as Seraphem Rose would say (that is rather, in my view, the anti-vital substance attempting to take control and manipulate the environment so as to reduce the anxiety of thanatos.), it's a centering on the viscera coupled with weak cerebration. I'm not sure which change comes first, the higher cognitive structure, or the suppression of lower movements; maybe, like in the general three stages of purification, cognition, and theosis of early Christians, they kind of arise as one movement.

Awhile back I was reading Rodney Starks History of Monotheism, and in it I found the general agreement among sociologist that most of Northwestern Europe (probably more extensive than that in my opinion) was never truly Christianized, but rather kept most of the same pagan cultural/social habits with an overlay, a facade, of Christian ritual and dogma. I just can't help but have the view that being a Christian should make one more light and less ignorant, rather than more dense and closed.

Down the street from my home there is a church with a sign that says, "2008, a new beginning." Well, that just seems to be a statement from a pagan vitalism to me. It should say something like, "Christ, the way out of this Sh*t."

2/04/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

I was going to also write down some thoughts on the yoga Christian split, but I just started feeling confused and insane, as usual. There is this tendency within me towards interpreting Christianity through the eyes Vedanta, like Christ was an emanation of the overmind (Aurobindo), or Brahman and the Father are good buddies kind of thing, but I just pull back. I'm almost equally dependent on both sides, yet I can't synthesize the two, nor come to any metaphysical common ground (being that I can hardly think critically, that's not surprising). I remain split, and probably be for along time.

I'm not really complaining, though. The split doesn't really 'hurt' yet, so I've got a lot of time to work on it before it starts to.

2/04/2008 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous terrence said...

Please carry on, Gagdad Bob. You have to do it anyway, don't you? May as well have us looking over your shoulder.

2/04/2008 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/04/2008 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JWM - "vibhutis -- figures who appear on the world-historical stage at precisely the right time and place to either "rescue" mankind or advance it to a new level of moral, political, or aesthetic understanding"

=ta'veren? (Not to be too pop-culture, but maybe as a counter to the pedantry (!))

wv:vihgdea - prol'y related

2/04/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Ultimately, Atman and Brahman are One. Well, not exactly. It is perhaps more accurate to say that they are not-two."

Not two out of three, ain't bad.

2/04/2008 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"It is into the only truly infinite frontier -- the inward frontier explored and mapped out by the forgotten little search party with whom we parted ways three thousand years ago: the lost tribe of the Brahmanic peoples. "

This brought to mind the image of a maneuver that the Blue Angels perform in their air shows, they go speeding off out of sight in separate directions, out of sight and earshot, then they come screaming back over the crowds heads towards a central point, then rear straight upwards into a starburst towards the heavens.

It helps the image to feel your chest and the very ground beneath your feet reverberating with their engines roar....

2/04/2008 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Van,

Travelling faster than the speed of sound they're on you and gone before you know it
I've seen them do it several times and even though I'm waiting for it, it still comes as a surprise.
Man I love military airshows.

2/04/2008 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Re yesterday's post...

I'm considering a formal conversion to Catholicism. As with Yoga, being a Raccoon is compatible with many things, including being a Catholic.

I'm sort of following David Warren here, who made a similar conversion a few years ago. For those who don't know, David Warren is one of a handful of writers on the web who are more or less in Bob's league (another example being Lee Harris, who is a personal friend of David Warren -- David is an acquaintance of mine).

2/05/2008 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Hey Smoov,
I'm just getting going on the process of converting to Catholocism now (RCIA.)

If you want to share more about your situation, I'd love to hear it.

Mrs. G
(I post occasionally on this, and get some helpful responses from some in this community, on http://modernmilitaryheroes.blogspot.com/
LG

2/05/2008 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Sami said...

Interesting post. I'm new here, currently reading 'One Cosmos Under God' (and enjoying it very much).'
My background is Muslim, with many Sufi influences. I think Islam falls under the Western/Abrahamic lineage, and I agree that it, like most forms of Judaism and Christianity, focuses more on the transcendent aspect of the One rather than on Its immanent aspect. Sufism, however, definitely places an emphasis on the immanent through knowledge of, devotion towards, and celebration of the beauty of the One. It also emphasizes right action and engagement with the world to manifest God's (Allah's) love and justice in the material realm.
With growing literalism and fanaticism in the Muslim world, there is now a trend towards exploring the esoteric inner aspects of the Sufi path (which shares much in common with Vedanta, Buddhism, Kaballah, and Christian mysticism).

2/05/2008 10:44:00 AM  

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