Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pneumatic Bleat

I should start calling this the Pneumatic Bleat or something, but I wouldn't want to pee on another man's spot. Things proceed much more smoothly if I write as if it's just an informal diary, not a term paper -- maybe call it a "web log," or even "blog" for short. Then I don't put any pressure on myself, but more importantly, it helps to assure a kind of schuontaneous discovery -- or the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding that Bion called "faith."

That was no joke, because if you look at Schuon's corpus, you will see that his primary mode of expression was the brief and luminous Blast from the depths of O. He never sustained this for the course of an entire book, because no man could. Rather, his books are (almost) all collections of these simultaneously epic and miniature Depth Charges, which is one reason why they don't sell particularly well, for I have been told that books of essays never do.

But to call them "essays" is like calling... something... a something, or something (coffee hasn't kicked in yet). Really, it's a new spiritual form of expression. Well, maybe not new. The prophets obviously didn't write any books, nor did Jesus, Buddha, or even Bob Dobbs.

In fact, nor did Aurobindo write any books, the 35 volumes of the complete works notwithstanding. Come to think of it, this was one of the first things that intrigued me about him, in that he produced all of this material in a relatively brief period of time by merely downloading it from beyond, so to speak, with no real plan or preconceptions, and certainly no eye on the book-buying public.

Rather, he just sat there in his little room and banged it out. I don't think he had any idea what "he" thought -- or he "thought" -- about this or that or all this is That! until it came out of him. They say that jazz is "the sound of surprise." I guess this mode of writing is the... something of surprise (what, is this decaf?!).

Let me look it up and see if I can find some more explicit details about the process, as this post meanders along and tries to implicitly demonstrate it.

Says here that "in the four years of his stay in Pondicherry, he had filled many notebooks with brief annotations and essays on the Vedas and Upanishads, comparative linguistics and a lot of other subjects -- all the while involved in the intensive yoga which he was practicing constantly." (I've seen these notebooks, and they're legible but indecipherable.)

Someone came up with the idea of publishing a periodical, and almost all of his important works were serialized during the seven years of its existence. Van Vrekhem says that they "were not destined for the general public, but for the few for whom the world, as it is, is no longer livable and who, from the bottom of their heart, long for something else, something more worthwhile."

Everything was based on, and rooted in, experience. Thus, it would be incorrect to call it "theology" in the western sense of the term. Again, it is more like a spiritual diary, or an ongoing record of O --> (n), as we call it in the book:

"I was never satisfied till experience came and it was on this experience that later on I founded my philosophy, not on ideas by themselves. I owed nothing in my philosophy to intellectual abstractions, ratiocination or dialectics; when I have used these means it was simply to explain my philosophy and justify it to the intellect of others.

"The other source of my philosophy was the knowledge that flowed from above when I sat in meditation, especially from the plane of the Higher Mind when I reached that level. They [the ideas of the Higher Mind] came down in a mighty flood which swelled into a sea of direct Knowledge always translating itself into experience, or they were intuitions starting from an experience and leading to other intuitions and a corresponding experience" (Aurobindo, in a letter to a sadhak).

I don't know about you, but I'm relating to this description. Let's continue: "This source was exceedingly catholic and many-sided and all sorts of ideas came in which might have belonged to conflicting philosophies but they were here reconciled in a large synthetic whole."

Thus, it would also be an error to refer to this as "philosophy" in the modern sense. In fact, "there is very little argument in my philosophy.... What is there is a harmonizing of the different parts of a many-sided knowledge so that all is united logically together. But it is not by force of logical argument that it is done, but by a clear vision of the relations and sequences of Knowledge."

A little more. Van Vrekhem says that "this enormous 'mental' activity" actually "used as its instruments a completely inactive brain and fingers that typed directly on a prehistoric Remington what was inspired into them, including the corrections" (with no coffee, either). It might be 110 degrees in the summer with, of course, no air conditioning, but there he would be, "concentrated in his work, though according to eye witnesses he was perspiring so much that his sweat dripped on the floor."

Now, "a synthetic, non-linear way of thinking or seeing is very complex and difficult to formulate in language," especially when "one wants to express oneself adequately and completely throughout... " (Van Vrekhem). Note also how the following description of Aurobindo's writing by Satprem accords with our own recent discussions of how language may be a vehicle of (≈): "it contains the vibration of the experience, almost the quality of light of the particular world it touches, and through the words... one can come into contact with the experience."

This may sound mysterious, which it is, but actually no less mysterious than the human capacity to transmit any thought between two minds. Sertillanges discusses this in The Intellectual Life, where he writes that....

Wait, before getting to that, I just found another passage, in which Sertallanges describes (≈): "Contact with writers of genius procures us the immediate advantage of lifting us to a higher plane," which confers "benefit on us even before teaching us anything. They set the tone for us; they accustom us to the air of the mountaintops. We were moving in a lower region; they bring us at one stroke into their own atmosphere," or atmasphere.

Also, "he gives us claim to the domains that he has conquered and cleared, sowed and tilled. He invites us to share at the hour of harvest." He gives access to "an unsuspected light, in the heart of a connected system which is a sort of new creation -- that reality which was there, obvious, and which we did not see." For this reason it's probably safe to say that you learn more from the errors of a genius than the "truths" of an idiot.

Back to that quote about the mystery of communication: "strictly speaking, thought is incommunicable from man to man." "The idea does not reach us from without." Rather, "it is necessarily within us that it must come to birth." Thus the orthoparadox that we must read with the soul in order to awaken the soul.

In any event, all we're really trying to do here is have a genuine encounter with O and then memorialize it in language. That's it. But that becomes inherently stressful if you begin making demands on it, or, more to the point, when the process is turned "outward," toward an audience.

Come to think of it, I'll bet that's one reason why Van Morrison has such an ambivalent relationship to his audience. In a way, he's trying to produce something for an audience that won't happen if he "tries" or if he is too focussed on the audience. So to criticize my writing is kind of beside the point, because all you're really saying is that it failed to awaken the Idea in you. All comments are inadvertent autobiography, or pneumatic bleat.

16 Comments:

Blogger Tusar N Mohapatra said...

Thanks for elucidating the scenario as Vrekhem narrates them. But interpreting the past events has its own hazards as Heehs has demonstrated recently. [TNM]

9/23/2010 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Teresa d'Avila: "What I seek to explain is the feelings of the soul when it is in this divine union."

Van M. has been known to hit those notes too

wv=ablogar
one with a blog?

9/23/2010 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

the few for whom the world, as it is, is no longer livable

That sure would make a nice creed: short, sweet, to the point.

Romans 13:11 "Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed."

9/23/2010 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's true. The world is such a moronic place, especially at the center. Lots of good stuff at the edges, however.

9/23/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Back to that quote about the mystery of communication: "strictly speaking, thought is incommunicable from man to man."

We could compare the words to a grid that functions a catalyst. One whatever will fit like a puzzle piece in one place on the grid; another whatever will fit another space in the grid. And the two whatevers come into contact like binary explosives. Or in this case binary seeds.

Or, I could have just said matrix, could I?

9/23/2010 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

couldn't I

9/23/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I hope to explore that mystery in more detail in a subsequent post...

9/23/2010 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I did consider buying "The Intellectual Life" when it was mentioned in the comments recently, but the reviews implied that the main message would already be familiar to me thanks to books by Blasphemous Tax-cutting Buddhist touching on the same topic. The quote about the exposure to genius (or "High Spirits" as the other call them) is certainly eerily similar. That could be because it just happens to be true, I suppose.

The voice in my head expounds that one should read the geniuses even if they are not scientifically correct, because they still have the ability to confer wisdom, or rather a capacity for wisdom, or rather a kind of intellectual shakti. (No unnecessary blasphemy intended.)

In other words, the available information in a society is more or less independent from the capacity of the human vessel to engage with it. It is this capacity that is (partially) downloaded from higher spirits, if all goes well.

9/23/2010 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Great post. I wish I was in the right frame of mind to explore-enjoy it more completely.
And not in a salt mine.

9/23/2010 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Magnus,

"but the reviews implied that the main message would already be familiar to me"

That was what I thought, too. On the one hand, it's true. On the other, it's really an excellent book and absolutely worth the time to read. He has a way of shining a bright light through the heart of the message, such that while reading you can't help thinking, "of course, I already know that," simultaneously with, "wow, that's a brilliant observation!"

I don't think I've underlined so much in a book since reading HvB's Glory of the Lord.

9/23/2010 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"what, is this decaf?!"

Hate it when that happens. Like non-alcoholic beer. WTF?!

decaf is like the anti-doh! to Sertillanges,

...which confers "benefit on us even before teaching us anything. They set the tone for us; they accustom us to the air of the mountaintops. We were moving in a lower region; they bring us at one stroke into their own atmosphere," or atmasphere."

What with Julie's recommendation the other day & that, I may have to give Joseph a sales commission & buy it too.

As Magnus's head said "...one should read the geniuses even if they are not scientifically correct, because they still have the ability to confer wisdom, or rather a capacity for wisdom, or rather a kind of intellectual shakti."

Whether or not you can fully grasp and explore such works, I do think that just by coming into contact with such works - art, music or written (or lived) word - they imprint their image, or at least the shape of them, within you... ready and waiting for you to explore them further at your leisure.

9/23/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To be fair and give credit where it's due, I wouldn't have read it if Bob hadn't first. I would have remained happily convinced that it didn't have anything I needed to hear, otherwise.

9/23/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Bob wrote in his post:

"In any event, all we're really trying to do here is have a genuine encounter with O and then memorialize it in language. That's it."

This is the best possible endeavor and why I read the blog religiously.

Bob, you are a splendid conduit for O and a national treasure. I do not underestimate your abilities to memorialize your encounters with O in words.

Aurobindo and yourself have much in common.

Tusar Mohapatra commented about the latest on Aurobindo from Heehs. I have read it; Heehs mainly points out that Aurobindo was a man, had his ego failings and weaknesses. I found it to be interesting but did not detract from A, in my opinion.

A's disastrous marriage to Mrinalini is a point in case. Yes, A had his failings all right.

But we all do, even the best of conduits.

9/23/2010 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Good post over at Fr. Stephen's today:

"Instead, the Orthodox language on the subject has been that God is truly the ground of all existence, and that apart from Him, everything is moving towards non-existence. It is the Scriptural correlation between sin and death. This shifts the reality of the whole of our lives. Prayer no longer serves as a component of my personal “spirituality,” but is instead communion with the God Who Is, and apart from Whom, I am not. It teaches us to pray as if our lives depended on it – because they do.

By the same token, it moves our understanding of what it means to exist away from mere biology or even philosophy and to its proper place: to exist is to love."

9/23/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

wv: slacting.

I couldn't pass up sharing that one. My word for the day. I will be taking "slaction" and taking it easy today.

I hope everyone has a slack-filled day...

9/24/2010 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

OT as usual:

Long time no see coons!

Anyone save a life lately?

WV:enshor your sins will be hidden by doing so.

9/24/2010 06:50:00 AM  

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