I labour upwards into futurity.
William Blake?, 1796
30 November 2006
Darwinism, Creationism, Naturalism, Philosophy
of Science & Pseudoscience
meaningless complexity by Andrea Bottaro, June 2, 2005
On Michael Behe's fraudulent arguments for "intelligent
Darwin War by Ophelia Benson
What a mess! I recently read a piece by Ruse
that was tremendously confused on these issues. Dennett and Dawkins
are not necessarily a disgrace in opposition to intelligent design,
but they are a disgrace in proposing their alternative pseudoscience
of memes. Dawkins' argument for atheism is awkward from a philosophical
standpoint. But Ruse on "evolutionism" as a religion
is also a confused and even disingenuous argument, which is a
shame since he may be on to something in his criticism of the
proponents of Darwinism as a universal explanatory device for
social and cultural phenomena. There are other alternatives within
the naturalistic geneticist camp. In any case, the proper description
for the ideological dimension of "evolutionism" is "ideology"
not "religion" (unless we are talking about certain
developments in the 19th and early 20th centuries). It's a shame
that Ruse mucks up things even worse. This is one thing I mean
by the restricted dominant intellectual discourse of the Anglo-American
world. That these are all the popularized alternatives we get,
and nothing better than this makes it into popular culture, is
a measure of the downward pull of a society of dumbbells on its
intellectuals. One would think at least that the Brits would be
smarter than Americans (though that's not much to brag about),
but I guess a philistine even if more literate culture produces
comparably insipid results. But more to the point, we need to
analyze how the marketplace of ideas works literally, not just
metaphorically, because if we are all oriented toward popularity
or market values, and these don't bring us the best goods, we
are going to be seduced into the superficiality and ideological
constriction that affects society as a whole.
Quote from the article:
He [Ruse] pointed out that he defended evolution
in the 1981 McLean v Arkansas case, when it wasn't a popular
thing to do. Then he delivered a caution of his own: "I
think that you and Richard are absolute disasters in the fight
against intelligent design." He said what is needed is
not "knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues"
and that defenders of evolution are in a fight, and "we
need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone
of good will." Dennett replied emolliently: "I'll
wait before replying to you. I doubt that you mean all the things
you say here. Think it over."
the Spell: a review by Jeremy Stangroom
Stangroom, who is no religionist, gives Dennett
a little taste of what he deserves.
Bunge, Mario. "The Philosophy behind Pseudoscience,"
Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 30, no. 4, July/August 2006, pp.
Bunge has much harder philosophical criteria
for science than does, say, Chris Mooney. I'm in partial agreement
with Bunge, but I would treat some of his examples differently.
He is stringent enough to relegate areas of partially respectable
science such as cosmology and computational psychology to pseudoscience
as well as pyschoanalysis and Marxism. He admits of borderline
cases and potentials for current non-science (strictly defined)
to become scientific. I don't agree with his analyses of all these
cases, but he speaks at least indirectly to the issue of memetics
and similar explanations. Bunge also dismisses certain philosophies
of science such as Popper's.
I discovered only in recent months that Paul
Kurtz puts out this academic journal on naturalism. I never
found it necessary to think much about "naturalism",
partly because, in philosophical terminology, it's an ambiguous
term, and I prefer the less weaselly term "materialism"
(a philosophy deemed un-American and subversive by J. Edgar Hoover).
However, the recent controversies over evolution make me think
about naturalism, as the antonym of supernaturalism. So while
I would normally find this sort of stuff rather tedious, theistic
philosophers are so deeply dishonest, perhaps there's something
to keeping tabs on them. Which reminds me, that one of the many
alarm signals I saw in 1980, the year in which I was startled
into engaging the fight against irrationalism, was an article
in Time magazine mentioning new proofs for the existence
of God using modal logic. Philo
deals with various arcane theistic arguments, figuring out ways
to rebut them. While I generally don't have a taste for this literature,
there are likely some important lessons in it we can all use.
Naturalism" by Keith Parsons
This old editorial from 2000 made an impression
on me, not because it's news of any kind, but because it highlights
a coordinated assault on the basic naturalistic presuppositions
of the scientific method, a phenomenon so concerted we haven't
seen since the days of Nazi Germany.
I think there's something else of importance,
which is already obvious to you, but which is worth thinking more
about. I have emphasized that belief in an abstract God has no
inseparable connection with belief in any revealed religion. But
of course the man on the street is too dense to make the logical
distinction, and the theistic philosophers must know this. Even
though they can't prove the validity of any sacred texts or doctrines,
the mere proof of God in a logical technical sense is to make
the whole lot of superstitious religious bullshit acceptable among
the mass of believers, whom are all intellectually dishonest anyway.
And really this is the whole point, because logical and metaphysical
tricks really do not convince anyone anyway; they couldn't even
convince the people perpetrating them, or they wouldn't have to
try so hard to prove anything. Therefore, it is necessary to attack
mendacity as well as logical fallacy.
Other articles of possible interest:
Beaudoin, John. "On
Some Criticisms of Hume's Principle of Proportioning Cause to
Effect," Philo, volume 2, number 2.
Drange, Theodore M. "Incompatible-Properties
Arguments: A Survey ," Philo, volume 1, number
[> David Hume vs. Intelligent Design]
[> October Reading
30 November 2006
David Hume vs. Intelligent Design
Hume is the ur-source for arguments against proofs for the existence
of God and arguments for 'intelligent design" or creationism
as alternatives to scientific evolutionary theory. Here are some
links of interest.
[> Darwinism, Creationism, Naturalism,
Philosophy of Science & Pseudoscience]
[> October Reading
30 November 2006
November Reading Review
Bharati, Swami Agehananda. The Light at the Center: Context
and Pretext of Modern Mysticism. Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson,
[> Swami Agehananda Bharati
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic,
edited and translated by John Willett. New York, Hill and Wang,
[> Bertolt Brecht's Dialectical
Levi, Albert William. Philosophy as Social
Expression. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press,
I have to revise my initial
impression (from October) upward. The chapters on Descartes
and Moore are of exceptional interest. Moore's example is about
the professionalization of philosophy, a story which Levi begins
with Kant, contrasting him to the era of the gentleman philosopher
exemplified by Descartes. Descartes is of special interest as
Levi analyzes the social meaning of Descartes' philosophy. Apparently,
Marxists (French Marxists at leastsome are named) have been
fascinated by the implications of Cartesian dualism, and Levi's
analysis could be squared with the perspective of C. L. R.
James. The final chapter summarizes the thesis of the book
and ventures some generalizations about the nature of philosophy
and its social dimension and the varying contemporary relevance
of the philosophies of the past.
My initial suspicions about Levi's perspective,
unfortunately, are borne out (unintentionally) by this review
of a later work by Levi:
Albert William Levi. The High Road of Humanity:
The Seven Ethical Ages of Western Man. Edited by Donald Phillip
Verene and Molly Black Verene. Rodopi: Amsterdam-Atlanta. 1995.
156 Pages. Reviewed
by Dennis Sansom in Books and the University: An Informal
Journal Discussing Books Pertinent to the University by Faculty
of Samford University, III: 1, Fall, 2002.
Dualism (Extract) by Albert William Levi]
Historic Fate: Museum Pieces, Messages, and Classics"
by Albert William Levi]
James on the (Post)Modern Intellectual & the Division of Labor
[> C.L.R. James on Descartes
& the Division of Labor]
Phenomenology and Natural
Existence: Essays in Honor of Marvin Farber, edited by Dale
Riepe. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1973.
Farber was the main conduit for phenomenology
in the United States but rejected Husserl's subjective idealist
nonsense and sought to ground what is useful in phenomenology
naturalistically. Husserl needs to be seen as a product of the
profound ideological malaise of the late 19th century. He thought
himself a rationalist but ended up as the vehicle for a whole
new generation of philosophical irrationalism. And as the Nazis
sent him packing, he never had a clue about the nature of the
society he lived in or how it got that way. When you deny reality,
you never do. Pathetic.
There is a naturalistic tradition in American
philosophywhich includes Farber and several of his collaboratorsthat
was never parochial or exclusionary as the American analytical
philosophy establishment has been, or the duplicitous 'continental
philosophy' franchise. This book's geographical center of gravity
was Buffalo, NY. If only I had had the sense to take advantage
of Buffalo's impressive philosophy department when I had the chance.
So far I have read through the first section,
on Farber himself. In addition to the perspectives on phenomenology
in the balance of the book, it would be interesting to learn what
has become of naturalistic phenomenology in the ensuing three
and a half decades.
See Dale Riepe's Introduction.
Meditations: On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874),
translated by Ian C. Johnston, text amended in part by The Nietzsche
This passage was referenced in Adorno:
A Guide for the Perplexed (p. 131-2). Nietzsche is asserted
to possess great insight into the brewing crisis in reason in
a relativizing age of scientism, naturalism, historicism, and
Imagine the most extreme example,
a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all,
who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being.
Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer
believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing
out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming.
He will, like the true pupil of Heraclitus, finally hardly dare
any more to lift his finger. Forgetting belongs to all action,
just as both light and darkness belong in the life of all organic
things. [Section I]
I can see Husserl as reactive against this climate,
but it seems to me that Niezsche's purpose differs. He is concerned
about the disharmony in the German soul between the inner and
outer, form and content, a mood of irony and cynicism, and fears
(condemning Hegel) that a science of history induces passivity
and worship of brute fact. Nietzsche's worry over the loss of
autonomous individuality seems to be motivated by fear of absorption
into the mediocre mass.
Althusser, Louis. Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy
of the Scientists & Other Essays, edited with an introduction
by Gregory Elliott, translated by Ben Brewster et al. London; New
York: Verso, 1990.
Contents: Theory, theoretical practice, and theoretical
formation On theoretical work Philosophy and the
spontaneous philosophy of the scientists (1967) Lenin and
philosophy Is it simple to be a Marxist in philosophy?
The transformation of philosophy Marxism today.
I will have much to say elsewhere about these
Feminist Interpretations of Theodor Adorno, edited by Renée
Heberle. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press,
2006. (Re-reading the Canon) Contents.
The introduction to this volume did not inspire
me; most of this looks like academic feminist inbreeding to me.
I'd just as soon turn the tables: instead of Feminist Perspectives
on X, I'd like to see X Perspectives on Feminism. And
if women is not a synonym for feminism, relating
thinker X to women may produce interesting and maybe even
There is some preoccupation here with the (suffering)
body (reminiscent of postmodern preoccupations, though relevant
to Adorno), e.g. "The Bared-Breasts Incident" by Lisa
The one essay that piqued my interest was "Feminist
politics and the culture industry: Adornos critique revisited"
by Lambert Zuidervaart, author of a fat book on Adorno's aesthetics.
The question here is the concept of the autonomy of art and the
validity of Adorno's evaluation of the products of the culture
industry, which Zuidervaart criticizes on uncustomary grounds.
Since cultural institutions operate according to the laws of capitalist
economics, the material basis for an autonomous art has to be
a counter-economics not driven by the profit motive. This notion
has relevance for feminist engagement in arts, more basic and
necessary than a simple political instrumentalization of art,
which itself may have questionable implications.
I also learned of a prior book on the subject:
Adorno, Culture, and Feminism, edited
by Maggie ONeill. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications,
W. Adorno & Critical Theory Study Guide]
Fain, Haskell. Between Philosophy and History: The Resurrection
of Speculative Philosophy of History within the Analytic Tradition.
Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1970.
This book, like Levi (see above) was written
during the period of the unquestioned dominance of analytical
philosophy in the Anglo-American sphere. This is philosophy of
history (and historiography and historical science) rather than
philosophy of history of philosophy. Skepticism about the feasibility
of historical explanation is addressed. Naturally, Hegel plays
a role in this book. What of Marx? One need not accept the claim
that Marx made history 'scientific' or discovered 'laws of history'
to appreciate his contributions. Marx contributed a new frame
of reference for making history intelligible. Marx's 18th Brumaire
is treated in some deatil as a model of historical analysis. (233-240)
Chapter 9, "Decision Procedures and Concept
Formation," is of particular interest. 'Decision procedures'
apparently refers to working methods. Conceptual revolutions in
history are not related to methodological procedures in historiography,
which do not change dramatically. The conceptual dividing line
is between pre-Marx and post-Marx historical thought. Jean Jaurès'
The Socialist History of the French Revolution is a landmark
Marxist history that changed the framework of historical investigation.
The First Writings of Karl Marx, ed.
Paul Schafer. Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 2006.
I don't know whether it's a fluke or a defect
in the whole print run, but there are several blank pages in my
Note that Marx's work reprinted here comes almost
wholly from vol. 1 of Marx Engels Collected Works (MECW),
the only prior edition containing all the extant material from
Marx's dissertation. If you don't have this volume already and
don't plan to buy it, you could consider this paperback edition,
assuming you can find a nondefective copy. If you already own
MECW vol. 1, be advised that the only new material in the
book is the editor's introduction, translations of several letters,
and the select bibliography. Given the size of the MECW
volume, this is a handy repackaging of that material plus the
Marx's writings in this volume include:
Letter from Marx to his Father (Nov. 1837)
Marx's Doctoral Dissertation: Difference Between the Democritean
and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature
Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy (Selections)
Recommendatory Reference on the Dissertation of Karl Marx
Letters from Marx (1841)
Letters to Marx (1836-37)
This edition contains the all-important notes
to chapter 4 (147-152), sometimes published separately, but omitted
from some other editions of the dissertation. You can also consult
a different translation on my web site:
after Its Completion
Schafer has selected from the notebooks on Epicurean
philosophy extracts from notebooks 1, 2, 4, 6. He includes nothing
from notebook 7, whereas I found at least one significant passage
Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy (Extracts on Total Philosophy,
In addition there is some business-related correspondence
on Marx's dissertation, and two letters from dad Heinrich scolding
son Marx on his irresponsibility.
The editor's 60-page introduction may justify
the purchase of the book, esp. given the comparatively little
analysis of the young young Marx. I've never studied the main
body of the dissertation in adequate detail, so I'm not the best
judge. I find Marx's Hegelian take on Democritus and Epicurus
very peculiar. Schafer terms it dialectical atomism.
The Epicurean swerve of the atom is related to human self-determination
via negation. According to Schafer, "To be self-consciously
human is to be both for and against nature. In this sense, the
individual human being is like the atom: it becomes actual only
when it frees itself from relative determination and relates itself
to itself." I don't understand any of this. Schafer also
reviews Marx's view of praxis, or the relation between theory
and practice, in the dissertation.
Burrow, J. W. The Crisis of Reason: European Thought, 1848-1914.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
Christopher Mack . "Review
of J. W. Burrow, The Crisis of Reason: European Thought, 1848-1914,"
H-Ideas, H-Net Reviews, June, 2001.
This book is the motherlode, the natural prequel
to Consciousness and Society
by H. Stuart Hughes. Here you get the rise of scientism and materialism
and the anti-materialist backlash, the political uses of evolutionism,
nationalism, sociology, and the problem of modernity, changing
conceptions of the self, and the resurgence of occultism; in short,
all the unresolved philosophical contradictions of modern society.
and Society: A Review by R. Dumain]
vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide]
Horgan, John. Rational Mysticism: Dispatches
from the Border Between Science and Spirituality. Boston: Houghton
See also my
review of Thomas W. Clark's review, Debunking
I approached this book with considerable irritation,
but as Horgan's skepticism kicked in, I found the book if not
its subjects far more palatable. This book pairs well with the
work of Swami Agehananda Bharati; Bharati is
not mentioned, though. Horgan's subjects have a variety of philosophical
perspectives on mystical and paranormal experiences, all of which
come in for questioning by Horgan, and thus Bharati's isolation
of the zero-experience from moral and knowledge claims gains tacit
support from the evidence here. I find all the individuals I've
read about highly distasteful: it's enough for a person to claim
an interest in this subject for me to detest him. Especially obnoxious
is the perennial philosophy proposed by some and opposed
by other researchers and proponents of mysticism, but the advocates
of particularistic traditions are equally obnoxious.
Articles of interest:
Welger, Helmut. Komunika Etiko
kaj Esperantismo [Communication Ethics & Esperantism], Simpozio,
n‑ro 3, jaro 2-a, n-ro 3-a, marto 1984, p. 19-25.
In Esperanto: an essay which usefully recapitulates
the rudiments of Habermas discourse ethics and links it
to the character and aims of the Esperanto movement.
Mirowski, Philip. How
Positivism Made Pact with the Postwar Social Sciences in America,
Galileo, 2nd series, #31, May 2005.
Mirowski begins with a detailed consideration
of Dewey's linkage between science and democracy (giving a more
favorable slant to Dewey's 'scientism' than I had once appreciated),
and why the very idea became a dead duck with World War II.
Far from becoming apolitical, Mirowski finds
a highly politicized context for the American transformation of
logical positivism, which he finds tightly integrated conceptually
and institutionally with Operations Research. Reichenbach comes
in for extensive treatment. Mirowski has an explanation for why
non-marxist socialists had such a propensity for involving themselves
in classified military research after the war.
There are a number of very important philosophical
implications here, involving the division of labor, formalist
philosophies of science, alienation, et al. This is a very rich
I just want to note one important feature here,
regarding the "purist" notion of science. It is one
thing to promote a certain normative ideal of science or the "scientific
temper"; it's quite another to claim that it is empirically
instantiated as such in society, as the figures noted in this
article claimed. Popper was just as bad: his ideological role
is well-known, and I've never known a Popperian who wasn't clueless.
(This is much worse than the problems with Habermas' discourse
ethics.) All idealist liberal concepts have a similar problem:
they aim to serve a critical function by declaring independence
from absorption in social determinations, but then they conflate
normative independence with actual independence, thus obscuring
an assessment of how and why the normative concept does not get
socially instantiated. The postmodern ideologues in their cynicism
scandalize the name of rational autonomy so as to disable and
enculturate us into barbarism. Thus zigzags the petty bourgeois
Circle, Karl Popper, Frankfurt School, Marxism, McCarthyism &
American Philosophy: Selected Bibliography]
In a separate entry I will review essays pertaining to secular
humanism, naturalism, pseudoscience, evolutionism, and religion.
[> October Reading
14 November 2006
Bertolt Brecht's Dialectical Aesthetics
Some resources on Brecht, particularly his philosophical and aesthetic
concepts. For Brecht scholarship in general:
Works in English: A Bibliography
An important recent collection of writings I need to find:
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Art and Politics, edited by
Thomas Kuhn and Steve Giles. London: Methuen, 2003.
This contains an important piece I'm after:
Speech on the Power of Resistance of Reason, pp.
Source: Rede über die Widerstandskraft der Vernunft (1937),
Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 20, Frankfurt 1967.
Another important anthology:
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an
Aesthetic, edited and translated by John Willett. New York,
Hill and Wang, 1964.
Links to the Brecht material on my web site follow. The first of
these is a collection of brief quotes from the essays and lectures
in the above-mentioned book giving the most abstract and barest
possible account of his animating philosophical ideas. You will
have to consult the book itself, not to mention Brecht's own creative
work, to flesh out these statements. The editor's footnotes contextualize
this work, and furthermore clarify the connections among these writings
comprising Brecht's notion of dialectical theatre. The piece Can
the Present-day World be Reproduced by Means of Theatre? (1955)
indicates the problem which Brecht's approach set out to address.
Though our present-day social context is different, we may need
to ask ourselves this question as well.
Of contemporary note is a song put together by Peter O'Hanlon and
Eamonn McCann of the Socialist Environmental Alliance using Bertolt
Brecht's poem as lyrics:
This essay is also of interest:
Lehrstücke - Modernist Learning-Plays
This fellow's web site is actually quite interesting. Much of it
relates to theatre and other cultural issues:
13 November 2006
William Auld, William Blake & Esperanto
In memory of the recently deceased Esperanto poet William Auld
(also a nominee for the Nobel Prize), and with the occasion of his
birthday in mind (6 November), I compiled a webliography in his
honorWilliam Auld Memorial Page
/ En Memoro. This renders my previous
blog entry obsolete.
With Auld in mind and also the upcoming 249th birthday of William
Blake (28 November), I compiled a bibliography and web guide, William
Blake en/in Esperanto.
Of related interest, see also Odo
al la Okcidenta Vento [Ode to the West Wind] de Percy Bysshe
Shelley, translated into Esperanto by Kalman Kalocsay.
Of interest but not directly related, possibly the first article
on the web linking the communication ethics of Frankfurt School
philosopher Jürgen Habermas with Esperanto: "Komunika
Etiko kaj Esperantismo" [Communication Ethics & Esperantism]
by Helmut Welger.
2 November 2006
Swami Agehananda Bharati (1923-1991)
Bharati, Swami Agehananda. The Light at the Center:
Context and Pretext of Modern Mysticism. Santa Barbara, CA:
Ross-Erikson, 1976. See also:
Bharati (brief bio/obit)
Zero [book review] by BRAD DARRACH, Time, Monday, Sep.
Light at the Center:
and Future Trends in Contemporary Hinduism by Agehananda Bharati
Tibet: The Origin and Persistence of Rampaism by Agehananda
Bharati, Tibet Society Bulletin, Vol. 7, 1974.
Beyond Reason? by Robert B. Tapp, Humanism Today, vol.
- Mysticism and the
Idea of Freedom: A Libertarian View by Neal Donner, 1997.
Bharati is the author of several books, but the other
classic work most relevant to this inquiry is his autobiography:
Agehananda Bharati, Swami. The Ochre Robe: An Autobiography.
2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson Publishers, 1980. (1st
Bharati's last word in book form (which I have not
seen) seems to be:
Indology and Science: Towards a Hermeneutical Coalition,
edited by Pranabananda Jash. Calcutta: Roy & Chowdhury Publishers
& Book Sellers, 1989.
The Light at the Center gives me a lot of new old information
that is simultaneously useful for several projects, including opposition
to New Age Spinozism and Sam Harris's advocacy of mysticism. Bharati
(Austrian by birth, and at least a generation removed from the hippies)
demystifies the mystical hype from India peddled to the West and
claims that the mystical experience, which he terms the 'zero-experience',
gets you zero knowledge (and zero values) beyond what you learned
by other means. I never heard of this guy until recently, which
suggests how much BS the New Age movement and the counterculture
were able to circulate without any real critical historical study
of the genesis of these ideas and institutions circulating as well.
I'm amazed that this book was published as early as 1976, and that
the author could already see the turn from the counterculture to
the yuppification of the New Age. The way that ideas diffused in
the culture, the average person exposed to "eastern mysticism"
never got the inside scoop, though I did get suspicious when I read
a book by the Marahishi Mahesh Yogi containing laudatory remarks
about the caste system. How badly we were deceived.
In addition to being a swami, Bharati ultimately settled into an
academic position in anthropology, another dubious profession. As
much as I enjoyed his debunking of Indian religion and society and
New Age hucksterism in the West, I was puzzled by his continuing
interest in a subject about which he had grown cynical. Bharati
remained a swami, and in an attenuated sense, a spokesman for Hinduism.
On the one hand, Bharati insists on the importance of the primary
sources and scholarship (Sanskrit, etc.), as opposed to the anti-intellectual
shallow eclecticism of New Age hippies. On the other, he shows how
most of these traditions are based on bogus notions and institutions
and isolates the zero-experience from them, while remaining a professional
mystic and teaching the traditional disciplines. There's a missing
punchline here, it seems.
Is the argument then that one must have the scholarship in order
to penetrate the hermeneutics and socio-anthropological dimension
of Indian (and other) mystical traditions so as to be able to extract
that which is still usable from the corpus of oppressive superstition?
If one could do this, wouldn't then the original literature and
doctrines be rendered irrelevant save for specialized academic studies?
One could just rewrite all that is useful in this stuffpresumably
retooling it in a different fashion from eclectical New Age propagandaand
discard the original traditions altogether as a basis for doctrine
and practice. As Bharati was so cynical about most of this stuff
and essentially a free-lancer, other than being a specialist repository
of this information, why would he continue in his traditional swami
role? Is it because it granted him a specific social status, including
access to his mystical peers?
Pondering the future of mysticism, Bharati notes how the hippies
and the changing cultural mores of the younger generation are tipping
the scales against the traditional puritanism and authoritarianism
of both East and West. His very last words are these:
A rational mysticism is not a contradiction in
terms; it is a mysticism whose limits are set by reasons: a quest
for the zero-experience without any concomitant claim to world
knowledge, special wisdom, or special morality. These latter three
must be directly generated by reason, and by reason only.
I have more to say about Bharati's conclusions in forthcoming interventions.
The links above provide further relevant information. How odd to
read his conclusions of 1976 from a vantage point thirty years on.
I don't things went the way he hoped.
First, the cultural revolution against traditional mores pragmatically
succeeded, but subdued and stabilized within existing bourgeois
parametersa 'historic compromise' as it were. The powers-that-be
could coopt hedonism; they could neither destroy it nor tolerate
the universalization of a full-blown cultural revolution. The backlash
of the New Right could accelerate the political destruction of social
liberalism but could not fully succeed in its cultural goals without
destroying the capitalist consumer economy and culture in the process.
The result is the "Culture Wars" and the cynicism cum
barbarism that defines American society today.
Countercultural mysticism morphed into Yuppie New Age institutions,
bringing to the surface the class dynamics that were in it all along.
Mass culture simply adopted hedonism with a new aggressive hipper
consumerism that obliterated the honest counter-systemic tendencies
within the counterculture. From 30 years on, the social premisses
of the Swami's prognostications seem quaint.
The Swami's isolation of the zero-experience (which is, morevoer,
held to be amoral, a-cognitive, and a-ideological in essence) is
most interesting, especially as a weapon against New Age hucksterism,
but I'm not totally satisfied with it. I'm still not 100% clear
as to how the mystic compares to the prophet and to the saint. More
needs to be said about nonduality and oneness. The experience is
what it is, but its conceptual characterization is another matter,
as this book argues.
The ideology of oneness, as I argued last month, is questionable,
even within a naturalistic framework. The ideology of "oneness
with nature" can only come about in the West at particular
historical junctures. It is now different from the natural theology
of William Paley and others of two centuries ago, but it too is
essentially a petty bourgeois justification of the fundamental social
(though not cultural) order, though in the New Age case it often
comes as a protest against alienation and dualism. However, way
back when there was also an artisanal and proletarian opposition
to the notion of the beneficence and harmony of nature. See:
Desmond, Adrian. "Artisan Resistance and Evolution in Britain,
1819-1848," Osiris, second series, vol. 3, 1987, pp.
Also, the radical mystical/prophetic artisan William Blake was
deeply opposed to any notion of natural harmony, expressed inter
alia in his hostility to Wordsworth. He retained the more traditional
dualistic Christian language about 'nature' (though he was not a
dualist), which in his personal mythology was deployed in pursuit
of an apocalyptic destruction of the oppressive social order. This
aspect of Blake was leavened out by the religious, mystical, and
New Age airheads who took up Blake, including the radical mystic/prophet
poet Allen Ginsberg.
These are just a few of the considerations involved in filling
in the gaps of the Swami's perspective of how things stood in 1976
and with respect to developments in the cultural order of North
America and Western Europe over the ensuing three decades.
[> John Horgan, Rational Mysticism]
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