Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Essence of Indian Culture: Inspired Personalism.

The movement of Indian culture is always from collective violence and chaos and destruction to personal peace, unity, harmony and cultural creation.

What can be said of a culture whose gesture for "yes" is a head wiggle? Isn't that a particularly personal and indiosyncratic gesture?

This primal duality between tradition and personal expression is impersonal and cosmic in nature. That is to say, it is impersonal, in that: EVERYTHING is passing from tradition to personal expression; and it is cosmic, in that: war and chaos and destruction are FOREVER finding their resolution in the person of the mystic, the warrior and the goddess. (These clusters of personality rarely manifest alone, incidentally, but always in the form of narrative drama. The inner logic of the Ramayana and Mahabharata is an inspired narrative personalism.)

The final resolution of the Indian duality is in the creation of exquisite personal beauty. This is a beauty not from externalization of the ideal/idea (as with Western culture), not as an expression of a tradition as a mode of permanent becoming (Chinese culture), but an expression of beauty as unique and personal as if there had never been any other Indian culture than that particular expression now! This accounts for the remarkable freshness and youthfulness of Indian culture, a quality which never seems to fade.

The abovementioned will be found to resolve all questions of distinction and difference between Indian and the other great world cultures. It draws directly from the inspired source of dream and inspired utterance. Here's how:

Yesterday Peter and I went to the Art Gallery. Peter, a devout Christian, was shown the Virgin Mary and Infant Christ first, then some superb Indian prints of the Indian Gods. When he was shown Adi-Shakti, and the personal connection I felt with the goddess was expessed, he asked

"How does this tally up with our Christianity, then?"

I replied, "Adi-Shakti is the Virgin Mary. It's the same symbol, for the same experience, expressed in a different culture."

I then showed him how the other Indian Gods express themselves in Western culture, one by one. He was astonished. But the subconscious mind continued to work away at the question, and it manifested in a dream.

Then, on waking today, I had from the now-forgotten dream the immediate knowledge of the essential cultural distinction of Indian culture implanted in my waking consciousness. Putting it down in words it elaborated itself almost instantly, but it was captured for an instant in personal consciousness, before it became "Westernised" into this blog post. So this attests not only to inspired source of this information, but also to its inevitable Western contamination by elaboration and conceptual artistry. The primal way - as the Chinese Taoists say - that can be named is not itself the primal way! But at least we can point at the magnificent source of Indian culture and admire.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Being Forced to Read the Arab News: A Nightmare.

What a night! I moved the mattress into the lounge-room and laid it on the floor, with only a thin cotton mat protecting the mattress from the carpet, so that I could clean thoroughly under the bed. It was hard getting to sleep at all, but when I did, I woke a few hours later in a dream-panic.

In the dream, I was being forced to read Arabic news. Article after article, mired in hopeless stupidity and limitation, trapped in the Arab closed circle of toxic culture and inability to break out into a liberal society. But the demonic intelligence which was forcing me to review the news was absolutely convinced they were evidence of progress, positivity, and goodness, so it forced me to keep reading, and would allow no protest. The sheer number and momentum of falsehoods rose up and overwhelmed me and choked me beyond my ability to refute or even discern them. I was overcome by waves of evil.

Then I gradually became aware of my body and breathing; phlegm was accumulating in my oesophagus and blocking the passage of air, causing difficulty breathing. My panic had a physical correlate! Relieved, I got up and drank water, hoping it would help clear the airway, and lay back down to sleep, and slowly the panic crept back.

Helplessly I lay in bed for an unknown amount of time, watching the difficulty in breathing recur and then compulsively swallowing the clear the phlegm, again and again. What else could I do? "Perhaps," I could not help but thinking,"this is how the body will die." But not last night. Gradually the difficulty subsided, and I fell into fitful sleep.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Why did both Franz Kafka and Simon Leys admire Chesterton's "Man Who Was Thursday"?

If any novel can be claimed to have a truly catholic form of Cabalism, it is this.

The great thing about Chesterton's "Man Who Was Thursday" is its perfect uselessness as idea, and perfect utility as image. It is an extended platonic fable, without the dialog surrouning it.

Oddly enough, the dialog never ceases. People talk non-stop, but never on the topic. And what is the topic? The true nature of the topic of "The Man Who Was Thursday" is occult, hidden behind the symbols.

What about the ideas? The ideas, such as they are trivial or universal, are presented with the same rapid insipidity of tone and pronounced with an air of waspish decision. No; in this novella the image is all.

What inspired me to read it was literary gossip from Simon Leys that this book was a great favourite of Kafka. What kind of novel (I wondered) could both Kafka and Leys could admire? A non-novel, that's the kind of novel they both admire.

It must be admitted up front that "Thursday" is a badly written book. Chesterton's action scenes are clumsy, and the scene transitions are amateurish more than half the time. "The Man Who Was Thursday" is the work of an amateur - which explains why Leys liked it, since he placed the amateur in a privileged position. But it is also Cabalistic, and that explains why Kafka liked it.

How is it cabalistic? It begins as a mood piece, a symbolist painting in words. Then it ends in a Dantean way, with pure mediaeval pageant. And the funny thing about the final scenes is that, while they absurd by any reasonable standards, they resonate in the soul in the most unusual way: it effects one in the same way as the Christian communion.

What other novel can you read that reminds of the Christian communion? None that I know of. And yet that is the only and exact sensation of the closing scenes of this novel: "The Man Who Was Thursday" ends with a grand image of the Communion of all Creation.

It is not a likeable or entertaining or even a well-made novel, but it is superb. And that is why both men like it.

Founding Father John Adams: the Conservative as Revolutionary.

John Adams' "On Canon and Feudal Law", is a short essay which only makes sense at all when put in context. In as few and simple words as possible I will do that here.

First, Adams is a conservative and British-ruled American subject. Conservatives seek to conserve what is good in the tradition. (As we will see, how Adams conserves is very different from our modern idea of how a conservative works.)

Second, Adams suggests a radical conservative change by placing it in the existing tradition. Adams says his reform is the mainstream of the Puritan impulse. (Whether his idea is the Puritan mainsteam or not we can't say!)

Third, and most historically, Adams is protesting the Stamp Act, which taxed the use of paper in the Americas. He protests this because he says it limits freedom. Here's some historical context on the act, which (as part of the early British persecution of the Americas) was soon revoked.

But the Stamp Act is just a pretext, really, for a discussion of the difference between law in America and law in Europe. A young Adams here makes a stark (and questionable) distinction between the American and the European legal systems.

In a nutshell:

European law, Adams says, is illiberal and oppressive, conducive to tyranny, because it keeps people poor, socially trapped and ignorant; by contrast, American law is liberal and free and anti-tyranny, because it enables people to become rich, socially mobile, and educated.
Adams describes how the rich are expected to fund education, along with the poor. (Nowhere does he suggest that this funding ought be done by governments, as per the progressive income tax.)

The most interesting things about this short essay are the noble and elevated diction, which can be read aloud well, and the historicity. I'll discuss briefly Adams (to my mind faulty) historicism.

Adams tells American history as the progress from barbarism to civilization. He evokes Rousseau as an examplar of liberation. By describing Roman civilization as tyrannical, he can picture American society as free. This simplistic historicism gives Americans a reassuring narrative of progress and meaning, from Roman tyranny to American liberty. But does the picture play out as Adams says?

It need be said that Adams was a young working lawyer when he wrote this, and new to political practice. I think he can be forgiven his unsophisticated historicism and the unmeaning errors in his little historical fables. But the radical suggestion, that educating the masses and freeing government and education from the historical burdens of law, has remained exciting and liberating to this day.

Most exceptionally, Adams is that most rare of creatures: the conservative playing at revolutionary!

We imagine conservatives are not open to change; this is false. Conservatives are open to progress, to beneficial change. It is only frivolous, meaningless, baseless change that conservatives steadfastly oppose.

Therefore, because it presents conservatism as it really is, and because it depicts freedom so well, it to this day remains well worth a read.

follow me on Twitter