Transcendentally Realist Modality. Thought of the Day 78.1


Let us start at the beginning first! Though the fact is not mentioned in Genesis, the first thing God said on the first day of creation was ‘Let there be necessity’. And there was necessity. And God saw necessity, that it was good. And God divided necessity from contingency. And only then did He say ‘Let there be light’. Several days later, Adam and Eve were introducing names for the animals into their language, and during a break between the fish and the birds, introduced also into their language modal auxiliary verbs, or devices that would be translated into English using modal auxiliary verbs, and rules for their use, rules according to which it can be said of some things that they ‘could’ have been otherwise, and of other things that they ‘could not’. In so doing they were merely putting labels on a distinction that was no more their creation than were the fishes of the sea or the beasts of the field or the birds of the air.

And here is the rival view. The failure of Genesis to mention any command ‘Let there be necessity’ is to be explained simply by the fact that no such command was issued. We have no reason to suppose that the language in which God speaks to the angels contains modal auxiliary verbs or any equivalent device. Sometime after the Tower of Babel some tribes found that their purposes would be better served by introducing into their language certain modal auxiliary verbs, and fixing certain rules for their use. When we say that this is necessary while that is contingent, we are applying such rules, rules that are products of human, not divine intelligence.

This theological language would have been the natural way for seventeenth or eighteenth century philosophers, who nearly all were or professed to be theists or deists, to discuss the matter. For many today, such language cannot be literally accepted, and if it is only taken metaphorically, then at least better than those who speak figuratively and frame the question as that of whether the ‘origin’ of necessity lies outside us or within us. So let us drop the theological language, and try again.

Well, here the first view: Ultimately reality as it is in itself, independently of our attempts to conceptualize and comprehend it, contains both facts about what is, and superfacts about what not only is but had to have been. Our modal usages, for instance, the distinction between the simple indicative ‘is’ and the construction ‘had to have been’, simply reflect this fundamental distinction in the world, a distinction that is and from the beginning always was there, independently of us and our concerns.

And here is the second view: We have reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. The distinction between those things in the world that would have been no matter what and those that might have failed to be if only is a projection of the distinctions made in our language. Our saying there were necessities there before us is a retroactive application to the pre-human world of a way of speaking invented and created by human beings in order to solve human problems.

Well, that’s the second try. With it even if one has gotten rid of theology, unfortunately one has not gotten rid of all metaphors. The key remaining metaphor is the optical one: reflection vs projection. Perhaps the attempt should be to get rid of all metaphors, and admit that the two views are not so much philosophical theses or doctrines as ‘metaphilosophical’ attitudes or orientations: a stance that finds the ‘reflection’ metaphor congenial, and the stance that finds the ‘projection’ metaphor congenial. So, lets try a third time to describe the distinction between the two outlooks in literal terms, avoiding optics as well as theology.

To begin with, both sides grant that there is a correspondence or parallelism between two items. On the one hand, there are facts about the contrast between what is necessary and what is contingent. On the other hand, there are facts about our usage of modal auxiliary verbs such as ‘would’ and ‘might’, and these include, for instance, the fact that we have no use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been a prime number if such-and- such?’ but may have use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been the number of years it takes for Saturn to orbit the sun if such-and-such?’ The difference between the two sides concerns the order of explanation of the relation between the two parallel ranges of facts.

And what is meant by that? Well, both sides grant that ‘29 is necessarily prime’, for instance, is a proper thing to say, but they differ in the explanation why it is a proper thing to say. Asked why, the first side will say that ultimately it is simply because 29 is necessarily prime. That makes the proposition that 29 is necessarily prime true, and since the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ expresses that proposition, it is true also, and a proper thing to say. The second side will say instead that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say because there is a rule of our language according to which it is a proper thing to say. This formulation of the difference between the two sides gets rid of metaphor, though it does put an awful lot of weight on the perhaps fragile ‘why’ and ‘because’.

Note that the adherents of the second view need not deny that 29 is necessarily prime. On the contrary, having said that the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is, per rules of our language, a proper thing to say, they will go on to say it. Nor need the adherents of the first view deny that recognition of the propriety of saying ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is enshrined in a rule of our language. The adherents of the first view need not even deny that proximately, as individuals, we learn that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say by picking up the pertinent rule in the course of learning our language. But the adherents of the first view will maintain that the rule itself is only proper because collectively, as the creators of the language, we or our remote answers have, in setting up the rule, managed to achieve correspondence with a pre-existing fact, or rather, a pre-existing superfact, the superfact that 29 is necessarily prime. The difference between the two views is, in the order of explanation.

The adherents regarding labels for the two sides, or ‘metaphilosophical’ stances, rather than inventing new ones, will simply take two of the most overworked terms in the philosophical lexicon and give them one more job to do, calling the reflection view ‘realism’ about modality, and the projection view ‘pragmatism’. That at least will be easy to remember, since ‘realism’ and ‘reflection’ begin with the same first two letters, as do ‘pragmatism’ and ‘projection’. The realist/pragmatist distinction has bearing across a range of issues and problems, and above all it has bearing on the meta-issue of which issues are significant. For the two sides will, or ought to, recognize quite different questions as the central unsolved problems in the theory of modality.

For those on the realist side, the old problem of the ultimate source of our knowledge of modality remains, even if it is granted that the proximate source lies in knowledge of linguistic conventions. For knowledge of linguistic conventions constitutes knowledge of a reality independent of us only insofar as our linguistic conventions reflect, at least to some degree, such an ultimate reality. So for the realist the problem remains of explaining how such degree of correspondence as there is between distinctions in language and distinctions in the world comes about. If the distinction in the world is something primary and independent, and not a mere projection of the distinction in language, then how the distinction in language comes to be even imperfectly aligned with the distinction in the world remains to be explained. For it cannot be said that we have faculties responsive to modal facts independent of us – not in any sense of ‘responsive’ implying that if the facts had been different, then our language would have been different, since modal facts couldn’t have been different. What then is the explanation? This is the problem of the epistemology of modality as it confronts the realist, and addressing it is or ought to be at the top of the realist agenda.

As for the pragmatist side, a chief argument of thinkers from Kant to Ayer and Strawson and beyond for their anti-realist stance has been precisely that if the distinction we perceive in reality is taken to be merely a projection of a distinction created by ourselves, then the epistemological problem dissolves. That seems more like a reason for hoping the Kantian or Ayerite or Strawsonian view is the right one, than for believing that it is; but in any case, even supposing the pragmatist view is the right one, and the problems of the epistemology of modality are dissolved, still the pragmatist side has an important unanswered question of its own to address. The pragmatist account, begins by saying that we have certain reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. What the pragmatist owes us is an account of what these purposes are, and how the rules of our language help us to achieve them. Addressing that issue is or ought to be at the top of the pragmatists’ to-do list.

While the positivist Ayer dismisses all metaphysics, the ordinary-language philosopher Strawson distinguishes good metaphysics, which he calls ‘descriptive’, from bad metaphysics, which he calls ‘revisionary’, but which rather be called ‘transcendental’ (without intending any specifically Kantian connotations). Descriptive metaphysics aims to provide an explicit account of our ‘conceptual scheme’, of the most general categories of commonsense thought, as embodied in ordinary language. Transcendental metaphysics aims to get beyond or behind all merely human conceptual schemes and representations to ultimate reality as it is in itself, an aim that Ayer and Strawson agree is infeasible and probably unintelligible. The descriptive/transcendental divide in metaphysics is a paradigmatically ‘metaphilosophical’ issue, one about what philosophy is about. Realists about modality are paradigmatic transcendental metaphysicians. Pragmatists must in the first instance be descriptive metaphysicians, since we must to begin with understand much better than we currently do how our modal distinctions work and what work they do for us, before proposing any revisions or reforms. And so the difference between realists and pragmatists goes beyond the question of what issue should come first on the philosopher’s agenda, being as it is an issue about what philosophical agendas are about.

Dialectics of God: Lautman’s Mathematical Ascent to the Absolute. Paper.


Figure and Translation, visit Fractal Ontology

The first of Lautman’s two theses (On the unity of the mathematical sciences) takes as its starting point a distinction that Hermann Weyl made on group theory and quantum mechanics. Weyl distinguished between ‘classical’ mathematics, which found its highest flowering in the theory of functions of complex variables, and the ‘new’ mathematics represented by (for example) the theory of groups and abstract algebras, set theory and topology. For Lautman, the ‘classical’ mathematics of Weyl’s distinction is essentially analysis, that is, the mathematics that depends on some variable tending towards zero: convergent series, limits, continuity, differentiation and integration. It is the mathematics of arbitrarily small neighbourhoods, and it reached maturity in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the ‘new’ mathematics of Weyl’s distinction is ‘global’; it studies the structures of ‘wholes’. Algebraic topology, for example, considers the properties of an entire surface rather than aggregations of neighbourhoods. Lautman re-draws the distinction:

In contrast to the analysis of the continuous and the infinite, algebraic structures clearly have a finite and discontinuous aspect. Though the elements of a group, field or algebra (in the restricted sense of the word) may be infinite, the methods of modern algebra usually consist in dividing these elements into equivalence classes, the number of which is, in most applications, finite.

In his other major thesis, (Essay on the notions of structure and existence in mathematics), Lautman gives his dialectical thought a more philosophical and polemical expression. His thesis is composed of ‘structural schemas’ and ‘origination schemas’ The three structural schemas are: local/global, intrinsic properties/induced properties and the ‘ascent to the absolute’. The first two of these three schemas close to Lautman’s ‘unity’ thesis. The ‘ascent to the absolute’ is a different sort of pattern; it involves a progress from mathematical objects that are in some sense ‘imperfect’, towards an object that is ‘perfect’ or ‘absolute’. His two mathematical examples of this ‘ascent’ are: class field theory, which ‘ascends’ towards the absolute class field, and the covering surfaces of a given surface, which ‘ascend’ towards a simply-connected universal covering surface. In each case, there is a corresponding sequence of nested subgroups, which induces a ‘stepladder’ structure on the ‘ascent’. This dialectical pattern is rather different to the others. The earlier examples were of pairs of notions (finite/infinite, local/global, etc.) and neither member of any pair was inferior to the other. Lautman argues that on some occasions, finite mathematics offers insight into infinite mathematics. In mathematics, the finite is not a somehow imperfect version of the infinite. Similarly, the ‘local’ mathematics of analysis may depend for its foundations on ‘global’ topology, but the former is not a botched or somehow inadequate version of the latter. Lautman introduces the section on the ‘ascent to the absolute’ by rehearsing Descartes’s argument that his own imperfections lead him to recognise the existence of a perfect being (God). Man (for Descartes) is not the dialectical opposite of or alternative to God; rather, man is an imperfect image of his creator. In a similar movement of thought, according to Lautman, reflection on ‘imperfect’ class fields and covering surfaces leads mathematicians up to ‘perfect’, ‘absolute’ class fields and covering surfaces respectively.

Albert Lautman Dialectics in mathematics

Being Mediatized: How 3 Realms and 8 Dimensions Explain ‘Being’ by Peter Blank.


Experience of Reflection: ‘Self itself is an empty word’
Leary – The neuroatomic winner: “In the province of the mind, what is believed true is true, or becomes true within limits to be learned by experience and experiment.” (Dr. John Lilly)

Media theory had noted the shoring up or even annihilation of the subject due to technologies that were used to reconfigure oneself and to see oneself as what one was: pictures, screens. Depersonalization was an often observed, reflective state of being that stood for the experience of anxiety dueto watching a ‘movie of one’s own life’ or experiencing a malfunction or anomaly in one’s self-awareness.

To look at one’s scaffolded media identity meant in some ways to look at the redactionary product of an extreme introspective process. Questioning what one interpreted oneself to be doing in shaping one’s media identities enhanced endogenous viewpoints and experience, similar to focusing on what made a car move instead of deciding whether it should stay on the paved road or drive across a field. This enabled the individual to see the formation of identity from the ‘engine perspective’.

Experience of the Hyperreal: ‘I am (my own) God’
Leary – The metaprogramming winner: “I make my own coincidences, synchronities, luck, and Destiny.”

Meta-analysis of distinctions – seeing a bird fly by, then seeing oneself seeing a bird fly by, then thinking the self that thought that – becomes routine in hyperreality. Media represent the opposite: a humongous distraction from Heidegger’s goal of the search for ‘Thinking’: capturing at present the most alarming of what occupies the mind. Hyperreal experiences could not be traced back to a person’s ‘real’ identities behind their aliases. The most questionable therefore related to dismantled privacy: a privacy that only existed because all aliases were constituting a false privacy realm. There was nothing personal about the conversations, no facts that led back to any person, no real change achieved, no political influence asserted.

From there it led to the difference between networked relations and other relations, call these other relations ‘single’ relations, or relations that remained solemnly silent. They were relations that could not be disclosed against their will because they were either too vague, absent, depressing, shifty, or dangerous to make the effort worthwhile to outsiders.

The privacy of hyperreal being became the ability to hide itself from being sensed by others through channels of information (sight, touch, hearing), but also to hide more private other selves, stored away in different, more private networks from others in more open social networks.

Choosing ‘true’ privacy, then, was throwing away distinctions one experienced between several identities. As identities were space the meaning of time became the capacity for introspection. The hyperreal being’s overall identity to the inside as lived history attained an extra meaning – indeed: as alter- or hyper-ego. With Nietzsche, the physical body within its materiality occasioned a performance that subjected its own subjectivity. Then and only then could it become its own freedom.

With Foucault one could say that the body was not so much subjected but still there functioning on its own premises. Therefore the sensitory systems lived the body’s life in connection with (not separated from) a language based in a mediated faraway from the body. If language and our sensitory systems were inseparable, beings and God may as well be.

Being Mediatized

Infinitesimal and Differential Philosophy. Note Quote.


If difference is the ground of being qua becoming, it is not difference as contradiction (Hegel), but as infinitesimal difference (Leibniz). Accordingly, the world is an ideal continuum or transfinite totality (Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque) of compossibilities and incompossibilities analyzable into an infinity of differential relations (Desert Islands and Other Texts). As the physical world is merely composed of contiguous parts that actually divide until infinity, it finds its sufficient reason in the reciprocal determination of evanescent differences (dy/dx, i.e. the perfectly determinable ratio or intensive magnitude between indeterminate and unassignable differences that relate virtually but never actually). But what is an evanescent difference if not a speculation or fiction? Leibniz refuses to make a distinction between the ontological nature and the practical effectiveness of infinitesimals. For even if they have no actuality of their own, they are nonetheless the genetic requisites of actual things.

Moreover, infinitesimals are precisely those paradoxical means through which the finite understanding is capable of probing into the infinite. They are the elements of a logic of sense, that great logical dream of a combinatory or calculus of problems (Difference and Repetition). On the one hand, intensive magnitudes are entities that cannot be determined logically, i.e. in extension, even if they appear or are determined in sensation only in connection with already extended physical bodies. This is because in themselves they are determined at infinite speed. Is not the differential precisely this problematic entity at the limit of sensibility that exists only virtually, formally, in the realm of thought? Isn’t the differential precisely a minimum of time, which refers only to the swiftness of its fictional apprehension in thought, since it is synthesized in Aion, i.e. in a time smaller than the minimum of continuous time and hence in the interstitial realm where time takes thought instead of thought taking time?

Contrary to the Kantian critique that seeks to eliminate the duality between finite understanding and infinite understanding in order to avoid the contradictions of reason, Deleuze thus agrees with Maïmon that we shouldn’t speak of differentials as mere fictions unless they require the status of a fully actual reality in that infinite understanding. The alternative between mere fictions and actual reality is a false problem that hides the paradoxical reality of the virtual as such: real but not actual, ideal but not abstract. If Deleuze is interested in the esoteric history of differential philosophy, this is as a speculative alternative to the exoteric history of the extensional science of actual differences and to Kantian critical philosophy. It is precisely through conceptualizing intensive, differential relations that finite thought is capable of acquiring consistency without losing the infinite in which it plunges. This brings us back to Leibniz and Spinoza. As Deleuze writes about the former: no one has gone further than Leibniz in the exploration of sufficient reason [and] the element of difference and therefore [o]nly Leibniz approached the conditions of a logic of thought. Or as he argues of the latter, fictional abstractions are only a preliminary stage for thought to become more real, i.e. to produce an expressive or progressive synthesis: The introduction of a fiction may indeed help us to reach the idea of God as quickly as possible without falling into the traps of infinite regression. In Maïmon’s reinvention of the Kantian schematism as well as in the Deleuzian system of nature, the differentials are the immanent noumena that are dramatized by reciprocal determination in the complete determination of the phenomenal. Even the Kantian concept of the straight line, Deleuze emphasizes, is a dramatic synthesis or integration of an infinity of differential relations. In this way, infinitesimals constitute the distinct but obscure grounds enveloped by clear but confused effects. They are not empirical objects but objects of thought. Even if they are only known as already developed within the extensional becomings of the sensible and covered over by representational qualities, as differences they are problems that do not resemble their solutions and as such continue to insist in an enveloped, quasi-causal state.

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Deleuzian Grounds. Thought of the Day 42.0


With difference or intensity instead of identity as the ultimate philosophical one could  arrive at the crux of Deleuze’s use of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Difference and Repetition. At the beginning of the first chapter, he defines the quadruple yoke of conceptual representation identity, analogy, opposition, resemblance in correspondence with the four principle aspects of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: the form of the undetermined concept, the relation between ultimate determinable concepts, the relation between determinations within concepts, and the determined object of the concept itself. In other words, sufficient reason according to Deleuze is the very medium of representation, the element in which identity is conceptually determined. In itself, however, this medium or element remains different or unformed (albeit not formless): Difference is the state in which one can speak of determination as such, i.e. determination in its occurrent quality of a difference being made, or rather making itself in the sense of a unilateral distinction. It is with the event of difference that what appears to be a breakdown of representational reason is also a breakthrough of the rumbling ground as differential element of determination (or individuation). Deleuze illustrates this with an example borrowed from Nietzsche:

Instead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself and yet that from which it distinguishes itself, does not distinguish itself from it. Lightning, for example, distinguishes itself from the black sky but must also trail behind it . It is as if the ground rose to the surface without ceasing to be the ground.

Between the abyss of the indeterminate and the superficiality of the determined, there thus appears an intermediate element, a field potential or intensive depth, which perhaps in a way exceeds sufficient reason itself. This is a depth which Deleuze finds prefigured in Schelling’s and Schopenhauer’s differend conceptualization of the ground (Grund) as both ground (fond) and grounding (fondement). The ground attains an autonomous power that exceeds classical sufficient reason by including the grounding moment of sufficient reason for itself. Because this self-grounding ground remains groundless (sans-fond) in itself, however, Hegel famously ridiculed Schelling’s ground as the indeterminate night in which all cows are black. He opposed it to the surface of determined identities that are only negatively correlated to each other. By contrast, Deleuze interprets the self-grounding ground through Nietzsche’s eternal return of the same. Whereas the passive syntheses of habit (connective series) and memory (conjunctions of connective series) are the processes by which representational reason grounds itself in time, the eternal return (disjunctive synthesis of series) ungrounds (effonde) this ground by introducing the necessity of future becomings, i.e. of difference as ongoing differentiation. Far from being a denial of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, this threefold process of self-(un)grounding constitutes the positive, relational system that brings difference out of the night of the Identical, and with finer, more varied and more terrifying flashes of lightning than those of contradiction: progressivity.

The breakthrough of the ground in the process of ungrounding itself in sheer distinction-production of the multiple against the indistinguishable is what Deleuze calls violence or cruelty, as it determines being or nature in a necessary system of asymmetric relations of intensity by the acausal action of chance, like an ontological game in which the throw of the dice is the only rule or principle. But it is also the vigil, the insomnia of thought, since it is here that reason or thought achieves its highest power of determination. It becomes a pure creativity or virtuality in which no well-founded identity (God, World, Self) remains: [T]hought is that moment in which determination makes itself one, by virtue of maintaining a unilateral and precise relation to the indeterminate. Since it produces differential events without subjective or objective remainder, however, Deleuze argues that thought belongs to the pure and empty form of time, a time that is no longer subordinate to (cosmological, psychological, eternal) movement in space. Time qua form of transcendental synthesis is the ultimate ground of everything that is, reasons and acts. It is the formal element of multiple becoming, no longer in the sense of finite a priori conditioning, but in the sense of a transfinite a posteriori synthesizer: an empt interiority in ongoing formation and materialization. As Deleuze and Guattari define synthesizer in A Thousand Plateaus: The synthesizer, with its operation of consistency, has taken the place of the ground in a priori synthetic judgment: its synthesis is of the molecular and the cosmic, material and force, not form and matter, Grund and territory.

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The Sibyl’s Prophecy/Nordic Creation. Note Quote.



The Prophecy of the Tenth Sibyl, a medieval best-seller, surviving in over 100 manuscripts from the 11th to the 16th century, predicts, among other things, the reign of evil despots, the return of the Antichrist and the sun turning to blood.

The Tenth or Tiburtine Sibyl was a pagan prophetess perhaps of Etruscan origin. To quote Lactantus in his general account of the ten sibyls in the introduction, ‘The Tiburtine Sibyl, by name Albunea, is worshiped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the Anio in which stream her image is said to have been found, holding a book in her hand’.

The work interprets the Sibyl’s dream in which she foresees the downfall and apocalyptic end of the world; 9 suns appear in the sky, each one more ugly and bloodstained than the last, representing the 9 generations of mankind and ending with Judgment Day. The original Greek version dates from the end of the 4th century and the earliest surviving manuscript in Latin is dated 1047. The Tiburtine Sibyl is often depicted with Emperor Augustus, who asks her if he should be worshipped as a god.

The foremost lay of the Elder Edda is called Voluspa (The Sibyl’s Prophecy). The volva, or sibyl, represents the indelible imprint of the past, wherein lie the seeds of the future. Odin, the Allfather, consults this record to learn of the beginning, life, and end of the world. In her response, she addresses Odin as a plurality of “holy beings,” indicating the omnipresence of the divine principle in all forms of life. This also hints at the growth of awareness gained by all living, learning entities during their evolutionary pilgrimage through spheres of existence.

Hear me, all ye holy beings, greater as lesser sons of Heimdal! You wish me to tell of Allfather’s works, tales of the origin, the oldest I know. Giants I remember, born in the foretime, they who long ago nurtured me. Nine worlds I remember, nine trees of life, before this world tree grew from the ground.

Paraphrased, this could be rendered as:

Learn, all ye living entities, imbued with the divine essence of Odin, ye more and less evolved sons of the solar divinity (Heimdal) who stands as guardian between the manifest worlds of the solar system and the realm of divine consciousness. You wish to learn of what has gone before. I am the record of long ages past (giants), that imprinted their experience on me. I remember nine periods of manifestation that preceded the present system of worlds.

Time being inextricably a phenomenon of manifestation, the giant ages refer to the matter-side of creation. Giants represent ages of such vast duration that, although their extent in space and time is limited, it is of a scope that can only be illustrated as gigantic. Smaller cycles within the greater are referred to in the Norse myths as daughters of their father-giant. Heimdal is the solar deity in the sign of Aries – of beginnings for our system – whose “sons” inhabit, in fact compose, his domain.

Before a new manifestation of a world, whether a cosmos or a lesser system, all its matter is frozen in a state of immobility, referred to in the Edda as a frost giant. The gods – consciousnesses – are withdrawn into their supernal, unimaginable abstraction of Nonbeing, called in Sanskrit “paranirvana.” Without a divine activating principle, space itself – the great container – is a purely theoretical abstraction where, for lack of any organizing energic impulse of consciousness, matter cannot exist.

This was the origin of ages when Ymer built. No soil was there, no sea, no cool waves. Earth was not, nor heaven above; Gaping Void alone, no growth. Until the sons of Bur raised the tables; they who created beautiful Midgard. The sun shone southerly on the stones of the court; then grew green herbs in fertile soil.

To paraphrase again:

Before time began, the frost giant (Ymer) prevailed. No elements existed for there were ‘no waves,’ no motion, hence no organized form nor any temporal events, until the creative divine forces emanated from Space (Bur — a principle, not a locality) and organized latent protosubstance into the celestial bodies (tables at which the gods feast on the mead of life-experience). Among these tables is Middle Court (Midgard), our own beautiful planet. The life-giving sun sheds its radiant energies to activate into life all the kingdoms of nature which compose it.

The Gaping Void (Ginnungagap) holds “no cool waves” throughout illimitable depths during the age of the frost giant. Substance has yet to be created. Utter wavelessness negates it, for all matter is the effect of organized, undulating motion. As the cosmic hour strikes for a new manifestation, the ice of Home of Nebulosity (Niflhem) is melted by the heat from Home of Fire (Muspellshem), resulting in vapor in the void. This is Ymer, protosubstance as yet unformed, the nebulae from which will evolve the matter components of a new universe, as the vital heat of the gods melts and vivifies the formless immobile “ice.”

When the great age of Ymer has run its course, the cow Audhumla, symbol of fertility, “licking the salt from the ice blocks,” uncovers the head of Buri, first divine principle. From this infinite, primal source emanates Bur, whose “sons” are the creative trinity: Divine Allfather, Will, and Sanctity (Odin, Vile, and Vi). This triune power “kills” the frost giant by transforming it into First Sound (Orgalmer), or keynote, whose overtones vibrate through the planes of sleeping space and organize latent protosubstance into the multifarious forms which will be used by all “holy beings” as vehicles for gaining experience in worlds of matter.

Beautiful Midgard, our physical globe earth, is but one of the “tables” raised by the creative trinity, whereat the gods shall feast. The name Middle Court is suggestive, for the ancient traditions place our globe in a central position in the series of spheres that comprise the terrestrial being’s totality. All living entities, man included, comprise besides the visible body a number of principles and characteristics not cognized by the gross physical senses. In the Lay of Grimner (Grimnismal), wherein Odin in the guise of a tormented prisoner on earth instructs a human disciple, he enumerates twelve spheres or worlds, all but one of which are unseen by our organs of sight. As to the formation of Midgard, he relates:

Of Ymer’s flesh was the earth formed, the billows of his blood, the mountains of his bones, bushes of his hair, and of his brainpan heaven. With his eyebrows beneficent powers enclosed Midgard for man; but of his brain were surely all dark skies created.

The trinity of immanent powers organize Ymer into the forms wherein they dwell, shaping the chaos or frost giant into living globes on many planes of being. The “eyebrows” that gird the earth and protect it suggest the Van Allen belts that shield the planet from inimical radiation. The brain of Ymer – material thinking – is surely all too evident in the thought atmosphere wherein man participates.

The formation of the physical globe is described as the creation of “dwarfs” – elemental forces which shape the body of the earth-being and which include the mineral. vegetable, and animal kingdoms.

The mighty drew to their judgment seats, all holy gods to hold counsel: who should create a host of dwarfs from the blood of Brimer and the limbs of the dead. Modsogne there was, mightiest of all the dwarfs, Durin the next; there were created many humanoid dwarfs from the earth, as Durin said.

Brimer is the slain Ymer, a kenning for the waters of space. Modsogne is the Force-sucker, Durin the Sleeper, and later comes Dvalin the Entranced. They are “dwarf”-consciousnesses, beings that are miðr than human – the Icelandic miðr meaning both “smaller” and “less.” By selecting the former meaning, popular concepts have come to regard them as undersized mannikins, rather than as less evolved natural species that have not yet reached the human condition of intelligence and self-consciousness.

During the life period or manifestation of a universe, the governing giant or age is named Sound of Thor (Trudgalmer), the vital force which sustains activity throughout the cycle of existence. At the end of this age the worlds become Sound of Fruition (Bargalmer). This giant is “placed on a boat-keel and saved,” or “ground on the mill.” Either version suggests the karmic end product as the seed of future manifestation, which remains dormant throughout the ensuing frost giant of universal dissolution, when cosmic matter is ground into a formless condition of wavelessness, dissolved in the waters of space.

There is an inescapable duality of gods-giants in all phases of manifestation: gods seek experience in worlds of substance and feast on the mead at stellar and planetary tables; giants, formed into vehicles inspired with the divine impetus, rise through cycles of this association on the ladder of conscious awareness. All states being relative and bipolar, there is in endless evolution an inescapable link between the subjective and objective progress of beings. Odin as the “Opener” is paired with Orgalmer, the keynote on which a cosmos is constructed; Odin as the “Closer” is equally linked with Bargalmer, the fruitage of a life cycle. During the manifesting universe, Odin-Allfather corresponds to Trudgalmer, the sustainer of life.

A creative trinity plays an analogical part in the appearance of humanity. Odin remains the all-permeant divine essence, while on this level his brother-creators are named Honer and Lodur, divine counterparts of water or liquidity, and fire or vital heat and motion. They “find by the shore, of little power” the Ash and the Elm and infuse into these earth-beings their respective characteristics, making a human image or reflection of themselves. These protohumans, miniatures of the world tree, the cosmic Ash, Yggdrasil, in addition to their earth-born qualities of growth force and substance, receive the divine attributes of the gods. By Odin man is endowed with spirit, from Honer comes his mind, while Lodur gives him will and godlike form. The essentially human qualities are thus potentially divine. Man is capable of blending with the earth, whose substances form his body, yet is able to encompass in his consciousness the vision native to his divine source. He is in fact a minor world tree, part of the universal tree of life, Yggdrasil.

Ygg in conjunction with other words has been variously translated as Eternal, Awesome or Terrible, and Old. Sometimes Odin is named Yggjung, meaning the Ever-Young, or Old-Young. Like the biblical “Ancient of Days” it is a concept that mind can grasp only in the wake of intuition. Yggdrasil is the “steed” or the “gallows” of Ygg, whereon Odin is mounted or crucified during any period of manifested life. The world tree is rooted in Nonbeing and ramifies through the planes of space, its branches adorned with globes wherein the gods imbody. The sibyl spoke of ours as the tenth in a series of such world trees, and Odin confirms this in The Song of the High One (Den Hoges Sang):

I know that I hung in the windtorn tree nine whole nights, spear-pierced, given to Odin, my self to my Self above me in the tree, whose root none knows whence it sprang. None brought me bread, none served me drink; I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom, raised them with song, and fell once more from the tree. Nine powerful songs I learned from the wise son of Boltorn, Bestla’s father; a draught I drank of precious mead ladled from Odrorer. I began to grow, to grow wise, to grow greater and enjoy; for me words from words led to new words, for me deeds from deeds led to new deeds.

Numerous ancient tales relate the divine sacrifice and crucifixion of the Silent Watcher whose realm or protectorate is a world in manifestation. Each tree of life, of whatever scope, constitutes the cross whereon the compassionate deity inherent in that hierarchy remains transfixed for the duration of the cycle of life in matter. The pattern of repeated imbodiments for the purpose of gaining the precious mead is clear, as also the karmic law of cause and effect as words and deeds bring their results in new words and deeds.

Yggdrasil is said to have three roots. One extends into the land of the frost giants, whence flow twelve rivers of lives or twelve classes of beings; another springs from and is watered by the well of Origin (Urd), where the three Norns, or fates, spin the threads of destiny for all lives. “One is named Origin, the second Becoming. These two fashion the third, named Debt.” They represent the inescapable law of cause and effect. Though they have usually been roughly translated as Past, Present, and Future, the dynamic concept in the Edda is more complete and philosophically exact. The third root of the world tree reaches to the well of the “wise giant Mimer,” owner of the well of wisdom. Mimer represents material existence and supplies the wisdom gained from experience of life. Odin forfeited one eye for the privilege of partaking of these waters of life, hence he is represented in manifestation as one-eyed and named Half-Blind. Mimer, the matter-counterpart, at the same time receives partial access to divine vision.

The lays make it very clear that the purpose of existence is for the consciousness-aspect of all beings to gain wisdom through life, while inspiring the substantial side of itself to growth in inward awareness and spirituality. At the human level, self-consciousness and will are aroused, making it possible for man to progress willingly and purposefully toward his divine potential, aided by the gods who have passed that way before him, rather than to drift by slow degrees and many detours along the road of inevitable evolution. Odin’s instructions to a disciple, Loddfafner, the dwarf-nature in man, conclude with:

Now is sung the High One’s song in the High One’s hall. Useful to sons of men, useless to sons of giants. Hail Him who sang! Hail him who kens! Rejoice they who understand! Happy they who heed!

Yantra + Yi-Globe = Yi-Yantra. Note Quote.

The lower and the upper semicircles of the Yi-globe,



where the hexagrams are shown in plane, best serve for direct comparison. There, the structural features common with the yantras are clearly visible: the arrangement of the hexagrams around the center, the concentric circles embedded into one another, and the perfect balance and symmetry.

The analogy between the Yi-globe and the yantras can be recognized in almost every formal detail, if the Chamunda-yantra (Yantra literally means “support” and “instrument”. A Yantra is a geometric design acting as a highly efficient tool for contemplation, concentration and meditation carrying spiritual significance) is taken as an example


The similarity between the two symbols is still more complete with respect to the metaphysical contents. Yantras are the symbols of deities, whereby one part represents a god (generally, a goddess) itself, while the other part stands for the cosmic activity (function) attributed to the deity and the power manifested in the latter; thus actually, a yantra symbolizes the whole universe as well. The power of the yantras lies in the concentrated visualization – completed with the vibration of the associated mantras – capable even in itself of raising and directing cosmic energies into the human psyche, whereby man merges into the deity in his mind and, at last, becomes one with the universe, the cosmic wholeness.

When the properties of the two symbols are analyzed, the following cosmological analogies between the Yi-globe and the yantras are found


The comparison clearly reveals that the Yi-globe and the yantras represent the same spiritual content and that most of their formal elements are identical as well. Accordingly, it is fully justified to take the Yi-globe as a special yantra.

Figure below demonstrates how easily the Yi-globe transforms into the form of a yantra. Since this yantra perfectly reflects all the connotations of the Yi-globe, its name is Yi-yantra.


On the petals (or other geometrical elements) of the yantras, mantras are written. On the Yi-yantra, the hexagrams replace the mantras at the corresponding places. (This replacement is merely formal here, since the function of the mantras manifests only when they are expressed in words.)

Based on the exposed analysis, the connotations of the individual geometrical elements in the Yi-yantra are as follows:

  • The two circlets in the center stand for the two signs of Completion, representing the Center of the World, the starting point of creation, and at the same time the place of final dissolution.
  • The creative forces, which are to give birth to the macrocosm and microcosm, emanate from the center. This process is represented by the hexagon.
  • The eight double trigrams surrounding the hexagon represent the differentiated primal powers arranged according to the Earlier Heaven. The two squares show that they already embrace the created world, but only in inherent (i.e., not manifested) form.
  • The red circle around the squares unites the ten hexagrams on the axis of the Yi-globe. The parallel blue circle is level I of the Yi-globe, whereto the powers of the Receptive extend, and wherefrom changes (forces) direct outwards in the direction of level II. The six orange petals of the lotus (the six hexagrams) show these directions.
  • The next pair of the orange and blue circles, and the twelve orange petals with the twelve hexagrams stand for levels II.
  • The next circle contains eighteen orange petals, representing level III. At its outer circle, the development (evolution) ends. On level III, the golden petals show the opposite direction of the movement.
  • From here, the development is directed inwards (involution). The way goes through levels IV and V, to the final dissolution in the Creative in the Center.
  • The square surrounding the Yi-globe represents the external existence; its gates provide access towards the inward world. The square area stands for the created world, shown by the trigrams indicated therein and arranged according to the Later Heaven.

Knowledge Within and Without: The Upanishadic Tradition (1)

All perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never-ending cycles all things and phenomena – Nikola Tesla

Teilhard de Chardin:

In the eyes of the physicist, nothing exists legitimately, at least up to now, except the without of things. The same intellectual attitude is still permissible in the bacteriologist, whose cultures (apart from substantial difficulties) are treated as laboratory reagents. But it is still more difficult in the realm of plants. It tends to become a gamble in the case of a biologist studying the behavior of insects or coelenterates. It seems merely futile with regard to the vertebrates. Finally, it breaks down completely with man, in whom the existence of a within can no longer be evaded, because it is a subject of a direct intuition and the substance of all knowledge. It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, “an interior” appears at the heart of beings, as it were seen through a rent. This is enough to ensure that, in one degree or another, this “interior” should obtrude itself as existing everywhere in nature from all time. Since the stuff of the universe has an inner aspect at one point of itself, there is necessarily a double to its structure, that is to say in every region of space and time-in the same way for instance, as it is granular: co-extensive with their Without, there is a Within to things.

Both Indian thought and modern scientific thought accept a fundamental unity behind the world of variety. That basic unitary reality evolves into all that we see around us in the world. This view is a few thousand years old in India; We find it in the Samkhyan and Vedantic schools of Indian thought; and they expound it very much on the lines followed by modern thought. In his address to the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda said:

All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run, Manifestation and not creation, is the word of science today, and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language, and with further light from the latest conclusions of science.

The Samkhyan school uses two terms to represent Nature or Pradhana: Prakrti denoting Nature in its unmodified state, and Vikrti denoting nature in its modified state. The Vedanta similarly speaks of Brahman as the inactive state, and Maya or Shakti as the active state of one and the same primordial non-dual reality. But the Brahman of the Vedanta is the unity of both the spiritual and the non-spiritual, the non-physical and the physical aspects of the universe.

So as the first answer to the question, ‘What is the world?’ we get this child’s answer in his growing knowledge of the discrete entities and events of the outer world and their inter-connections. The second answer is the product of scientific thought, which gives us the knowledge of the one behind the many. All the entities and events of the world are but the modifications or evolutions of one primordial basis reality, be it nature, space- time or cosmic dust.

Although modern scientific thought does not yet have a place for any spiritual reality or principle, scientists like Chardin and Julian Huxley are trying to find a proper place for the experience of the spiritual in the scientific picture of the universe. When this is achieved, the scientific picture, which is close to Vedanta already, will become closer still, and the synthesis of the knowledge of the ‘without’ and the ‘within’ of things will give us the total view of the universe. This is wisdom according to Vedanta, whereas all partial views are just pieces of knowledge or information only.

The Upanishads deal with this ‘within’ of things. Theirs in fact, is the most outstanding contribution on this subject in the human cultural legacy. They term this aspect of reality of things pratyak chaitanya or pratyak atman or pratyak tattva; and they contain the fascinating account of the stages by which the human mind rose from crude beginnings to clear, wholly spiritual heights in the realization of this reality.

How does the world look when we view it from the outside? We seek an answer from the physical sciences. How does it look when we view from the inside? We seek an answer from the non-physical sciences, including the science of religion. And philosophy, as understood in the Upanishadic tradition, is the synthesis of these two answers: Brahmavidyā is Sarvavidyāpratishthā, as the Mundaka Upanishad puts it.

क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानं यत्तज्ज्ञानम् मतं मम

kṣetrakṣetrajñayorjñānaṃ yattajjñānam mataṃ mama

“The unified knowledge of the ‘without’ and the ‘within’ of things is true knowledge according to Me, as Krishna says in the Gita” (Bhagavad-Gita chapter 13, 2nd Shloka).

From this total viewpoint there is neither inside nor outside; they are relative concepts depending upon some sort of a reference point, e.g.the body; as such, they move within the framework of relativity. Reality knows neither ‘inside’ nor ‘outside’; it is ever full. But these relative concepts are helpful in our approach to the understanding of the total reality.

Thus we find that our knowledge of the manifold of experience the idam, also involves something else, namely, the unity behind the manifold. This unity behind the manifold, which is not perceptible to the senses, is indicated by the term adah meaning ‘that’, indicating something far away, unlike the ‘this’ of the sense experience. ‘This’ is the correlative of ‘that’; ‘this’ is the changeable aspect of reality; ‘that’ is its unchangeable aspect. If ‘this’ refers to something given in sense experience, ‘that’ refers to something transcendental, beyond the experience of the senses. To say ‘this’ therefore also implies at the same time something that is beyond ‘this’. This is an effect as such, it is visible and palpable; and behind it lies the cause, the invisible and the impalpable. Adah, ‘that’, represents the invisible behind the visible, the transcendental behind the empirical, a something that is beyond time and space. In religion this something is called ‘God’. In philosophy it is called tat or adah, That, Brahman, the ultimate Reality, the cause, the ground, and the goal of the universe.

So this verse first tells us that beyond and behind the manifested universe is the reality of Brahman, which is the fullness of pure Being; it then tells us about this world of becoming which, being nothing but Brahman, is also the ‘Full’. From the view of total Reality, it is all ‘fullness’ everywhere, in space-time as well as beyond space-time. Then the verse adds:

पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवाशिष्यते

pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāśiṣyate

‘From the Fullness of Brahman has come the fullness of the universe, leaving alone Fullness as the remainder.’

What, then, is the point of view or level from which the sentiments of this verse proceed? It is that of the total Reality, the Absolute and the Infinite, in which as we have read earlier, the ‘within’ and the ‘without’ of things merge. The Upanishads call it as ocean of Sachchidānanda, the unity of absolute existence, absolute awareness, and absolute bliss. Itself beyond all distinctions of time and space, it yet manifests itself through all such distinctions. To the purified vision of the Upanishadic sages, this whole universe appeared as the fullness of Being, which was, which is, which shall ever be. In the Bhagavad-Gita (VII. 26) Krshna says:

वेदाहं समतीतानि वर्तमानानि चार्जुन ।
भविष्याणि च भूतानि मां तु वेद न कश्चन ॥

vedāhaṃ samatītāni vartamānāni cārjuna |
bhaviṣyāṇi ca bhūtāni māṃ tu veda na kaścana ||

‘I, O Arjuna, know the beings that are of the past, that are of the present, and that are to come in future; but Me no one knows.’

That fullness of the true Me, says Krshna, is beyond all these limited categories, such as space and time, cause and effect, and substance and attribute.

Indian Classical Music

किन्तु वयमिदानीं ते न शक्नुमः परिचर्यां कर्तुम् : भूयिष्ठां बहुतरां ते नमउक्तिं नमस्कारवचनं विधेम नमस्कारेण परिचरेम ।

kintu vayamidānīṃ te na śaknumaḥ paricaryāṃ kartum : bhūyiṣṭhāṃ bahutarāṃ te namauktiṃ namaskāravacanaṃ vidhema namaskāreṇa paricarema |

But now I am not in a position to serve you; I offer you many verbal salutations; I serve you through salutations.

Hindustani Classical Music (2)

Music has been a cultivated art in India for at least three thousand years. It flows from the essential element of chant in ancient Vedic religious expression. More than any other musical form, the Indian raga tradition structurally and acoustically corresponds to and embodies the spiritual/religious experience. It offers a direct experience of the consciousness of the ancient world, with a range of expression rarely accessible today. All Indian instruments are played as extensions of the ultimate, because most natural, instrument — the human voice — that chants the sacred poems, mantras, and invocations of the gods.

In India music is practiced by members of hereditary guilds, often families, whose traditions remain unbroken for hundreds of years. It is the chamber music of an aristocratic society where the livelihood of the artist does not depend upon his ability and will to amuse the crowd. The musician’s education begins in infancy and he must absorb, thoroughly understand, and reproduce all that preceded him before adding his unique perspective to the living tradition. The listener is expected to respond with an art of his own: he must be technically critical, schooled in appreciation of the spirit of musical experience, contribute an attitude of reverence for the tradition, have a desire to “commune with the gods,” a preference for conviction over prettiness, authenticity over legitimacy, and an appreciation of the song apart from the singer/player.

The European musical scale has been reduced to twelve fixed notes by merging close intervals such as D sharp and E flat — a compromise of necessity in the development of the mathematical harmony that made possible the triumphs of Western orchestration, causing the Western keyboard, unlike instruments from other musical cultures, to be inherently “out of tune.” The Indian scale, on the other hand, covers the same tonal range using a twenty-two note scale to develop a purely melodic art which retains the advantages of pure intonation and modal coloring. What is fixed in Indian music is a group of intervals. The precise vibration value of a note depends on its position in a progression, not on its relation to a tonic. Following the Eastern idea that the emptiness enclosed by the form of a vessel is the actual purpose, essence, or soul of that vessel, the interval more than the note is heard as producing the continuity of sound that is the essence of music. In the Indian tradition the interval is what is sung or played as distinct from the vertical harmonic division of European song and the nature of the sound of keyed and fixed-key instruments. The quarter-tone or sruti is the microtonal interval between two successive scale notes, but as raga themes rarely employ two and never three of the seven primary scale notes in succession, microtones are heard only in ornamentation of the theme. They reveal that which lies unmanifest in the emptiness that is the heart of the vessel of melody composed of the primary scale notes. Sruti also designates the word of the guru, impossible to write but revealed by teacher to student in hushed tones or, more often, as an expression of the essence of understanding from one heart or consciousness to another.

The Indian song form, or raga (literally, coloring or passion), may be best defined as a melody-mold or ground plan of a song. Origins of the ragas are varied but all flow directly from human experience of the spiritual or religious and the responsive feeling (rasa) of love, joy, longing, or devotion. The ragas evoke feelings both human and spiritual. A myth tells of the bird Musikar or Dipaka-Lotus whose beak has seven apertures. Through each of these openings it blows a different note, and at different seasons of the year it combines them to produce ragas specific to the hour of the day and season. An egg was created from the ashes of a fire ignited by the magic sound of a raga; from this egg another Musikar was born, followed by many others. Like all myths, this conveys a truth, that of the ideal of raga — a form growing naturally, like ripples on water, a flower toward the sun, or ice crystals on a leaf of grass, whose beauty and meaning are enhanced by a sympathetic human response to the movement of spirit in the world of matter. The myth suggests the numinous, sacred qualities embodied in the raga form.

We can hear in Indian music the richest correlation of sound with the origins and manifestations of spiritual consciousness. The idea of nonmanifest sound — the essence in the interval between notes — is akin to the New Testament conception of the Word, and underlies and pervades the music. It lies beneath all that is manifest in nature, cosmic and microcosmic, and realizes itself as the multiplicities and differentiations of existence.

Philosophically, this cosmic nonmanifest sound continually creates, destroys, and recreates manifold universes. Its capacities are infinite, therefore measureless. For those who can “hear” it, it brings news of vast starry firmaments and interstellar spaces, of all universes past and all possible worlds of the future, whether those firmaments are galactic, atomic, physical, or spiritual. It is a potency, presence, possibility, and performance all at the same time. In India, music is heard not as a thing that humans make but as an aspect of the divine revealing itself (revelation/sruti) to which the musician and listeners contribute by their skill, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation.

The Dipaka-Lotus bird with its seven natural tones which make up the octave is an analogy of the seven principles or souls of sound, the seven veils of Isis or Prakriti, the seven spheres of resonance which constitute a grama (village or brotherhood), and the seven aspects not only of human but of universal nature.

The ancient Indians and their modern musical descendants believe that to one who understands fully the complex nature of a tone, the innermost secrets of our universe are revealed. Each tone in the raga is considered to have a specific spiritual and emotional charge in relation to the whole. The word svara (tone) is often defined as that which shines by itself. Tones are said by Indian musicians, as well as their ancient Chinese and Sufi brethren, to originate in the heart that responds with a spontaneous sensitivity to the movement of purusha (spirit) through prakriti (matter). The purpose of Indian song is not to dwell on and confirm the confusions of life, but to express and arouse ideal feelings and passions of body and soul in man and nature in response to the impulse of divine spirit. There is a magical aspect to sound, growing from the Vedic chants invoking the divine, though music is heard as essentially impersonal:

it reflects emotions and experiences which are deeper, wider and older than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate without any loss of serenity. It is in the deepest sense of the words all-human. (Ananda K Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Shiva

In appreciating Indian music we experience and appreciate the consciousness of the ancient world embodied in it. It focuses and expresses the individual’s organic oneness with cosmic and natural forces that are the world we know. The materialistic focus of modern consciousness sees itself as separate from and threatened by nature. Indian music reflects a social order based in the awareness of unity and cooperation rather than on division and competition which leads to economic, social, and cultural insecurity and alienation. Goods produced and services rendered were not based on a perceived economic need for constant expansion leading to exploitation but were generated to serve needs of the organic whole. Ancient Indian consciousness focused, as does its music, on serving the needs of spirit rather than the demands of matter. Though Indian music is ancient it is not primitive: sophistication, subtlety, and assumption of the experience of spirit as the root and goal of all existence can best be described as primal. To appreciate it modern listeners must expand their ability to perceive and express human and cosmic spiritual nature, in much the same way that a child matures the primitive sing-song approach and simplistic rhythmic insistence of nursery school to include the subtlety of expression of which adults are capable.

The objective of the raga is the rasa — the aesthetic emotion — the motif embodied in the melody. As souls inhabit bodies, so every rasa is embodied in the rupa (form) of a particular raga or ragini (feminine form of raga). To invoke rasa, one meditates on the rupa that is appropriate to that raga’s essence, the distillation of mood, mode, time, and season. This meditation is shared by musician and listeners. The experience invoked by a master musician’s meditation on a fine instrument with a knowledgeable, appreciative audience is the disappearance of player, instrument, and listener — pure song, spirit singing itself into being.

Rather than confining melody to the necessities of an intellectualized harmonic concept, Indian musicians and listeners do not attempt to “chain with the mind the feet of the mysterious bird that goes to and away from the cage” (Indian folk song). The bird is pure melody, song of spirit supported by and interacting with the essential, complex rhythms of life. It is the spontaneous response of the heart, that which shines by itself, the spiritual fire of a soul lit by the radiance of nonmanifest sound, the Word, Brahman, Atman, God — divinity containing all worlds within it and evolving all worlds forth into being. The song of Brahman is AUM. Indian musical art is an imitation of the perfect spontaneity with which gods and enlightened beings understand and acknowledge that which is beyond inner and outer, rises above good and evil, is beyond conflict, is the perfection of compassion love and wisdom — the very heart of All.

The omnipresent keynote (Aum) of the universe coming into being swells from the tambura (drone) making a pedal point rich in overtones. Like all that is profound it rewards those who with patient humility seek the divine hidden in the heart of the musical experience. The drone corresponds to Brahman, the Unmanifest Logos, source and ultimate goal of Being. From and against this infinite potentiality the musician draws forth the raga whose rhythm is initially free, with the direction of what is to come subtly implied until the essential elements and graceful implications of this universe/song have been as fully explored as the musician’s inspiration and training allow. At a nod the power of the drums begins slowly to unfold, as Daivi-prakriti (Divine nature; divine will; the vital force of the universe; the “electricity” of cosmic consciousness; the Greek Eros; the Tibetan Fohat. Fohat carries the divine thought to become that which it truly is: a song of wonder at the manifold surprises hidden within and evolving from its Self, a reverential awe at the unmovable serenity from the heart of which dance and flow in waves the myriad, ever-changing aspects of THAT which is one and unchangeable. It is spirit discovering itself. The drone is Brahman, the raga is the world, as artistic microcosmic realization of the macrocosmic experience of spirit.

European rhythms are based on repeated stress, as in marching. Rather than using the bar as the fixed unit and marking its beginning with a stress or accent the Indian musician’s fixed unit is a section, or group of bars which are not necessarily alike. The rhythmic cycle of Ata Tala, for example, is counted as 5 plus 5 plus 2 plus 2. Indian rhythmic complexes count into the fifties, and cycles involving half beats (i.e., 5½, 9½) are now developing in this living musical tradition. But even during the most ecstatic moments of the second stage (gat) of the raga, during which the explicate rhythmic pattern unfolds, the drone remains as the omniscient, omnipotent cause from which proceed the origin, subsistence, and dissolution (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) of the raga — of the world. The activity and ecstasy of the musical universe build to a glorious climax then fade away into the drone from which they sprang like myriad bubbles of sunflecked foam that danced briefly on the swells of eternity.

As “one can never step into the same river twice” one can never play a raga exactly the same way twice. The musician seeks to express the uniqueness of the moment: time, season, audience, instrument, planets, musician, and stars will never again occur in the same relationship. Though the river is never the same it is always a river, an aspect of the ocean of divinity made manifest. With the assumption that each dewdrop and river flows from and seeks return to its divine source the musician improvises a spontaneous expression of that journey. The raga form conveys all the joy and grief of being human, yet the final absorption of that experience in Brahman transports all to a state in which the universe is perceived as neither good nor bad but simply as TAT (THAT). The raga manifests this understanding and acceptance in a personal, spontaneous, improvisatory, and fully realized expression of artistic beauty and power. It is the inner reality of things rather than any transient or partial experience that the singer/musician voices.

Dance of the Shiva, q’i (chee) and Tibetan Sunyata. Manifestation of Mysticism.

अनेजदेकं मनसो जवीयो नैनद्देवाप्नुवन्पूर्वमर्षत् ।
तद्धावतोऽन्यान्नत्येति तिष्ठत् तस्मिन्नापो मातरिश्वा दधाति ॥

anejadekaṃ manaso javīyo nainaddevāpnuvanpūrvamarṣat |
taddhāvato’nyānnatyeti tiṣṭhat tasminnāpo mātariśvā dadhāti ||

The self is one. It is unmoving: yet faster than the mind. Thus moving faster, It is beyond the reach of the senses. Ever steady, It outstrips all that run. By its mere presence, the cosmic energy is enabled to sustain the activities of living beings.

तस्मिन् मनसि ब्रह्मलोकादीन्द्रुतं गच्छति सति प्रथमप्राप्त इवात्मचैतन्याभासो गृह्यते अतः मनसो जवीयः इत्याह ।

tasmin manasi brahmalokādīndrutaṃ gacchati sati prathamaprāpta ivātmacaitanyābhāso gṛhyate ataḥ manaso javīyaḥ ityāha |

When the mind moves fast towards the farthest worlds such as the brahmaloka, it finds the Atman, of the nature of pure awareness, already there; hence the statement that It is faster than the mind.

नित्योऽनित्यानां चेतनश्चेतनानाम्
एको बहूनां यो विदधाति कामान् ।
तमात्मस्थं योऽनुपश्यन्ति धीराः
तेषां शान्तिः शाश्वतं नेतरेषाम् ॥

nityo’nityānāṃ cetanaścetanānām
eko bahūnāṃ yo vidadhāti kāmān |
tamātmasthaṃ yo’nupaśyanti dhīrāḥ
teṣāṃ śāntiḥ śāśvataṃ netareṣām ||

He is the eternal in the midst of non-eternals, the principle of intelligence in all that are intelligent. He is One, yet fulfils the desires of many. Those wise men who perceive Him as existing within their own self, to them eternal peace, and non else.


Eastern mysticism approaches the manifestation of life in the cosmos and all that compose it from a position diametrically opposed to the view that prevailed until recently among the majority of Western scientists, philosophers, and religionists. Orientals see the universe as a whole, as an organism. For them all things are interconnected, links in a chain of beings permeated by consciousness which threads them together. This consciousness is the one life-force, originator of all the phenomena we know under the heading of nature, and it dwells within its emanations, urging them as a powerful inner drive to grow and evolve into ever more refined expressions of divinity. The One manifests, not only in all its emanations, but also through those emanations as channels: it is within them and yet remains transcendent as well.

The emphasis is on the Real as subject whereas in the West it is seen as object. If consciousness is the noumenal or subjective aspect of life in contrast to the phenomenal or objective — everything seen as separate objects — then only this consciousness can be experienced, and no amount of analysis can reveal the soul of Reality. To illustrate: for the ancient Egyptians, their numerous “gods” were aspects of the primal energy of the Divine Mind (Thoth) which, before the creation of our universe, rested, a potential in a subjective state within the “waters of Space.” It was through these gods that the qualities of divinity manifested.

A question still being debated runs: “How does the One become the many?” meaning: if there is a “God,” how do the universe and the many entities composing it come into being? This question does not arise among those who perceive the One to dwell in the many, and the many to live in the One from whom life and sustenance derive. Despite our Western separation of Creator and creation, and the corresponding distancing of “God” from human beings, Western mystics have held similar views to those of the East, e.g.: Meister Eckhart, the Dominican theologian and preacher, who was accused of blasphemy for daring to say that he had once experienced nearness to the “Godhead.” His friends and followers were living testimony to the charisma (using the word in its original connotation of spiritual magnetism) of those who live the life of love for fellow beings men like Johannes Tauler, Heinrich Suso, the “admirable Ruysbroeck,” who expressed views similar to those of Eastern exponents of the spiritual way or path.

In old China, the universe was described as appearing first as q’i (chee), an emanation of Light, not the physical light that we know, but its divine essence sometimes called Tien, Heaven, in contrast to Earth. The q’i energy polarized as Yang and Yin, positive and negative electromagnetism. From the action and interaction of these two sprang the “10,000 things”: the universe, our world, the myriads of beings and things as we perceive them to be. In other words, the ancient Chinese viewed our universe as one of process, the One energy, q’i, proliferating into the many.

In their paintings Chinese artists depict man as a small but necessary element in gigantic natural scenes. And since we are parts of the cosmos, we are embodiments of all its potentials and our relationship depends upon how we focus ourselves: (1) harmoniously, i.e., in accord with nature; or (2) disharmoniously, interfering with the course of nature. We therefore affect the rest: our environment, all other lives, and bear full responsibility for the outcome of our thoughts and acts, our motivations, our impacts. Their art students were taught to identify with what they were painting, because there is life in every thing, and it is this life with which they must identify, with boulders and rocks no less than with birds flying overhead. Matter, energy, space, are all manifestations of q’i and we, as parts thereof, are intimately connected with all the universe.

In India, the oneness of life was seen through the prism of successive manifestations of Brahman, a neuter or impersonal term in Sanskrit for divinity, the equivalent of what Eckhart called the Godhead. Brahman is the source of the creative power, Brahma, Eckhart’s Creator; and also the origin of the sustaining and supporting energy or Vishnu, and of the destructive/regenerative force or Siva. As these three operate through the cosmos, the “world” as we know it, so do they also through ourselves on a smaller scale according to our capacity. Matter is perceived to be condensed energy, Chit or consciousness itself. To quote from the Mundaka Upanishad:

By the energism of Consciousness Brahman is massed; from that: Matter is born and from Matter Life and Mind and the worlds . . .

In another Hindu scripture, it is stated that when Brahma awakened from his period of rest between manifestations, he desired to contemplate himself as he is. By gazing into the awakening matter particles as into a mirror, he stirred them to exhibit their latent divine qualities. Since this process involves a continuous unfoldment from the center within, an ever-becoming, there can never be an end to the creativity — universal “days” comprising trillions of our human years, followed by a like number of resting “nights.”

We feel within ourselves the same driving urge to grow that runs through the entire, widespread universe, to express more and more of what is locked up in the formless or subjective realm of Be-ness, awaiting the magic moment to come awake in our phase of life.

Tibetan metaphysics embraces all of this in discussing Sunyata, which can be viewed as Emptiness if we use only our outer senses, or as Fullness if we inwardly perceive it to be full of energies of limitless ranges of wave-lengths/frequencies. This latter aspect of Space is the great mother of all, ever fecund, from whose “heart” emerge endless varieties of beings, endless forces, ever-changing variations — like the pulsing energies the new physicists perceive nuclear subparticles to be.

In the Preface to his Tao of physics Fritjof Capra tells how one summer afternoon he had a transforming experience by the seashore as he watched the waves rolling in and felt the rhythm of his own breathing. He saw dancing motes revealed in a beam of sunlight; particles of energy vibrating as molecules and atoms; cascades of energy pouring down upon us from outer space. All of this coming and going, appearing and disappearing, he equated with the Indian concept of the dance of Siva . . . he felt its rhythm, “heard” its sound, and knew himself to be a part of it. Through this highly personal, indeed mystical, experience Capra became aware of his “whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance.”

This is the gist of the old Chinese approach to physics: students were taught gravitation by observing the petals of a flower as they fall gracefully to the ground. As Gary Zukav expresses it in his Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics:

The world of particle physics is a world of sparkling energy forever dancing with itself in the form of its particles as they twinkle in and out of existence, collide, transmute, and disappear again.

That is: the dance of Siva is the dance of attraction and repulsion between charged particles of the electromagnetic force. This is a kind of “transcendental” physics, going beyond the “world of opposites” and approaching a mystical view of the larger Reality that is to our perceptions an invisible foundation of what we call “physical reality.” It is so far beyond the capacity or vocabulary of the mechanically rational part of our mind to define, that the profound Hindu scripture Isa Upanishad prefers to suggest the thought by a paradox:

तदेजति तन्नैजति तद्दूरे तद्वन्तिके ।
तदन्तरस्य सर्वस्य तदु सर्वस्यास्य बाह्यतः ॥

tadejati tannaijati taddūre tadvantike |
tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyāsya bāhyataḥ ||

It moves. It moves not.  It is far, and it is near. It is within all this, And It is verily outside of all this.

Indeed, there is a growing recognition mostly by younger physicists that consciousness is more than another word for awareness, more than a by-product of cellular activity (or of atomic or subatomic vibrations). For instance, Jack Sarfatti, a quantum physicist, says that signals pulsating through space provide instant communication between all parts of the cosmos. “These signals can be likened to pulses of nerve cells of a great cosmic brain that permeates all parts of space (Michael Talbot, Mysticism and the New Physics).” Michael Talbot quotes Sir James Jeans’ remark, “the universe is more like a giant thought than a giant machine,” commenting that the “substance of the great thought is consciousness” which pervades all space. Or as Schrödinger would have it:

Consciouness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular….Consciouness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that; there is only one thing and that, what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian Maya).

Other phenomena reported as occurring in the cosmos at great distances from each other, yet simultaneously, appear to be connected in some way so far unexplained, but to which the term consciousness has been applied.

In short, the mystic deals with direct experience; the intuitive scientist is open-minded, and indeed the great discoveries such as Einstein’s were made by amateurs in their field untrammeled by prior definitions and the limitations inherited from past speculations. This freedom enabled them to strike out on new paths that they cleared and paved. The rationalist tries to grapple with the problems of a living universe using only analysis and whatever the computer functions of the mind can put together.

The theosophic perspective upon universal phenomena is based on the concept of the ensoulment of the cosmos. That is: from the smallest subparticle we know anything about to the largest star-system that has been observed, each and all possess at their core vitality, energy, an active something propelling towards growth, evolution of faculties from within.

The only “permanent” in the whole universe is motion: unceasing movement, and the ideal perception is a blend of the mystical with the scientific, the intuitive with the rational.