Astrobiological Traces Within the Secret Doctrine.

पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवाशिष्यते

pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāśiṣyate

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

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमादाय पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवाशिष्यते
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ।

pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamādāya pūrṇāt pūrṇamudacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāśiṣyate
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ |

‘The invisible (Brahman) is the Full; the visible (the world) too is the Full. From the Full (Brahman), the Full (the visible) universe has come. The Full (Brahman) remains the same, even after the Full (the visible universe) has come out of the Full (Brahman).’

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.’

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The Secret Doctrine of the Ages teaches that the universe came into existence through creative and evolutionary processes; and it demonstrates why both are necessary to explain our origins. It harmonizes the truths of science and religion, while showing that major assumptions of both Darwinism and Fundamentalist Creationism do not bear up to careful examination. By drawing our attention to the questions of why we live and die, of what is mind and substance, the Secret Doctrine helps us realize that wisdom begins with understanding how very little we really know. Yet it also affirms that the most perplexing problems can be solved; that of the progeny of one cosmos.

Evolution means unfolding and progressive development, derived from the Latin evolutio: “unrolling,” specifically of a scroll or volume — suggestively connoting the serial expression of previously hidden ideas. A climb from the bottom of the Grand Canyon reveals an unmistakable evolutionary story: of the appearance of progressively more complex species over a lengthy period of time. But how actually did this happen? The compelling evidence of nature contradicts the week-long special creation postulated by Bible literalists. Darwinian theory is also proving unsatisfactory, as a growing number of scientists are relegating its major claims to the category of “mythology. “Though not assenting to any metaphysical implications, Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould declared in 1980 that the modern synthetic theory of evolution, “as a general proposition, is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy.” Pierre-P. Grassé, former president of the French Academy of Sciences and editor of the 35-volume Traité de Zoologie, was more forceful:

Their success among certain biologists, philosophers, and sociologists notwithstanding, the explanatory doctrines of biological evolution do not stand up to an objective, in-depth criticism. They prove to be either in conflict with reality or else incapable of solving the major problems involved. Through the use and abuse of hidden postulates, of bold, often ill-founded extrapolations, a pseudoscience has been created. It is taking root in the very heart of biology and is leading astray many biochemists and biologists, who sincerely believe that the accuracy of fundamental concepts has been demonstrated, which is not the case.

While most critics readily acknowledge that natural selection and gene changes partially explain variation in species or microevolution, they point out that Darwinism has failed spectacularly to describe the origin of life and the mechanism of macroevolution: the manner in which higher types emerge.

Textbook theory asserts that life on earth began with the formation of DNA and RNA, the first self-replicating molecules, in a prebiotic soup rich in organic compounds, amino acids, and nucleotides. Robert Shapiro, professor of chemistry at New York University, wrote:

many scientists now believe that neither the atmosphere described nor the soup had ever existed. Laboratory efforts had also been made to prepare the magic molecule from a simulation of the soup, and thus far had failed.

Even if the purported soup existed elsewhere in the universe, and DNA were brought to earth by meteorite, comet, or some other means, there remains the enigma of how it was originally synthesized. Astrobiology.

In the first place, several mathematicians have shown the astronomical improbability of chance mutations “evolving” any organized system — neither complex DNA molecules nor higher organisms. The 10-20 billion year time frame presently assigned to our universe is far too short a period, given known mutation rates. Moreover, nothing in empirical experience suggests that unguided trial and error — i.e., random mutation — will produce anything but the most trivial ends. Research biologist Michael Denton writes that to “get a cell by chance would require at least one hundred functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place” — the probability of which has been calculated at the negative figure 1 followed by 2,000 zeros — a staggeringly remote possibility, to say nothing of the lipids, polysaccharides, and nucleic acids also needed to form a viable, reproducing cell.

The same reasoning applies to the extraordinary number of coordinated, immediately useful mutations required to produce “organs of extreme perfection,” such as the mammalian brain, the human eye, and the sophisticated survival mechanisms (including inter-species symbiotic systems) of the plant and animal kingdoms. There is simply no justification, according to Denton, for assuming that blind physical forces will self-organize “in the finite time available the sorts of complex systems which are so ubiquitous in nature.” In observing the sheer elegance and ingenuity of nature’s purposeful designs, scientists like Denton can hardly resist the logic of analogy. The conclusion may have religious implications, he says, but the inference is clear: nature’s systems are the result of intelligent activity.

Another enigmatic problem is the absence in fossil strata of finely-graded transitional forms between major groups of species, i.e., between reptiles and birds, land mammals and whales, and so forth. Darwin himself recognized this as one of the “gravest” impediments to his theory and tried to defend it by asserting “imperfection of the geologic record.” Yet over a century of intensive search has failed to disclose the hypothetical missing links. Thus far only conjecture, or imagination, has been able to fill in how gills became lungs, scales became feathers, and legs became wings — for the record of nature on this point is still a secret.

Darwin also worried over one of nature’s most formidable barriers to macroevolutionary change: hybrid limits. Artificial breeding shows that extreme variations are usually sterile or weak. Left to themselves these hybrid varieties — if they are able to reproduce at all — revert to ancestral norms or eventually die out. In this sense, natural selection, environmental pressures, and genetic coding tend as much to weed out unusual novelties, as to ensure the survival of the fittest of each typea fact which is confirmed by the fossil record. Unquestionably, species adapt and change within natural limits; refinement occurs, too, as in flowering plants. But no one has yet artificially bred, genetically engineered, or observed in nature a series of chromosomal changes, micro or macro, resulting in a species of a higher genus. There are no “hopeful monsters,” except, perhaps, in a poetic sense. Trees remain trees, birds birds, and the problem of how higher types originate has not been solved by Darwin or his successors.

We do not give up our dogmas easily, scientific or religious. Obviously, ideas should be examined for their intrinsic value, not blindly accepted because somebody tells us “Science has proven” or the “Bible says so,” or again, because the Secret Doctrine teaches it. But with science’s recognized ignorance of first causes and macroevolutionary mechanisms, as well as the failure of scriptural literalism to provide satisfactory explanations, there remain the questions about our origins, purpose, and destiny. The answers to these questions are, in a sense, nature’s secret doctrines. Her evolutionary pattern suggests, however, that they are not hopelessly beyond knowing. Just as from the conception of a human embryo to a fully-developed adult, so from the first burst outward of the primordial cosmic atom, the progressive unfolding of intelligence is a natural and observable process. The whole universe seems bent on discovering itself and its reason for being.

The concept of the universe evolving for purposes of self-discovery and creative expression is found not only in modern European philosophy, such as Hegel’s, but also in ancient myths the world over, some of which sound surprisingly up-to-date. The Hindu Puranas, for example, speak of our universe as Brahma, and of alternating periods of cosmic activity and rest as the Days and Nights of Brahma, each of which spans over four billion years — an oscillating universe reminiscent of modern cosmological theory. In each “creation” Brahma attempts to fashion an ever-more perfected mankind, in the process of which he serially evolves from his own consciousness and root substance all of nature’s kingdoms: atoms, minerals, plants, animals, and so forth. Conversely, the stories allude also to the striving of mankind and, for that matter, of all sentient beings, to become Brahma-like in quality — i.e., to express more and more of the hidden mind pattern of the cosmos.

We often look down on ancient traditions as moldy superstitions. While this judgment may well apply to the rind of literalism and later accretions, concealed within and giving life to every religion are core ideas which bear the hallmark of insight. Biblical Genesis also, when read allegorically as is done in gnostic and kabbalistic schools, yields a picture of evolutionary growth and perfectibility, both testaments clearly implying that we are sibling gods of wondrous potential. But are the secret doctrines spoken of in these older traditions expressions of truth or simply romantic wish-fulfilling fantasy? Can they teach us anything relevant about our heritage and our future? It is to such questions that the modern book entitled The Secret Doctrine addresses itself. Impulsed by divinity and guided by karma (cause and effect), each of us has been periodically manifesting since eternity through all the kingdoms, from sub-mineral through human, earning our way to the next realm and beyond. Although seeded with godlike potential, we are not irrevocably fated to an unsought destiny. Karma is a philosophy of merit, and within our power is the capacity to choose — to evolve and create — our own future. We give life and active existence to our thoughts and, to a very large extent, we become what we think we are, or would like to be. This affects ourselves for good or evil, and it affects all others — profoundly so.

Negri’s Dismissive Approach to Re-engaging Growing Ideological Opposition to Capitalism. Note Quote.

The Pyramid of Capitalism

Negri’s politics are shaped by the defeat of the movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His borrowed economic theory was shaped by the triumphalism following the restructuring of US capitalism in the 1980s and the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. Having created a Marxism gutted of its central emphasis on the working class, he filled this empty shell with the poststructuralist philosophy developed by a generation of disappointed post-1968 French intellectuals.

Atilio Boron argues that Hardt and Negri’s increasing reliance on poststructuralist philosophers flows from a shared backdrop of trying to come to terms with working class defeat and capitalist hubris. Faced with a system that appears, for the time being, unbeatable:…a series of theoretical and practical consequences emerge that…are neatly reflected in the postmodern agenda. On the one hand, an almost obsessive interest in the examination of the social forms that grow in the margins or in the interstices of the system; on the other hand, the search for those social forces that at least for now could commit some sort of transgression against the system, or could promote some type of limited and ephemeral subversion against it.

This concern with subversion and transgression is indeed characteristic of many of the autonomist movements with which Negri is associated. But for Negri, with the rise of post-industrial production and the multitude, the potential for postmodern subversion has spread across the whole social terrain, and across the globe. One might expect Hardt and Negri to explain what such a confrontation would look like. However, what we instead get is a retreat into philosophy and descriptions of the multitude that the authors themselves admit are merely ‘poetic’.

Hardt and Negri also borrow from the poststructuralists, especially Deleuze and Guattari, an eclectic form of expression known as ‘assemblage’.

Timothy Brennan writes in his Italian Ideology:

It expresses itself as a gathering of substantively incompatible positions. In Empire’s assemblage, the juxtaposition of figures whose political views are mutually hostile to one another…is presented as the supersession of earlier divisions in pursuit of a more supple and inclusive combination.

So, in Empire, philosophers such as Michel Foucault or Baruch Spinoza and revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg rub shoulders with Bill Gates, former US labour secretary Robert Reich and St Francis of Assissi. This form of expression evolved as a rejection of attempts at a ‘grand narrative’ such as Marxism that could hope to explain and help transform the world, or of an agency such as the working class that could carry through such a transformation. For Hardt and Negri this method mirrors the multitude that they describe—a series of heterogeneous, isolated subjects, coming together to fleetingly act in common. Indeed they have gone so far as to say that the struggles of the multitude have become ‘incommunicable’ and lack a ‘common enemy’.

Their assertion would be contested by most of those who have attended the great international gatherings and protests of the anti-capitalist movement since Seattle. Here opposition to neo-liberalism and war have become common themes. The world working class may have been traumatised by the impact of neo-liberalism and the defeat of the movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But, rather than celebrating the much-exaggerated demise of the working class, the challenge today is to re-engage the growing ideological opposition to capitalism with the potential power that workers still hold. Negri is dismissive of such a project, but offersanothing substantial in its place.

His faux pas—over neo-liberalism, the EU constitution and the war in Iraq—stem from his failure to come to terms with either the defeats of the past or the nature of contemporary capitalism. Almost every assertion in his recent writings vanishes into thin air once subjected to even a cursory empirical examination. As for strategy, Multitude ends:

We can already recognise that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living – and that yawning abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the real political act of love.

With an upsurge of the Techno-Commercial Right in the world, multinationals and Commodity Trading firms and HFTs and states wreaking havoc, and global warming (believe it or not!) threatening our very survival as a species, waiting for an act of political love to save us sounds like bad advice.

¿..Structuralism..?

This is a puerile dig from the archives. Just wanted to park it here to rest and rust and then probably forgotten, until a new post on structuralism as a philosophy of mathematics comes up, which, it shall soon. In the meanwhile, this could largely be skipped.

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Structuralism is an umbrella term involving a wide range of disciplines that came to fruition with the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. The basic idea revolves round the study of underlying structures of significations that are meaningfully derived from ‘texts’. A ‘text’ is anything that owes its existence to a document or anything that has the potential of getting documented. The analyses for the discovery of structures underlying all these significations and texts and the conditions of possibilities for the existence of these significations and texts is what structuralism purportedly does. Saussure’s ‘Course in General Linguistics’, published posthumously, and seeing the light of the day because of his students’ note taking influenced ‘Structural Linguistics’, thereby explaining the adequacy of language for describing things concrete and abstract and in the process expanding the applicability of what language could do.

The starting point of Saussure’s analysis is Semiology, a science that undertakes the study of signs in society. These signs that express ideas build up the system of language for him. Signs are comprised of langue (language) and parole (speech). Langue is an abstract homogeneous system of language that is internalized by a given speech community, whereas parole is a concrete heterogeneous act of putting language into practice. In Saussurian jargon, Langue describes the social, impersonal phenomenon of language as a system of signs, while parole describes the individual, personal phenomenon of language as a series of speech acts made by a linguist subject. Signs attain their iconic status for Saussure due to meaning production when they enter into relationships with their referents.(1) Every sign is composed of a pair, a couple viz, signifier and signified, where signifier is a sound image (psychologically considered rather than materially), and signified is a concept. Signifier is the sensible part of the sign. A signified on the other hand is a connotation, an attachment that the signifier carries, a meaning, or a mental image of an entity that somehow misses out manifesting in the proximity. In other words, the signified of a signifier is not itself a sensible part of the sign. Signifier without the signified and vice versa strips a sign of its essence and therefore any meaning whatsoever (metaphysics ruled out for the moment!), and meaningfulness of signs in any discourse is derived from internal systemic relations of difference. This is precisely what is meant when Saussure says that language is a system of differences without positive terms (for the record: this is accepted even in Derrida’s post-structuralist critique of Saussure). The positivity of terms needs deliberation here. We recognize language, or more generally the marks inhabiting the language by virtue of how each and every mark is distinct/difference from each and every other mark inhabiting the same language. This distinction or difference is neither a resident with the sensible part of the sign, or signifier, nor with the mental/insensible part of the sign, or signified. Now, if the signifier and the signified are separated somehow, then language as guided by differences connoting negativity is legitimate. But, as has been mentioned; a sign is meaningful only when the signifier and the signified are coupled together, the meaning attaches itself a positive value. This only means that language is governed by differences. In the words of Saussure,

Whether we take signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. The idea or a phonic substance that a sign contains is of less importance than the other signs that surround it. Proof of this is that the value of a term may be modified without either its meaning or sound being affected, solely because a neighboring term has been modified.

Signs were value laden, for only then would linguistics become an actual science, and for this realization to manifest, signs in any language system were determined by other signs in the same language system that helped delimiting meaning and a possible bracketed range of usage rather than a confinement to internal sound-pattern and concept. A couple of ramifications follow for Saussure from here on viz, signs cannot exist in isolation, but emanate from the system in which they are to be analyzed (this also means that the system cannot be built upon isolated signs), and grammatical facts are consolidated by taking recourse to syntagmatic and paradigmatic analyses. The former is based on the syntactic or surface structure in semiotics, whereas the latter is operative on the syntagms by means of identifying its paradigms. The syntagmatic and paradigmatic analyses were what made Saussure assert the primacy of relations of difference that made any language operate. Syntagms particularly belong to speech, and thereby direct the linguist in identifying the frequency of its usage before being incorporated into language, whereas, paradigms relationalize associatively thus building up clusters of signs in the mind before finally imposing themselves on syntagms for the efficient functionality of the language.

So, fundamentally structuralism is concerned with signifiers and relations between signifiers, and requires a diligent effort to make visible what is imperceptible and at the same time responsible for the whole phenomenon to exist, and that being the absent signified. The specialty of absent signified is to carry out the efficacy of structuralism as a phenomenon, without itself sliding into just another singifier, and this is where Derrida with his critique of structuralism comes in, in what is known as post-structuralism. But, before heading into the said territory, what is required is an attempt to polish structuralism by viewing it under some lenses, albeit very briefly.

Structural anthropology as devised by Claude Lévi-Strauss in his Structural Anthropology (1 and 2) studied certain unobservable social structures that nonetheless generated observable social phenomenon. Lévi-Strauss imported most of his ideas from the structuralist school of Saussure, and paralleled Saussure’s view on the unknow-ability of grammar usage while conversing, with the unknow-ability of the workings of the social structures in day-to-day life. Thought as such is motivated by various patterns and structures that show proclivities towards redundancy in these very various situations. This means that the meaning or the signified is derived from a decision that somehow happens to have taken place in the past, and hence already decided. And the very construction of thoughts, experience is what structural anthropology purports to do, but with beginnings that were oblivious to social/cultural systems and wedded to objectivity of scientific perspective. Although criticized for the lack of foundations of a complete scientific account and ignorant towards an integration of cultural anthropology and neuroscience, the structural anthropology remains embraced amongst anthropologists.

Other important political variant of structuralism is attributed to Louis Althusser, who coined the idea of structural Marxism as against humanistic Marxism by emphasizing on Marxism as a science that has ‘studying’ objective structures as its goal, as against the prison house of pre-scientific humanistic ideology embraced by humanistic Marxism. The major tenet of this school of Marxism lay in its scathing critique of the instrumentalist version that argued for the institutions of the state as directly under the control of those capitalist powers, and instead sought out to clarify the functionality of these institutions in order to reproduce the capitalist society as a whole.

After these brief remarks on structural anthropology and structural Marxism, it is time for a turn to examine the critiques of structuralism in order to pave a smooth slide into post-structuralism. The important reaction against structuralism is its apparent reductionist tendency, wherein deterministic structural forces are pitted over the capacities of people to act, thus anthropologically weakening. Within the anthropological camp itself, Kuper had this to say,

Structuralism came to have something of the momentum of the millennial movement and some of its adherents thought that they formed a secret society of a seeing in a world of the blind. Conversion was not just a matter of accepting a new paradigm. It was, almost, a question of salvation.

Another closely allied criticism is confining to biological explanations for cultural constructions, and therefore ignoring the social constructions in the process. This critique is also attached with the Saussurian version, for it was considered as too closed off to social change. This critique could not have been ameliorated for the presence of Voloshinov, who thematized dialectical struggles within words to argue for the language to happen primarily through a ‘clash of social forces’ between people who use words, and thereby concluding that to study changes in signs and to chart those changes mandates the study of class struggles within society.

(1) Back in the 19th Century an important figure for semiotics, the pragmatic philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, isolated three different types of sign: The symbolic sign is like a word in so far as it refers by symbolising its referent. It neither has to look like it nor have any natural relation to it at all. Thus the word cat has no relation to that ginger monster that wails all night outside my apartment. But its owner knows what I’m talking about when I say “your cat kept me awake all night.” A poetic symbol like the sun (which may stand for enlightenment and truth) has an obviously symbolic relation to what it means. But how do such relationships come about? Saussure has an explanation. The indexical sign is like a signpost or a finger pointing in a certain direction. An arrow may accompany the signpost to San Francisco or to “Departures.” The index of a book will have a list of alphabetically ordered words with page numbers after each of them. These signs play an indexical function (in this instance, as soon as you’ve looked one up you’ll be back in the symbolic again). The iconic sign refers to its object by actually resembling it and is thus more likely to be like a picture (as with a road sign like that one with the courteous workman apologising for the disruption).