TA101 (Mohrhoff)



Response 3 (to C4 by Müller to R2)




by Ulrich Mohrhoff

17 May 2008, posted 24 May 2008





‘0-D epistemology refuses to speculate about what is inaccessible to the limited surface consciousness but not experientially inaccessible per se.’ 


< HM 3>

I would put this a little differently.  0-D is not only a refusal ‘to speculate about what is inaccessible’, which implies the existence of pre-structured truth beyond.


(UM 0)

“Inaccessible to the limited surface consciousness” is not “inaccessible per se.” We can widen, deepen, or heighten our consciousness (chose your favorite metaphor) and then what is inaccessible to the surface consciousness is no longer inaccessible to us. I am not interested in speculations about what is inaccessible full stop. I must admit that my use of the word “speculation” was infelicitous and misleading.



... ‘...Die “scheinbare” Welt ist die einzige :  die “wahre Welt” ist nur hinzugelogen.’


(UM 1)

True, if there is no limit to the extent to which the apparent world can expand, there is no need of a “true world”.



<HM 5>

The main thrust of 0-D is that we structure, rather than find or inquire...


(UM 2)

I wonder if these alternatives are exclusive. (I’m thinking of mathematics: discovered or created? Feynman once wrote “Mathematics isn’t real. But it feels real. Where is this place?”)


My suggestion is that the original creator of all existing structures is our true self, of which we are largely unaware but can become aware. Our surface self’s ability to create is rooted in our true self’s ability to create, and as we grow towards identity with our true self, our creative power grows into that of our true self. This legitimizes talk about agreement (or otherwise) of the structures created by our surface self with those created by our true self.




We can only start from SE [unstructured ongoing subject-inclusive experience], and always remain in the SE bubble, including getting at what you call ultimate reality (UR).


(UM 3)

The way I see it, the SE bubble can widen to include UR. UR is our deepest and truest self, with which we can grow consciously one.




... But we do find out, via feedback, whether the created, accepted, and used structures are adequate or need change.  That is to say :  if we do not want to postulate mind-independently pre-structured reality (MIR) we can only ‘find’ structures we have created, accepted, and used.


(UM 4)

But the “we” that has created the structures may be very different from the surface self. Discovery proceeds in two directions: inward, towards the true self, and outward, toward the worlds as seen by the true self.



<HM 7>

You talk about an ‘ultimate perceiver’ in us who is the creator (R2[13]), but we don’t need to postulate such a Doppelgänger.


(UM 5)

It’s neither a postulate nor a Doppelgänger – it’s our real self. Let me acknowledge up front my agreement with Tom Paine:


“No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to [communicate a revelation] if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person... it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other.”


However, it’s not a matter of revelation but a matter of direct experience. True, it’s my “own” direct experience only to a rather limited extent. It’s largely Sri Aurobindo’s experience, which he has recorded in his diary (published as Record of Yoga), set out pragmatically in his Synthesis of Yoga, systematized metaphysically in his Life Divine, and conveyed most powerfully through his epic poem Savitri. About the Life Divine he once wrote to a disciple:


“Let me tell you in confidence that I never, never, never was a philosopher — although I have written philosophy which is another story altogether. I knew precious little about philosophy before I did the Yoga and came to Pondicherry — I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher. How I managed to do it and why? First...  Secondly, because I had only to write down in the terms of the intellect all that I had observed and come to know in practising Yoga daily and the philosophy was there automatically. But that is not being a philosopher!”


Now, why are Sri Aurobindo’ experience-records not simply hearsay for me?


For one thing, given his national importance as a freedom fighter, his extraordinary range of experience (which made him the first in modern times to truly understand the Vedas and the Upanishads –because these helped him make sense of his experiences), the extent to which he has suffered selflessly for the liberation, first of his country from the colonial power, then from Nature’s constraints which have their roots in our evolutionary past, and so on... I cannot bring myself to believe that he intends to deceive his readers or that he is liable to be deceived.


For another, since I observe that my own spiritual progress proceeds rather along the lines one can predict on the basis of his writings, I have a certain amount of confirmation that makes me have confidence in the rest. One could raise a valid objection, pointing to the power of autosuggestion to create whatever experiences one might be expecting. In fact, Sri Aurobindo has frequently warned against fabricated experiences. However, with time one comes to recognize the difference between the genuine and the fabricated.




If we (‘the self’) are or become aware of the need for structuring, we can (among other possibilities) utilize various traditions as guidelines to follow in that structuring activity, but the structures must always remain open for scrutiny.


(UM 6)

“We” and “the self” are slippery terms. Ultimately there is only one self, but it perceives itself from a multitude of perspectives, it forgets itself, with the effect that there are not only a multitude of selves like you and me but also a multitude of selves in each of us. A statement like the previous sentence does indeed start out as traditional guideline, but it doesn’t end there. For the self that has forgotten can remember, it can discover itself in its other selves, etc.


That the structuring must always remain open for scrutiny is understood. Sri Aurobindo would be the first to insist on this. In his Synthesis of Yoga there is an entire chapter on the need of a dynamic faith ready to be transformed at every moment.



<HM 8>
It is a question of where entities come from, of who does what, of responsibility if you like.  The structures are often seen as external to SE, but I don’t believe this is a required feature as you seem to suggest (R2[13]).


(UM 7)

What I wrote in R2[13] was that “the ultimate perceiver in us (subliminal to our surface selves) is the creator of what corresponds to the MIR postulated [but not known] by the philosophizing surface consciousness. It is the creator of a reality that is external to the surface consciousness but internal to UR qua all-encompassing consciousness.” This ultimate perceiver is our true, real self, and it is possible for us to become conscious of it. We then are no longer identified with the surface self, which we then perceive as something quite external and instrumental. We then perceive the world as created by us and as internal to us. Thus there is no world external to consciousness. There is no MIR if M includes the consciousness that Sri Aurobindo refers to as “supermind.” There is a MIR if M is limited to the surface consciousness (the supraliminal of Frederic Myers).



<HM 9>


‘If the subject is that of the individual supraliminal or surface consciousness, then UR does not correspond to the “unstructured ongoing subject-inclusive experience”.  My reflections (including “surface consciousness” and “individual”) are situated in a working ontology that takes account of the spiritual experiences and intuitions of yogis and mystics across continents and throughout the ages.  Such an ontology cannot proceed from the phenomenally encompassing surface consciousness of the individual.  It has to proceed from UR, which does not correspond to anything in particular because particulars only arise within its creative self-experience.  In relation to the content of this experience it can however be described as both all-encompassing consciousness and all-constituting substance.  The content of this creative experience is not at first differentiated into subjects and objects. In other words, there is at first a single self and a single substance, both coextensive with the content and, in fact, identical.’



<HM 10>


how does UR manifest itself ? … particles … etc … are intermediate between UR and the world … forms in the widest sense are sets of fuzzy spatial relations … forms in a narrower sense are those that can be visualized “as they are”.  The smallest structure that can be so visualized corresponds to the sticks in the chemist’s balls-and sticks model of a molecule. … supervenience of the microscope on the macroscopic. …


The relation between UR and the world has a dual aspect : UR is not only the substance by which the world exists but also the self for which it exists. …


If UR lies in any direction relative to the world, this direction is “perpendicular” to every axis in space. The proposition is that much the same is true of the self : it looks through the brain, from a direction that is “perpendicular” to space.  … ’



<HM 11>

I am not sure I understand this; but let me say how I see it.  For the difference and relation between surface consciousness and UR, see <5> above.  In 0-D, all structures, entities, etc., are created (and/or accepted from others) and used inside encompassing SE, which is to varying degree shared with others.  Aside from present input from others, it can also assimilate the traditional wisdom of many generations, though that takes much effort. That can suggest what directions to take, possibilities, limitations. But still ongoing SE is the only possible entrance to knowledge, from which it can proceed; there is no other way.  The ‘self’, the ‘other’, ‘particles’, ‘space’, ‘axes’, ‘the world’, but also holistic structures like ‘God’, ‘universal spirit’, and other varieties like ‘UR’ or ‘TOEs’, can only be formed or accepted within (individual-and-shared) SE.


(UM 8)

If no restrictions are placed on the meaning of “knowledge”, then the statement that “ongoing SE [unstructured subject-inclusive experience] is the only possible entrance to knowledge” cannot possibly be false, for it allows every possible transformation of the concepts of “self” and “knowledge”. But experience can be carried to the extent that the terms you mention lose their MIR status or appearance. There is then no “other”. “God” or “UR” is then our true self. “Space” is then our true self, extended to make room for multiplicity and self-relations. Our consciousness then encompasses “the world”. (Some of those terms are metaphorical, intended to “dumb down” a perception so that the intellect can grasp it, e.g., when I speak of an axis perpendicular to space.)



<HM 12>
Structures crystallize (are formed), together with the pragmatic differences or splits between them (dichotomies, R2[16]-[17]), within the unstructured encompassing SE matrix or background or envelope. Holistic structures are attempts to structure everything, which is desired for stability of thinking, but self-contradictory because the center of SE cannot be structured (since structures form within SE, SE cannot be a structure within itself).


(UM 9)

In some respects, what you call “the unstructured encompassing SE matrix or background or envelope” fits the description of what I call “UR”, our true and inmost self, which can be experienced as our true and inmost self. While this is the origin and continent of every existing structure, and can be so experienced, our surface self is the origin of a very limited kind of structure, which is incapable of encompassing not only UR but also the structures created by UR. However, what you apparently mean by “the unstructured encompassing SE matrix or background or envelope” is just this limited surface self.




UR can neither be a substance nor the self.


(UM 10)

I do not always insist (though I say it often enough) that the characterization of UR as a self or as a substance is a characterization of the relation between UR and the world: it consciously encompasses it, and it constitutes it. This does not limit UR in any way. In particular, it leaves it completely open what UR may be “in itself”. However, mystically it can be experienced as a pure consciousness or self and/or as a pure being and/or as the origin of the world. It can also be experienced as neither of these things, which is the ultimate liberation from all structures and the ultimate knowledge of or identification with the unstructured “center”.




the holistic structure can to a degree become identical with the self in mysticism (see for instance TA106 [10] to [12]).  But in principle that could engender hybris.


(UM 11)

Knowledge is power and power can be misused; that’s a triviality. Fact is that those who have realized their identity with the self of all selves are among the humblest people known.



<HM 13>
...you also say that ‘UR is not unstructured’ (R2[5]).


(UM 12)

What I said was that “UR is not the unstructured ongoing SE of your 0-D epistemology.” In light of the above the different should be clear.



<HM 14>

‘Structures that exist outside … individual … consciousness yet inside UR’ (R2[8]) could mean either one of two things :  metaphysics; or else tradition (see <11> above).


(UM 13)

As far as I understand you, there is nothing wrong with either metaphysics (as long as it makes no MIR claims) or tradition.




UR = ultimate constituents = fundamental particles (R2[7])


(UM 14)

There is only one ultimate constituent – UR. But because UR enters into self-relations, it takes on the aspect of an effective multitude.




for the moment I don’t see that the small ‘size’ of the material entities makes it different from the usual (‘macro’-)MIR-materialism.


(UM 15)

Neither do I. (Besides, fundamental particles, such as the quarks and the leptons of the Standard Model, are formless, so size cannot be attributed to them.)



< HM 15>

... One can observe single particles, or at least their effects, separate from the ones of other particles, for instance in a cloud chamber, and then they have some individuality, at least in being observed as single items, and in the path they follow.  And I think I have seen photographs of single gold atoms.


(UM 16)

So? One substance can constitute many things. One object can have many properties. One grammatical subject can have many predicates.




Also I am not sure what is meant by Many” are numerically identical and identical with UR’, or by ‘UR enters into spatial relations with itself’.


(UM 17)

The oneness of the many is the irreducible core of mystical experience. Out of the one, the many emerge by the one’s entering into self-relations. I suppose this has to be experienced.




The notion of ‘space’ too is itself a structure created within SE.


(UM 18)

Yes, and in addition it is a structure created by and within UR. One name for two things, as is all too often the case, unfortunately.




Of course particles are numerically identical, but so are people, or countries (for instance China and Liechtenstein are one each).


(UM 19)

You know that this is not the meaning of “numerical identical”.



< HM 21>

...Forms are basic properties of visual-gestalt function


(UM 20)

This is true of forms in “SE space”. But, as said, there is the other space, which is not a MIR thing but the content of UR qua consciousness.




The visual cortex can detect (i.e., structure) forms; it has for instance edge- or line-detector cells.


(UM 21)

The visual cortex is involved in the construction of phenomenal forms – phenomenal in relation to the surface self. Quantum mechanics is trying to tell us something about real forms, which are also phenomenal but in relation to UR, our true self.




So far I don’t see that there is a gradual transition from formless to formed; as I mentioned in C3 it seems to me that the visual-gestalt-form function has all-or-nothing properties.


(UM 22)

The way I have described it in R2[2] is indeed stepwise progressive rather than gradual in the continuous sense. But one can also conceive that initially all spatial relations are completely fuzzy, which comes to saying that initially there is not spatial differentiation and hence no space. Spatial relations come into being by reducing their fuzziness. (Of course there is always the discontinuity between nothing and something, however little or small, or, in this case, between completely fuzzy and not completely fuzzy.) In any case, I’m not concerned here with the construction of the world as the surface self perceives it (which can to some extend be studied by studying brains, as the surface self perceived them).



<HM 24>

Brains are phenomena to start with; but as you say, brain studies have produced much helpful information concerning SE.  They show what is necessary or instrumental for SE to occur (just as DNA is instrumental for the occurrence of most of life).  But this knowledge about the mechanics of instrumental brain and nervous activity (and also of necessary DNA), happens within SE, and therefore cannot ‘explain’ consciousness (nor life), although that has sometimes been proposed.


(UM 22)

I fully agree.




What you call the telescopic aspect (TA101[24]) of the real brain seems to mean the instrumental-for-SE aspect of brain and CNS function.


(UM 23)

Yes, except that this S is part of a larger self-structuring of UR.



<HM 25>

The difference between ‘instrumentality’ and ‘constitution’ in the manifestation of ‘the [real] cherry made of molecules’ (R2[10]) also requires some further discussion.  The ‘manifestation’ seems to mean something like gestalt-closure  -  but that does not depend on molecules.


(UM 24)

There is a real world (and a real cherry) in the sense that there is a world over and above that perceived by the surface self – namely the world as it is in or for the all-encompassing consciousness aspect of UR. The “real” world is manifested in and by this consciousness. The instrumentality of the brain is needed only for the surface consciousness.




In my view, subject and object, and the split between them, are all structured, pragmatically, and defined, within SE (R2[12]).


(UM 25)

In my view, they arise in the self-structuring of UR in the process of involution (where one could say that the object emerges from the subject) and again in the evolution (where one could say that the subject emerges from the object).




The ‘one self of all selves’ (R2[12]) seems to refer either to holistic structure, or else to far-reaching sharing of experience (see <11> above)...


(UM 26)

It’s more than far-reaching sharing. It’s a radical oneness of selves that must be experienced.




I would say that there is one persistent self in multiple situations rather than multiple selves (R2[15]-[16]); although the self needs continuous re-evaluation.


(UM 27)

If anything is self-known and not in need of evaluation, it is the mystically known “self of all selves.”




Quick uncontrolled changes in self, or multiple selves, are likely to signal psychological problems.


(UM 28)

Considering the state of the world, it looks as if UR (known to some as “God”) has indeed a psychological problem! (On the other hand, it may be that we don’t see things in quite the same light as our true self.)



<HM 27>

The ideas of ‘involution’ and ‘evolution’ of mind (R2[20]ff) seem helpful :  the way I would put it is that one can and should allow oneself to disengage from presently used structure in order to take distance and permit re-structuring. This is a practical way to take into account that all mental structures are in principle ad-hoc and temporary, not absolute and permanent. 


(UM 29)

Evolution is not merely, and not even primarily, an evolution of organic structures but an evolution of consciousness, which goes through many stages. We (at present) are familiar with a single stage, which makes it difficult to grasp the transitions. One who had a masterful grasp of this was Jean Gebser (Ursprung und Gegenwart, translated as The Ever-Present Origin).


A transformation of consciousness is tantamount to a transformation of the world, and this in a far more radical sense than a new way of thinking or an intellectual re-structuring. It is more than replacing one mental structure by another, because there was consciousness before there were mental structures, and there is consciousness beyond mental structures. The evolving consciousness approaches the consciousness of UR, because it is the consciousness of UR less and less involved.




That allows indeed for ‘creation of matter and space’ (R2[23]-[24]), but not for ‘UR entering into spatial relations with itself’ ...


(UM 30)

There are also two sense of “creation of matter and space”. Yes, matter and space (as well as time) emerge in the evolving consciousness, and they transform in the course of evolution to an extent hardly imaginable to us, who are familiar with only one type of consciousness. This is the sense that was elaborated by Gebser. I focused on the other sense, their emergence in the course of involution.




...‘space’, as well as ‘particles’, which are structured within SE, vanish in the ‘involution’ phase like everything else.


(UM 31)

Well, these things are needed to set the stage for UR’s adventure of evolution. But the complete involution resulting in what Sri Aurobindo calls the “Inconscient” may precede the setting of this stage. There may indeed be nothing to start with (as nothing as possible!), and the stage for the drama of evolution may be set by “nothing” entering into relations with itself, creating something consisting entirely of spatial relations. In this case matter (the relata) would be nothing!



<HM 30>

Your argument that objects start out as multiple subjects or selves (R2[14]ff) seems similar to the (‘idealistic’) monadology of Leibniz, where the single monads relate to a central (God) monad.  The problem I see in this monadology is that it explicitly assumes closed pre-structured permanent identities ‘with no windows’, in Leibniz’s words.


(UM 32)

There is a certain similarity, but Leibniz misses the all-important duality of involution and evolution. One could describe the fundamental particles as the result of UR’s turning itself inside out: what originally are internal relations of UR (relations between UR and UR) comes to appear as external relations between non-identical entities. Moreover, the paucity of the initial relations renders these effectively non-identical entities “windowless”. Evolution creates windows, not by drilling holes in formless particles but by the aggregation of formless particles the emergence of conscious organisms. As consciousness evolves, the windows get bigger and bigger and more and more transparent. Matter, which to us now appears rather opaque, will become transparent and reveal to all the one self in and of all. (For Gebser, this transparency is a key element in the next structure of consciousness, which he called “integral” long before the word became fashionable and abused.)




A pragmatic subject-object split is preferable; it does not imply disappearance of the subject (R2[19])


(UM 33)

One can take the view that the subject never really disappears. But if it has no way of making its presence known, then it has as good as disappeared.




Touch, smell, color, pain, etc, are biologically determined non-deliberate structures with little or no word-gestalt-identity features.


(UM 34)

What are “biologically determined non-deliberate structures”? This smacks of MIR thinking.




After involution and evolution <27> they are likely to be more or less the same as before.


(UM 35)

Absolutely not. The evolving consciousness needs the brain and all the other support systems only because it is still largely involved. (It was even more involved before it had the benefit of a brain.)




Is that what you mean by saying that ‘colors exist within the real world and in [the looked-at respect aspect] ?’ (R2[28])


(UM 36)

Well, an aspect of the real (i.e., manifested) world is not an image or a representation. For us, seeing the manifested world (including its colors) requires a brain, and manifesting the world (including its colors) requires molecules (but only because of the world’s evolutionary history).




Despite the directness of color experience, color-naming can be interfered with by words in a language for which one is literate (Stroop-effect)... It illustrates that language-fixed concepts (which have been structured during life) can not only facilitate and stabilize, but also complicate and distort, more direct thinking and action; the non-deliberate interference requires a deliberate effort to overcome it.  We can get caught in our own structures. 


(UM 37)

The goggles may also malfunction, as I said in TA101 [31].



<HM 33>

This illustrates a more general point. If language-(gestalt-)thinking-structures are permitted to become  mind-independent, they escape control and may play tricks on their users.  There are many other examples of snags resulting from fixed-structure thinking...


(UM 38)





One needs to ... remain aware that humans, not some fictitious external authorities, do the structuring.


(UM 39)

Yes, as far as our knowledge is concerned. No, as far as UR’s self-knowledge is concerned. I shall close with a few lines from Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri:


But thought nor word can seize eternal Truth:

The whole world lives in a lonely ray of her sun.

In our thinking’s close and narrow lamp-lit house

The vanity of our shut mortal mind

Dreams that the chains of thought have made her ours;

But only we play with our own brilliant bonds;

Tying her down, it is ourselves we tie...

For Truth is wider, greater than her forms.

A thousand icons they have made of her

And find her in the idols they adore;

But she remains herself and infinite.




Ulrich Mohrhoff

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