TA101 (Mohrhoff)



Response 4 (to C5, to R3)




by Ulrich Mohrhoff
30 June 2008, posted 5 July 2008




In {11} you equate UR with God. 



The G word is of course misleading. My sense becomes clearer when the following passage from Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine is taken into account:


On no theory of an extra-cosmic moral God, can evil and suffering be explained, — the creation of evil and suffering, — except by an unsatisfactory subterfuge which avoids the question at issue instead of answering it or a plain or implied Manicheanism which practically annuls the Godhead in attempting to justify its ways or excuse its works.  But such a God is not the Vedantic Sachchidananda.  Sachchidananda of the Vedanta is one existence without a second; all that is, is He.  If then evil and suffering exist, it is He that bears the evil and suffering in the creature in whom He has embodied Himself.  The problem then changes entirely.  The question is no longer how came God to create for His creatures a suffering and evil of which He is Himself incapable and therefore immune, but how came the sole and infinite Existence-Consciousness-Bliss to admit into itself that which is not bliss, that which seems to be its positive negation.  Half of the moral difficulty — that difficulty in its one unanswerable form disappears.  It no longer arises, can no longer be put.  Cruelty to others, I remaining immune or even participating in their sufferings by subsequent repentance or belated pity, is one thing; self-infliction of suffering, I being the sole existence, is quite another.



What I think needs to be assured is the contiguity with ongoing experience.



I completely agree, provided that “ongoing experience” includes every kind of experience accessible to humans, however rare or difficult to access.



For instance, the unstructured origin, within which all structures are created, can be defined operationally, as the activity of emptying the mind of structures inasmuch as possible, or at least being aware of the need to allow for that, because all structures are in principle ad-hoc and temporary.



It’s more than emptying.  The emptying has often been compared in the mystical traditions to the calming of a rough sea.  When this becomes still, one can look through the surface and become aware of activities that go on beneath it.  Then one can start all over again.  Some Buddhist texts speak of 64 emptinesses: one has to repeat the process that many times to reach the ultimate stillness.  Allow me to again quote Sri Aurobindo:


the final test of truths of this order is not reason but spiritual illumination verified by abiding fact of spirit; a single decisive spiritual experience may undo a whole edifice of reasonings and conclusions erected by the logical intelligence.  Here the [Indian] theory of Illusionism is in occupation of a very solid ground; for, although it is in itself no more than a mental formulation, the experience it formulates into a philosophy accompanies a most powerful and apparently final spiritual realisation. It comes upon us with a great force of awakening to reality when the thought is stilled, when the mind withdraws from its constructions, when we pass into a pure selfhood void of all sense of individuality, empty of all cosmic contents: if the spiritualised mind then looks at individual and cosmos, they may well seem to it to be an illusion, a scheme of names and figures and movements falsely imposed on the sole reality of the Self-Existent.  Or even the sense of self becomes inadequate; both knowledge and ignorance disappear into sheer Consciousness and consciousness is plunged into a trance of pure superconscient existence.  Or even existence ends by becoming too limiting a name for that which abides solely for ever; there is only a timeless Eternal, a spaceless Infinite, the utterness of the Absolute, a nameless Peace, an overwhelming single objectless Ecstasy.  There can certainly be no doubt of the validity — complete within itself — of this experience; there can be no denial of the overwhelming decisive convincingness with which this realisation seizes the consciousness of the spiritual seeker. But still all spiritual experience is experience of the Infinite and it takes a multitude of directions; some of them—and not this alone—are so close to the Divine and the Absolute, so penetrated with the reality of Its presence or with the ineffable peace and power of the liberation from all that is less than It, that they carry with them this overwhelming sense of finality complete and decisive.  There are a hundred ways of approaching the Supreme Reality and, as is the nature of the way taken, so will be the nature of the ultimate experience by which one passes into That which is ineffable, That of which no report can be given to the mind or expressed by any utterance.

I quote this in order to emphasize that the emptying leads to an ineffable fullness, which is often described in negative terms (“neither this not that,” neti neti) only because no term rooted in structure or differentiation can be applied to it.



Sri Aurobindo further explains that mental consciousness has no clue to the relation between this extraordinary experience, which makes the world seem illusory, and ordinary experience, which tends to regard spiritual experience (known only from hearsay) as illusory.  Awareness that this ineffable reality (Self, Existence, whatever) is in fact the source of the world, and of the dynamic link by which this manifests (itself as) the world, is a prerogative of the supermind.



Another possible problem with God-likeness (our true self {11}) is ‘hybris’ (at least if positive structures are associated with this notion :  one could then be tempted to hand out absolute truths, etc; and that happens a good deal)  -  but which you assure me {14} is not a problem in people who have realized their identity with the self of all selves.


UM [5]

The problem — not in its grossest but in its more insidious forms — was one of Sri Aurobindo’s main concerns, as may be inferred from the passage just quoted.  There are many kinds of overwhelming spiritual experience, and the tendency to absolutize one stands in the way of a more integral experience.



I am still not quite clear what you mean by ‘surface self’ or ‘surface consciousness’;  is it the lack of access to UR, or to the ‘supermind’ ? {8}



Sri Aurobindo studied in London and Cambridge at a time when the work of the Society for Psychical Research (London) was widely known in England.  One of its founders, most active investigators, and most prolific writers was Frederic Myers, who introduced the term “subliminal consciousness” into scientific psychology.  This is where Sri Aurobindo seems to have picked up this term.  Myers compared the rest of our consciousness — the supraliminal or surface consciousness — to the tip of an iceberg, and so did Sri Aurobindo.  You may want to take a look at the article “Sri Aurobindo on subliminal consciousness” in AntiMatters 1 (2), 21–54,




‘The self’ {7} I understand as a structure, a tool, within SE – we may have a terminological difference here. 



This is because there are (at the very least) two selves in us.  The ego or surface self is an element of the structure of the surface consciousness, whereas our inmost or essential self is the origin of all structure and thus itself not part of any structure.  There are as many ways to approach it in experience as there are ways to get beyond structure (in experience).



Also I am still not certain what you mean by ‘numerical identity’ {22}.



The morning star and the evening star are numerically identical, so are (at present) George W. Bush and the President of the US of A.


Do you want to relate this to the mystical experience of oneness ?  {20}



That experience comes in many flavors, but the one fact that can be distilled from them is that Reality is one, and that the many exist because the one has entered into relations with itself, is presenting itself to itself under a multitude of aspects.


 This would be similar to the ‘hen’ of Greek philosophy, it seems; including the ‘ever-present origin’ {30}ff, which is also implied in Herakleitos’ ‘Πάντα ε ‘ (panta rhei). 



Except that Greek philosophy (with the exception of Heraclitus) never really arrived at less than two: matter/space and form/idea, or primary and secondary substance, or the unmoved mover (actuality without potentiality) and the (transitively) unmoving moved (potentiality without actuality).  Much the same goes for the “footnotes to Plato” (including Whitehead’s).



Furthermore I still don’t quite understand in what sense ‘particles’ are needed {35} for UR.  So far it seems to me that this conflicts with your anti-materialist aims.



UR needs them to set the stage for the drama of evolution.  Not that they are any different from UR, since everything is UR.  But if formless UR enters into spatial relations with itself, and if these relations are not apprehended or comprehended as self-relations, then the corresponding relata appear as a multitude of formless “particles.”



By the way, in this connection, do you know someone who could discuss my questions about Nagarjuna in R23 [17] (and in R21) of TA93 ?



I have passed on your questions to a couple of friends who might be in a position to answer them.  I can’t guarantee that they will find the time to do so, though.




Ulrich Mohrhoff
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