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3962Re: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation

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  • Thomas Mether
    Dec 3, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      Kathryn,
       
      I do think that the competence of a mystical tradition requires expert scholarship of its history to keep it on track but it is always going to have an apophatic element because the experience, the experiencing of that which is experienced, is always going to be infinitely richer and inexhaustible compared to concepts that are usefully selective, simplifications,
      and thereby, selectively highlight and conceal. So, the critical reading, close reading, analytic skills, interpretative skills, research skills, or otherwise as I put it, dianoetic skills are needed, even as part of a spiritual path, in varying degrees (say from competent to expert). And it takes very tough work to acquire those. But 90% of a real spiritual discipline, while depending upon the dianoetic skills outlined as a necessary factor, is both even tougher, slower going, long times discouraging, dry, learning that the moments of breakthrough "ahas" are not it -- not the point -- spiritual highs can become a distracting addiction, and maybe, through persistence, we find that the biggest obstacle is ourselves. That cannot be found in a contemporary university nor by reading lots of books expertly.
       
      "As part of the genuine moral life, the spiritual life is simple but hard. By contrast, studying the spiritual life is complex and difficult because in its bookish vicarious enjoyments, it evades the simple and hard. It is always an ever-present and tough choice between challenging entertainment and reality." -- David Crownfield
       

      --- On Fri, 12/3/10, Kathryn Evans <kathryn-e@...> wrote:


      From: Kathryn Evans <kathryn-e@...>
      Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation
      To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Friday, December 3, 2010, 4:02 PM


       




      Dear All,

      Yes, it's interesting how there is always a human need to tell ourselves
      these stories over again in a new contemporary voice, hopefully one that
      makes the "practice" of writing, reading, and "ascending to the Good"
      through these stories/intellectual exercises more accessible to the
      contemporary reader.

      In our Prologues then, how are we to declare the contemporary relevance of
      practicing Brahman (as Thomas described it), or soul-making, through poetry,
      myth, philosophy, and other forms of intellectual "play"? The violent rift
      occurring now in the Academy--between the Sciences and the Humanities--can
      be seen as an expression of our collective "fall" into gross materiality
      (read stula-sarira or mutual predatory sheath). People who practice the
      Humanities naturally want to reassert the value of our work: for us it's a
      matter of experiencing what some categorize as "play" or "fantasy" instead
      as a valuable "work" essential to humankind.

      Humanities rely heavily on words to work their magic, to translate ineffable
      thoughts and ideas into meaningful contemporary written works that can be
      shared among humankind as a living wisdom. So instead of describing
      Neoplatonism for instance as "lacking a practice," we can take another
      look--as is happening on this list--in order to discern that the written
      works are the path to the practice and are themselves the practice.
      Sometimes people receive a practice through the material transmission, via a
      living Master, of a word/mantra to repeat with eyes closed. Sometimes people
      receive a practice through the material transmission of receiving a physical
      book to read. Sometimes people receive a gnosis of that same wisdom without
      the vehicle of a physical Master or a physical book: through having the idea
      of a form for instance. The middle scenario of transmitting wisdom through
      the words of a book (in some physical form) is where the Academic teacher's
      power resides.

      My point is that in an Academic setting, the student practices the study of
      Neoplatonism through receiving words from a physical book in some form:
      whether textbook, computer screen, or teacher's spoken words. So the
      function of the Humanities in Academic education is precisely that it makes
      even the most inexpressible, ineffable, interpenetrating wisdom of humanity
      accessible to the contemporary generation through physical, effable words.
      The most practical Academic knowledge is in fact taught through the
      Humanities, because it teaches that knowledge which interpenetrates all
      levels of human existence, and through the vehicle of words becomes the
      wisdom carried forward by the next generation.

      Poetry, myth, and philosophy (the practice of Brahman) have a long history
      of engendering delight through the instruction of their interpenetrating
      wisdom. What is necessary perhaps is to literally write and speak the words
      which describe how Neoplatonism, for instance, expands the students' joy of
      being through intellectual exercise--a real skill/work that requires
      practice, and one that empowers them to go out and contribute other good
      works to humankind. Perhaps people who teach in the Humanities need to
      continually practice in the textbooks and in the classroom the "Prologue,"
      literally explaining the "so what?" "who cares?" "what does it mean" and
      "why does it matter?" Of course wisdom is available to students through
      transmissions outside the Academic classroom setting, but without the
      delight part of formal education through Humanities you might as well drop
      the term University and call it Trade School.

      Thomas, you've most likely read a translation of Patanjali's Yoga-sutras,
      but the translation by James Houghton Woods for The Harvard Oriental Series
      is a particularly scholarly and detailed one I'd recommend. The Yoga-System
      of Patanjali: Or the Ancient Hindu Doctrine of Concentration of Mind. Delhi:
      Motilal Banarsidass, 1977 (and it's probably been reprinted since then).
      "Now, by the yogin who has recognized the power of the word to express the
      thing,
      28. Repetition of it and reflection upon its meaning [should be made].
      The repetition of the Mystic Syllable, and reflection upon the Icvara who is
      signified by the Mystic Syllable. Then in the case of this yogin who thus
      repeats the Mystic syllable and reflects upon its meaning, mind-stuff
      attains to singleness-of-intent, and so it hath been said,
      'Through study let him practice yoga;
      Through yoga let him meditate on study.
      By perfectness in study and in yoga
      Supreme Soul shines forth clearly.' [. . .]" (Book I: Concentration or
      Samadhi, Verse 28 and Commentary)

      It seems evident from this thread that Academics who study Neoplatonism are
      continuing to "retranslate" Neoplatonic texts in terms of practice as well
      as theory, even to the extent of describing how to intellectually practice
      specific passages (sutras if you will) for spiritual gnosis. This is not
      outside of Academic purvue, but is part-and-parcel of it.

      Kathryn

      Kathryn LaFevers Evans
      Independent Researcher

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Robert Wallace" <bob@...>
      To: <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 10:44 AM
      Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation

      Dear all,

      Thomas, thanks for your fascinating exposition of Brahman etc.

      You contrast "bottom-up" to "top-down" strategies:

      >> In contemporary terms, the acuteness of the explanatory problem
      >> seems to depend upon whether one takes a "bottom-up" approach or a
      >> "top-down" approach. In terms of the "bottom-up" approach, is it
      >> seems impossible to account for mind in terms of body (as conceived
      >> now) making the explanation problem more acute than if it is
      >> flipped around; it seems much easier to develop an explanation of,
      >> given the self-evident qualities of first-person subjectivity, the
      >> origins and constitution of the body from the mind, and thus, the
      >> explanation problem less acute.

      However, who explains (in detail) "the origins and constitution of the
      body from the mind"? Plato does this, as Prof. Dillon suggests, in the
      Timaeus. Hegel does it in his Encyclopedia. Maybe Whitehead does it. I
      hope that someone is at work on a readable version for modern
      audiences!!

      Plus there needs to be a Prologue that shows why the
      "teleology" (appeal to the Good) involved in such projects is
      rationally unavoidable, rather than just a pre-Darwinian fantasy. See
      Republic books iv-vii; Hegel's Science of Logic. A more readable
      version of these would also be very helpful!

      Best, Bob

      On Dec 3, 2010, at 8:57 AM, Thomas Mether wrote:

      > Hello John,
      >
      > You write:
      >
      > How about this? The physical universe is perhaps best regarded as a
      > vast
      > hologram, and we are holograms within it. One hologram can
      > presumably shake
      > hands with another hologram, without wither feeling there is anything
      > strange going on. It occurs to me that the reason why for Plato
      > there is
      > virtually no Omind-body¹ problem is that he ragred the body somewhat
      > in this
      > way < a combination of basic triangles, or geometrical bodues,
      > stacked end
      > to end, as in the Timaeus. JMD
      >
      > I suggest that another factor is teleological concepts, formal and
      > final causes, were part of the "natural" and "presupposed"
      > conceptual equipment and experience of people before Descartes. The
      > mind-body problem became acute when the body became conceived of as
      > a mechanism and the relation of mind to body was an extrinsic one of
      > mutual externality related by efficient cause or God's coordination.
      > Given Descartes framework, materialists
      > changed the Cartesian view where it is body as a mechanism of a
      > certain organization that
      > produces mind. A live and dead body are still "body".
      >
      > Before Descartes, under teleological views, apart from its principle
      > and formal cause -- the soul -- the body is just potency with the
      > possibility of being actualized and substantial by a soul. In
      > effect, the body depends on the soul to be real as body. In effect,
      > only animated bodies are really bodies.
      >
      > In contemporary terms, the acuteness of the explanatory problem
      > seems to depend upon whether one takes a "bottom-up" approach or a
      > "top-down" approach. In terms of the "bottom-up" approach, is it
      > seems impossible to account for mind in terms of body (as conceived
      > now) making the explanation problem more acute than if it is flipped
      > around; it seems much easier to develop an explanation of, given the
      > self-evident qualities of first-person subjectivity, the origins and
      > constitution of the body from the mind, and thus, the explanation
      > problem less acute.
      >
      > Several years ago, Manfred Frings suggested that the
      > phenomenological concept of lived body that philosophers such as
      > Merleau Ponty and Paul Ricoeur derived from Max Scheler's concept of
      > lived body (der Leib) in contrast to the physical body (der Korper)
      > might have come partly to Scheler, maybe via Eucken, from Rudoph
      > Steiner's concept of spiritual bodies that acquire a "chemical-
      > physical crust" or externalized "crystalline crust".
      > In any respect, he noted they probably didn't realize that for
      > Scheler the physical body (der Korper) only exists as such in
      > dependence on the lived body (der Leib). Anyway, if this is true,
      > what came to mind when you spoke of Plato's geometric shapes/volumes
      > was Steiner's "crystalline crust" and Scheler's view that the
      > physical body (der Korper) only becomes such animated by the lived
      > bodiliness (Leiblichkeit) of the lived body (der Leib).
      > Both Merleau Ponty and Ricoeur picked up on Scheler's anti-
      > physicalist argument that the lived body cannot be explained in
      > terms of the physical body, but I think Frings was saying, they
      > didn't bite the Scheeler bullet that the physical body is only such
      > due to the lived body animating it. A whirlwind stirs up the
      > geometric crystalline dust and becomes coated by it while animating
      > it into a body.
      >
      > Thomas
      >
      > --- On Fri, 12/3/10, John Dillon <jmdillon@...> wrote:
      >
      > From: John Dillon <jmdillon@...>
      > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation
      > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      > Date: Friday, December 3, 2010, 5:16 AM
      >
      >
      >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hi Kathryn,
      > >
      > > The direction I'm thinking of reading up on is Henry More and Myers.
      > >
      > > I'm thinking of digging out my Henry More. Myers is credited with
      > saying that
      > > reading More inspired his "aha" moment for his mind-brain theory
      > when More was
      > > discussing subtle bodies.
      > >
      > > Basically, what I remember is that, for More, a body is by
      > definition simply a
      > > volume. A volume does not have to be solid. Also, a body can be
      > organic (have
      > > functional parts - organs) without being a solid body. So, More
      > argued, there
      > > can be a spiritual organic body. In some criticism of Descartes
      > where the
      > > issue of how an unextended substance interacted with an extended
      > substance,
      > > apparently More said that a fundamental animation as the immediate
      > feeling of
      > > aliveness had extension in its term and subject at its source
      > (spirit body as
      > > animated extended term and soul as subjective source). I have
      > Myers book.
      > > Guess I will have to read it alongside More to see if I can find
      > what might be
      > > the "aha" passage. Thomas
      > >
      > >
      > > --- On Wed, 12/1/10, Kathryn Evans <kathryn-e@...
      > > <mailto:kathryn-e%40sbcglobal.net> > wrote:
      > >
      > > From: Kathryn Evans <kathryn-e@...
      > > <mailto:kathryn-e%40sbcglobal.net> >
      > > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation
      > > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com <mailto:neoplatonism%40yahoogroups.com
      > >
      > > Date: Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 12:47 PM
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Excellent; thank you Thomas!
      > >
      > > Co-creative agency, yes indeed,
      > >
      > > Kathryn
      > >
      > > ----- Original Message -----
      > > From: Thomas Mether
      > > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com <mailto:neoplatonism%40yahoogroups.com
      > >
      > > Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:46 PM
      > > Subject: [neoplatonism] Book Recommendation
      > >
      > > List,
      > >
      > > I've mentioned in the past that there are a growing number of
      > defenders of a
      > > "substance dualist" philosophy of mind against the dominant
      > physicalist
      > > paradigm. Some of these books include John Foster's The Immaterial
      > Self
      > > (Oxford), Swinburne's The Evolution of the Soul (Oxford), and
      > Moreland's Body
      > > and Soul (which, btw, is a defense not of Cartesian dualism but of
      > what is
      > > variously described as classical Thomist-Bonaventurean-Neoplatonic
      > dualism).
      > >
      > > The book I am now recommending I was referred to by a
      > neuroscientist friend
      > > and colleague. It is by a group of neuroscientists and
      > psychologists. It
      > > defends the "F.W.H Myers- W. James" model with the latest research
      > evidence
      > > supporting the model.
      > >
      > > Here is the info with publisher's blurb.
      > >
      > > Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, With
      > CD containing
      > > F. W. H. Myers's hard-to-find classic 2-volume Human Personality
      > (1903) and
      > > selected contemporary reviews. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers,
      > Inc. ( 2009).
      > > Edward F. Kelly (Editor), Edward F. Kelly (Author) , Emily
      > Williams Kelly
      > > (Author), Adam Crabtree (Author), Alan Gauld (Author), Michael
      > Grosso
      > > (Author), Bruce Greyson (Author)
      > > Publisher Description
      > > Current mainstream opinion in psychology, neuroscience, and
      > philosophy of mind
      > > holds that all aspects of human mind and consciousness are
      > generated by
      > > physical processes occurring in brains. Views of this sort have
      > dominated
      > > recent scholarly publication. The present volume, however,
      > > demonstrates--empirically--that this reductive materialism is not
      > only
      > > incomplete but false. The authors systematically marshal evidence
      > for a
      > > variety of psychological phenomena that are extremely difficult,
      > and in some
      > > cases clearly impossible, to account for in conventional
      > physicalist terms.
      > > Topics addressed include phenomena of extreme psychophysical
      > influence,
      > > memory, psychological automatisms and secondary personality, near-
      > death
      > > experiences and allied phenomena, genius-level creativity, and
      > 'mystical'
      > > states of consciousness both spontaneous and drug-induced. The
      > authors further
      > > show that these rogue phenomena are more readily accommodated by an
      > > alternative
      > > 'transmission' or 'filter' theory of mind/brain relations advanced
      > over a
      > > century ago by a largely forgotten genius, F. W. H. Myers, and
      > developed
      > > further by his friend and colleague William James. This theory,
      > moreover,
      > > ratifies the commonsense conception of human beings as causally
      > effective
      > > conscious agents, and is fully compatible with leading-edge
      > physics and
      > > neuroscience. The book should command the attention of all open-
      > minded persons
      > > concerned with the still-unsolved mysteries of the mind.
      > >
      > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > >
      > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > >
      > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      >
      > How about this? The physical universe is perhaps best regarded as a
      > vast
      > hologram, and we are holograms within it. One hologram can
      > presumably shake
      > hands with another hologram, without wither feeling there is anything
      > strange going on. It occurs to me that the reason why for Plato
      > there is
      > virtually no Omind-body¹ problem is that he ragred the body somewhat
      > in this
      > way < a combination of basic triangles, or geometrical bodues,
      > stacked end
      > to end, as in the Timaeus. JMD
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >

      Robert Wallace
      website: www.robertmwallace.com (The God Within Us)
      email: bob@...
      phone: 414-617-3914

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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