In2-MeC

newly discovered entries of In2-DeepFreeze       First Generation Animations

IBSA (ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Asrama), Govardhana, India
18 December 2003

In the In2-MeC entry for 11 December I wrote:

From a 1973 book entitled The Origin and History of Consciousness by Erich Neumann is a word, uroboric, which denotes the cosmic intimacy shared by ancient man and the universe.

The word uroboric is derived from Ouroboros, the name the Gnostics used to denote The All. (The Gnostics--the name comes from gnosis, a Greek word related to the Sanskrit jnana--were mystic philosophers of the Mediterranean world in the period of history when Christianity had its beginning. ) The image of Ouroboros is still known today: a serpent turned to form a circle, holding its tail in its own mouth. Ouroboros was associated with The Waters, or the vast ocean in which the cosmos floats. He is also the great cycle of time. Among the Gnostic sects was a cult known as the Ophites. The Ophite doctrine viewed Jehova as a demigod who kept Adam and Eve under the delusion of material happiness in the Garden of Eden. The serpent who convinced Eve to pluck the fruit of knowledge represented the true, transcendental Deity. He desired the liberation of Adam and Eve from ignorance. The Ophites envisioned the universe as a great egg that was partially filled with a procreative liquid they called Okeanos; this world-ocean was associated with Acheloues, the original river which is in the form of a snake. Acheloues in turn was associated with Chronos Aion, the deity of Time.

Obviously there is a correlaton between Ouroboros and Ananta Sesa, who lies in the causal ocean in which the universes float, and within the Garbhodaka ocean that fills the lower half of each universe.

Ananta Sesa is Sankarsana. Srila Prabhupada writes in Cc Adi 5. 41p:

Sankarsana, the second expansion, is Vasudeva's personal expansion for pastimes, and since He is the reservoir of all living entities, He is sometimes called jiva. The beauty of Sankarsana is more than that of innumerable full moons radiating light beams. He is worshipable as the principle of ego. He has invested Anantadeva with all the potencies of sustenance. For the dissolution of the creation, He also exhibits Himself as the Supersoul in Rudra, irreligiosity, ahi (the snake), antaka (death) and the demons.

In this purport we find connections to all the associations of Ouroboros: the serpent, the cycles of time, the unity of all living entities, and so on.

The word uroboric pertains to Sankarsana's aspect as jiva, the reservoir of all living entities. It is interesting to mention--not that it really means anything--that some proponents of evolutionary theory postulate a "reptilian" part of the human brain, which is a remnant in this body from our long-ago ancestors in the evolutionary chain, the reptiles (snakes, lizards, crocodiles, etc. ). This reptilian part of the brain is supposed to govern that sort of unified, automatic, ritualistic behavior like we see in soldiers marching together in step. This consciousness has been called "tacit knowing" as opposed to "explicit knowing. " Explicit knowing can be learned through words, but tacit knowing can only be learned by doing. For example, you cannot learn to ride a bicycle from a mere verbal explanation. Think about it: so many things in life belong to tacit knowing. Can you learn to play piano from a book alone? Or drive a car? Anyway, the word uroboric indicates the consciousness of an ancient, highly ritualized culture in which human beings surrendered their "cerebral identity" (the logical, word-oriented side of the mind) to a complex behavioral superstructure that was understood to be (not merely "symbolize", a word-oriented notion) the very form and purpose of the cosmos itself. In In2-MeC of 11 December I cited Srila Prabhupada's account of varnasrama-dharma as the social manifestation of universal consciousness.

Complex, ritualistic behavior is sometimes said to commune with "the magical structure of consciousness. " This means that within consciousness there are different structures, and one such structure, the magical, is accessed through actions performed in trance. In trance, the cerebral thinking self is ritualistically "sacrified" so that it dissolves into a Greater Plan. In such entranced activity, magical things do happen. A troupe of dancers, having sacrificed their thinking selves to the tacit knowing of the dance, performs amazingly complex synchronized steps that to the onlooker are magical. The dancers are clearly "taken over" by a higher power. In Indian dance forms like Bharatnatyam, the dancer surrenders herself to the Deity she is portraying. The audience considers the dancer to be a temporary manifestation of the Deity. Even Srila Prabhupada said to his disciple Yogesvara Prabhu that Bharatnatyam performances of Krsna's pastimes are temporary displays of Krsna consciousness.

So the word uroboric indicates a time when all human behavior was entranced, and when magic was the rule, not the exception. By magic we should understand daivi-sakti, the powers of the Lord and His representatives, the demigods, by which the cosmic manifestation is "magically" created, maintained and destroyed.

Nowadays people are locked into thinking about the world as perceived by the senses, not thinking with the greater cosmos. Thinking about is alpha-thinking. Thinking with is beta- or participatory thinking, the cognizance of the world as a representation within the mind that appears out of the interaction of consciousness with higher powers--the powers of nature, the powerful demigods, and ultimately the Supreme Powerful, the Lord Himself. It is not hard to see that the process of thinking about limits our thoughts to the anthroposphere, the "world" of mere human facts. About the world of facts, in Dimensions of Good and Evil, Chapter Eighteen, I wrote:

The dictionary defines reductionism as a "procedure or theory that reduces complex data or phenomena to simple terms. " A critic of this method of understanding the world demands to know:

Why should the world be simple? Who made that decision? Who imposed it? There is no answer, for nowhere can we find such a guarantee.

To presuppose that all reality is uniformly simple has less to do with proven knowledge and more to do with a

. . . belief that whatever was real must be subject to the laws which were observed to operate in the physical world--that it must work, in short, like a machine.

As Sir Arthur Eddington has put it, ". . . science was disposed, as soon as it scented a piece of mechanism, to exclaim 'here we are getting to bedrock. This is what things should resolve themselves into. This is ultimate reality. '"

Sniffing out the mechanical simplicity underlying nature is nothing other than sniffing out the prediction and control of events in nature. It is less a way of knowing the purpose of nature itself than a way to impose human will upon nature. We must ask ourselves whether manipulation of material nature really raises human knowledge in any fundamental way beyond the level of lower creatures, many of whom manipulate nature more expertly in some respects than we. Half a century ago, an article published in the Atlantic Monthly laid the blame for the death of spiritual vision in the West at the door of the reductionist creed.

. . . inquiry into purposes is useless for what science aims at: namely, the prediction and control of events. To predict an eclipse, what you have to know is not its purpose but its causes. Hence science from the seventeenth century onward became an exclusively an inquiry into [mechanistic] causes. . . It is this which has killed. . . the essence of the religious vision itself, which is the faith that there is a plan and purpose in the world, that the world is a moral order, that in the end all things are for the best.

The past three hundred years were very good for the reductionists. By their "factual" model of the universe, they managed to capture the popular imagination. That model breaks down to three principles: 1) matter is the only form of reality; 2) the conception of the mechanical is the only kind of law; and 3) evolution is an automatically determined process that, at a certain stage of development, threw up consciousness as an effect of material combination.

The old, "merely religious" model of the universe is widely frowned upon. To hold the fundamental cosmic law to be moral and not mechanical is, the reductionists argue, intolerant. This argument gets color and drama by the invocation of The Horrors of the Past: the Inquisition, for example, or the witch trials of Salem. The supposedly "factual" worldview claims to be value-neutral. It consigns moral judgements to the non-scientific sphere of imperfect human opinion. That is a Good Thing because while it leaves people the individual freedom to choose their own moral menus in life, it does not permit them to impose their beliefs on others. Society as a whole is to be governed by principles of factual knowledge. The more society moves away from the religious model of the world to the factual model, the safer we will all be from theocratic fundamentalism imposed by a narrow-minded priesthood.

The word "factual" comes from the Latin facio, "to make or do. " Thus a fact is what has been made or done. It is a product of the work of our senses--our seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. Facts are therefore "practical. " Reductionism reduces the whole world to man-made facts: observations made by human senses and calculations made by human minds. In contrast, scriptural revelation about the purpose of the world is God-made.

From the standpoint of facts, religious values seem less practical and thus less real. Why should a certain kind of food--beef, for example--be judged as sinful? Factually beef, like food of any kind, nourishes the body. And so in the modern world the value of practicality (something that works) takes the lead over the values of faith and morality. "Can" supersedes "should. " So many cows run loose in India, and beef can be eaten--why should poor Hindus go hungry when the rice crop fails? Contraceptives can prevent pregnancy--why should we fear the consequences of sex? Abortions can be performed, women can do the work of men, aerial bombs can be dropped. Whether these things should happen or not are worries outside factual knowledge. Anyway, goes the argument, whether we like them or not, these things are happening now. That, we are told, is progress.

"Progress" translates into the language of facts as a more effective way of doing things. Almost daily more effective solutions arrive for how things can be done, incarnated as man-made machinery. The more effective way to cook incarnated as the microwave oven; the more effective way to reckon incarnated as the computer; the more effective way to travel incarnated as the airplane. The appearance of these mechanical deities is jubilantly hailed by millions of people. But it is as if these deities emanate an opiate fog that deadens inquiry into the purpose of increased effectivity--why is such machinery good. For modern people, "The supreme question," as Karl Jaspers wrote, "is what 'the time demands'. " What's the point of asking any other question? Whatever is "factually" needful, time is revealing right now.

Time. . . takes on a specific moral dimension. Future time is good, past time bad. We move from this inadequate past into this bright future. Since progress is seen to be happening and is regarded as a virtue, the past comes to be understood as an underdeveloped realm, an impoverished Africa of memory and the imagination, useful only as a staging post for the future.

Most people who believe in an evolving technological future miss the irony that "factual knowledge" can only be knowledge of the past. When we look up at the night sky, we do not see the stars as they are but as they were. It takes time for their light to reach our eyes. According to modern cosmology, the light of many of the stars we see now may be several thousand years old. Some of them may have exploded centuries ago. Though their light continues to stream to earth, they are no longer really there. The "factual" sun that brightens our eyes is always eight minutes in the past. No one on earth has ever seen the "real" sun. A slight time lag divides us from even the nearest objects of our perception. This "factual" world of human sensory experience is the phenomenal world-a world that has already changed by the time we know it.

Thus the phenomenal world, the world of facts, is a world of secondary, dead information. The world that is, the primary living reality, we never know. Facts, far from being "the whole truth," are just signals conveyed by the network of our senses.

Compare a human being to a spider. A spider has rather limited powers of sight, hearing and smell. But it is blessed with an acute sense of touch. Thus its knowledge of the world comes largely by way of the network of its web. Just by feeling the movement of something in the network, the spider can judge with great accuracy how far off and how big it is. The web cannot, however, inform the spider about the world beyond the network. Even about things caught within the network, the spider receives only a certain quality of information. For example, the web does not convey the color of a thing. Similarly, there are limits to the quantity and quality of information the network of human sense perception can convey. The edge of the universe remains totally outside our informational reach, despite sophisticated modern instrumentation. Even about things near at hand, our senses permit only restricted information. For example, a dog whistle is knowable to human senses only in a limited way. Though we can see it and touch it, it emits a sound outside the perceptual dimension of our ears. According to the Vedic scriptures, there is a higher reality, beyond our human awareness, to every object of our perception.

The uroboric state of mind invites consciousness to rise out of the web of limited and imperfect sense perceptions into the presence of the reality of the cosmic manifestation, The All as the Gnostics called Him. That presence is Lord Sankarsana.

In the 11 December entry I wrote:

In ISKCON, we do have our proponents of varnasrama-dharma who argue why our Society must conform to the system of four social and spiritual orders. But from what I've heard, their arguments mostly revolve around human concerns: stable occupation, economics, law and order, prosperous family life, etc. I would say sudras are very concerned with stable occupation (that's what communism is basically about, and communism is a social order invented by and for sudras). Vaisyas are clearly very concerned about economics, and ksatriyas about law and order. In general, all people in bodily consciousness are concerned with prosperous family life. But these concerns fall short of what Srila Prabhupada is stressing in the purport above: the uroboric concern, the God-centered concern, which insures the complete perfection of life.

You see, I seriously doubt that the gap between alpha-thinking and beta-thinking, or thinking about and thinking with, can be bridged by "thinking about" varnasrama-dharma. I don't mean to say thinking about it is entirely useless. After all, Srila Prabhupada has given us so much to "think about" in his books. But the cerebral, explicit-knowing orientation of modern consciousness is not the same as the tacit knowledge that is acquired by sacrificing the cerebral self.

How the gap is bridged, I explained in In2-MeC of 10 December:

From their lingering preoccupation with consensus and objective realities, ISKCON devotees are troubled by so many "difficult questions. " These questions are simple impotent thoughts. . . thoughts that are impotent because they do not move with the vehicles of 1) the all-powerful Vedic language (all-powerful because that language alone, the sabda-brahma or brahma-vac, is source of creation), and 2) the all-blissful language of the Holy Names and the Bhagavatam (all-blissful because the Name and the Bhagavatam are the transcendent Lord Himself, even higher than His vac-sakti by which the world is created, maintained and destroyed). Impotent thoughts mean impotent words. Impotent words are words that are not mantras. Such impotent words and thoughts represent a world that is not real. . . hence it baffles us.

A significant percentage of the ISKCON population does not understand (although I think most at least believe) that the answer to all doubts is

1) Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (see Kalisantarana Upanisad verse 6--"no other remedy is to be found in all the Vedic sastras); and

2) "The Bhagavatam is the Answer to All Questions" (see Bhag. Canto 2 Chapter 10).

Transcendental mantras--like the maha-mantra and the verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam--consist of words. But these are not words that are mere represenations; or in other words, these are not the ordinary language (laukika-bhasa) of alpha-thinking. Just as the activities within varnasrama-dharma are entrancing, so transcendental mantras are enchanting. We chant them and are enchanted by them. In that enchantment the presence of the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is revealed.

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