The Indian tradition and HPB’s influence

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:37 pm

I was pursuing the Blavatsky issue somewhat, since it is a useful field of reflection on the ‘gurdjieff con’.
I looked at Cranston’s bio of HPB, somewhat less than an expose, a al Peter Washington. But it produced one insight, reflected here in this web quote: the Indian tradition, in a tremendous, almost terminal slump, got a tremendous shot in the arm from Blavatsky’s Theosophical movement.
Gurdjieff, et al., seeing this phenomenon rushed into the fray as imitators.
Blavatsky and Buddhism

Religious Practitioners on HPB
If Blavatsky were only championed by a small group of devotees, and ridiculed by everyone else, one could conclude that she was merely a cult leader. But Bharati is right in at least one respect, namely that “Blavatsky’s work has had signal importance” on Western interpretations of Eastern thought, and to some degree on Eastern people’s interpretation of themselves. Perhaps it is Blavatsky’s Theosophical influence on the Eastern hemisphere which is least familiar to Western scholars. During Blavatsky’s lifetime, over 125 branches of the Theosophical Society sprang up in India, more than the total branches of the T.S. in all other countries combined. For a time, the Theosophical Society joined forces with the Arya Samaj and other native Hindu and Buddhist revival movements, while the Indian National Congress, later to be so instrumental in gaining India’s independence, was formed and run largely by British Theosophists, especially Allan O. Hume. (18) S. Radhakrishnan, one of India’s leading philosophical and political figures this century, writes,

When, with all kinds of political failures and economic breakdowns we were suspecting the values and vitality of our culture, when everything round about us and secular education happened to discredit the value of Indian culture, the Theosophical Movement rendered great service by vindicating those values and ideas. The influence of the Theosophical Movement on general Indian society is incalculable. (19)

In 1975, for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Theosophical Society, the Indian government commissioned a stamp with the distinctive logo and the motto of the Theosophical Society, “There is no religion higher than truth.”

In Sri Lanka the Theosophical impact was even more profound. To the present day, February 17th is a Sri Lankan holiday, honoring the birthday of the first President of the Theosophical Society, Henry S. Olcott, champion of Buddhism and foe of Christianity. When Olcott and Blavatsky arrived in Sri Lanka in 1880, Christian missionaries had completely dominated the island, and the education of youth was almost entirely in the hands of Christian schools-only two Buddhist schools existed. By 1900, due to the effective ideological and financial campaigns of the Theosophists, over 200 Buddhist-run schools were in operation, as well as a Buddhist Theosophical Society with many branches busily engaged in printing newspapers and administering land.(20) Theosophists cannot be held responsible for the entire revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, as Richard Gombrich rightly remarks; the ground had been well-prepared by the advent of widespread literacy, the rise of a middle class, and the inculcation in learned Sri Lankans of Protestant values.(21) Nevertheless, it is clear that the Theosophical impact was far-reaching. (22)


Scientific Dictatorship?

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:09 pm

Marked for future reference here: (haven’t read it)
The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship: An Examination of Epistemic Autocracy, From the 19th to the 21st Century (Paperback)
by Phillip Darrell Collins


Postmodern New Age confusion

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:45 pm

I thought I would re-cite part of James’ comment: Two comments from James

Hey, no nothing like that. I think Bennett’s book is fascinating and the man obviously had a genius level intellect (unfortunately, I guess he went off the rails).
Actually, my criticisms were levelled more against the Western “spiritual” scene than anything. I’m just tired of the kneejerk dogmatic postmodern ecumenicalism that has infected every level of discourse here (in every aspect of modern life for that matter). It is certainly welcome as a dialectical possibility, but this is seen as the most “enlightened” and only approach nowadays. Consequently, it is almost impossible to establish any sort of ethical or intellectual standards and the result is that a lot of people end up getting hurt. Postmodernism had its chance and it has been a failure (we should be thankful that it opened up people’s minds to new possibilities, but there are better ways to do that). We need people to speak out and not just kowtow to these absurd and childish New Age cliches (i.e. critical thinking abilities are a sign of the “dualistic mind”).

The whole postmodern strategy, as you note, has been a complete failure. And it has demonstrated that a lot of ‘enlightened’ people don’t understand history.
A critique of modernism is all well and good, but the real agenda in many cases behind this postmodern fixation is the anger of gurus against democracy and human autonomy. Most of the other aspects of critique are mostly a cover for these deeper motives.
It is clrear in Gurdjieff, and Ouspensky, with their crypto-reactionary anti-modernism, long before the term ‘postmodern’ was invented. And, of course, it is clear from Nietzsche who was explicitly a protopostmodern fascist.

And we have pointed many times to Andrew Cohen’s botched postmodern strategy, which his sidekick Ken Wilbur realized was a mistake, as he went into incredible gyrations about the postpostmodern in order to rescue something from disaster.

It is worth studying the history behind the history of the New Age movement, as it appears in the early nineteenth century in the Romantic era. Who else but Schopenhauer was a direct witness to this phenomenon (the details aren’t always included in the standard bios).


Booknotes: Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:47 pm

Darwiniana has a discussion of The confusions of liberal atheism, and another citation of a book we have discussed here, and may discuss again:
Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism: The Cult of the Superman–Unveiling the Nazi Secret Doctrine, check Amazon

One of the reasons for discussing issues of spiritual psychology, rewritten after the fashion of Samkhya, is to provide a ‘secular’ psychology that can warn against the latent schemes of ‘esoteris’ madmen, such as we have seen them in this century.
The point is simple: the complexities of the human self can never evolve by Darwinian mechanisms, and the idea of a fascist eugenics, a la the Nazis, could never work.
The Nazis were a strange set of decoys: who were the real people behind them?

Two comments from James

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:44 am

Two comments from James on James, Bennett, and Pali Buddhism

Perhaps it is my paranoia. Actually, the question of Bennett is a lost cause, but I think that his basic model is transparent and ought to be rewritten for the public domain, free from the Gurdjieff angle. That may prove impossible, but as you observe the fate of Samkhya has ot been good.
All it was was an attempt to explain to people their plain psychology.

James said,
28.08.09 at 5:15 pm
“I was amused, and pleased in fact, that in trying to discuss Bennett’s thinking in The Dramatic Universe, James appears to have ‘counterattacked’ with some material on Pali Buddhism. An apt rejoinder, and welcome here.”

Hey, no nothing like that. I think Bennett’s book is fascinating and the man obviously had a genius level intellect (unfortunately, I guess he went off the rails).
Actually, my criticisms were levelled more against the Western “spiritual” scene than anything. I’m just tired of the kneejerk dogmatic postmodern ecumenicalism that has infected every level of discourse here (in every aspect of modern life for that matter). It is certainly welcome as a dialectical possibility, but this is seen as the most “enlightened” and only approach nowadays. Consequently, it is almost impossible to establish any sort of ethical or intellectual standards and the result is that a lot of people end up getting hurt. Postmodernism had its chance and it has been a failure (we should be thankful that it opened up people’s minds to new possibilities, but there are better ways to do that). We need people to speak out and not just kowtow to these absurd and childish New Age cliches (i.e. critical thinking abilities are a sign of the “dualistic mind”).
James said,

28.08.09 at 5:20 pm

“There is something depressing about this failed project: we could have had a clarification of a Samkhya spirituality for modern man:”

While I’m at it, I’m also tired of these stupid Vedantists coopting Samkhya and Patanjali. Patanjali was not a monist, so someone should inform them that they should abandon the Yoga Sutra.


Crooks’ paths

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:02 pm

Comment on Is There A Path?

By Gurdjieff’s own declaration the ‘fourth way’ was an ancient ‘path’. And yet without specifying any history with facts, or any background, he proposes his own version of that. We are suspicious that he has taken something and substituted his own thinking.

As to you slur against me, I could have done better than Gurdjieff on many points (not much of a claim). What he did, as Rajneesh pointed out, was a hopeless failure.

The result is a mess that noone can use.

You should be gratefull someone takes the trouble to expose this. And my relation to all that might surprise you.
It is very dangerous to attack these people. They have created a business of exploitation that noone can figure out.

When devils create ‘spiritual paths’ the results are dreadful.
Gurdjieff is totally outside the great traditions and the basic honesty required of any spiritual tradition.


The hyperzoic era

Posted in Dramatic Universe at 1:53 pm

As noted I am going to accelerate the look at Bennett, by jumping toward the end of volume four, for his views on evolution, at which point we can wrap up our consideration of his work.
Bennett’s views on evolution are highly exotic, speculative, and open at any given point to the charge of pseudo-science. At the same time he is one of the most devastating critics of Darwin, despite some serious goofs of his own, because he attempts to do what Alfred Wallace suspected was needed, which is to explicate the nature of human potential (consciousness, creativity, will, etc..) that can never evolve by natural selection.
The result is something that I must say that I can’t easily accept, but which is interesting anyway because it states what others are too timid to declare, which is that human evolution is about the mind, ‘soul’, and consciousness, and these appear suddenly, as biologists now acknowledge, in a coordiination that is visible in the notable ‘great explosion’ of homo sapiens sapiens sometime after 100k years ago.
Read at your own risk, then, but at the same time it is important to examine these views, whether for the provocation, or their rejection in a critique.

I have cut to the end, with a short quote on the hyperzoic era.

Note that Bennett finds that human evolution straddles two eras: the era of life, and the onset of real man, as the ‘third chimpanzee’ enters the hyperzoic era.
This passage will explain this point, a bit.
I will note the reference to the ‘hyparxic future’, one of Bennett’s most exotic ideas, which might be thought of as the ‘virtual future’.
If you have a project for the future, say, writing a book, that lingers in your mind prior to any action, then the project exists in the virtual future.
Bennett’s thinking on the hyparchic future here is speculative science fiction, but the point he is making is that much of what we see is the realization of a teleological system.

Despite the objectionable formulation, the notion of the hyperzoic era remains for consideration. We tend to see mind and consciousness as the fruits of ‘life evolution’. Bennett is claiming that a new stage is reached with man, as significant as the origin of life: the hyperzoic era.
Note that for Bennett ‘conciousness’ is a cosmic energy, while what we normally call ‘consciousness’ he calls ‘sensitivity’, a life energy.

Our first task must be to explain what we mean by the ‘Hyperzoic Era’. In Vol. I we divided existence into the Hyponomic, Autonomic and Hypernomic realms. Life lies entirely within the second; In Vol. II we similarly distinguished three tetrads of Energies: Material, Vital and Cosmic. Consciousness (E 4) is the coarsest of the four cosmic energies. Sensitivity (E 5) is the finest energy of life, so that the separa¬tion, organization and refinement of sensitivity all fall within the Auto¬nomic Realm. When, however, consciousness is added we enter the Hypernomic realm, and for that reason the stage of evolution in which consciousness appears will be called the Hyperzoic Era-not because it leaves life behind, but because it adds something that goes beyond life. We retain the form ‘-zoic’ to indicate that we are concerned with a stage in the evolution of life; but from henceforward, the emphasis will be upon mind leading to soul. The immense significance of the penetra¬tion of consciousness into the sensitivity of living organisms is not only that this makes possible the arising of selves, but that it is an awakening of the Mind of the Biosphere. Through the human mind, we see that the Biosphere begins to acquire the faculty of reflection, so that the earth becomes related to itself in a new way that goes beyond life alone.
The study of the Hyperzoic Era presents us with a new problem inasmuch as we are in the midst of it, and therefore cannot study the totality of this stage of evolution through its traces, as we have done with the others. We have adopted the view that the part cannot be under¬stood without reference to the whole. We must, therefore, make at least some attempt to construct a picture of the whole Era, even though we cannot say how events will turn out.
We have a few elements to help us:
I. The concepts of hyparchic plan and eternal pattern.
2. The notion of Demiurgic Intelligences working in the Hyparchic Future.
3• The traces of earthly life during the last few million years.

end of page scanned….
etc, etc,….

James, Bennett, and Pali Buddhism

Posted in Dramatic Universe at 1:39 pm

I was amused, and pleased in fact, that in trying to discuss Bennett’s thinking in The Dramatic Universe, James appears to have ‘counterattacked’ with some material on Pali Buddhism. An apt rejoinder, and welcome here.
I can tip my hat to James, and recommend Pali Buddhism myself (although I don’t endorse anything at this point anymore), and proceed to an abbreviated look at Bennett.

So we can also continue with a brief look at Bennett, taken critically. It might help to jump to vol 4 and critique his views on evolution, which are quite exotic.
The question of Bennett’s system is a controversial one, and since this is The Gurdjieff Con blog, it is appropriate to include a critique of Bennett’s systematics, which was our declared intent from the beginning.
Bennett is not a con man, but a kind of superintelligent geek who was spotted by some hidden sufis and dosed with a kind of ‘speed’ that made his mind race at a hundred miles per hour for a thousand pages of what is finally, well, junky. But a few fragments stand out as questions, and ideas of possible value. A total rejection of his work would not be credible, and it is by acknowledging some value in his effort that a critique comes into being.

But Bennett, as MBFM pointed out, was really a victim of the Gurdjieff Con, and an immensely intelligent whiz kid who nearly succeeded in rewriting the ancient Samkhya for modern times. In the process the project got melded, and quite ruined, by its assoication with Gurdjieff. Contact with Gurdjieff turned his brain into mush, and it is hard to sort out the whole thing.

The result in his masterwork is a combination of pure crap with brilliant insights. The result is also, ironically, a way to challenge Gurdjieff on his own ground, since it is not clear from what Gurdjieff said just what he meant, or whether he was telling the truth or telling lies.
Thus Bennett unwittingly upstaged him, and you can defend yourself quite handily using Bennett against Gurdjieff.
Gurdjieff and most sufis are too stupide to produce a spiritual psychology of any value, and Bennett’s work, despite is incorrect foundations and almost drunken rationality on speed, voids most previous efforts.

Except, most amusingly, the realm of Pali Buddhism!

There is something depressing about this failed project: we could have had a clarification of a Samkhya spirituality for modern man: instead we got a Gurdjieff cannibal racket grafted onto a fourth way myth, reprocessed by Bennett as a scholarly book that starts to turn into science fiction.

Anyway, a look at his ‘being function will’ matrix of human psychology, and some of his evolutionary discussions in vol 4 can round out our discussion here and provide critics of Gurdjieff with some solid ground and an amusing way to pull rank on these mystifiers.


In the news: Louise March

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:37 am

Louise March, the remarkable secretary of George Gurdjieff
– Louise MarchIn the Spring of 1970 I was young, idealistic and full of energy to devote to a cause. I had just dropped out of college after participating in a student strike that shut down SUNY Brockport in protest against the Vietnam War. I began attending a Gurdjieff study group, and the weekend after the student strike, I visited the Gurdjieff esoteric school, East Hill Farm near Middlesex, New York. The school’s teacher, Mrs. Louise March, was a strict Swiss lady who had been Gurdjieff’s personal secretary for many years and was a friend of Georgia O’Keeffe. She had a knack for reading people’s minds and giving them exactly the teaching that they needed to know. So the first talk she gave after I arrived had to do with “non-violent” resistance and how it really caused violence. I had prided myself in being a pacifist and following Gandhi’s example of peaceful protest when I joined hundreds of other students in blocking the stairs and halls of the administration building at SUNY Brockport during finals week, preventing students from taking finals and doing important business. But after Mrs. March’s talk I could see how I caused violent emotions in students trying to enter. I particularly remember one overweight student who desperately needed a teaching certificate. She became so upset and red in the face, I thought she was going to have a heart attack. On another occasion when I came to the farm during a time when I was experimenting with chanting mantras, she had everyone sing the Russian chant “Gospodi Pomilui.” Then she gave a profound teaching on chanting and how it should involve the whole heart and mind and not just mindless, heartless repetition.


Scientism vs New Age (superstitions)

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 am

We are faced with two extremes: the hidden dangers of cultic beliefs, and the hidden danger of attempts by ‘scientists’ to rewrite these beliefs according to their own ideology: http://darwiniana.com/2009/08/22/wright-and-harris-hypocrisy-over-scientismnew-age-beliefs/


Mindfulness meditation

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 am

Comment on Pali Buddhism

James said,
22.08.09 at 5:53 am
Many people tell us that the Buddha taught two different types of meditation — mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation. Mindfulness meditation, they say, is the direct path, while concentration practice is the scenic route that you take at your own risk because it’s very easy to get caught there and you may never get out. But when you actually look at what the Buddha taught, he never separates these two practices. They are both parts of a single whole. Every time he explains mindfulness and its place in the path, he makes it clear that the purpose of mindfulness practice is to lead the mind into a state of Right Concentration — to get the mind to settle down and to find a place where it can really feel stable, at home, where it can look at things steadily and see them for what they are.

Part of the “two practices” issue centers on how we understand the word jhana, which is a synonym for Right Concentration. Many of us have heard that jhana is a very intense trance-like state that requires intense staring and shutting out the rest of the world. It sounds nothing like mindfulness at all. But if you look in the Canon where the Buddha describes jhana, that’s not the kind of state he’s talking about. To be in jhana is to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether. A very broad sense of awareness fills the entire body. One of the images the Buddha used to describe this state is that of a person kneading water into dough so that the water permeates throughout the flour. Another is a lake in which a cool spring comes welling up and suffuses the entire lake.


What exactly is vipassana?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:58 am

Comment on Pali Buddhism:

James said,
22.08.09 at 5:50 am
More info on the split within within the Hinayana fold:
“What exactly is vipassana?

Almost any book on early Buddhist meditation will tell you that the Buddha taught two types of meditation: samatha and vipassana. Samatha, which means tranquillity, is said to be a method fostering strong states of mental absorption, called jhana. Vipassana — literally “clear-seeing,” but more often translated as insight meditation — is said to be a method using a modicum of tranquillity to foster moment-to-moment mindfulness of the inconstancy of events as they are directly experienced in the present. This mindfulness creates a sense of dispassion toward all events, thus leading the mind to release from suffering. These two methods are quite separate, we’re told, and of the two, vipassana is the distinctive Buddhist contribution to meditative science. Other systems of practice pre-dating the Buddha also taught samatha, but the Buddha was the first to discover and teach vipassana. Although some Buddhist meditators may practice samatha meditation before turning to vipassana, samatha practice is not really necessary for the pursuit of Awakening. As a meditative tool, the vipassana method is sufficient for attaining the goal. Or so we’re told.

But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings — you’ll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying “go do vipassana,” but always “go do jhana.” And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may “gain” or “be endowed with,” and that should be developed together.”


“We’re often told that mindfulness and concentration are two separate forms of meditation, but the Buddha never made a clear division between the two. In his teachings, mindfulness shades into concentration; concentration forms the basis for even better mindfulness. The four establishings of mindfulness are also the themes of concentration. The highest level of concentration is where mindfulness becomes pure. As Ajaan Lee, a Thai Forest master, once noted, mindfulness combined with ardency turns into the concentration factor called vitakka or “directed thought,” where you keep your thoughts consistently focused on one thing. Alertness combined with ardency turns into another concentration factor: vicara, or “evaluation.” You evaluate what’s going on with the breath. Is it comfortable? If it is, stick with it. If it’s not, what can you do to make it more comfortable? Try making it a little bit longer, a little bit shorter, deeper, more shallow, faster, slower. See what happens. When you’ve found a way of breathing that nourishes a sense of fullness and refreshment, you can spread that fullness throughout the body. Learn how to relate to the breath in a way that nourishes a good energy flow throughout the body. When things feel refreshing like this, you can easily settle down.

You may have picked up the idea that you should never fiddle with the breath, that you should just take it as it comes. Yet meditation isn’t just a passive process of being nonjudgmentally present with whatever’s there and not changing it at all. Mindfulness keeps stitching things together over time, but it also keeps in mind the idea that there’s a path to develop, and getting the mind to settle down is a skillful part of that path.

This is why evaluation—judging the best way to maximize the pleasure of the breath—is essential to the practice. In other words, you don’t abandon your powers of judgment as you develop mindfulness. You simply train them to be less judgmental and more judicious, so that they yield tangible results.”



Pali Buddhism: ‘commentarial’ and ‘sutta’ based forms

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:15 pm

James on Different Sides to Buddhism

James said,
21.08.09 at 2:51 pm ·
Speaking for myself, I was an avid meditator in the 90s, but fell out of it for various reasons. I wouldn’t endorse any of this stuff for beginners because the issues are too complex and it is too difficult for the average person to successfully navigate these traditions at this point. For example, in terms of Pali Buddhism, there is a huge rift between the commentarial based form(dominant in Sri Lanka and Myanmar) and the sutta based form:


In some ways the Hinayana is the last rootstock left of the religious transformations that took up part of the Axial Agg\e

Tracing Gurdjieff’s system via Blavatsky

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:49 pm

Comment from Solar Hero on Blavatsky data

Solar Hero said,
21.08.09 at 11:32 am · I’ve done a lot of research on H.P.B., here’s my two-cents.

The historical and geographical position of Russia meant that a lot of Asian literature made its way to her…Blavatsky’s father had all kinds of Tibetan and other Buddhist and Hindu texts in their library, and young Blavatsky devoured them, recapitulating them, not without some originality on her own part of course, in her Secret Doctrine and Isis Revealed.

After you sort-of absorb the Theosophical worldview — you must read the unabridged editions! — its not hard at all to trace Gurdjieff’s “system” from its contents. Further, Ouspensky, who may be more responsible for the “system” than G., was the President of the Theosophical Society in St. Petersburg in his Tertium Organum years.

I do believe that G. and O. were much more practical, and where they improved upon HPB was in their focus on individual practice and experience.

I highly recommend Crowley’s commentary on HPB’s The Voice of Silence.

Great blog, important work, you all rock.

Where do ‘we’ stand?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:46 pm

Comment from Amos Anon on Blavatsky data

Submitted on 2009/08/21 at 2:07am
I have been following your postings for several months now. Although I see your work as intellegently composed, I am at a loss to determine exactly where you stand. For example, you seem to have mixed emotions regarding Blavatsky (as do I), but are you simply ‘thinking out loud’? That I can sympathize with, as I have the same habit. In regards to Bennett, he was excommed by THE Foundation, but that does not make him wrong. What exactly is your position on the Gurdjieff teachings? I have a number of essays on related issues, focusing on awakening (i. e., Gurdjieffs contention that “Man is asleep.”) and will be launching a blog soon. Perhaps we can initiate an dialogue.
Amos Anon

Our perspective is a critical look at a whole set of whole New Age confusions, with some contributors more in the ‘cult deprogramming’ mode and others more in a participatory critical mode.
The collation of those two is perhaps what is confusing you.
We are indeed ‘thinking out loud’.