Prophet of the Nones (disbelief in disbelief 3)

Scott mentions the Bengali-Indian “spiritual personality” Anandamayi Ma in relation to our continuing interrogation of None-ism. Indeed, he dubs her the “greatest of all Nones,” and describes her own response to the question of her own religion:

[She]… used to ask people who asked her what her religion was “What religion do you want me to be?” And she would be that.

“And she would be that” seems to me a compact version of what I was trying to get at with my rendition of, approximately, breakfasting as a Jew, lunching as a Christian, dining as a Muslim, retiring a panentheist, though in each instance the only one asking “what my religion was” would be an imaginary “I to myself.”

Taken as the presence of an idea, even as an idea of multiple ideas, rather than as the absence of an idea; taken as an “ism,” not an “anism,” this crypto-ideology or immanently ideological poly-theological experience that the pollsters call “spiritual but not religious” becomes “spiritual and religiously promiscuous” or “spiritual and multi-religious.” I wonder if the right term for None-ism is the more precise “anismism,” a word that is in wide enough use to require or allow for dictionary entries, but that occurred to me independently when I was a young man, as I suspect it must also frequently to other young people with developing philological tendencies.

As far as I know, there is no single prophet of anismism, and that lack of a prophet may be appropriate if not inevitable for this particular anti-ideological ideological stance. If there could be such a prophet, however, Anandamayi Ma on first glance seems to fill that role well, which is to say incompletely and therefore completely, paradoxically and therefore simply, because her anismism extended crucially to the question of her own existence as a self.

The non-declarable anismistic faith is an underlying unity in plurality of all faiths, even in their in some sense merely apparent rather than essential mutual contradictions and exclusions. This mode of absolute unity of faiths can be explained in terms of “absolute knowledge” and in relation to the non-destructive, synthesizing refutations of Hegelian logic. Strictly on the basis of quotations and stories collected by Wikipedists, Anandamayi Ma reads at times like a Bengali Hegel:

How can one impose limitations on the infinite by declaring this is the only path—and, why should there be so many different religions and sects? Because through every one of them He gives Himself to Himself, so that each person may advance according to his inborn nature.

When she refers to herself on the matter of her individuality, she evokes a classical idea of the soul as embodiment of a trans-corporeal divine unity in truth or reason:

My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, I was the same. As a little girl, I was the same. I grew into womanhood, but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, ‘I was the same… And, Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the same.

Her broader remarks with a biographer offer the same theme mentioned by Scott (he may have encountered the statement on religion in the book that is referenced):

In “Mother as Revealed to Me” Jyotish Chandra Roy noted that when asked who she was [Anandamayi Ma] would respond something akin to “whatever is said, that”. Roy also noted her utterances in what became known in English translation as “Mother Reveals Herself”, in which she stated she was able to see the future with the ease in which people look in a mirror and could also recall the exact events at her birth from memory.

Other devotees noted that when asked who she was, she responded that because she had no Aham-Buddhi (literal existence-experience of ‘I-am’) she could not say who or what she was, therefore was whatever the questioner thought she was.

This statement of “having no Aham-Buddhi” resembles the subjective result of the contemplation of metaphysical individualism and ego-continuity as constructs – self contemplating self contemplating self contemplating self… – where the inwardness of any “one” approaches indistinction with “any” and eventually “all”: a way of pointing to one idea indicated by the word “God,” an idea that has only indirectly to do with the crudely anthropomorphic deity-concepts that vulgar atheists are fond of ridiculing.

Since non-anthropomorphic God concepts appear as old as God concepts generally, and indeed may be called as old as God (if “God” is as old as God for useful definitions of “old” and “is”), there would seem to be little reason to expect them to solve the anthropomorphic problem now, either for atheists or for theists. The stubbornness of the issue, apparently as stubborn as history itself, may be connected to the same difficulty that admirers and would-be acolytes of figures like Anandamayi Ma encounter in any effort to emulate “her” (however she conceived of herself, however we conceive of her), or in integrating “her” perceptions or beliefs with “their” own concepts of self and belief.


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13 comments on “Prophet of the Nones (disbelief in disbelief 3)

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  1. This statement of “having no Aham-Buddhi” resembles the subjective result of the contemplation of metaphysical individualism and ego-continuity as constructs – self contemplating self contemplating self contemplating self… – where the inwardness of any “one” approaches indistinction with “any” and eventually “all”: a way of pointing to one idea indicated by the word “God,” an idea that has only indirectly to do with the crudely anthropomorphic deity-concepts that vulgar atheists are fond of ridiculing.

    It may be then that the word “God” may be at least as much obstacle as useful label. It’s just not the matter of anthropormorphzing, but the implication of Creator and the implicit sense of relatonship between god/nongodness and maybe not an ego-ized “I” but continuing consciousness that is the same at all times and within all relatonships.

    • There seem to be two or so questions that we struggle to understand as one question.

      It’s interesting that collapsing or dissociating the “I” seems to occur in tandem with the collapse of “God,” reinforcing the suspicion that they are not merely linked but the same process, and that these two fictive-mythic foundational and seemingly necessary concepts are co-dependent or mirroring concepts, or aspects of a single concept. Without “the human” – and we don’t have to limit ourselves to homo sapiens or to terrestrial beings – creation is a performance without an audience, the proverbial tree in the forest, except the forest is on a planet without beings aware of forests in a universe without beings, “mere being” in the language of ontology. In this sense, the possibility of the I is the constant creator of the universe. Without this creator-I or creator-I-possibility, simultaneously a singular and plural I-possibility, constantly re-experiencing universe, universe is merely mere-being, indistinguishable from nothing because there is no “one” distinguishing: there is no distinguishing. According to our reading of “having no Aham-Buddhi,” this I-possibility exceeds any particular circumstantial context: CK’s body, bob’s body, Amandanayi Ma’s body when it was given to marriage or sent to speak somewhere.

      If we haven’t yet arrived at the numerous characterizations and anthropomorphizations in sacred literature and common parlance, we are at least part of the way to abstract, mystical or esoteric, or philosophically higher level statements that also mark the same texts, and sometimes contradictorily – God as this impossible to grasp pre-essence; God as super-powerful, arbitrary, and violent individual; God as love and mercy, and so on. What typifies the fundamentalist is the refusal to accept that the sacred text should be divided – treated as a “merely” human product or, perhaps even worse, as consisting of passages intended for different audiences at different levels of interest and sophistication, though most fundamentalists will accept that to our limited understanding there clearly appear to be contradictions. What the fundamentalist clearly seems to have right is that many “silly Bible stories” on closer examination may tell us very much about human possibility, about all possible constructions of the human. Though we find it difficult to imagine that the events narrated in the story of Adam and Eve “really took place,” and though we acknowledge seeming contradictions between the two Genesis stories, it may turn out these events that never “really” took place have taken place over and over again, that they infinitely or unboundedly recur; that a genesis in fiction is the only genesis of the human; that the differences between Genesis I and Genesis II correspond to a kind of irresolvable indeterminacy in concepts of good and evil or love and evil that in turn corresponds to irresolvable antinomies in concepts of the will and of being – and so Adam and Eve turns out, after all, to be in multiple mutually reinforcing ways the really real story of the genesis of the human in the universe. Even its fairy tale quality generates “realism” or the sense of the possible or real: We can imagine the first tellers and listeners immediately understanding that there are no talking snakes around and about, and we imagine the children among them – or those with a childlike consciousness – keeping their eyes open for talking snakes. A lie whose assertion as true is necessary to the possibility of truth and lies might be another definition of the human, the I-concept, the God-concept (and liberalism, and democracy, and other more modern true lies), and as such turns really into genesis itself.

      • Soloveitchik, in The Lonely Man of Faith, speaks to the two human ideas in Genesis (bereshit) I and II as a kind of myth of moral evolution, Adam I being the self-focused man, and Adam II being the other-focused man. Buber would say, of course, that is where Adam II begins to encounter God, by turning outward, by his ability to turn outward. I am assuming that you guys are way beyond documentary hypothesis.

        • Can’t speak for the others, but, maybe since I was brought up “secular” or at most only loosely indoctrinated, I never presumed anything other than something like the documentary hypothesis on all such matters. Come to think of it, I did as a child overhear a few conversations between my Christian father and Jewish-side relatives acknowledge multiple contradictions or apparent contradictions in the Bible, but, anyway, I never believed in or conceived of any other kind of authorship or process of authorship.

          Paul W Kahn, whose book Out of Eden I’ve mentioned somewhat frequently at this blog (and which I think you’d enjoy), does something similar to what Soloveitchik does with the two stories of Genesis. I was cribbing from him somewhat in the prior comment. Cohen’s “creation” of the human ideally or philosophically operates similarly to Buber’s, and may have inspired Buber directly, though presumably they were as we are now all just reading the text that is, each re-creating creation on the only terms available.

  2. A lot to react to here, and the burden of coherence has been quite heavy lately. So ths is the best I can do now.
    How do we, is it possible, to reconcile that exstence is contingent (empty), but knowledge is based on perception. To deny either puts us in a rather difficult position.

    • The easiest response is the simple reversal: Contingency (emptiness) presumes existence; perception presumes knowledge. No need to deny, even if it were reasonable to deny, since denial requires a predicate. Denying all entails a first order self-denial, denial also/at least of denial, that by definition never is except as not, that never matters in itself (since it would be ((impossibly)) self-non-existent), but only in the effect of its seeming to matter, not a trivial matter, since it is the originless origin and groundless ground of all origins and grounds.

      • Simple reversal would be: Contingency (emptiness) is existence, but perception is knowledge.

        All verifiable perception/knowledge is limited. All contingency/emptiness/existence is not lmited.

        Substituting “presumes” for “is” creates a movement from on to the other (a knowledge) rather than a state (an is).

        At least I think I think this.

        • I was reversing what I read to be the implications of your original statements, which I read as implying relationships, though the first was an “is” statement. Even “is” statements are potentially complex, however, and also imply a movement that contradicts simple equivalence. We know that perception is not exactly and entirely the same as knowledge. If I say, “I am a blogger,” I do not mean I am only a blogger and not possibly a fireman or junior birdman, too. I wouldn’t say “perception is knowledge” because it could be taken as an assertion that they are two words for the same thing. If I say, “knowledge is knowledge,” even that statement isn’t quite an identity statement, though it may be meant to imply one. In English “knowledge” in the primary position as a subject different from “knowledge” in the secondary position, as becomes more clear if we accentuate the verb. Knowledge is knowledge, as in, “knowledge may be perception or have to be perceived, but we still treat it as different from perception in general,” as at least one of the two terms not being completely absorbed and exhausted by the other. In Russian the the third person to be is deprecated, but can be deployed in cases of possible confusion. In other languages like English, there is a voice – I’d have to look up the grammar – where, in order to express the indissolubility of the two terms, you can drop the “is.” So you’d say, “Knowledge perception!” to express the impossibility of having one without the other. Even then, one gets to go first.

          • As we get to a finer perception here, I realize my “simple reversal” was not simple either. As close as I can get to a simple reversal is this:

            Contingency(emptiness) is existence but perception is based on knowledge.

            I think in both the orginal and the reversal, there is no remainder for contingency/existence. But I agree wth your remarks on knowledge/perception. A sense of that perhaps motivated my formulation of “is based on”. AT least that’s the story I’m sticking to it for now.

            Maybe tomorrow I can try again with what I was trying to get at in my original comment.

  3. CK MacLeod:
    . Even then, one gets to go first.

    With perception => knowledge as well as knowledge => perception one does have to go first.

    With the experiences Anandamayi Ma for example talks about, there is only the experience. That is to to say, only the moment that understands itself by positng time and causality, but does not in fact experience itself that way. Only the exerience is real. The material predicates for conciousness are an illusionary. There is no firstness to go.

    This seems nonsense to (perception/knowledge), but how can (PK) exist without that materialless timeless experience?

    Or something. I mean I’m struggling here and not sure how much sense any of this makes.

    • Maybe the problem is that it aims at the “making” of all sense, but the making of all sense is impossible to distinguish from the making of no sense except from a secondary or partial perspective: The problem of problems whose solution must be presumed already solved actually to be solved: fundamental to language or thought and to being, at the point where thought and being are inseparable and identical – thought-being, subject-object – absorbing and nullifying-realizing all attempts at description precisely to the extent that they are successfully descriptive – that they successfully communicate in regard to the never-to-be-communicated. We want to describe everything in a momentless moment that from every other vantage point is the nothing from which all originates in a temporal-physical-astronomical scheme, or over which all that may be extends in an ontological scheme, or which establishes the set in a symbolic-logical scheme, or constitutes the constituting power in a political scheme, or situates us as free agents in a moral scheme, and so on.

  4. When I owned a very large yoga studio, I hung up this big picture of Ma with this glowing halo effect added in to make it obvious that she was a saint. What I didn’t realize was that people thought Ma looked so much like my wife that they thought the picture was Laura with a halo. I was always amazed that people who thought I had put up a saint picture of my own wife on the alter wall would ever come back to the studio. I know I wouldn’t have if I was them. Silly yogels.

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  1. […] agreement with or allegiance to whichever offered and theoretically present ism, as in “Whatever you wish me to be, I am that.” For the anismist, silence other than a professed and positive silence on the particular […]

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