History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The legacy of Samkhya

April 9th, 2015 · 2 Comments


I can feel the wrath in return at my piece here on Chopra. Let me acknowledge at once that I may have slurred over possible insights in his speculative ‘spiritual physics’, but I think my criticism stands, more or less.
And it has traditionally been common for yogis to study samkhya and this has enabled many to avoid the kind of wild speculative thinking we find in Chopra. Samkhya isn’t accepted by scientists, for obvious reasons, but it can help meditation in an ironic way: we give some form to cosmological mysticism by comparing it with the classic Samkhya which is almost the only cosmological format of any persistence. But this is a somewhat treacherous generalization itself.

However, I will say, pace Danielou and his history of Indian religion, that Samkhya emerged in tandem with the other classic forms of ‘santana dharma’ and is almost primordial in its companion status with yoga, and tantra and the legacy of meditation passing into proto-Jainism from primordial Shaivism and its proto-yogis. So Samkhya comes with the highest credentials, so to speak. The latter tradition, however, shows a conflict with the other traditions such as those of Shankaracharya: this is discussed in Larsen’s Classical Samkhya. This conflict is pegged as a debate over ‘materialism’….I am unclear about this later conflict, because I had thought Samkhya always a revered part of Indian tradition. I need to do some homework here, but I think that Samkhya may be much more ancient that the later Vedanta. Correct me for lack of study in a vast subject.

It would be interesting to know how Samkhya was presented to the much earlier and less scientifically sophisticated proto-yogis.
In any case the key to Samkhya seems to have been lost, and it is often hard to study the classic version. Using the insight of Schopenhauer (who probably didn’t know of Samkhya), and the treatment however flawed of Bennett, the subject suddenly assumes a kind of grandeur, whatever the original was. But the transcendental idealism of Schopenhauer is again lost in Bennett, and we have to wonder how we can resolve this muddle. Schopenhauer is, however, the primordial genius who produces material without a crib from antiquity, and his material sui generis (via Kant) is a telling apparition of something like what primordial Samkhya must have been.
The work of Bennett resurrects one version that Gurdjieff seems to have gotten from where, we know not, although it is obviously a direct cousin of Samkhya through and through. It is therefore important to be wary of the material via Bennett. Gurdjieff will try to claim authority over anything he has purloined and this makes everything he touches riddled with witchcraft. It reminds me of the episode in the movie Lawrence of Arabia where a desert sheik closes in on and shoots a bedouin who uses one of his wells.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 NK // Apr 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Chopra is a populist. Hence, the “reality show…pop culture…middlebrow” nature of his thinking. Reading him, I don’t get the sense that he is well schooled in anything except Vivekananda Vedantism. Dumbed down Western audiences eat it up because they’re so desperate for something to fill their meaningless lives. I can only shake my head in disgust that these third rate pop culture figures make millions of dollars while I have to work a 9 to 5 job.

  • 2 nemo // Apr 13, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    At least, I think, he has never claimed to be enlightened: he is still a disciple, and how Maharishi fits into that I don’t know.
    It is interesting to compare his ‘foolish fysiks’ with Bennett’s.

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