2: From Samkhya to Diamat
J. G. Bennett and Samkhya
One of the mysteries in the history of philosophy is the resemblance of the ancient Samkhya and dialectical materialism. An inspection of this resemblance is a caution to marxists about the significance of the dialectic and the confusion it creates. The solution to the ‘problem’ is a universal model of dyadic and triadic logics and a means to sort out the two in both subjects. That equates to rockets to the moon or hyperdrives in the degree of difficulty. We might recommend sidelining dialectical materialism as a research project and using standard dualistic logic on the order of ‘science’. But the resemblance can also an introduction to a new form of universal materialism, one not connected to scientism.
This is an attempt to briefly outline some of the ideas in J. G. Bennett’s classic New Age text, The Dramatic Universe, also a controversial work, in four volumes, appearing in the late fifties to early seventies. This book has so many problems that the appearance of endorsing should be called misleading. The issue has considerable commentary in a parallel text, Enigma of the Axial Age. But it contains one way to demonstrate the derivation of Samkhya. This is therefore not a promotion of that work so much as a demonstration of the way dialectical materialism so strangely echoes that ancient legacy. We should distinguish dyadic dialectic and triadic systems, the two being often confused by marxists, diodes and transistors are perfectly good dyadic and triadic systems: Bennett tried to create a general calculus of n-term systems, up to the dodecad, and the result clearly distinguishes ‘dialectic’ in two forms. Marxists might have better realized the occult sources of (triadic) dialectic in Hegel, influenced by various mystical traditions: that the dialectic is a descendant of the many genres here from the doctrines of the Trinity to figures such as Boehm might be a caution of the poor chances of success in a ‘materialist’ dialectic. But wait, Marx stumbled into something, why not a materialist dialectic? Bennett’s version is precisely that: a universal materialism, but the triads are elements of ‘will’ in a sense like that of Schopenhauer in a distinction of being, function and will: materiality is an aspect of being. Consciousness and materiality are thus a complementary unity, as fascinating exit from scientism in a universal material framework.
This Indic legacy filters through some mysterious Sufi version of the subject. The debate over materialism and idealism is false and tends to lead to confusion. A new modern entrant, transcendental idealism, threatens to overtake all other versions, and this should not be taken as such a stark opposite to materialism. Advaita, the rival antagonist to Samkhya, is perhaps actually a cousin. It is phony debate. Like two distant languages in a larger family both show suspicious resemblance and are finally the same subject. We don’t propose leftists adopt any of this. But it might help to put dialectical materialism in perspective as a very limited unwitting echo of this ancient legacy. Samkhya was an ancient materialist perspective that was appropriated by reactionaries and appears in the figure Gurdjieff as a rightist tactic to confuse modern leftist materialism.
The Bennett book was flawed, but important, for various reasons, among them Bennett’s ambiguous adaptation of the 4D space-time metric to his extended reckoning with the six-dimensional model of the universe proposed by Ouspensky, in turn a model inherited from some nineteenth century source around the time of Abbott’s Flatland. The world of ‘spooky physics’ will have to take over here, but the bold assertion of the reality of two extra dimensions of time was an interesting train wreck in the realm of metaphysics. Let us take Bennett’s construct critically, but we might at least agree that the ‘timeless’ is a logical opposite in good standing, and beckons the student of time into uncharted waters, a field physics itself has now entered. The three dimensions of time, eternity, and hyparxis seem obscure, but in the next section our ‘new model of the universe’ unwittingly stumbles on the whole set in another way: the interaction of time/timelessness is hyparchic, as a discrete series of intervals that seem discontinuous. If this clue could be rescued from crackpot metaphysics much of the confusion of historical theory, religious apocalypticism, and much else could be cleared up.
Bennett’s construct is as compelling as it is controversial: it is very hard to move beyond the space-time metric into a fifth and sixth dimension. But, as Bennett clearly knew, this had been done already done in rigorous physics research in the classic work of Kaluza-Klein. Later in the century, our ‘now’, the issue of dimensions beyond the Big Four became a staple of versions of string theory. The realm of current physics research has confirmed the question of higher dimensions, but not in the fashion of these nineteenth century ruminations. The issue is finally metaphysical and points to a timeless aspect that lurks behind human psychology. This is the great clue to the problem no one can solve of the soul or larger dimensionality of man. To see man as a larger that an entity in three dimensions might rescue psychology for a materialism/neuroscience done right.
The audacity of this experiment in theory is founded with an error with respect to Kant and his categories: the influence of Whitehead appears to have made something of a realist of the spiritual seeker in the New Age Movements of the early twentieth century. What a muddle. We need to reintroduce the ‘noumenal’ aspect to the issues of the category ‘will’ that Bennett seems to take from Schopenhauer, on the way to a brilliant solution to the riddle of the ‘gunas’. Marxists might not agree, and side with Bennett.
The work is belied by the difficulties of dealing with such complicated entities with mathematical constructs, even those of advanced tensor analysis such as tensor analysis: a space-time metric with eternity and hyparxis in tow is not exactly validated as science. I can’t completely deny the possibility of the space-time metric extended to six dimensions including eternity and hyparxis, but the intuition speaks to something here. The idea of the ‘eternal’ is a clue to human psychology and the hyparchic future is highly suggestive and seems to say something about the emergence of historical entities. Marxists might join the fun, and consider that ‘communism’ is hyparchic, awaiting them in the virtual future.
One must defer momentarily to someone who had the knack of visualizing a hypersphere. And one must adopt as a dismal hypothesis, suspicion, one hasn’t understood his work, seeing levels in eternity is not a common talent. Bennett’s work makes one think of a Roadrunner cartoon. He takes off all at once in an exotic new direction as the Coyote is left in the dust. But much of the result is nonsense, overheating with ‘conscious’ energies that churn out fudge. But the overall core of the work has a set of potential solutions to the spiritual perplexity of modernity, if one can evade the dire kidnapping by rogue Sufis by whom Bennett was victimized.
The results of this daring trial were illuminating, and introduced what was in reality a set of metaphysical concepts in Halloween math disguises, eternity and hyparxis. It all sort of makes sense, in the process triggering a remarkable visionary spell, a genuinely expansive view of the cosmos, before the construct falls back to earth to find refuge under the category of science fiction. The timeless/spaceless dimension is clearly touched on in non-local physics, more we should not say. This is an atavism that has resurfaced in the realm of the dialectical materialists, and the ancient Samkhya seems to seek a new future home.
There is one unfortunate confusion in Bennett’s work: his collation of material that he clearly got from some other source than Gurdjieff with what this author considered the unusable and speculative themes of supposed occult esotericism. One must be very careful to distinguish this work from Bennett’s other books which promote sufi propaganda such as the doctrine of reciprocal maintenance, an arch-reactionary imposter.
The concept of a seven term sequence and a triad are central to Bennett’s work, and originate in Samkhya or some relative, and appear to be influenced by something deeper than the sophistic sources he seems to use. This has been taken over by Sufis, and is an occult sophistry and exploitation in Gurdjieff. Feuerbach was only the beginning of the expose of ideas used to control man. Bennett in his original work was not a part of that.
I fear no one really knows the original meaning of these constructs. The triads in Bennett never quite make sense and are placeholders, a severe caution on the whole effort. Such ideas have entered into concoctions such as the ‘enneagram’ and the whole subject is liable to mumbo-jumbo. It would seem that a useful discussion of Bennett might simply enjoy the ride through this exotic framework until the inevitable ‘crash and burn’ encounters the inevitable skeptical stance of ‘science current’ as we know it now. The impression at many points of a work seeded by alien cone heads trying to communicate advanced superscience must be balanced with some strange blunders, notably the preposterous adoption of the cyclical lore of the Great Year to depict the background of evolutionary development. It is hard to believe that a superintelligent mind would be still stuck in the confusions or ur-astrology. This suggests that Bennett’s spiritual sources were quite human, all too human. Sufis, after all, have often hinted at this issue of alien contact. Bennett offered the real answer in his thinking about ‘demiurgic powers’, a subject discussed at length in the author’s Enigma of the Axial Age.
These issues encounter a ‘dead halt’ in any case, due to the inability to advance properly into the realm of triadic logic. The author is a bit of a spoiler on this question, but the fact must be faced that the work advanced as the passage into a new and higher logic, exemplified in the ‘boy’s marble game’ of thinking in threes, has stalled at the point of beginner’s enthusiasm and never gotten much further. This would be grounds for dropping the whole subject if one wasn’t confronted with frequent almost unconscious moments of non-dual insight, almost without trying. The moment one tries to analyze the mind reverts to dual logic trying to do the ‘tertium organon’ with lame results. That is a reference to Ouspensky’s classic, that seems to linger on the threshold to the last page, without really resolving the enigma. Marxists have stumbled into this mysticism and may as well study its history.
Ironically, it might be of value to simply follow mechanically Bennett’s extravagant rendition of the triad in a unique cascade of levels and types of the triad. This tour de force hardly makes sense even as it gives form to the whole project of triads and seven term ‘rays of creation’, and it is clear that Bennett has finally put an ancient subject on paper, as a pile of dried wood, with a question mark. Mission accomplished in the sense of bringing to the modern world one version of the classic Samkhya that animates the background of the Gurdjieff movement. It is highly improbable these rogue Sufis ever understood the subject, and the work of Bennett breaks away into a new experiment, one flawed by his misunderstanding of Kant.
It is thus very hard to know just how to deal with Bennett’s mysterious classic. We should be wary of the considerable amount of rubbish here. What we can do here is to outline a few of the key ideas, and make it clear that these are public domain ideas with no real connection to the new age cult of the Ouspensky/Gurdjieff schools. The Samkhya we suspect was already ancient by the time of the Buddha, and it appears to have suffered a corruption of its concepts and terminology. We have made an exotic claim: it is mutated parallel of the equally ancient Advaita. If Bennett’s version really uncovers some part of that mystery, that is worth the price of the book, save only that the version using Schopenhauer remains to be written. Let us outline a quick idea along those lines:
The cosmos of materiality comprises the phenomenal aspect in a grand triad of the hyponomic, the autonomic, and the hypernomic. Or the realm of matter, life and… well, there’s the rub, the ‘spiritual’ now actually material. We suddenly see that there is a simple and elegant solution to the whole set of confusions. The hypernomic is the ‘spiritual’, now seen to be a higher materialism, while the noumenal as the real ‘spiritual’ is beyond all three levels, including the hypernomic, which we thought spiritual. Over and over Samkhya warns that the rise to spiritual planes is in reality a new form of the material (or prakriti), the basic point we have made via Bennett. Since the ‘will’ factor is likely to be noumenal, Bennett’s framework has a serious flaw, but we can use the results as is, up to a point. The above is a bit confusing, but can be filed for reference.
Stand back, and we see another case of just what confounded us a few paragraphs back: right under our nose we see some unknown ancient and/ or alien supermind doctrine filtered through a limited Sufi medium. We can therefore attempt to go over a few of the key concept frameworks of Bennett’s text, finesse the ‘triadic enigma’ with a simple description of the many probably controversial issues connected to that ‘lower mind attempt at thinking like a higher mind’. The first and last volumes especially are of interest on the level of a survey, on the way to some future age of man that can bring science to the study of more than physical reductionism.
The author outlined a short book in three chapters and five sections each via a set of concepts and sections from the book, originally intended for eonic-effect.net, but was never completed but we can go through the scheme constructed in MS Publisher in 2008 at a quick step to understand the brilliant solution to the riddle of ancient Samkhya. This corresponds roughly to Volumes 1,2,4 only.
Let us move rapidly through a short sketch:
1.1 Consciousness, Life and the Categories Bennett’s system is based on a variant of Samkhya and assumes the materiality of everything. We should note the contrast of Advaita and Samkhya, and the failure of Bennett to stay with classical Samkhya: consciousness becomes an energy inside a larger material system. And consciousness becomes an aspect of man’s transition to homo sapiens. Both approaches are needed, in the hopeless muddle of the term ‘consciousness’. There are problems here but we can still use the overall sketch, as an historical note on the resemblance to ‘dialectical materialism’, a failed lesser model. Bennett’s Samkhya (never so named) deviates from the original. Best to have faith and avoid an ancient quarrel here: Advaita and (now scrambled) Samkhya are really the same subject, one in an idealist, the in a materialist framework.
Life and consciousness are different things, with consciousness as a cosmic energy. The categories of Kant are rejected/replaced, a dubious procedure, and Bennett adopts a strange set of substitutes, but strangely interesting. His treatment will thus strip his treatment of will of its noumenal character…
1.2 Being, Function, Will Bennett has a useful new way to slice the pie: instead of material/spiritual we have a triad of being, function and will. But the rubric of ‘will’ is given a status in a triad, rather than in some distinction of the noumenal: the resemblance to Schopenhauer is remarkable, but this change is drastic. We can ignore this as we proceed, mindful to be wary of reduced Schopenhauer. But this exercise is useful to get past the ‘material/spiritual’ terminology.
1.3 Time, Eternity, Hyparxis Bennett constructs a remarkable, perhaps now out of date (and perhaps always contradictory), geometry of space/ time extended via eternity and hyparxis in a six dimensional universe (after the fashion of Ouspensky and his nineteenth century sources. The ideas of eternity and hyparxis are more metaphysical than scientific and the space/time metric is not really open to a metric at all. But the gesture is evocative of the physics we now confront of non-locality and spooky physics.
1.4 Hyponomic, Autonomic, Hypernomic worlds Bennett creates a useful new classification in the distinctions of material, living, and spiritual worlds. This triad of tetrads is a useful reminder that there is a ‘material/spiritual’ domain, as opposed to really spiritual one. It is evocative of Samkhya. The interest here is also the way Bennett puts man on the threshold of the hypernomic world, in the way he partakes of the ‘cosmic energy’ of ‘consciousness’ beyond the autonomic and the first rung of the hypernomic. This model is likely to suffer a set of problems but it is an interesting take on human evolution and the way in which homo sapiens enters a new realm of conscious energies.
1.5 Cosmology: Stars, Planets, Biospheres The scheme of Samkhya enters once again (in some unknown Sufi version) in the form of a cascade of levels (supposedly seven). This no longer makes much sense in the cosmologies now current (a sign of its esoteric pretense): all galaxies galaxies stars planets/biospheres earth moon
A great deal of nonsense has been written about this pastiche from unknown sources, grated onto Samkhya, but with Bennett it becomes a useful version of Schopenhauer in the sense that the ‘Will in Nature’ is closely related to the laws of cosmology (‘will’ and ‘laws’ are thus correlated) and we can see that the distinction of cosmic phenomena and life phenomena, normally lost to thought, clarifies the place of the cosmic bodies in…science? metaphysics. But the six or seven term aspect is clear here from the redoubling of ‘gunas’ or triads: 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96. It is worth studying commentaries on the concept of ‘Will’ in the philosopher to see how they diverge from psychological concepts and more closely resemble the ideas of ‘laws of nature’.
One use is to caution theories of evolution: is life a phenomenon inside the domain of a planet/biosphere? Note that the planet ‘earth’ has ‘will’ but is not alive…. A very suggestive nexus of concepts…
Foundations of Moral Philosophy Bennett’s moral thinking has no particular status save that anything is better than current science, and his overall outline is useful, in the way it connects to Samkhya: the ‘gunas’ become ‘triads of the will’, a stroke of genius in Samkhya re-interpretation.
2.1 Facts and Values
This is fairly standard…
2.2 Will and The Triads Bennett’s key insight is to cast the gunas of Samkhya as in the category of will. But his failure to maintain Schopenhauer’s distinction of the ‘thing in itself’ leaves will in an ambiguous status. In any case, the foundations for a complete derivation of Samkhya are possible. The last problem is the artificial character of the ‘law of three forces’, and its cliché version as affirming, denying, and reconciling. No full clarification of this is provided, and the resemblance to the dialectic is remarkable.
2.3 Six Fundamental Laws These triads are ‘affirmative, denying/passive, reconciling’ or 1,2,3. These combine in numerous ways.
By permuting the three types of force (and this isn’t force in known dynamical sense), A, D, R, Bennett produces six basic types: ADR, ARD, RAD, RDA, DAR, DRA,…and then ascribes to these some rather arbitrary names. But the overall idea is ingenious and suggestive. These ‘laws’ will then be a part of the cascade of cosmic laws at each of the seven levels, producing 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 aspects of the triadic system.
2.4 Self and Individuality Potentially the whole system is able to provide a new form of spiritual psychology with some powerful implications and distinctions, one of them being the nature of ‘self’ under the different levels: we can reach the ‘true self’ at the level of 24 laws, and individuality at the level of 12. This is too abstract for practical meditation, but the scheme, reviewed once in detail can help to clarify the nature of man’s real psychology. None of the religions of man have ever gotten straight this distinction of self, and individuality (at level 12). The paths of being and will are thus shown a concrete definitional line of argument.
2.5 Materiality, Vitality, Deity There are two aspects in Bennett’s system: that of will, and that of being, and this spawns a parallel set of concepts in the realm of being.
Skipping the third volume of The Dramatic Universe, we take up the fourth, for a quick look at his views of world history. WHEE is a far better system, and Bennett for reasons that are baffling sticks with the ancient idea of the cycles of the Great Year. This idea is very ancient, but it doesn’t work: the cycles fall out of sync with any reasonable sequence in history. But Bennett somehow ditches his own rubric and correctly takes the rise of the modern as a new era, and the period of 1848 as the onset of a ‘new age’.
History and Evolution (the fourth Volume) …
3.1 War with Time This speaks for itself, interesting set of ideas…
3.2 Evolution, Life, Demiurge…
3.3 The Advent of Mind
3.4 Creativity and Man
3.5 World History and Modernity
We can do these as a set. The distinction of autonomic and hypernomic realms is useful for theories of history and evolution. One of the early critics of the darwinian theory of evolution, and also an early proponent of design arguments, Bennett’s view of evolution is nonetheless still relevant to a science viewpoint…Our interest is in later evolution of man. Bennett’s work contains a remarkable take on the issue of spiritual powers in nature, or demiurgic powers. Life evolves under the scope of the hypernomic, and we see the influence of demiurgic powers on human evolution, taking homo sapiens to the stage of consciousness, and creativity. The idea of a ‘creative energy’ doesn’t quite make sense, but we see the point: man enters a new form of consciousness and mind and this is the point at which man exhibits the creative aspect we begin to see in the Paleolithic.
The overall world history of Bennett is confused by its association with the idea of the Great Year, whose cycles fall out of sync with the overall pattern of world history. Bennett could think of no other way to suggest a cyclical history, but the result is the entry of astrological confusions, and Bennett should have known better.
But Bennett’s better insight was to ignore this cyclicity in practice, and he is clearly aware of the Axial Age and modernity as successive epochs. The patterns of the Great Year simply don’t match the real pattern.
One of the great ironies of this text is the way Bennett sneaks away from his own periodization and realizes that the onset of modernity, against all the prejudice and confusions of new age gurus and their muddle, has to be taken seriously as a new era in world history. This has made Bennett a heretic in new age lore and his view has been ignored completely. His depiction of modernity is very weak, but almost unbelievably at the very end he stumbles on the key insight that the period around 1848 signals a new era in world history, in a very close concordance with the scheme of WHEE. In addition, out of the blue he makes a reference to the birth of communism, as a key idea of the new era. We have discussed this in the author’s Last and First Men, and suggested what Bennett himself suspected, a contact with spiritual agencies beyond the sophistic agencies he appeared to be involved with. Whatever the case, he surprisingly breaks out of his periodization to get the right answer relative to the solution given in WHEE, a much better world history, which should be taken as a correction of Bennett’s outlandish use of astrological cycles, which have confused people for millennia.
The solution to the problem of world history is to explain its curious cyclity, and Bennett stumbles on it, but can’t get it right. The view in WHEE uses a different form of model, and clearly demonstrates the epoch following the ‘Axial Age’ and the rise of modernity, and shows how the period around 1848 is much to the point.
This now classic reconstruction of the classic Samkhya using the idea of Schopenhauer on the ‘Will’ in nature and the ideas of the gunas as triads of the will is a very brilliant piece of intellectual archaeology, worth the price of the book which is otherwise of dubious quality, and lost in all the other new age confusions in his four volume book. This scheme enabled Bennett in other works to try and illuminate the extraordinarily complex spiritual psychology of man and the rare moments when any of it comes to public attention. In another work it might be useful to consider the various types of spiritual psychology that Bennett outlined. but he the point for us here is to offer a caution to marxist proponents of dialectical materialism, who have so strangely stumbled via Hegel on a fragment of this ancient Samkhya. A future version that does justice to Schopenhauer and the thing in itself/representation might be of value. Let us note that this might clarify some of the mystery in Bennett’s scheme: the phenomenal and the noumenal might thus be aspects of the hyponomic and hypernomic realms, with life in the fully phenomenal middle zone. This different take on Bennett would require a rewrite of the whole text but at this point the book is at best an archaeological site. But we should not forget again the key to Samkhya suggested. And the question remains, what practical use is this? It is, pace science, and even more monumental folly than dialectical materialism. Both groups must be onto something, we hope for the best for some future clarification. We waited 2400 years for Bennett’s clarification of Samkhya (in many ways Schopenhauer’s), so we should be patient. Many confronting nineteenth century materialism became very frustrated by its one-sided reductionism. A universal materialism if fine but its meaning it not to banish all the terms of abstract idealism such as are inevitable in the mathematical equations of physics. In the same way the concept of will, and this is not psychological ‘will’, is the framework correspond to the laws of the lower level of physical objects. Just as physics must invoke the ideal domain of mathematics to do physics, so the ‘materialism’ of Samkhya must invoke the cascade of ‘gunas’ in seven levels of redoubling sets to buttress that fundamental perspective on the cosmos. The quarrel between Samkhya and Advaita, the original conflict of materialists and idealists, is a false one. No one has seen that Samkhya realizes the core of Advaita is a very simple way in its distinction of purusha and prakriti, or, in some formulations, the gunas and consciousness. It is not so far from Advaita as the parties to an any quarrel thought.
That discussion must be taken up elsewhere. We have enough to suggest a simple way for marxist legacies to rescue their now dated materialism from disaster. We must scratch out heads in wonder that Engels sensed the answer but wandered into a swamp. The ‘dialectic’ would need a careful understanding of its three categories, permuted into the six forms that Bennett ingeniously proposed.
This, then, scheme is of use because we can see that cosmic bodies can have will, but this not imply they are alive or have consciousness. We must remind readers of the elusive brilliance of Schopenhauer’s almost miraculous rediscovery of the core of Samkhya, oblivious to what he had done. We need to caution that ‘will’ is not the same as ‘will power’, and is a more general idea so deeply explored in his classic texts, the orphans of the Kantian revolution. It would seem to have been somewhat egregious to claim to have replaced Kant’s categories (which Schopenhauer simply scrapped for the sole category of the ‘causal’), but the exercise is useful nonetheless, and suggests a way to generalize the forms of logic to n-term systems, as in fact Bennett not only proposes but attempts to carry out. But his systems seem to become placeholders in the hypernomic, not surprising, since the ‘conscious, creative, unitive, and final twelfth category’ are attempts to name the nameless. In any case, the idea of n-term systems can allow mathematicians to review the material. We can see at once the distinction of ‘dyads’, and ‘triads’ and the way the dialectic confuses the two. A whole reconstruction of dialectical materialism might be of use in this light.
The use of the term ‘consciousness’ in Bennett is in the legacy of confused jargon that has always muddled religious and new age thought. But it is of great interest to see the cosmic aspect of consciousness. It begins to stumble into the Advaita emphasis on the ‘one’ as ‘consciousness’. It is also helps to clarify the nature of the evolution of homo to homo sapiens.
The stark emptiness of the cosmic space belies their mysterious aspect of generators of life and consciousness. This is more easily seen in the planetary aspect of the biosphere as a cosmic object in the context of the emergence of life on an ‘earth’ in a solar context.