Page 1

Editors’ Foreword

Before use is made of Seeking the Path, Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera’s early writings (1950-1960) and marginalia, the reader should be familiar with Clearing the Path, to which the present collection serves as a supplement. Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera’s writings fall into two periods: from 1950 until 1960 (which are included here), and from 1960 until 1965 (included in Clearing the Path). The early texts show a man who, in his own thinking and discussion with others, earnestly searches a way to approach the essence of the Buddha’s Teaching by repeated trial-and-error. This search has finally yielded its fruit when, though suffering from amœbiasis (or colitis, i.e. small perforations to the colon), Ñå~av⁄ra Thera apparently attained sotåpatti, or Stream-entry, on 26.vi.1959. The one who has ‘entered the stream’ has ipso facto abandoned personality-view (sakkåya-di††hi), which is the selfview implicit in the experience of an ordinary worldling not free from ignorance, and understood the essential meaning of the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Noble Truths. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera’s writings after 1960 express this very kind of certainty: no more wandering in the dark, no more doubt or speculative guessing. The main portion of the Early Writings consists of letters written to the late Ñå~amoli Thera, where the two English monks explored many modes of Western thought (including quantum mechanics). This correspondence lasted until 1960, the year of Ñå~amoli Thera’s death. Gradually they discovered that the Western thinkers most relevant to their interests were those from the closely allied schools of phenomenology and existentialism, to whom they found themselves indebted for clearing away a lot of mistaken notions with which they had burdened themselves. These letters make clear the nature of that debt; they also make clear the limitations which Ñå~av⁄ra Thera recognized in those thinkers. He insists upon the fact that while for certain individuals their value may be great, eventually one must go beyond them if one is to arrive at the essence of the Buddha’s Teaching. Existentialism, then, is in his view an approach to the Buddha’s Teaching and not a substitute for it.

vii


seeking the path

In the first part of the book (A), along with the letters, which were preserved by the recipient, were found draft copies of some of the replies which were sent to Ñå~av⁄ra Thera. A few letters written to Ñå~av⁄ra Thera’s chief supporters, Mr. and Mrs. Perera, and to his family are also included. In the second part of the book (B) are two published essays: ‘Nibbåna and Anattå’ and ‘Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth’ in abbreviated form. In the end there are also the contents of the author’s Commonplace Book, Marginalia and a collection of various papers discovered after their author’s death (notes, translations, etc).

*** The letters written to late Ven. Ñå~amoli Thera were preserved by the recipient, tied up in bundles (one of which, containing letters written between August and December 1958, was not found), with draft copies of some of the replies which were sent to Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera. These have been included here; it should be remembered, however, that they are only draft copies and not final versions. In the editing of the letters (which were collected during the first years after the author’s death (see ‘Ñå~avira Thera’s Life and Work’) most of the work has been done by Ven. Ñå~asumana and Ven. Bodhesako who pared away the considerable material regarded as superfluous. With our editing of what has remained, a certain amount of standardization has been attended to. The two essays reproduced here are taken from the author’s typescripts, which may be regarded as the definitive versions. Following these two essays are the contents of the author’s Commonplace Book, and then Marginalia, being the comments the author made in the margins of various book which engaged him (together with the text commented upon, where useful). Finally there is a collection of various papers discovered after author’s death: notes, translations, etc. These have been edited only to avoid unnecessary repetition of material already contained in other parts of this work. Where translations of French writings exist we have in most cases quoted the published version, include them as an editorial note. (There have been no substitutions of the French passages.) Footnotes are used as follows: all footnotes indicated by a letter (a, b, c…) are the Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera’s footnotes. Certain of these footnotes are preceded by the notation ‘Ñå~amoli’: this indicates that the note is a comment written in the Ven. Ñå~amoli’s handwriting on a slip of paper attached to the letter. Those indicated (in the two Essays) by a * are part of the original text. In his copies of the Essays, footnotes are by the Ven.

viii


editors’ foreword

Ñå~av⁄ra and are made in pencil after 1960 on the typescript. Editorial explanations in these cases are enclosed in square brackets. All footnotes indicated by a numeral (1, 2, 3…) are editorial additions. For any errors or defects that remain, we are fully responsible.

*** We are indebted to many people who helped directly and indirectly in collecting the letters, retyping, editing, proofreading and preparing of the book; for encouragement and numerous suggestions; and especially to Steve Ganci for generous support, to Ven. Moneyyo and Rohan Wijesekera for their assistance in editorial work, and to Path Press Publications for initiating this whole project. After preparing the manuscript of the ‘Early Writings (1950-1960)’, Ven. Bodhesako had the idea of publishing this collection as a book to be titled Seeking the Path. This book was to be printed after Clearing the Path, but the project was interrupted by Ven. Bodhesako’s death. Out of respect and gratitude towards him, we decided to take upon us his unfinished work and finalize it. At the end of this introductory note, it seems fitting to pay a tribute again to late Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera of Bundala for his thoughts and teachings. May the Dhamma be carried by his words for the benefit of many seekers of the Path. Bhikkhu H. Ñå~asuci Gerolf G.P. T’Hooft December, 2010

ix


Ven. Ñå~amoli & Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra


Abbreviations & Acknowledgements

Books frequently cited or quoted are indicated therein in abbreviated form. Abbreviations used are as follows: D. = D⁄gha Nikåya M. = Majjhima Nikåya S. = Saµyutta Nikåya A. = Aπguttara Nikåya Myth = Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus PQM = Dirac, Principles of Quantum Mechanics CUP = Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript B&N = Sartre, Being and Nothingness EN = Sartre, L’Être et le Néant MIL = Stebbing, A Modern Introduction to Logic CtP = Clearing the Path

*** Publication data on material quoted or discussed in Seeking the Path: Baptist, Egerton C., Ånåpånasati and The Brahmavihåras, Cattåro Brahma Vihårå: Meditation on 4 Sublime States, Colombo: Buddha Jayanti, 4th July 1955. Berval, René de (direction), Présence du Bouddhisme, Saigon, France-Asie, 1959. Bradley, F.H., Appearance and Reality, London: Oxford University Press, (1893) 1962. —, Principles of Logic, London: Oxford University Press, (1881) 1958. Broad, C.D. ‘A Half-Century of Psychical Research’, in: Journal of Parapsychology, Dec. 1956. Camus, Albert, Exile and the Kingdom, (translated by Justin O’Brien), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1958; Penguin, 1962; New York; Random House, 1965; Vintage Books, 1965.

xi


seeking the path

—, The Fall, (translated by Justin O’Brien), New York: Knopf, 1964; London: Penguin, 1984. —, L’homme révolté, Paris: Gallimard, 1951. —, L’Étranger, Paris: Gallimard, 1942. —, L’Homme Révolté, Paris: Gallimard, 1951. —, Le Mythe de Sisyphe, Paris: Gallimard, 1942. —, The Myth of Sisyphus, (translated by Justin O’Brien), New York: Vintage, 1955. —, Noces, Paris: Gallimard, 1959. —, The Rebel, (translated by Anthony Bower), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953; Penguin, 1962. —, Selected Essays and Notebooks, (edited and translated by Philip Thody), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1970; Penguin, 1970; New York: Knopf, 1970. Connolly, Cyril: see Palinurus (pen name) Beauvoir, Simone de, The Ethics of Ambiguity, (translated by B. Frechtmann), New York: Philosophical Library, 1948. —, Pour une morale de l’ambiguité, Paris: Gallimard, 1947. —, Memoires d’une Jeune Fille Rangee, Paris: Gallimard, 1958. Dirac, P.A.M., The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, London: Oxford University Press, (1930) 4th edition, 1958. Dostoievsky, Fyodor, The Possessed. [The Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra seems to have had an Italian translation of The Possessed, from which he rendered passages into English.] Eddington, Sir Arthur, New Pathways in Science, London: Cambridge University Press, 1935. —, The Philosophy of Physical Science, London: Cambridge University Press, Easter Term, 1938. Einstein, Albert. The World As I See It, (translated by Alan Harris), London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1935; New York: Citadel, 1979. Eliot, T.S., Collected Poems [1901-1962]. London: Faber & Faber, 1974; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963. Evans-Wentz, W.Y., Tibet’s Great Yogi Milarepa, A Biography from the Tibetan being the Jetsun-Kahbum, or Biographical History of Jetsun Milarepa, According to the Late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English Rendering, London: Oxford University Press, 1960. Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation of Dreams, London: Allen & Unwin, 1954. —, Three contributions to the theory of sex, New York, Washington: Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co., 1930.

xii


abbreviations & acknowledgements

—, ‘Thought on War and Death’, from Collected Papers, (authorized translation under the supervision of Joan Riviere), London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1949. Heisenberg, Werner, ‘Atomic Research and the Law of Causation in Nature’, in: Universitas,Vol 2. Göttingen 1957. Husserl, Edmund, ‘Phenomenology’, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition (1955), vol. 17, p. 669-702. James, William, The Will to Believe, Longmans, Green & Co., 1896. Kant, Immanuel, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, illustrated by dreams of metaphysics, London, New York: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Lim., The Macmillan Co., 1899. Kierkegaard, Søren, Atack upon “Christendom”, (translated by Walter Lowrie), Boston: Beacon Press, 1956. —, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, (translated by David F. Swenson), Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941; London: Oxford University Press, 1945. —, Either/Or, (translated by David F. and Lillian M. Swenson and Walter Lowrie), London: Oxford University Press, 1941. —, Philosophical Fragments, (translated by David F. Swenson), Princeton: Princeton University Press, ©1936, ©1962. —, Repetition, An Essay in Experimental Psychology, (translated by Walter Lowrie), London: Oxford University Press, 1946. —, The Sickness unto Death, (translated by Walter Lowrie), London: Oxford University Press, 1944. Lavelle, Louis. Introduction à l’ontologie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1951. Marcel, Gabriel, Journal Metaphysique, Paris: Gallimard, 1935. Maugham, Robin, ‘I Solve the Strange Riddle of the Buddhist Monk from Aldershot’, in: The People, London: 26 September 1965. McTaggart, John M. E., The Nature of Existence, London: Cambridge University Press, 1921-27. Murti T.R.V., The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1955. Nyanaponika, Thera, The Discourse on the Snake Simile, Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1962. Ñå~amoli, Thera (transl.), The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), Colombo: A. Semage, 1956. —, A Thinker’s Note Book, Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1980. Ñå~av⁄ra, Thera, Clearing the Path, Colombo: Path Press, 1987; Nieuwer­ kerk a/d IJssel: Path Press Publications, 2010.

xiii


seeking the path

Nowell-Smith, P.H., Ethics, London: Penguin Books, 1954. Ogden, K.C. and Richards, I.A., The Meaning of Meaning, London: Rout­ ledge & Kegan Paul, 1949, 10th ed. Oltramare, Paul, L’Histoire des idées théosophique dans l’Inde (Tome II: La théosophie bouddhique), Paris: Geuthner, 1923. Palinurus, The Unquiet Grave, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1945. Pascal, Blaise, Pensées [texte de l’édition Brunschvicg], Paris: Garnier, 1958. Potter, Karl H., Presuppositions of India’s Philosophies, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963. Rhys Davids, T.W. (transl.), The Questions of King Milinda, Part I & II, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 35 & 36, edited by F. Max Müller, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1890 & 1894. Rhys Davids, T.W. and Stede, William (editors), The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary, London, Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1921. Richards, I.A., Principles of Literary Criticism, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1947. Russell, Bertrand, Outline of Philosophy, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1927. Sartre, Jean-Paul, Being and Nothingness, (translated by Hazel E. Barnes), London: Methuen, 1957; New York: Philosophical Library, 1957. —, L’Être et le Néant, Paris: Gallimard, 1943. —, Esquisse d’une Théorie des Émotions, Paris: Hermann, 1939. —, L’Imagination, Paris: Alcan, 1936. —, L’Imaginare, Paris: Gallimard, 1940. —, Imagination: A Psychological Critique, (translated by Forrest Williams), Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962. —, Reflexion sur la Question Juive Schopenhauer, Arthur, The Wisdom of Life: Being the First Part of Aphorismen Zur Lebensweisheit, (translated by T. Bailey Saunders), London: Allen & Unwin, 1890. Schweitzer, Albert, Out of My Life and Thought, an autobiography, (translated by C.T. Campion), New York: H. Holt, 1949. Stebbing, L. Susan, A Modern Introduction to Logic, London: Methuen, (1930) 5th edition, 1946. Strachey, Lytton, Landmarks in French Literature, London: Oxford University Press, 1945. Tyrrell, G.N.M., The Personality of Man, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1954. Warner, Rex (transl.), The Confessions of St. Augustine, New York: MentorOmega, 1963.

xiv


abbreviations & acknowledgements

Waley, Arthur, Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1939. Weiss, Paul, ‘The Theory of Types’, in: Mind, Vol. XXXVII. N.S., No. 147. Wettimuny, R.G. de S., Buddhism and Its Relation to Religion and Science, Colombo: Gunasena, 1962. —, The Buddha’s Teaching – Its Essential Meaning, Colombo: Gunasena, 1969. —, The Buddha’s Teaching and the Ambiguity of Existence, Colombo: Gunasena, 1978.

xv


[ preliminary note ] “… With regard to any of my past writings that you may come across …, I would ask you to treat with great reserve anything dated before 1960, about which time certain of my views underwent a modification. If this is forgotten you may be puzzled by inconsistencies between earlier and later writings …” —Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra Thera, 22nd March, 1963

xvi


A EARLY letters


Bhikkhu Ñå~amoli


1

Letters to Bhikkhu Ñå~amoli

part 1: 1954 (el. 1-10) [ EL. 1 ]

Saturday1

Dear Ñå~amoli 2, Yesterday S. and I, leaving Vajiråråma3 early in the morning and taking dåna at Salgala Arañña4, arrived here in the evening. To get to Salgala you walk two miles through fields fully robed. Arriving there about 9:30 you have no opportunity to get ekaµsa5, but have to take your bowl and join the ‘pi~∂apåta’ procession. You arrive at the dånasålå and sit for about an hour motionless with the sweat pouring down your face. You are given your bowl full to the brim and you have to carry it back up and down a mountainside. When you arrive at the second dånasålå in the arañña proper, all the arahats, who have been perfectly behaved so far, suddenly become puthujjanas and start talking and chattering like anyone else. We sat down, but everybody else started putting food into our bowls and into each others. We had all our work cut out to empty the contents of our bowls onto plates. I was hot and tired and thirsty and disgusted with food and exhausted by the farce. From 9 to 12 every day they are occupied with food. A nightmare. After eating we were shown… the Mahåthera’s ku†i. He has a fine caπkamana. He must have spent about an hour preparing the footprints in the sand. It is a fine jungle, shady, but perhaps rather damp. But it is a mockery of the monk’s life. I saw nothing that did not seem bogus—but perhaps they do something profitable when everybody has gone. I should hate it anyway…

3


[el. 2]

[ EL. 2 ]

seeking the path

14.iv.1954

14 April 1954

Out of the surge and thunder of the Sinhalese New Year comes this letter. Perched as I am on top of a small mountain (according to the one inch map, between 1200 and 1300 feet above sea level), I can hear all the crackers1 and all the drums for miles around: much more noise in this respect than the Hermitage2. But when there are no crackers and no drums this place is very quiet (not like a dense jungle of course), and no music. And apart from people bringing dåna, no casual visitors (the climb is formidable, and anyway they are kept off the estate). No casual human visitors that is; I have been visited inside the room by one small snake (under the door—now blocked), three scorpions (from the roof—there must be hundreds here, and I shall probably be stung sooner or later), three tarantulas (one the size of your hand)—a fearsome creature to meet for the first time at night, but quite easily caught. He made a noise like a fuse blowing each time he attacked the broom I offered him. Outside the room I have been visited by two dogs (by day), two buffaloes (by day and by night), numbers of monkeys (by day) and by an unidentified and disconcerting grunt (by night—do porcupines grunt?). There are many ticks but no leeches. New birds, including the green parakeet with a purple head, and a brown eagle. New geckos, including one six inches long, brown and grey velvet with white pimples—very handsome, lives in the privy pit. One or two new insects. One or two faint touches of lunacy, perhaps, have gone to the construction of this place; but the result is not entirely unsatisfactory (there are genuine portholes in the walls of the inner room, and you are always a little surprised when you see that you are on a mountain top and not at sea when you look out). I have now been up here a little over a fortnight, and propose to stay (how long I can’t say). But a brass pot neglected for four years takes a lot of polishing, and though I have been spending all the time I can (other than eating etc.) either sitting or on the caπkamana, there is not much to show for it. But April is perhaps not the best month in the year. [ EL. 3 ]

3 May 1954

The bungalow is on a spur about 200 feet above the bottom of the hill. The vegetation here, apart from coconut, areca, jak, and breadfruit, is quite different from the Hermitage and environs. The trees are quite new to me.

4


19.v.1954

early letters

[el. 4]

Nobody has heard of bomba1, and there are no mangroves for miles. Ven. E., talking to S. and myself in the evening, said that murders in Ceylon were mostly committed by non-Buddhists; in Burma, however, Ministers are assassinated: but they are killed by Abhidhamma. P.S. The mysterious grunt turns out to be (by some strange aural illusion) a motorcycle being started in the plains, half a mile away! [ EL. 4 ]

19 May 1954

The quantity of livestock here is sometimes embarrassing. Last night, before retiring to sleep, I went out. As I came back I found a large karawalå 1 climbing the parapet wall. So I went in to get a brighter torch and a broomstick. Coming out of the door I met a centipede rushing in. So I had to remove him first. Then I pushed the snake off the wall (difficult to catch singlehanded; though today I made a stick and noose. Besides, where can I remove him to?) and was about to look over to see where he went to when another reptilian head appeared over the wall. I cautiously retreated, but found it was only a large gecko. Having moved him out of the way I looked again. There was a rustling in the long grass (which must be full of snakes and things) and I shone my torch there, only to see a polecat (striped, and larger than a mongoose) making its way past. And what a stink, too. Rancid and feline. By this time the snake was lost and (I hope) gone forever. Then I retreated exhausted into my room. There was a small snake overhead in the roof the other night. This is not so good, but I hope to get some netting put up to catch things in case they fall (there is a gap in the ceiling for ventilation). In the meantime I sleep under a mosquito net. There is a peculiar caterpillar or grub, which builds itself a flat envelope out of leaves (about 1/2” x 1/4”) and lives inside. Its method of locomotion is as follows. It puts its head and forelegs out at one end of the envelope, catches hold of something firm, and then, by a great muscular effort, lifts the rest of its body and the envelope over its head, thus turning a kind of somersault. Then it retreats inside the envelope and (unless it has two heads or there are really two grubs working in harmony) turns itself round and puts its head out of the other end of the envelope and again turns a somersault, and so on until it arrives wherever it wants to go.

5


[el. 5]

[ EL. 5 ]

seeking the path

1.vii.1954

1 July 1954

It will not surprise you to hear that the article ‘Nibbåna and Anattå’ needs revision. Again. I am dissatisfied with the section on dhammå. It says both too much and not enough. It is not exactly wrong, but it is clumsy and slightly misses the point, which I now believe to be this:—Dhammå, in almost all senses, means ‘References’ (as opposed to ‘Referents’—see Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning). Sometimes it is overt, sometimes a mere undertone, but this sense is still there. It explains a great deal:— 1. Buddha, Dhamma, Saπgha—the set of references which the Buddha tells us to make; i.e. correct references. 2. Yåvatå bh. dhammå…:1—nibbåna is one of the above references (nibbåna is asaπkhata, but the reference is not). 3. Chandam¨lakå s. dh….nibbånapariyosånå s. dh…: 2 ‘All references’ (partly perhaps in sense 1) suits very well. 4. ‘“Imåni cha phassåyatanån⁄ti” bh. mayå dhammo desito’ = ‘“these six bases of contact” is a (correct) reference taught by me’. This example shows the meaning clearly. (Aπguttara III,vii,1/i.175 ) 5. ‘Manasikårasamudayå dhammånaµ samudayo’: 3 with reference to the fourth satipa††håna shows that the object of dhammånupassanå is references as such (not the referents as the commentary mistakenly supposes). Having read The Meaning of Meaning, the importance of this you will not underestimate. To make it a little clearer: in kåyånupassanå you take the body as object and then in samudayavayadhammånupass⁄ vå kåyasmiµ viharati 4 you say ‘the origination of the body is with the origination of food, the passing away of the body is with the cessation of food’. In dhammånupassanå you say ‘Iti r¨paµ, iti r¨passa samudayo, iti r¨passa atthagamo’ 5—so far it is simply kåyånupassanå—but then you say ‘This is merely a reference that has arisen, it originates and ceases with attention (manasikåra)’. That is to say, dhammånupassanå is the practice of realizing that all your thoughts are merely references. (The selection given in the Sutta, i.e. five hindrances and so on, are the references (dhammå in sense 1 again) that a meditating monk should be having, but it applies generally to all references. In passing, note that the pair dhammå-adhammå can well be understood as correct references-incorrect references, and the simile of the raft becomes clear—the Buddha teaches correct references which must be abandoned (i.e. not clung to) once they have served their purpose, like the raft (having crossed, you abandon it by the river bank). The arahat has no attachment to anything, even correct references, let alone incorrect references.

6


9.vii.1954

early letters

[el. 6]

6. ‘Manañca pa†icca dhamme ca uppajjati manoviññå~aµ’.6 No comment necessary. 7. ‘Sabbe dhammå anattå’. See the Saµyutta Sutta, ‘Ye hi keci sama~å vå bråhma~å vå anekavihitaµ attånaµ samanupassamånå etc.’ 7 The following passage from this Sutta has been under my eyes all this time and I have not noticed it:— Atthi bh. mano, atthi dhammå, atthi avijjådhåtu. Avijjåsamphassajena bh. vedayitena phu††hassa assutavato puthujjanassa Asm⁄ti pissa hoti, Ayaµ ahaµ asm⁄ti pissa hoti etc. There is the mind, there are references, there is the element of ignorance. Touched by a feeling born of ignorance-contact etc. A puthujjana gets a feeling when he is making incorrect references (nicca or sukha), and there arises in consequence the idea of ‘I’ (feeling is necessary here;—see Nidåna Suttanta, ‘Yattha panåvuso sabbaso vedayitaµ n’atthi api nu kho tattha, “asm⁄ti” siyåti?’ ‘No h’etam bhante’ 8) in connexion with his references (pañcupådånakkhandhå). This is how the idea of attå arises: it only arises in connexion with references, and is denied by the Buddha when he says ‘Sabbe dhammå anattå’—‘all references are not-self’. All this is very sketchy, but you will get the idea. I do not intend working on the article here, and for the time being it will have to remain out of date. (The rest of the article is all right.) There are polongas 9 here, I am told, but I don’t think I have seen one. The room is now more or less snake-proof, and I don’t go out at night without a lamp and great circumspection. This place continues to suit well… Meditation, though slow, seems to be making a little progress… P.S. I think that I should have used the words ‘true’ and ‘false’ instead of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ references. [ EL. 6 ]

9 July 1954

Further to dhamma = reference, it may be observed that the ‘nature’ of a thing, the ‘law’ which it obeys (evaµdhammo, nirodhadhammo, dhammatå, etc.) are all abstractions or generalizations from the behaviour of individuals. The referents are only the individuals, and their nature or characteristics

7


[el. 6]

seeking the path

9.vii.1954

are references. If this is allowed as the correct interpretation of dhamma in this sense, then the Ven. Soma Thera’s theory (‘the nature of all things, the way in which they behave, is anattå’) is not at variance with mine (though perhaps he might not agree). Also:—If ‘sabbe dhammå aniccå’ is said, then (a) it may imply that there are things that are not references that are niccå, i.e. some kind of permanent and unknowable substratum, and (b) it does not explain why they are anicca, i.e. that they are saπkhata. To a certain extent, then, sabbe saπkhårå aniccå applies to referents. If ‘sabbe saπkhårå anattå’ is said, then it may imply that there is some kind of objective quality of anattatå belonging to all saπkhåras. Actually, since attå is merely a mental delusion, anattå refers only to correct view, which is essentially subjective—therefore ‘all references (not referents) are anattå’. You can test the permanence of an object to some degree objectively; but you cannot apply any objective test to discover whether a thing is attå or anattå. ‘Sabbe saπkhårå dukkhå’ is a kind of objective-subjective half-way house: saπkhåras are subjectively dukkhå because objectively aniccå. If this is seen to be true, then the entirely subjective attå cannot arise. The writer of the article on Miss N. has missed his opportunities. I think he might have brought in a false pregnancy or two, and some stigmata; and what about an orgy of flagellation such as the one described in Flagg’s book on Yoga in Bhante’s library? But that such strange deeds of intrigue and darkness go on in this extraordinarily free and easy-going country, where nobody seems to care tuppence what anybody else does (although they talk a lot about it), and where there are no shadows at noon, makes me feel the ground is opening under my feet. [ EL. 7 ]

21 July 1954

Dear Reverend Sir (or should I, in keeping with the principle subject of our correspondence, say ‘Dear Referent Sir’? and call you, perhaps, ‘Your Reference’?). Thank you for your long letter. What is the equivalent of ‘Referents’ if dhammå = References? Let us start at the outside and work inwards. The ‘outside world’ consists of the first five bahiddhåyatanas (forms, sounds… touches). (If someone asks, ‘And what are they?’, you reply, ‘The four mahåbh¨tå’, and leave him to puzzle it out for himself.) It is said ‘cakkhuñca pa†icca r¨pe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññå~aµ’:1 from which we may say, ‘Forms are what, apart from the eye, eye-consciousness is dependent upon’; and

8


21.vii.1954

early letters

[el. 7]

similarly for the other four external bases. Thus, when I speak of ‘matter’, I should be understood as saying, ‘that which, apart from the five sensebases, conditions five-sense-consciousness’. Now, it is said (Mahåvedalla Sutta and also a Sutta in the Indriya Saµyutta) that the province (gocara/ visaya) of the five faculties are manifold, and that the mind has the five faculties as its province. Referents are what References refer to. But only the mind makes/has References: therefore the objects of the five senses are not Referents at all (directly, that is). The objects of the five senses are forms… touches. Dependent on these, eye-… body-consciousness arises. And it is eye-etc.-consciousness that is the province of the mind. But not present eye-etc.-consciousness. It is immediately or remotely past eye-etc.-consciousness that the mind feeds on. These are our Referents. Since they are past they cannot be References. (We also have to include past mind-consciousness—a past Reference—amongst our Referents.) When we think of ‘matter’, we are making References to past sets of experience or consciousness. If we remember this, then our Referents are:—R¨paµ vedanå saññå saπkhårå viññå~aµ (all past). (By ‘consciousness’, the whole nåmakåya is naturally intended.) ‘Sabbe saπkhårå aniccå’, when expanded, becomes:—saπkhårå and anic­ ca stand for References to the same Referents. Upon consideration we see that all our past consciousnesses arose upon conditions, and are therefore saπkhåras. By Sabbe saπkhårå aniccå, they are impermanent. But what is impermanent brings about suffering. Thus saπkhårå and dukkha stand for References to the same Referents. But a Reference, such as anicca, does not refer simply to a single eyeconsciousness, for example. It refers to sets of past consciousness. It is a complex affair; and the act of making a Reference is the act of associating sets of past consciousnesses. When these sets are correctly associated (i.e. so that predictions as to future experience are verified—e.g. ‘Fire burns’ is a correct association) then we have a ‘true’ Reference. Incorrectly associated, there is a ‘false’ Reference. Now, according to the Sutta, ‘Ye hi keci… ’, the idea of attå is a Reference that arises in consequence of a feeling produced by a ‘false’ Reference (such as ‘Ekacce saπkhårå niccå’ 2). Thus attå is a Reference to a Reference (i.e. the Referent of attå (or anattå) is a past Reference.) Thus, if there is a ‘false’ Reference, there is clinging. Therefore, as the Sutta says, attå is associated with upådånakkhandhas. Perhaps we may be allowed to suggest that the pañcupådånakkhandhå are the non-arahat’s References to the pañcakkhandhå, which are his Referents. (Does this find confirmation in the Suttas elsewhere? Can we say, in the C¨la Saccaka Sutta, that it is the pañcakkhandhå referred to as sabbe saπkhårå aniccå and the

9


[el. 7]

seeking the path

21.vii.54

pañcupådånakkhandhå referred to as sabbe dhammå anattå?) I do not wish to suggest that ‘saπkhårå’ are absolutely synonymous with ‘Referents’, since they are arrived at differently (‘what is formed’: ‘what is referred to’): but we may perhaps say ‘“saπkhårå” and “Referents” are symbols that stand for References to the same referent’. But dhammå are always saπkhårå: References are not always Referents. An interesting point:—In the prevalent interpretation of sabbe saπkhårå aniccå, sabbe saπkhårå dukkhå, sabbe dhammå anattå, dhammå is a wider term than saπkhårå, because it includes nibbåna. In the interpretation under discussion, the position is reversed, and a sense-experience (saπkhåra) is not a dhamma unless it is taken up by the mind. And thus, not only can we not say that nibbåna is attå or anattå, but also that a Referent (or saπkhåra) is attå or anattå (unless the mind reflects upon it so that an ‘avijjåsamphassajaµ vedayitaµ’ (or vijjåsamphassajaµ vedayitaµ 3 as in the case of arahats) arises, and consequently the idea of attå). But nibbåna is not even a Referent (in the sense used here); and when we ‘think of nibbåna’ we are actually thinking of cessation of Referents. As to the varied responses, I shall limit myself to observing that the Buddha, at least in the formula sabbe saπkhårå aniccå etc., does not say that all things are saπkhata. He merely says that what is saπkhata is anicca, with which statement everyone from an arahat to the outsidest båhiraka 4 surely agree, since it is almost a tautology. But the Buddha leaves it to your own experience to decide what is saπkhata. As more and more idols of the båhirakas’ temples are found to have feet of clay, so they (the båhirakas) are gradually driven to change their outlook. As for sabbe dhammå anattå, I am inclined to think that ‘References’ was the generally accepted meaning (even amongst båhirakas) of dhammå, for ‘chandam¨lakå åvuso sabbe dhammå’ 5 is addressed to båhirakas. (Your Sutta, which I had forgotten, rather tends to confirm ‘References’ as the meaning of dhammå—sabbe dhammå in one Sutta, and saπkappavitakkå 6 in another.) I don’t think that it is necessary to look for an equivalent for ‘Symbol’ very far. Is it not ‘vohåra’ and similar words? Ogden and Richards actually quote a passage from the D⁄gha (I have forgotten which Sutta 7). But although our triangles, Symbol-Reference-Referent and vohåra-dhamma-saπkhåra, are similar, perhaps they are not congruent. Korzybski: A slightly repellent subject, which I have almost forgotten. Perhaps what is meant is a long object crossing your vision at right angles. When the front (A) is directly before you, it has, as you say, no relative motion (only angular velocity). But the tail (B) of the object is not yet before you, and consequently has some motion relative to you, and a signal from

10


12.viii.54

early letters

[el. 8]

B takes longer to reach you than a signal from A:— (position of A when signal from B leaves)

A

(A)

t1

B

(B when signal leaves) (position of B when signal from A leaves)

t2 Observer

The moving rod AB will appear longer to an observer at O, than a stationary rod would. But perhaps that is not what you meant at all. Meditation progresses. Perhaps I have made up the ground I lost, but it is hard to tell. Before, I meditated entirely sitting, in the calm weather of March, with no belly aches, with L. to worry about domestic arrangements. Here, I mostly walk, the weather is gusty and not too good, the belly needs attention, and I have to think about obtaining what I need (water supply, beli8 fruit, sandal repairs, etc.). Perhaps it is of sturdier growth this time, but it is less peaceful. [ EL. 8 ]

12 August 1954

As regards the contradiction and non-sequitur 1 they are, as you guessed, merely verbal inexactitudes. The letter was written at speed and was more in the form of rough notes than anything else. All that I meant to say was that References are memories either of past five-sense-experience or of past memories of five-sense-experiences or of past memories of past memories of… past five-sense-experiences. (Perhaps we should say ‘also of future five-sense-experiences’, since precognition became fashionable, but I am not much concerned about the time element, particularly since the mind appears to be out of space-time. It was only introduced to make clear that a five-sense-experience is not a referent in itself, but only when the mind is thinking about it. Perhaps the mind is always thinking about it in some degree—if so, then we can ignore the question of time.) The Past is certainly non-existent, and a memory of the past does not bring it back to life—it may perhaps imitate it, but that is another matter. The present problem is this. If dhammå = References, how is it to be translated into English? ‘References’ would do well, except that no-one who has not read The Meaning of Meaning would understand it, and you would always need a triangular footnote. Untranslated dhammå is cowardice, only to be resorted to if there is no other way out. Phenomena is now too vague,

11


[el. 8]

seeking the path

12.viii.54

I think. If it is translated differently according to context, the significance of the word is lost. Mental objects is faithful but flat, and most unwieldy. My own present inclination would be to do something like this. Use the word Ideas, and have a note explaining that it is in the Bardagan sense, and giving its various shades of meaning, thus:— Ideas (1) – Mental objects, what the mind is thinking about, References, etc.; Ideas (2) – Correct references to existence, therefore = Teachings; Ideas (3) – The set of correct references, i.e. the (Buddha’s) Teaching; Ideas (4) – Discussion is only about References (as Korzybski pointed out, you can only point at a referent), and this sense of ‘Ideas’ is therefore ‘the subject under discussion’, and thence = things. And so on. This note is given the first time the word occurs, and then translation reads like this:—‘All ideas (1) are rooted in desire’, ‘I take the Idea (3) for refuge’, ‘“These six bases of contact” is an idea (2) taught by me’, ‘Whatever ideas (2) there are, formed or unformed, the highest…’, ‘Dependent on the mind and upon ideas (1), mind-consciousness arises’, ‘He dwells contemplating ideas (1, 2) in ideas (1, 2)’, ‘There are, friends, these three ideas (4); which three? Lust, hate, delusion’, ‘For us, Venerable Sir, ideas (2, 4) are rooted in the Auspicious One’, ‘All ideas (1) are notself’, etc. Although this is clumsy in a short translation, in a long series of translations it allows you always to translate dhamma by the same word, and yet to indicate the different, but allied meanings of the word. But it is not ideal. What do you think? Korzybski again. It now occurs to me that any moving body with thickness (i.e. not all parts equidistant from the observer) will appear distorted, no matter how it is moving (angular or relative), since light takes longer to come from the more distant parts of the body. To an observer on the sun, the planets represent a flattened appearance in the line of motion. This can be seen from a diagram. My last letter somewhat rashly thought that meditation might be as good as it has been. Now it appears about as bad as it has been. But the weather is a bit soupy. English farmers would be astonished at agriculture here. Ploughing has been going on intermittently since March, and they are sowing in a field adjoining one in which they are on the point of harvesting. There is a grasshopper here which imitates a leaf—not horizontally like most leaf insects, but vertically. It has a flat green face, and there are sometimes brown patches of dead leaf to be seen, sometimes not. I even think I saw some imitation aphids on one of the brown patches. But it gives the whole show away by its fondness for sitting on a cement wall.

12


2.xii.54

[ EL. 9 ]

early letters

[el. 10]

Tuesday 1

Your comments on translation of dhammå are welcome. My only objection to ‘states’, and my only reason for choosing ‘ideas’, is that I need a word to convey that the basic meaning of dhammå is ‘mental objects’ or ‘references’. Your objections to ‘ideas’ are admitted, and the word would need a thorough laundering (in a footnote) before use. But I have no fresh ideas (an example of a desired sense of the word [≏ thoughts]) on the subject. The eagle (there are actually two of them) is much in evidence these days. A most handsome creature… Wing span I should think is about 2’ 6”. It occasionally perches thirty or forty yards away for a short time, and must be about eighteen inches from head to tail. I had the following conversation about it with the Ven. Kassapa (the conversation was remarkable for what was left unsaid):— Myself:—There is a fine brown eagle that lives in the valley below me. Ven. K:—I don’t think we have any eagles in Ceylon. Myself:—There is the fish eagle. Ven. K:—Yes, that is true, there is the fish eagle. Silence. Change of subject. [ EL. 10 ]

2 December 1954

Ven. Nårada Thera1 as might be expected after his return from Europe— very full of his doings, and telling it all in a hushed religious voice. He has many visitors and is the unwitting source of some merriment amongst his colleagues. (He told me, incidentally, that it is not at all difficult to reach the path—as Buddhists we now have no s⁄labbataparåmåsa and no vicikicchå, and all we have to do is to get rid of sakkåyadi††hi and Bob’s your uncle.) Your rare public appearances, combined with the news that you have translated the Visuddhimagga, are perhaps turning you into a legendary figure. When your health was asked after (particularly in high places, as Ven. Nårada) the reply that you were in excellent health and by the way had finished translating the Visuddhimagga had a marked effect. ‘The Visuddhimagga?’ they would say, ‘What, all of it?’, and when assured that such indeed was the case, and that furthermore you had typed it out and almost printed it, they would pause, as if with mental indigestion, and we could make good our escape unnoticed. (In self-defence I may say that I think I gave less publicity to your remarkable exploit than others who returned from the Hermitage.) You remember that Dante, after the Divine Comedy

13


[el. 10]

seeking the path

2.xii.54

was published, was regarded with awe as the man who had been to Hell and lived to tell the tale? I fear that you, in time to come, will be regarded with similar awe as the man who read the Visuddhimagga and lived to translate it.2

part ii: 1955 (el. 11-22) [ EL. 11 ]

5 January 1955

Thirty-five today. Nel mezzo del cammin.1 A depressing day. A day for taking stock, as a shoplifter entering Harrods might say. But perhaps not thirty-five years entirely wasted, if we are to follow Cyril Connolly 2 (I think), who says that a man has lived in vain if, at the age of thirty-five he cannot tell him, Cyril Connolly, something new. I could certainly tell Cyril Connolly something new; but I don’t think he would listen. My present intention is to apply for Ceylon citizenship. With this in view I have written for a copy of my birth certificate, which may arrive VPP at the Hermitage in a few weeks time. If it does, I should be grateful if it could be paid for and [that] I [be] informed. My reasons for applying are not very clear: but I think I shall be no worse off as a citizen of Ceylon; it would be convenient if I wanted to travel (which at present I do not); I don’t like the idea (however fallacious) that I am on the end of a piece of string stretching all the way from England, and that somebody may decide to start pulling it; as a Buddhist I prefer to belong to a country where Buddhist principles are sympathized with; and it is always possible, so it seems, to change back again if need be. [ EL. 12 ]

27 January 1955

Many thanks for your letter and for the results of your researches. Most useful. The essay—or the book, rather—now amounts to about 16,000 words without counting texts and there is still some way to go. I am following The Meaning of Meaning to some extent and the results seem satisfactory, but there are still difficulties. The final conclusion is disconcerting:—In the only intelligible sense of the words it must be said that nibbåna is anattå. And there is a Sutta confirmation of this—the M¨lapariyåya Sutta. How-

14


24.ii.55

early letters

[el. 13]

ever, the Ven. Nårada and Nyanaponika1 Theras do not use the words in any intelligible sense, so we don’t lose face. Without expanding nibbåna and anattå, to ask ‘Is nibbåna anattå?’ is rather like asking ‘Is not-blue not-salty?’ and demanding the answer yes or no. But sometimes I get fed up with writing the thing. The Sunday before last, as a result of an urgent telegram requesting my presence at the bungalow, I left my razor’s edge and went down to meet Senator J. and Mr. Z. Z. who is a small fat successful structural engineer. He and J. appear to be thick as thieves, and they have the idea of spreading the Dhamma in England. They want to make a small Ashram. I had to be very firm with J., who insisted that I should go to England. Z. appeared to support me, however. (He has absorbed Evola, and many of his opinions come straight out of The Doctrine of Awakening.2 I seemed to see a ghastly re-hash of my own way of thinking some six or seven years ago. Z., of course, is intelligent, but he has a businessman’s intelligence—very worldly and conscious of the more sensuous pleasures of life—and not, as he says, ‘intellectual’; which means that he has no very clear idea of the meaning and use of words and that it is practically impossible to talk Dhamma with him except in terms of the utmost generality. Nibbåna, alas! is an absolutely indescribable state into which the arahat enters at death, and being indescribable there is no point in trying to discuss it. I asked him how it could be known that there was such a state since it was inherently unperceivable. He answered that the fact that it could not be perceived did not disprove its existence. I said that he was tangling himself up in words, and he agreed, saying that therefore we should not discuss nibbåna. However, he is going to read The Meaning of Meaning and Mencius 3. (Evola, you will remember, says that when a flame is extinguished it passes into another state which we cannot possibly describe.) But it was all very friendly, and the discussion was carried on in what I imagine to be the atmosphere of a business luncheon. [ EL. 13 ]

24 February 1955

The weather here has been hot and dry for the past fortnight or so. I don’t like this kind of weather, but apparently it likes me, and there have been a few signs of a meditational revival. If it continues I shall be obliged to look for somewhere to live on a temporarily permanent basis in the Hambantota region where I can be hot and dry (and uncomfortable) all the time. This would mean more reconnaissance down there.

15


[el. 13]

seeking the path

24.ii.55

I have decided to translate the Satipa††håna Sutta passage, Atthi kåyo (etc.) ti vå pan’assa sati… na ca kiñci loke upådiyati as ‘Or mindfulness “there is body (etc.)”, is established in him until, from the measure of his knowledge and mindfulness, he dwells unsupported and clings to nothing in the world.’ Is this wrong? Thought the very first rough draft (or draught?) of the essay (I mean ‘the book’) that began as a modest refutation of ‘nibbåna is anattå’ is now finished, I have not dared read it through; and if I do by any chance look at a page at random I am appalled at what I have written. No doubt there are some good ideas in it, but there seems to be a lot of rubbish, and about six months’ hard work at it would be needed to put it in any kind of order. In my more lucid moments I realize that it is a waste of time to put it into shape, but when I am unable to meditate there seems to be very little else to do. But I have not touched it for three weeks. There is a tarantula living in a crevice in my parapet wall who looks as if she (presumably) is about to give birth. Most tarantulas allow themselves to be caught without making any fuss at all, but this one is very coy and retreats into her hole whenever she sees me coming. Last night I rigged up a kind of apparatus at the mouth of her hole whereby she could come out but not get back again, but it was too flimsy and she treated it with great disrespect. I have now made a stronger one and hope for results tonight. But I can’t afford to delay long or I shall have fifty to deal with instead of one. I am now losing whatever little enthusiasm I had for the Buddha Jayanti. The Sutta translations are good, though I can find them in books when I want; but the general rather naïve atmosphere of moral uplift, with its appeal to national pride, of the rest of the paper is not my cup of tea at all. Enthusiasm is a very poor substitute for the knowledge that whatever it is has to be done because there is no alternative, but it is much more exciting. [ EL. 14 ]

2 March 1955

Z. and J. have just returned from Burma, and have met all sorts of wonderful people, and are fearfully enthusiastic, and Z. returns there to practise meditation (jhåna in 24 hours), and they motored all the way from Colombo to tell me all about it and that I have the intellectual approach and am fearfully clever (just like my teacher Ñå~atiloka1) but that this is all wrong and that I must go to Burma and that they will arrange everything and that I must meet Lokanåtha2 who is a wonderful person who has never had a woman

16


6.iv.55

early letters

[el. 16]

and has such wonderful humanity (I nearly said that that was probably why), and they can’t understand why after five years effort I haven’t even got a jhåna let alone a path, and when Z. has finished in Burma he is going to tell me all about it, and so on. I said my guts were still out of order and that I didn’t think I should profit by a visit to Burma just yet. I think they must have been fearfully disappointed, but I got J. to agree to sponsor my application for Ceylon citizenship. They are very kindly people and mean well, no doubt, but oh! so exhausting. Paññavato ayaµ dhammo, n’åyaµ dhammo duppaññassa…3 I found (and fortunately captured) a scorpion in my privy with fourteen young clinging to her back. Do they feed their offspring, or are they (the offspring) simply taking a free ride until they can walk for themselves? The tarantula remains uncaptured, and I am afraid will soon have multiplied. [ EL. 15 ]

7 March 1955

It will be a great relief if it turns out that Suttas cannot be translated, but since the Visuddhimagga (or so I consider) is not the Buddha’s Teaching, you will not be exempted from publishing it (with Sutta passages untranslated). [ EL. 16 ]

6 April 1955

Thank you for your post card and enclosure. You forwarded to me, as you no doubt noticed, a letter from the Aldershot1 registrar. It is not that he doubts my identity, but that the supplying of birth certificates ‘is of necessity a prepayment service’, and if I can’t arrange the business through a bank he suggests that I might get the Prior of Fairborough Abbey to pay the fee (7/6 & 1/3 air mail—it used only to be a shilling a few years ago). His suggestion is meant kindly, but perhaps he thinks Buddhists are some obscure sect of Christians (Parangi Micchådi††hi, as I read somewhere), and that all religions are One. Mrs. G. is arranging about the certificate. I have written to Sir John asking for the necessary papers, but I imagine that the supplying of Ceylon citizenships ‘is of necessity a postponement service’, since I have heard nothing. No doubt a number of different agencies are busy looking up my political and criminal past. In preparation for my intended search for a suitable climate in Ceylon I have been making a brief study of the island’s rainfall. A certain amount of order appears in the chaos of Ceylonese weather, and several interest-

17


[el. 16]

seeking the path

6.iv.55

ing or curious facts. It seems that the indigenous or native weather is clear cool nights, bright mornings, and afternoon or evening thunderstorms particularly in the S.W. But we only have this weather when there is no outside interference, and particularly in March and April, and less in October and November. Other kinds of weather are foreign imports like expensive American cars, penicillin, and Players cigarettes; and these effectively swamp the market and the local weather doesn’t have a chance. The S.W. monsoon apparently starts as S.E. Trade Winds which, obeying Ferrel’s Law (who Ferrel was that he should dictate the behaviour of the Trade Winds I don’t know—some Big Shot on the Stock Exchange, no doubt), begin blowing from the S.W. as they cross the Equator. Then, because of ‘increased thermal intensity’—i.e. heat—in India, or for some other undiscovered reason—the meteorologists are quarrelling about it—it blows harder, becomes damper, and is called the S.W. monsoon. All things considered, Hambantota seems to offer the best climate, if I can find somewhere suitable to live. It is less hot than the rest of the dry zone, and the weather is remarkably uniform. Suitable diet with beli fruit is also available. Otherwise the eastern side of the mountains are dry in the S.W., but I should have to move in the N.E. Now the holidays are beginning the place is sounding like a rifle range, and next Friday—good Friday—will probably be the first of a number of our Guy Fawkes days. [ EL. 17 ]

21 April 1955

The Dhamma Synthesis remains stationary at the moment. The whole picture is now coherent, relatively speaking, and I do not find any unsatisfactory or provisional passages awaiting further elucidation (as there were in previous editions). This, of course, does not mean that I have expressed myself throughout in lucid perspicuous prose: far from it (it is a terrible mess in parts and will need a great deal of rewriting): but I know what I want to say. Still less does it mean that the picture would be coherent to anybody else… Or that I am necessarily right (though the degree of coherence between hitherto contradictory passages is encouraging), or, least of all, that it is the last word (each time I rewrite the essay I think there is nothing more to say, and each time I find I am wrong). On the one hand I have not made any fresh discoveries (such as Dhamma = Idea, which has been so fruitful); on the other, I have not had to retrace my steps. The latest advances in coherence and understanding have been due to a more systematic expansion of

18


21.iv.55

early letters

[el. 17]

doubtful terms. In case you are interested here are the main ones (though without explanation of how they are arrived at). 1. Yåvatå dhammå saπkhatå vå asaπkhatå vå… = ‘Whatever (true) ideas there are, formed or unformed… ’ = ‘Whatever (true) ideas are symbolized by any word (or phrase) “X”, where the words “X is formed (or unformed)” symbolize a true idea…’ 2. ‘X is formed’ = ‘The presence of X is due to the presence of conditions’. (= Imasmiµ sati idaµ hoti.) 3. ‘X is unformed’ = ‘The absence of Y is unformed, where “Y is formed” is a true idea’ = ‘The absence of Y is due to the absence of conditions’ (= Imasmiµ asati idaµ na hoti). (Try this on the Udåna Sutta, Atthi bhikkhave ajåtaµ abh¨taµ akataµ asaπkhataµ…,1 and we get ‘There is the unformed; for otherwise no escape from the formed would be manifest’ = ‘Absence of Y is due to absence of conditions’ is a true idea; for were it a false idea no escape from the presence of conditions would be manifest. Thus all bogus entities vanish.) 4. ‘Nibbåna is asaπkhata’ = ‘Bhavanirodha is asaπkhata’ = ‘The absence of bhava is due to the absence of conditions’. 5. Upådånakkhandha, a clinging aggregate = ‘The idea of an aggregate,’ which idea when cognized is liable (but not bound) to be accompanied by clinging. 6. ‘X is attå’ = ‘The idea of X, falsely cognized (or cognized with ignorance), gives rise to ideas of self.’ This follows directly from the Sutta, Ye hi keci sama~å vå bråhma~å vå anekavihitaµ…2 See also the next. 7. ‘X is anattå’ = ‘The idea of X, truly cognized (or cognized with wisdom), gives rise to the ideas not of self.’ 8. Sabbe dhammå anattå = ‘All true ideas/All ideas, truly cognized, give rise to ideas not of self.’ 9. ‘Nibbåna is anattå’ = ‘The idea of nibbåna (e.g. ‘Bhavanirodho nibbånanti’), truly cognized (or, the true idea of nibbåna), gives rise to ideas not of self.’ This statement, you will observe, is true provided it is expanded in this way; expanded in any other way ‘nibbåna is anattå’ is unintelligible. You will note that when the idea of nibbåna is falsely cognized ideas of self arise. Thus it would be true to say of Ven. Nyanaponika Thera that, for him, nibbåna is attå; and also that when he says ‘nibbåna is anattå’ he is unintelligible, for he certainly means something different to my expansion of the phrase. (By ‘unintelligible’ I mean ‘cannot be understood without assuming bogus—i.e. inherently unperceivable—entities’.) I expect the essay will remain in its present state until I have a long period of enforced idleness—and perhaps even then. More intelligent people

19


[el. 17]

seeking the path

21.iv.55

than I will not need the essay; those equally intelligent will find their way to the same point without my help; and those less intelligent will not understand it—for whose benefit should it be written, then, but for my own? This, perhaps, is not entirely true, but it serves to remind me that desire for publication of such thing as this is largely personal vanity… [ EL. 18 ]

8 August 1955

Having done abbhånakamma 1 in Colombo on the 2nd, having left Colombo on the following day, having arrived at my appointed destination, here I am. Much work has been done to make the place comfortable—or, shall we say, habitable?—and the result is better than I had expected. The cave itself is much larger than I had remembered, and I have about 12 feet square in which I can walk about with about a foot’s clearance; the floor space is about twice that. From inside looking out I appear to be inside a slightly flattened nissen hut—as broad but not so high. At its longest the cave is about 18’ from back wall to entrance. It is whitewashed inside and out and there is plenty of light, considering. The floor is cow dung and the front wall mud and wattle. The back wall is about a hundred yards of rock. Roof twenty foot of rock. The floor is not yet quite dry, and there is a small crop of seedlings coming up. Beetles make holes in it. There is a door and window, and inside the cave it is cool by day and warm by night. There is a drip-ledge and the faint remains of a Brahmi inscription—the character ſ is clearly visible twice, but the rest has more or less vanished. There is another, smaller, cave next door, so to speak… I have a 30-foot caπkamana cajan-covered outside the cave. The weather at present is warm by day—but by no means intolerably so—and cool by night, and I feel well. So far, the climate suits me. There is no rain and no mosquitos, but these will come and will be a nuisance and the cave may be stuffy if mosquito-proofed (it still smells a little of bats, but I don’t notice it so much now). My dåyaka, Mr. Perera,2 is staying here at present until things are in order, and has provided all meals so far, and I have yet to see whether outside dåna arrangements will work smoothly. He caught a wounded deer two evenings ago and brought it here to try and cure it, but it was too late and it died the following morning: it was famished and very thirsty, and had a broken leg and one eye destroyed; we got it to drink, but it would eat nothing. This place, being the only water hole in the neighbourhood in the dry season, is a favourite resort of hunters, but our presence has scared away both hunt-

20


31.viii.55

early letters

[el. 20]

ers and game. This area is to be opened up for paddy cultivation in about a year’s time, and my dåyaka could only get a few months’ possession of the place and that with some difficulty; so even if the climate suits I should have to go elsewhere to live. I am told there are several similar places round about Hambantota that might be satisfactory. Two sparrows have decided to inhabit the cajans over my caπkamana, which is regarded as a good omen by the locals (for me? for them? for the sparrows?); but there was a sparrow in every cave at 1. Arañña, so I am no more than in the fashion. The banyan tree does not, indeed, cover half an acre as I was led to expect, but it is a fine tree nevertheless; and an excellent rukkham¨lasenåsana,3 for you can sit in it—i.e. the roots come down on all sides leaving a vacant space, just big enough to sit in, in the middle… [ EL. 19 ]

26 August 1955

I have started making a fair copy of ‘The Meaning of Dhamma’ in odd moments. So far so good, but I am a little distressed to find a 800-word footnote… [ EL. 20 ]

31 August 1955

Many thanks for your letter—life seems to be following its usual inconsequent course at the Hermitage. My last postcard said that the ‘The Meaning of Dhamma’ was proceeding smoothly. In my experience it is always dangerous to say a thing like that, and this was no exception. No sooner had the postcard gone off than I had an idea that has caused a certain amount of devastation in what I had (as so often before) regarded as the final version. I now agree with certain views about the pa†iccasamuppåda’s not necessarily referring to three lives—Dahlke1, Evola and others—, but I agree with these views for different reasons, and think (from what I remember) that they are wrong. But the ferment has only begun, and I have yet to see 2 what the final brew will taste like. Reference your impending caucus: how flat, stale, and unprofitable seem to me all the people in this life who want to exploit the Dhamma as a ‘Culture’—as the ‘Buddhist Way of Life’ to be examined under the anthropological microscope and then put in a museum. Sometimes I think that all museums should be burnt.

21


[el. 21]

seeking the path

[EL. 21]

13.ix.55

13 September 1955

The ferment has now ended and the fresh brew is a great improvement—the pa†iccasamuppåda complete refers indifferently to two lives or three (not to one); but you will have to suspend judgement until you see how this is arrived at… [EL. 22]

11 October 1955

I visited Bundala the other day and found it has definite possibilities. Reasonable amenities—water, clean, quiet, shady, bus, dispensary, well-disposed people. Must revisit for a more detailed reconnaissance…

part iii: 1956 [No letters.]

part iv: 1957 (el. 23-51) [EL. 23]

25 April 1957

Arrived last Saturday in good order and a fast lorry. Spent Sunday thinking about groups and sending Amendment List to M.H., having discovered that a field is not a quality, but a combination of two. I don’t understand this, but I was certainly wrong before. Have now stopped thinking about it. On Monday went to Bundala and laid out the site. Fortunately no devastation has been done. Help is forthcoming on all sides. Someone in the village has given 4000 bricks which he had there, so the ku†i will have rubble foundation, brick walls, and tiled roof. Very good. Met the District Revenue Officer in the evening who told me that my site abuts that of a proposed artillery firing range. Fantastic news. Deep depression. Today at the site all day while digging has been going on. Bright sunshine, cool in the shade. Spent my time thinking of 3.7’s firing fifty yards away. Met District Revenue Officer in the evening who, having checked, says the proposed range will now be

22


20/27.v.57

early letters

[el. 25]

two miles away. Enormous relief… Foundation stone to be laid tomorrow morning… The ku†i is to be offered to the Saπgha after Vas… Everyone at Bundala is called Signor Gambam, which seems odd. [EL. 24]

9 May 1957

I now think that a field has only 15 alternatives, with itself as 16th, giving in all 136 possible field changes1. It does not change things at all… [EL. 25]

Monday 1

I have returned at Eddington,2 but not before discovering what is meant by ‘spin’.3 Here is the relevant passage:— Heisenberg’s principle has a very curious consequence when it is applied to an angular position and to a corresponding angular momentum. These are paired quantities and the product of their uncertainties is a quantum, i.e. Planck’s constant h. Consequently if we want to know the angular momentum of a system very accurately there must be a very wide uncertainty in our knowledge of the angular position or orientation of the system. But a difficulty arises. However careless we are we cannot make a mistake of more than 360° in laying down an orientation, or—in the usual circular measure—the greatest possible uncertainty in angle is 2π. Therefore by Heisenberg’s rule the least possible uncertainty in angular momentum is h/2π. This forms a kind of discrete unit of an angular momentum. We cannot distinguish differences of spin finer than this unit. When we describe changes of spin of an atom such changes must amount to one or more units, for a smaller change has no meaning definable in terms of experience… It also follows that in the small-scale systems we cannot separate geometry from dynamics. As soon as we introduce into our picture of the world anything possessing orientation, it automatically begins to spin one way or the other… The most ‘restful’ system we can contemplate is one equally likely to have any value of the spin up to half a unit in either direction… In short, in ascribing geometry to the system we are compelled by the Uncertainty Principle to ascribe to it energy of constitution. (p. 105-106)

23


[el. 25]

seeking the path

20/27.v.57

Assuming, then, that ‘spin’ = asmimåna, we congratulate ourselves on having written the following before consulting Eddington:— The quantum physicist would appear to be suggesting that an ultimate particle, when considered not apart from experience, must be defined as just such a contradictory object—determinate only for an instant of no time. If such an object is to exist it will be indeterminate, that is to say, though it must exist hierarchically and with some orientation, it might exist with any orientation. And again Eddington (p. 236):— In more elementary problems, and in special cases, Dirac’s symbols a are associated with direction, and that is the notion we have of them to start with, but the notion is extended to include anything that can make a difference to the way in which one numerical characteristic of a system can be associated with another, and it has become more or less divorced from any kind of graphical representation. And myself:— Perception of shapes, though convenient for reflexion, is misleading in that we may be led to suppose that all temporalization is spatialization. But in other kinds of perception, even visual, temporalization takes the form of qualities that are not essentially spatial—the flavour of honey, for example, or a particular shade of blue—, and here such expressions as ‘surrounding zone’ and ‘peripheral fields’ must not be understood spatially. This is all encouraging, and we are pleased to be discovering the quantum theory (in a manner of speaking) before Eddington, but we cannot pretend that all is as clear as daylight. Upon reflexion it seems obvious that a quality cannot exist by itself, but must always be associated with another to form a ‘thing’, or rather one of a set of things—16 at a time (though the last is not obvious). This set of things, though, can exemplify a quality, by each member’s possessing it.b a.  i.e. the EF problem. b.  Ñå~amoli: The ‘16 at a time’ may never appear ‘as 16’ in experience coexisting, owing to the function of ignorance concealing a past.

24


14.vi.57

[ EL. 26 ]

early letters

[el. 28]

30 May 1957

I hear Bhante 1 has just died (?at Polgasduwa). Please let me know as soon as possible what funeral arrangements are being made. [ EL. 27 ]

1 June 1957

Thank you for your short note announcing your departure for the funeral in Colombo—it did not, however, arrive in time to prevent the tiresome business of deciding, on the basis of some stomach trouble I have been having,a that fourteen hours’ journey to Colombo… would be ‘injudicious in view of the delicate state of my health’… I shall expect, in due course, a full account of all that has happened, and of all that is going to happen as a consequence of all that has happened. It is as if a complex atom suddenly lost its nucleus—there will be a number of free electrons rushing about hither and thither in search of a fresh nucleus. Perhaps a new element will be born. Your last letter addressed simply to Bundala arrived the day after posting (and so do things so addressed from Colombo) so there seems to be no need to draw a map on the envelope telling the postman how to find me. I quite understand that an envelope with just one word of address looks very naked, and there must be a temptation to put on a few fig leaves. I shall certainly be glad to have L’Homme Revolté 1 in due course, when you have finished reading it. Like the Egyptians, I am plagued by frogs. Have you ever had the experience of a large and clammy frog’s jumping (and adhering) to the middle of your bare chest as you are walking late at night? I almost prefer the cobra. [ EL. 28 ]

14 June 1957

notes on two dimensions of time (With Reference to Eddington’s E-operator—highly speculative) 1. It seems, from the chapter1 on the Theory of Groups in Eddington’s New a.  Due, I fear, to overeating—they are (i) bountiful and (ii) good cooks here, and at present overflowing with milk, if not with honey.

25


[el. 28]

seeking the path

14.vi.57

Pathways in Science, that space-time may consist of three dimensions of space and two of time (not one, as we are accustomed to assume). 2. Professor C. D. Broad (I think) has a theory to account for precognition depending on two dimensions of time. Unfortunately I do not know further details. 3. If I do something I do it because I choose to. In other words, I choose to stop doing something else and to do that. But in order to exercise choice I must be conscious of two things: (i) what I am doing, and (ii) what I might be doing. 4. ‘What I am doing’ I call ‘the present field’, and ‘what I might be doing’ I call ‘an absent field’. 5. But I am conscious of an absent field, and it is to that extent present. 6. This suggests that I should speak rather of ‘the present present field’ and ‘a present absent field’. In other words, each field possesses two dimensions of time. 7. We thus have four categories, viz:— (i) the present present field, (ii) the present absent field, (iii) an absent present field, (iv) an absent absent field. 8. (i) needs no comment, (ii) and (iii), it is clear, come to the same thing,a for ‘what I am doing—but not now’ is the same as ‘what I am not doing— now’. From this it will be seen that neither dimension of time has priority over the other. (iv) is a fascinating category—it is what I am not conscious of. Discussed below (see 10). 9. When I make a choice, then there appears to be a general past, as follows: The present present field ‘becomes’ a present absent (or absent present) field; one present absent field ‘becomes’ the present present field; some (perhaps Eddington could say how many) present absent fields ‘remain’ present absent fields; some present absent fields ‘become’ absent absent fields; and some absent absent fields ‘become’ present absent fields. 10. An absent absent field, being what I am not conscious of, does not exist. It non-exists. But this category of non-existence depends upon the existence of the categories of existence (actual and possible): where there is no existence there is no non-existence either. Thus there is no vibhava unless there is bhava. (Does this explain why, and in what sense asaññasattå 2 can and must be said to exist?) The four, or rather three categories of actual existence, possible or imaginary existence, and non-existence would seem to a.  Ñå~amoli: That is, if they are commutative.

26


17.vi.57

early letters

[el. 29]

exhaust a thing’s possibilities—it must be actual, imaginary, or non-existent (and this last must not be confused with the image of a non-existent thing— which is already in the second category of imaginary things [Sartre’s néant characterizing every image is evidently one dimension of absence—the image, as image, is present]).a 11. This two time-dimensional structure would seem to offer a basis both for precognition and for remembering/forgetting. It also perhaps explains why we cannot see the whole of any object at once—we see the part our attention is fixed on, and we see peripherally other parts, but there are always some parts hidden from us.b [ EL. 29 ]

17 June 1957

Thank you for your letter with entertaining accounts of the deplorable funeral goings-on… I was visited today by the Ven. Nårada Mahåthera who told me you had said I would be glad to see him. As it happens, I was, for I was able to do åpatti desanå 1 with one of his attending bhikkhus, and this saves me a day visiting Hambantota for the purpose. He told me that you were present at the departure—which is good news since you will now be able to tell me all about it. I pleaded distance and sent a letter instead: this distance is really most convenient. Still no pi~∂apåta, but no great matter since the present arrangement works well—as soon as people bring dåna I accept it in my bowl, give them precepts, and they go—all over in five minutes. I can then eat at my leisure. Every evening I am brought a bottle of fizzy mineral water (for which I am acquiring a taste—though rather half-heartedly), a flask of tea (which I put into my flask for drinking at night), some kerosine oil, and a box of matches. Since I use no more than one match each day I shall be in danger of being eventually ousted from the ku†i by the accumulation of matchboxes. A simple arithmetical calculation, involving the volume of this room, the a.  Ñå~amoli: Something must be said somewhere on the words exist, be, become, cisenci [? illeg.], being, existence, and category. What is a category? What is the justification for calling existence and non-existence categories? b.  Ñå~amoli: This presumes that the object exists per se. But it is perhaps rather that we ‘cannot see the whole of any object at once’ because ignorance posits (by maññanå [thinking]) an object, whose whole is conceived to be but not all visible at once; i.e. by transcendence of the percept (what we do and can see). Does the object exist (in the same way as the percept)? If not, then there are different kinds of existence, and unless these are defined there will be ambiguity.

27


[el. 29]

seeking the path

17.vi.57

volume of a matchbox, and the number of days in a year, will enable us to predict when I shall need a new ku†i… [ EL. 30 ]

23 July 1957

Both Camus and Sartre assume (by pure prejudice—anti-Catholicism?) that death is annihilation. But Camus (perhaps following Heidegger’s Sein zum Tode) appears to believe that we have a comprehension of death as annihilation. (In this he is right to the extent that if death is annihilation then we must have comprehension of it [= we must be conscious of it = it must appear] as such.) But, as Sartre rightly points out in L’Être et le Néant, Heidegger is wrong 1, and we can have no comprehension of our own annihilation (so also Freud). Certainly we have an attitude towards our own death, but it is not abhorrence of annihilation, as Camus maintains, but fear of the incomprehensible (an incomprehensible of our own making by our gratuitous assumption that death = annihilation: death, in fact, is comprehensible and as an event in the course of being—vide pa†iccasamuppåda—not as annihilation). Now Camus builds his philosophy on this view of his, that death, unlike everything else, is the end of life (i.e. of existence), and is therefore the Public Enemy. It is easy (and tempting) to say that, were he right in this view, his philosophy would be admirable; but since his view is necessarily incomprehensible (i.e. I cannot, without loss of lucidity, assume the ucchedavåda point of view; for me it is retrograde), so is his philosophy. For Camus, one could never commit suicide (annihilate oneself) mindfully. But if, for ‘abhorrence of annihilation’, we read ‘fear of the incomprehensible’, then many of his remarks would be very pertinent as a description of karunå (but death then loses its privileged position as the enemy of mankind, and is ranged among the foremost of its ills—jåti, jarå, mara~a, soka, parideva, etc.). In particular, such a description of karunå would show that the Ven. Kassapa Thera’s objection is quite unfounded, that in creating oneself one creates others and vice versa. Karu~å (and also the other brahmavihåras) is, in fact, a deliberate remoulding of Camus’s ‘Nous sommes’ 2 or Sartre’s ‘Pour Autrui’ 3 into profitable form. From this point of view L’Homme Révolté seems interesting and valuable. Camus makes use of the word ‘History’. I seem to detect the utraquistic fallacy here. I think he is using the word in the following two senses:— 1. The accumulation of arbitrary facts that are remembered or have been recorded in documents, history books, and so on. 2. The present situation of mankind.

28


23.vii.57

early letters

[el. 30]

The first of these is the Police Court Memory of mankind: the second is the Past of mankind. The difference is this: I must have a past (vide Sartre L’Être et le Néant, Ñå~av⁄ra ‘Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth’4), but I am not at all obliged to remember it; and, correspondingly, Autrui (as a whole = mankind) or Society must have a past (which is its present organization— as it appears to me, of course), but it is not at all obliged to accumulate a memory or store of facts recording its past. In L’Homme Révolté, it appears, ne peut se détourner du monde et de l’histoire sans renier le principe même de sa révolte (p. 354) 5 and ignorer l’histoire revient à nier le réal (p. 356).6 But which history? The yogi, Camus says, is éloigné du réel 7 on this account. Either he ignores the Police-Court Memory of mankind, in which case he does very well indeed (just as the meditator who does not hanker for the past, but who lives strictly in the present—vide Bhaddekaratta Sutta;8 and it is very naïve to suppose that one’s memories throw any light on one’s present situation); or he ignores Autrui, which is impossible—if he is a yogi he has become one precisely in view of the present situation of himself and his society, he cannot help acting à partir du réel.9 (It is noteworthy that India, generally speaking, has no Police-Court Memory. Western Scholars complain ad nauseum that India has not recorded its history, that it is impossible to discover to what century a manuscript belongs. This, as I see it, is simply the tendency to mindfulness as opposed to that of living on one’s memories (cf. Proust) transferred to Autrui or Society generally. Is this perhaps the key to the fundamental difference between East and West?) In comparison with Le Mythe de Sisyphe, L’Homme Révolté is fearfully laboured (or perhaps just wordy), but sometimes one meets some magnificent things. Did you note this one? Il semble que les grandes âmes, parfois, soient moins éprouvantées par la douleur que par le fait qu’elle ne dure pas. A défaut d’un bonheur inlassable, ine longue souffrance ferait au moins un destin. Mais non, et nos pires tortures cesserant un jour. Un matin, après tant de désespoirs, une irrépressible envie de vivre nous annoncera que tout est fini et que la souffrance n’a pas plus de sens que le bonheur.10

29


[el. 30]

seeking the path

23.vii.57

For this I forgive him much. Sartre, on the other hand, says that death is annihilation, but that we have no comprehension of it as such. This is taking away with one hand what he gives with the other (and Camus does not make this mistake—perhaps unwittingly). Certainly we have no comprehension of it as such—and therefore it is not so. How can we ever discover that it is so? But this view leads him to suppose that we quite spontaneously appear in the stream of being complete with a past, and, just as spontaneously, vanish from it. This can neither be proved nor disproved (i.e. it is metaphysical), but since everything happens as if I always was and will be, that does not matter. Sartre, consistently with his philosophy, is nihilistic—in the sense that any course of action is, ultimately, as good as any other—and can be a communist with a clear conscience. And his Réflexion sur la Question Juive has already (1944) a noticeable political bias. His discussion is brilliant… but at the end he can write (‘Un Sartre s pu écrire’):— Le Juif d’aujoud’hui est en pleine guerre. Qu’est ce à dire, sinon que la Révolution socialiste est nécessaire et suffisante pour supprimer l’antisemite; c’est aussi pour les Juifs que nous ferons la révolution.11 This is unforgivably plat.12 The other book has little new in it, but is quite readable. Perhaps it was the Hungarian vindication of Camus’s analysis (which is fascinating) of the Caessarian State and the Communist Revolution that has changed Sartre’s mind again for him. Camus must be a minor prophet by now. But the (probable) attractiveness of Camus’s views (for an uccheda­ vådin) does not prove their correctness (except for an ucchedavådin). The Hungarian (counter-)revolution was not, I think, metaphysical…13 [ EL. 31 ]

27 July 1957

Many thanks for the bomba and the Heisenberg.1 In comparison with Eddington (New Pathways) Heisenberg is, I find, a step backwards. Though his article is interesting, it tells me far less than Eddington and I cannot see any advance. I think I am getting a little light on Eddington’s six pentads of E-operators; and since I find this structure, that Eddington finds in the atom, in my macroscopic experience (looking at a leafy bush, for example) I conclude (1) that an ‘electron’ (i.e. an object) exists at all levels (and they are infinite) of generality (i.e. hierarchically), and (ii) that the distinction

30


1.viii.57

early letters

[el. 32]

between ‘small-scale’ and ‘large-scale’ is wrong—it is simply the distinction between my experience (at any level) viewed ontologically (or with sheer reflexion) and the same experience taken for granted and with inferential logic applied to [illeg.] Heisenberg speaks of ‘substance’: Eddington says we cannot get beyond probability waves. Heisenberg (who perhaps disagrees with Eddington) seems to believe in the absolute objectivity of electrons etc., but Eddington (rightly) remarks that the quantum physicist cannot get outside his own experience… [ EL. 32 ]

1 August 1957

More reactions to Heisenberg. If Heisenberg (and the other physicists) seriously maintain that it is possible to obtain qualitatively different things from the position of motion of things that ‘themselves possess no qualities’ then they are bigger donkeys than I took them for. How can a thing that possesses no quality (not even that of visibility or at least measurability of locatability) have a motion? How, if ‘there is only one homogeneous materia’, can it ‘exist in different discontinuous stationary states’? Is this not simply to say that this ‘homogeneous materia’ has the property of being heterogeneous? If this is the assumption that the physicists are going on then they have assured themselves of work for eternity. Sooner or later they will discover that each of these ‘different discontinuous stationary states’ requires a still more fundamental ‘homogeneous materia’ to explain it, and so on, ad inf. a It is inherently impossible b to obtain qualities from ‘what has no qualities’; and this is another reason why I hold that experience is hierarchical—general qualities or characteristics depend on more particular ones, and these on still more particular ones, and there is no stopping (at either end). ‘What about the four mahåbh¨tas’, someone might object. ‘Has not the Buddha given these as fundamental?’ The answer is in the M¨lapariyåya Sutta, where the first ideas to come under fire c are precisely these. This ‘homogeneous materia’ is Sartre’s En-soi pur 1: a pure invention. a.  Ñå~amoli: Or (in Hegelian terminology!) requires a still more absolute to mediate it. (what are the logical consequences of this??). b.  Ñå~amoli: Seems to commit one to association completely—perhaps this is intended. c.  Ñå~amoli: It is not the mahåbh¨tas but the maññanå that comes under fire in M¨lapariyåya Sutta. This needs stating differently.

31


[el. 32]

seeking the path

1.viii.57

It is impossible in L’Être et le Néant to discover whether the en-soi pur does or does not possess qualities. Eddington is much more honourable an exception than I had thought. The article is astonishingly revealing of the present attitude of physicists—and its value is precisely in this; for the rest it serves only to befog the whole issue. I now discover, much to my satisfaction, that my account of the leafy bush and the quasi-synthesis of absences, which compose App. VII,2 has precisely the structure of Eddington’s E-operators. This is too involved to go into here in detail, but something can be said. You will remember that there are six pentads each of three space-like operators (square +1) and two time-like operators (square -1), and that these all anti-commute with each other and are therefore at right angles to each other. (For your benefit the six pentads are as follows:—a E1

E8

E15 E1

E3 E14

E5

E9

E11

E4

E10 E12

E11 E7

E13

E13 E9

E6 E15 E10

E12 E2

E8

E3

E5

E14

E4 E2

E6 E7

Notice the symmetry 1

8

15

14

11

4

12

13

6

3

5

10

3

5

10

9 2

7 9

2 7

Plus the stay-as-you-were operator E16) a.  Ñå~amoli: The symmetry is there because we put it there originally in fixing ABCD and the spans and ⁄ pairs of operations: what results is bound to be symmetrical, consequently, that there is symmetry in the numbering of the groups of ⁄ need cause no surprise, or is it intended that this particular has significance, and if so what?

32


1.viii.57

early letters

[el. 32]

The present field is always E16 a—then, taking any pentad we choose (say the first), each absent field (of which there are an indefinite number) is defined by five numerical coefficients, one for each dimension. Thus an absent field might be 5E1

,

7E8

,

3E15

2E3

,

9E5

.

The important thing is this: the three space-like operators determine essenceb or qualities (dhamma); the two time-like operators determine existence (saπkhåra). It has to be remembered that this scheme is designed to allow for the observer, and this is done by providing an extra dimension each for space and time.c Every value is a relationship between observer and object, and this is why two time-like dimensions are necessary to establish the existence (i.e. the appearance) of a field (or object at a certain level of generality) in varying degrees.d In other words, one dimension would give observer and object (i.e. the existence of the object),e and the second dimension allows the existence to vary in degree (i.e. more or less in time)—my peripheral attention may be directed to, or withdrawn from a given object, i.e. a temporal succession of objects (‘peripheral’ because we are dealing with peripheral or absent fields). The three space-like operators (which are superimposed, as it were, in the two time-like operators—i.e. they are not separated by a néant, of which more anon) are necessary to establish a qualitative difa.  Ñå~amoli: Is E16 a null operation? The present field, if equated with E16 is always commutative (and never forms part of a Pentad), which, I think, means that it is objectivized, and so is non-existence and essence; but see next note. b.  Ñå~amoli: If essence is equated with space and existence with time what are commutation and non-commutation to be equated with? c.  Ñå~amoli: Is this observer observed or not? /extra dimension each(?) for space(??) and(?) time(??). d.  Ñå~amoli: ‘Every value’ etc. I tend to the notion that if the observer is regarded as pure subjectivity (viññå~a with asmimåna) then the dual relation (phassa) which appears, is properly described as existing [?illeg.] between the observed observer (ajjhattakkåyå [… ?illeg.] and the other [… ?illeg.] observed (bahiddhå åyatanånam) (and instead of [?illeg.] the pure unknown [?illeg.] subjectively (viññå~a) that constitutes that duality: this [… ?illeg…] is the relation (phassa). The trouble is that pure subjectivity inherently cannot be observed, which is very tiresome for the observer who wants to see himself. e.  Ñå~amoli: Would one dimension give observer and object? If so, how? Or does this only apply to time?

33


[el. 32]

seeking the path

1.viii.57

ference between fields of objects.a One dimension gives the existence of an object (as before); the second dimension multiplies the object (in space, not in time as before), and Ib get a number of co-existing objects; and the third dimension allows them to vary amongst themselves—and thus I get a number of co-existing different objects. Combine this with the time-like operators, and you get a number of co-existing different objects, to each of which you may pay varying attention at different times. This excludes the present object E16, and describes only the peripheral, absent, objects. Since every determination is a negation, however, each of the two time-like dimensions, and all of the three space-like dimensions, must be separated by a néant if they are not to get superimposed and thus be incapable of acting on each other in a relationship; essence (the space-like operators) and existence (the time-like operators) are superimposed as mentioned above, and cannot affect each other—i.e. whether or not I pay attention to an object it retains its same qualities (ches les choses l’essence précède l’existence3), and contrariwise, I may devote the same degree of attention, in turn, to two qualitatively different objects (chez l’homme l’existence précède l’essence).4 c And it turns out that this is so. The space-like operators, E1, E8, E15, go as follows:— E1E8 = -E9 ; E1E15 = -E2 ; E8E15 = -E7. The time-like operators, E3, E5, are thus:—E3E5 = -E10 . You will see, if you turn back, that E9, E2, E7, and E10, are all of them time-like—i.e. with square -1—, and therefore, unsquared, involving √-1. On the other hand each space-time combination, say E1E3 = E14, gives a space-like operator, square +1, and therefore space and time mix like milk and water, whereas space-space and time-time (in the same pentad, that is) are like oil and water.

a.  Ñå~amoli: Does a given object exist or not when ‘my peripheral attention’ is ‘directed to’ or ‘withdrawn from’ it? In other how much does such an object’s existence depend on my (peripheral) attention? Also is the word ‘object’ here used for what is saññita but not maññita or saññita and maññita? If this is not made quite clear there will be a fatal ambiguity. I think that one dimension is two dimensions, and so on. b.  Ñå~amoli: Am I in the space, etc.? How is the maññanå working here? This seems rather too facilely materialist-mathematical. The greatest dimension as stated… [illeg.]… appears not inter-changeable as those of space appear to be. Is there not a comparison here? What about a phenomenological reduction? c.  Ñå~amoli: This is important: but space and time belong to the group, while what the pentads throw up is dimensions, three of which are obviously spatial (from experience) and two are obviously non-spatial, of which latter, one is obviously (from experience) temporal: but the last? I see no ‘necessity’ to regard it as temporal so long as what is here called the second time-dimension is not shown to be not merely spatialized time. (Temporalization is not time.)

34


14.viii.57

early letters

[el. 33]

As soon asa� the coefficients of the time-like dimension in one absent field are both 0 a switch takes place, and that particular absent field becomes the new E16, and another (?) pentad defines the new absent fields. But since the structure of the second pentad is identical with that of the first, all goes on as before. It is curious to note that whereas distance in space may be defined as decrease in size of an object (a statement needing some qualification), distance in time may be defined as decrease in attention to an object.b And what is E16? Simply an entire six-pentad system of the next lower order of generality—but Eddington doesn’t say this. It can also be regarded asc 0E1

0E8 0E3

0E15 0E5

.

You see how ontological the quantum theory is (or should be), and how distasteful this fact evidently is for the modern scientific mind. Heisenberg says that the attitude of quantum physicists is turned against determinism; but oh! so reluctantly, and they try to keep it on the large scale by the device of statistical regularities, or rule-of-thumb (what an odd word ‘thumb’ is!). And this, mark you, in the face of Extra Sensory Perception-KP, which is as macroscopic as you please.d [ EL. 33 ]

14 August 1957

For Bhante [Ñå~atiloka]’s monument I can only suggest that the Buddhist Dictionary be carved on marble slabs, which can then be erected into a mausoleum or set into the ground to form a pavement according to choice. A marble statue of him at the entrance to the causeway (like de Lessep’s at the entrance of the Canal) is rather a frightening prospect. a.  Ñå~amoli: What is meant by as soon as and by 0? Remembering that the numerical coefficients are only numerical ordinally, not cardinally. b.  Ñå~amoli: Def. of time as attention? c.  Ñå~amoli: What is meant by 0? d.  Ñå~amoli: Deteminism, I say, is true of statistical regularities, regarded as absolute, which the materialist [?does? illeg], but since they can also be regarded as relative, or products, it is also not true of them (complementarity dialectic). Determinism thus can and must exist as a probability, and existence is thus always probably, but only probably, determined. No, not ‘in the face of ESP’; for then they cover their faces in mauvaise foi (i.e. lose face).

35


[el. 33]

seeking the path

14.viii.57

It is certainly sacrilege to question Heisenberg, and I am grateful to you for sending me his article allowing me to indulge in the pleasure of committing it. A most satisfactory feeling—give them all a good kick! The rest of this letter—if it gets written—is devoted to an outline of the amazing developments in quantum theory that have been taking place in Bundala in the last fortnight. Seriously, though, I have astonished myself by the things that have come to light by an examination (mostly on the caπkamana) of Eddington’s E-operators. In the first place, I am glad to say that nearly all the structural discoveries were anticipated by reflexion on experience—some already recorded in the ‘Sketch’ (which is now more of a ‘Basis for a Sketch’), some not. I had better number my paragraphs. 1. The last brief account I sent you assumed that only one pentad was operative at a time. This is wrong. All 16 operators are in action at once always, and it is their combined structure that is our experience. 2. Note that the word operation = kamma; this is exact, but it must be remembered that ‘action’ consists in ‘keeping a field in being’, which is equivalent to ‘allowing fields at a lower level to change’. Dealt with in ‘Sketch’—App. VI. 3. It is now clear that our experience (or ‘a field’) is fundamentally the interlocking of two, and only two, qualities (Eddington makes this clear in a passage I quoted to you some time back, but it is evident from considerations of the 16 E-operators). In visual experience these two seem to be extension (shape, space, etc.) and colour. But we find in practice that three dimensions of reference are necessary to fix a quality. In space this is evident, and in colour we find three primaries (red, blue, and yellow, I believe—or they may be different as regards light as opposed to paints). Thus, to fix a colour, it is necessary to know not only how far away it is from red and blue, but also from yellow (e.g. which is half-way between red and blue— purple, which combines both, or yellow, which combines neither?).a Note here that scientific ‘space’ is artificial in that there is no distinction between the three dimensions in practice, the three spatial dimensions are furthernearer, up-down, left-right, and each of these has its own distinctive ‘feel’ (a physiologist might say that we use different sets of muscles—a remark that is totally irrelevant), just as redness, blueness, and yellowness, have each a distinctive ‘feel’. a.  Ñå~amoli: This ‘colour dimension’ is nothing but ‘coloured space dimension’, for unless the colours are set out spatially in a spatial spectrum the distance between them cannot be measured. ‘Measurement’ is artificial.

36


14.viii.57

early letters

[el. 33]

4. To combine these two qualities, each with its three dimensions, we need nine ‘space-like’ operators, thus:—a E1 E8

E14 E11

E12

E4

E13

Redness

E15

E6

Blueness Yellowness

Further-nearer Up-down

Left-right

5. Each of these six dimensions is dominated by one ‘time-like’ operator (of which, naturally there are six). Each set of three ‘time-like’ operators is dominated by the ‘present’ operator E16 thus:—

E7

E10 E2

E5 E3

E9 E16

6. The present field, E16, can also be expressed as operators 1 to 15, each with zero coefficient. All other (absent) fields have positive coefficients for operators 1 to 15.b 7. This arrangement, in brief, allows the following variations: One field may vary from another (i) In any of the three spatial dimensions (differences in place or shape), (ii) In any of the three colour dimensions (difference in colour), (iii) In all the three spatial dimensions (difference in degree of location or definiteness of shape, well-defined/ill-defined), (iv) In all of the three colour dimensions (difference in light)—note that equal quantities of red, blue, and yellow, give white, and variation (iv) gives white → grey → black. (v) In relative quantity of absence of attention paid to them.c a.  Ñå~amoli: The two qualities are, in fact, colour and shape (distance is, I think, doubtful); perhaps direction if qualified. b.  Ñå~amoli: The difference between—and 0 is not that of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. c.  Ñå~amoli: That is a measurable quality of absence? — (But possibly ‘of absence’ was a slip of the pen for ‘or absence’.)

37


[el. 33]

seeking the path

14.viii.57

8. A similar analysis is presumably valid for our other senses. Note that the restriction to two qualities only keeps our different senses totally distinct (at this unreflexive level at least). 9. Variation (v) is of great importance. Each absent object (i.e. peripheral) has at any moment one coefficient of absence—i.e. it can be compared with its neighbour as regards its degree of absence or potential existence. The present field’s coefficient of absence is 0, which is to say that its degree of presence (as compared to the absent fields) is 1/0 or infinity; and there are infinite absent fields, whose degree of presence ranges from 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, to 1/∞ (not all these are necessarily occupied, and more than one field may have the same coefficient). Note that if you add all these together you get 1/0; for the sum of the series is infinite.a 10. This coefficient of absence is distance in time. The reason is this. Each time the present field of lower order in the hierarchy is destroyed— i.e. Whenever there is a switch—, each of these coefficients is decreased by one. That is to say, each absent field comes one pace closer to the present. But as the nearest absent field gets closer it occupies relatively more of the available attention, and the paradoxical effect is that the more distant absent fields appear to be rushing off, temporally speaking, to infinity (just like the expanding universe 1, where near things get closer and more distant ones rush away, indeed this is probably the explanation of the expanding universe). Finally one absent field has its coefficient reduced to 0, and a switch has then taken place on that level. 11. We may note incidentally that the lay-out of coefficients of absence of a fresh field immediately after a switch is that of its superior field at that time, and that since its superior field is continually contracting (as described in 10), the given lifetime of successive fresh fields becomes shorter and shorter. This is described in the ‘Sketch’, App. VII, but I do not have the equipment to demonstrate it mathematically (I am not sure how to deal with the coefficients). 12. From 10, then, we have the extremely important fact that each present field (all this is disregarding reflexion, of which we have something to say) comes into being with a given lifetime—the coefficient of absence of its nearest absent field. In other words, impermanence is an inherent structural characteristic of experience, and not just an adventitious curiosity. 13. And from 11, though this is of less importance, at each level of experia.  Ñå~amoli: Having used the coefficient numbers ordinally only, does not this mean a surreptitious use of them cardinally? ‘The sum of the series is infinite’—but in my philosophy 1 + 1 = 1???

38


14.viii.57

early letters

[el. 33]

ence time is getting progressively shorter—which implies that we are on a kind of escalator, continually climbing to more and more general fields in order to keep the same level—but this is a very gradual process. It seems to account for the fact that increased impatience (i.e. an accelerated change of fields) precedes a change of field at a more general level—when ‘eating dinner’ we like our early courses to be substantial, and the later ones, sweet, savoury, nuts, port, brandy, etc., to be quick and short, and then we stop ‘eating dinner’ and do something else. 14. But when we reflexively examine a field with its absent fields it is not seen as temporal. Each absent field has a different relative degree of appearance of absence, of attention paid to it. That is all. Now I have said in separate places, (i) that we always automatically occupy the most pleasant attitude, (ii) that attention is always automatically directed to the most pleasant fields, and (iii) that degree of attention to a field is inversely proportional to its distance in time, i.e. varies as 1/coefficient of absence. These may be reduced to a single statement that the most pleasant alternative is always the nearest in time (for which a structural reason is evident), or that comparative degree of pleasantness = distance in time. The present field, which is infinitely near, is infinitely pleasant (see (i)). That is to say unreflexively; for reflexively we may see that the present field is most unpleasant. 15. These considerations show that if we speak of ‘(change of) feeling’, it is redundant to speak of ‘time’, just as when we speak of ‘(change of) perception’, it is redundant to speak of ‘space’ (or qualities, or essence). Thus we have:— (change in) perception = space or essence, (change in) feeling = time or existence. It is not surprising that the Buddha rarely speaks of ‘time’. 16. I have long maintained that experience is ordered hierarchically, with the more particular below the more general. I have also maintained that it goes to infinity at both ends, the more and more particular and the more and more general. I am glad to say that I can now demonstrate this mathematically, given the 16 E-operators. Exactly the same pattern is repeated on a scale 16 times as large or as small depending on which way we go. This fact is fairly evident from consideration of the E-operators, and I wonder if Eddington missed it. Perhaps his successors have noted it and do not like the idea. 17. This brings me to my first climax (there is another to follow). If you will refer to Eddington’s chapter on groups you will see that he derives the 16 E-operators from two successive sets of four operations (Sα Sβ Sγ Sδ Dα Dβ Dγ Dδ), plus the turn-them-all-upside-down operator, of which there

39


[el. 33]

seeking the path

14.viii.57

will be more to say, on four things A B C D. The D-operators (which I shall call T-operators) arrange these four things in time, the S-operators arrange them in space. But what are these four things, A, B, C, and D? Before they are operated on they have the sole characteristic of being totally distinguishable from each other. They have no qualities in common. They are four ‘homogeneous materia’. (Note how foolish Heisenberg is in hoping for one ‘homogeneous materia’.) At any level, four things, fundamentally distinct, are necessary for operating upon, temporally and spatially, in order to arrive at experience. These, Venerable Sir, are the Four Mahåbh¨tas, not three, not seven, not nineteen, but four. And these four mahåbh¨tas are present in every object, just as A, B, C, and D are present in each E-operator. Just as it is not possible to meet A by itself, so we cannot meet pa†havi in a pure state (not to be confused with either the concept or with common earth—perhaps extension, cohesion, etc., are adequate, but we cannot allow motion as one of them). I tried to discover what A B C and D really are, and I succeeded in – – proving mathematically that each arrangement of A  B  C  D (B –  A –  D  C  for example—I put negatives above instead of turning them upside down) is one of sixteen possible arrangements of sixteen arrangements of four things A’ B’ C’ D’ on the next lower level of generality. So, although our experience rests on these four things, it is useless digging down to find them (as Heisenberg hopes to do); for they will always be just below our feet.a 18. This is the first time, I think, that I have found a structural reason for a number in the Suttas. It may be coincidence (four elements commonly occur in many systems of thought), but in view of the second climax (which is much more impressive) I think not. Till now I had always considered the four of the mahåbh¨tas entirely arbitrary. 19. I must emphasize that hitherto we have been dealing with strictly unreflexive experience. And that experience is totally without movement or change. All I have is a simultaneous static presentation of objects, each with a given quantity of appearance or absence or attention. It is the view we have in a flash of lightning. It has no thickness in time. At least it is a series of ‘stills’, but I already have to reflect to say ‘series’. There is structural evidence to show that it cannot exist autonomously.b a.  Ñå~amoli: Can one speak of a ‘before they are operated on’? Pa†havi is hardness, not extension. b.  Ñå~amoli: Cf. Freud’s ‘unconscious’ which has no knowledge of affirmation or denial and to which its own death is inconceivable. I.e. comparison in unreflexive consciousness. Further: unreflexive consciousness is not experience unless reflected upon, and reflexive consciousness must have unreflexive consciousness (manodhåtu

40


14.viii.57

early letters

[el. 33]

20. Having arrived at this point, I came to the conclusion that if the structure of unreflexive experience is so elaborate, it would be a hopeless task for me to investigate reflexion by way of E-operators, and that all I could do would be to describe it phenomenologically, i.e. by reflexion on reflexion (not an easy task, supposing it possible) and then to hope that a mathematical genius would turn up to put it into mathematical form. I had decided, however, that reflexion requires a third set of operations on the A B C D, but I was quite unable to find a set that differed fundamentally from the S-set and T-set. I also had the idea that an approach might be possible on this line:—what must the structure of experience be in order that movement should exist? 21. For some time now I have been considering that mind (mano) must be the orientation of reflexive experience, and, by implication, that maññå~å must also necessarily be reflexive, and that ideas (dhammå) must be reflexive objects. And then, suddenly, the mathematical genius appeared—the Buddha himself. It occurred to me that the tetrad of the M¨lapariyåya Sutta: (i) pa†haviµ maññati, (ii) pa†haviyå maññati, (iii) pa†havito maññati, (iv) pa†haviµ me ti maññati (a) is exactly in the form of a set of four operators, and (b) describes how dhammå, or reflexive objects, arise, or the transition from saññå to maññå~å. The only trouble was that I did not know what it meant.a 22. Then I consulted my fil conducteur,3 i.e. movement, and the answer was plain. (In what follows pa†havi is simply regarded as a percept as the Sutta says.) (i) pa†haviµ maññati is the stay-as-you-were operator. (ii) and manoviññå~adhåtu?). E operations are specially distinguished by the fact that they do not ‘get you anywhere’; each operation is simply that of some other one of the set of 16 S.T. operations, so activity goes round and round, does not progress; ‘change’ brings nothing new. On trotte en place 2. a.  Ñå~amoli: a: What about the things that follow in M¨lapariyåya Sutta? They are not sets of four. b: maññanå does not follow saññå in the puthijjana but is conascent with his perception, distorting it from its inception. A B C D cannot be stated except together in any way by an operation; for A B C D, e.g., is E16. (What about muddle: an incomplete S-operation?) My particular identification of A B C D is probably only valid on a given level with a particular substructure and superstructure—it then forms the ‘orientation point’. Cf. Astronomy where there is no absolute centre, but where the Copernical sun is simply more convenient than the Ptolemaic earth. So the mahåbh¨tas are probably the most convenient point of (quadruple) orientation in kåmabhava (and perhaps r¨pabhava). I am inclined to think that the second dimension of time as ‘the time of one clock seen together by the mind’ is not a second dimension of time, but a spatialization of time. (The converse temporalization of space would be a verbal description of a simultaneous complex event.) What then is the 5th E-operator?

41


[el. 33]

seeking the path

14.viii.57

pa†haviyå maññati is the presence of an object. Now for an object to be present there must be qualities or essences having existence over an extent of time. This is obtained if essence is evidence of existence—if time is regarded as space (in movement space travelled is the measure of time), or if (change of) absence is regarded as (change of) presence. (iii) pa†havito maññati is the absence of an object. For an object to be absent there must be an extent of time (absence is temporal separation from the present) having the quality of identity or continuity. This is obtained if existence is evidence of identity or essence—if space is regarded as time, or if (change of) presence is (change of) absence. (iv) pa†haviµ me ti maññati is possession of an object. If an object is always present it is not mine, but me: if it is always absent it is not mine at all. Thus for possession of an object it must be present and absent. This is obtained if essence is evidence of existence and existence is evidence of essence—if time is regarded as space and space is regarded as time, if absence = presence and presence = absence. 23. Now returning to the T-set of operators, you will remember that two letters at a time are turned upside down. This is to indicate absence. Letters the right way up are present, upside down they are absent. (As I remarked earlier, I prefer putting a minus sign on the top of the letter – – to indicate upside-downness—B –  A  D –  C.) An essential property of a set of four operations is that two in succession are equivalent to the other – – – – two in succession. Thus:—B 2&4—B   A  D  C, –  A  D –  C reverse 3&4, then – – – – – – – B –  A –  D  C . Stay as you were, then reverse 2&3:—B –  A  D –  C , B –  A –  D  C , and the result is the same. Does our set obey this rule? Here it is (I shall call it an R set):—Stay as you were, Reverse the unreversed, Unreverse the reversed, Reverse the unreversed and unreverse the reversed. Let us try it – – on B –  A  D –  C:—(i) Stay as you were, – – – – Reverse the unreversed then :—B –  A  D –  C, B  A –  D  C – , (ii) Reverse the Unreverse the reversed – – – – unreversed, then unreverse the reversed:—B  A  D  C , B –  A –  D –  C – . Something has gone wrong! What can it be? Of course! —if we are going to regard time as space, how can we possibly do one operation after another? Obviously the operations must be done simultaneously. With difficulty disposed of, all is plain sailing. 24. Here, then, is the scheme:— ABCD Tα Reverse 2 & 3 Sα Exchange 1 + 2 and 3 + 4 Tβ Reverse 2 & 4 Sβ Exchange 1 + 3 and 2 + 4 Tγ Reverse 3 & 4 Sγ Exchange 1 + 4 and 2 + 3 Tδ Stay still Sδ Stay still

{

42


14.viii.57

early letters

[el. 33]

Rα Reverse the unreversed/Unreverse the reversed Rβ Unreverse the reversed Rγ Reverse the unreversed Rδ Stay still 25. But what has happened to the turn-them-all-upside-down operator? It is Rα. And thus the space operator is now seen to be the reflexive observer who was there all the time in unreflexive experience. We have merely made his existence legitimate. The existence of the space operator is evidence that unreflexive experience cannot exist autonomously. 26. We now solve a most troublesome problem. How is mind the pa†isara~a of the five faculties (M.43)? In unreflexive experience the provinces of the five faculties are distinct (as we noted in para. 8). But if time is seen as space, as a quality or essence of an object, there is nothing to keep the provinces apart; for time is the same in all. Thus, in reflexion, we have one object whose characteristic or essence is that it exists in all provinces at once, or in different ones successively—we may see, smell, taste, and touch, an onion.a 27. We have also solved the problem of uniform motion, where space travelled is evidence of time of existence and vice versa. Naturally this includes uniform change of colour (a chameleon,b for example) and of other qualities. But we must note that in single reflexive experience, uniform motion appears just as a static object does in unreflexive experience. But we can also perceive change in uniform motion, i.e. acceleration; and this implies that double (and perhaps more) reflexion must be possible. Can it be proved mathematically? I think I have done so. Without going through all the steps, here is a description of how to get a reflexive E-operator (remember that an unreflexive E-operator consists of two different operations – – – – carried out on four items, A B C D: —(i) A –  B  C –  D, (ii) A  B –  C  D – )—(i) take the four items A B C D four times:—A B C D A B C D A B C D A B C D a.  Ñå~amoli: The identification of any operator or of A or B or C or D or whatever component of this scheme such as time or space can never be absolute, but only an ‘if then…’ identification whose probability if considered may be indefinitely high (i.e. extend beyond the horizon), but a different identification takes place in a different mode (intention). Here choice comes in. The absolute determinancy is only probable in time > space: the absolute eternal certainty is only temporary in space > time. We may see a sight, touch a touch, mind an idea, and conceive an onion. We never see an onion, which is made to be (pabh¨ta) by the pa†iccasamuppåda, which contains avijjå and ta~hå. b.  Ñå~amoli: A chameleon is perhaps not a good example, or perhaps it is. §27 (ii) sixteen? What about magnetizing, demagnetizing of iron balls? (craving—non-craving: inherent [?interest?illeg.]… [illeg.]…

43


[el. 33]

seeking the path

14.viii.57

(ii) arrange the letters within these four groups in one of sixteen different ways:— B A D C  B A D C  B A D C  B A D C (iii) Arrange these four groups in one of sixteen different ways. (You will no doubt object that since they are indistinguishable this cannot be done. In ordinary circumstances I would agree, but in reflexive experience everything happens at once and you must do your best.) (iv) Carry out the following subtle double operations (a) Reverse two groups and leave the other two unreversed. – – – – – – – – B  A  D  C   B –  A –  D –  C –   B  A  D  C   B –  A –  D –  C – (b) take one unreversed, and one reversed, group and perform a T-operation on them to correspond with the order of the four groups in (iii) above: – – – – – – – – B –  A  D  C –  B –  A –  D –  C –   B  A  D  C   B  A –  D –  C (v) You have now distinguished the four groups and will have no difficulty with (iii). 28. In all we get 16 of these four groups of four letters; and if we consider each group of four letters that has undergone a T-operation as reversed, and each group that has not undergone a T-operation as unreversed, we get – – for each four groups of four letters an arrangement of this nature:   –  –  (we have taken the actual example of §27). In brief, we discover that the organization of reflexive E-operators is exactly the same as that of unreflexive E-operators but on a more involved level. And this includes a spare ‘turn-them-all-upside-down’ operator. Consequently we must conclude that the whole process can be repeated and that reflexive experience cannot exist autonomously, but implies a higher degree of reflexion—and so on ad infinitum. (There is one slight difference between unreflexive and reflexive experience in that whereas the former has 6 time-like operators, the latter has 8. But since double reflexive experience returns to six again, I conclude that this is of no importance, and probably is due to the fact that originally in unreflexive experience there is space but not yet time—i.e. space is one move ahead, but in single reflexion time catches up—but this is a guess.) I must say here that I suspected that reflexion was an(other) infinite regression, and this mathematical demonstration only confirms my suspicion.a 29. This brings us to the end for the time being. I am fascinated by the discovery of E-operation structure in the Suttas. The tetrad of the M¨lapariyåya a.  Ñå~amoli: §17, 11. 7-8: is the more involved level the level of greater or less generality? The space operator = the confrontation of two sets in the decompression de l’être? At any stage there is a muddle-everything-up operator too (forgetting, crisede-mer), death.

44


18.viii.57

early letters

[el. 34]

Sutta as the reflexive set of operators is not a fanciful theory; for it was by reason of it that I was enabled to discover the structure of reflexive Eoperators. (I am afraid that, even though we now have reflexion expressed mathematically, the task of analysing it would be herculean.) The thought arises, how much was this method (or something like it) of describing experience explicitly discussed in the Buddha’s time amongst bhikkhus? Shall we find other things in the Suttas that correspond so neatly and exactly with Quantum Theory Structure as at present described? Perhaps there are only two ways of description of experience: phenomenological and mathematical. 30. I feel on much stronger ground now that it seems to be possible to check on my reflexive observation of myself by mathematical means, though I am by no means dissatisfied to find that nearly all my more recent reflexive observations have needed no modification as a result of investigating these E-operators. E-operators, though useful (also as a guide to what to look for in experience), are not essential. Nevertheless, a philosopher who can bring forward mathematical proofs to back his views is in a strong position. All this, of course, is rough, unpolished, and written at great speed. [ EL. 34 ]

18 August 1957

corrigenda and addenda 1. There are not infinite, but 135 absent fields, I now discover (a return to my earlier view). This calls for slight revision of what I said about coefficients of absence, though the principle holds good (I have not yet discovered how to manage the coefficients). But I may change my view again. 2. Delete remark about cohesion, extension, etc. 3. Variation in all three spatial dimensions gives variation in location, not in definition. Delete reference to shape. 4. The M¨lapariyåya set is existential (as opposed to essential or qualitative or quidditative) transcendence, and not reflexion as I said. It is Sartre’s pre-reflexive consciousness of double transcendence, being transcendence of transcendence, i.e. transcendence of an object’s existence (which turns an object’s existence itself into an object possessed of being, and subject to study) is reflexion. This seems to account for the arrangement of time-like operators in pairs of six, eight; six, eight; etc. 5. Since, in order to switch from one field to another there must be transcendence not only of essence but also of existence (a new field is not only different from the preceding field, but also destroys it—and thus we

45


[el. 34]

seeking the path

18.viii.57

can account for the Theory of Groups by means of the Theory of Groups), and since transcendence of essence is an infinite hierarchy (particular ↔ general), so, too, transcendence of existence [= (transcendence)2 = reflexion] must be an infinite hierarchy to match. [ EL. 35 ]

23 August 1957

Your distinction between M¨lapariyåya Sutta as pre-logical and M.44 as logical seems justified. (Perhaps pre-reflexive and reflexive might be better.) Though I have not yet turned the searchlight of my powerful intellect on the M.44 tetrad, I observe that the M.44 tetrad contains vå, implying that the four items are mutually exclusive (one does not hold all the views at once); whereas the M¨lapariyåya Sutta tetrad does not, implying that the four items may be concurrent (which, as I understand them, they are).a Were I to meet Professor Heisenberg (a very remote possibility) I imagine the conversation might run something like this:— Prof. H. (pontifically):—Ignorance is now included amongst the laws of Science. The behaviour of an electron, for example, included the principle of uncertainty. Myself (incredulously):—What? You surely don’t mean objectively? Prof. H. (a little surprised):—Why not? An electron, we discover, is, by nature, uncertain. That is perfectly objective. Myself (with heavy sarcasm):—An electron really is uncertain! I suppose you are going to tell me that you can read an electron’s mind. Prof. H. (quite unmoved):—Of course. How else should we know that it was uncertain? Myself (completely taken aback):—Read an electron’s mind? How? Prof. H. (paternally):—Perfectly simple. The mind, as we all know, is simply the nervous system; and we can discover the state of the nervous system at any moment from observation of behaviour, by means of the established laws of science. We observe an electron and deduce from its behaviour over a period the nature of its nervous system, which we discover, in fact, to be indeterminate. We are thus able to say that an electron cannot make up its mind. Myself (fascinated):—Yes, yes! Of course! a.  Ñå~amoli: The M.44 portions are seen (di††hi) as ‘mutually exclusive’ while the M¨lapariyåya Sutta portions being pre-reflexive are not so seen, they just are so (vide Trend’s ‘No negation in the unconscious’).

46


1.ix.57

early letters

[el. 36]

Prof. H. (with finality):—Thus, you see, an electron is uncertain, just as we may observe that Schmidt is choleric or Braun is phlegmatic. And what could be more objective than that? [ EL. 36 ]

1 September 1957

1. In describing transcendence we begin with a percept:—pa†haviµ sañjånåti (M¨lapariyåya Sutta). This is not existentially void of thickness as Sartre’s en-soi pur is, but is a field existing in its own right, fully rounded and transcended, but at its own level. We are to describe the structure of its transcendence at the next higher level of generality. At this level, the percept is an essence without yet possessing an existence. It gets existence in the process of transcendence.a 2. An existing thing has two characteristics:—(i) It is capable of enduring unchanged in time, or else it does not exist. (ii) It is capable of movement (or more generally, change) as a whole (as a unit), or else it is not a thing distinct from other things: this is a most important point. (I think that Eddington’s 136 space-like EF-operators are concerned with (i) and his 120 time-like EF-operators with (ii)1. A description of movement, analogous to my description of a switch of attention, seems to give the Fitzgerald contraction as an essential structure.) Thus we shall expect to find that transcendence supplies these characteristics. (Note that a thing cannot both endure unchanged and change, at once). 3. The four positions of transcendence are the following, of which the first two relate to an unchanging essence enduring in time, and the second two to a changing essence (or unchanging existence) enduring in space. (Note that essence is ‘space-like’ and existence is ‘time-like’.) The four positions are simultaneous, though attention may be directed to one rather than to another.

the four positons of transcendence Pa†haviµ maññati 1. 2– 1– 4– 3– (for example) The Existence of Essence. This I call MONOTONY (of earth). An essence (earth) is or exists. It is a space (unchanging) in time. Pa†haviyå maññati 2. 2– 1– 4– 3– The Essence of Essence. This I call TO ENDURE (or ENDURANCE). The essence (or nature) of that essence (earth) is to be or to endure. That essence (earth) is or exists in time. a.  Ñå~amoli: Transcendence alone does not give existence.

47


[el. 36]

seeking the path

1.ix.57

Pa†havito maññati 3. 2– 1– 4– 3– The Existence of Existence. This I call a VARIETY (of earth). The essence (i.e. endurance) of that essence (earth) is or exists in space. Pa†haviµ me ti maññati. 4. 2– 1– 4– 3– The Essence of Existence. This I call TO CHANGE (or CHANGE). The essence (or nature) of that essence (endurance) [of that essence (earth)] is change. It is a time (unchanging) in space (note that it is the reverse of 1). Movement is change of space in uniform time (= 1). Any change of space takes time = 1. This is the definition of time (at any level). All change of space is carried out ‘at the speed of light’. Thus a variety of space implies a ‘simultaneous’ repetition of the same time, just as in 1 + 2 above. Endurance (or plurality) of time implies a successive repetition of the same space. Note the distinction:—(a) A repetition of space in time is a monotony, or existence of that space, existence of essence. (b) A repetition of space in space is a variety, or existence of time, existence of existence. (c) A repetition of time in space is change, or essence or nature of time, essence of existence. (d) A repetition of time in time is endurance, or essence or nature of space, essence of essence. 4. The following table may be of use:—a ESSENCE

EXISTENCE

ESSENCE

TO ENDURE (endurance) (to be one)

TO CHANGE (change) (to be many)

EXISTENCE

A MONOTONY (a one)

A VARIETY (a many)

EKATTA

NÅNATTA

EKAØ

NÅNAM

According to this table, the four positions of transcendence are as follows:

2. Pa†haviya (ENDURANCE) (TO ENDURE)

1. Pa†haviø (MONOTONY)

4. Pa†haviø me ti (CHANGE) (TO CHANGE)

3. Pa†havito (A VARIETY)

a.  A suppositious word, whose English equivalent is ‘a various’.

48


4.ix.57

early letters

[el. 37]

5. Let us now turn to Reflexion. In reflexion (which is a fundamental structure), the five khandhas come into view as things (cf. S.XXII,79, Khajjan⁄ya Sutta). The first of these is r¨pa or matter. Since it is a thing it is transcended and has the characteristic of Endurance-Monotony and Change-Variety. A thing (a field, a dhamma), however, is my self (self or value also appears in reflexion). Thus to decide what my self really is I am limited to four possibilities:—I (1) RÁPAœ ATTATO: My self is an essence (any one of a variety) that possesses existence. (the Existence of Essence) II (2) RÁPAVANTAœ ATTÅNAœ: My self is existence. (Endurance, or the Essence of Essence) Existence is the transcendence towards an infinity of appearances of an essence. Thus all appearances of an essence are included in existence. Here, then, my self includes matter. III (4) ATTANI RÁPAœ: My self is an existence that possesses essence. In movement or change (the Essence of Existence) an existence takes the form of a series or variety of essences (or spaces), just as in I above an essence takes the form of a series of times. IV (3) RÁPASMIœ ATTÅNAœ: My self is essence. (variety, of the existence of Existence) Since matter is the transcendence towards infinity of all particular forms taken by changing matter, all essences [= all varieties of matter] are included in matter. Here, then, matter includes myself. 6. Note that although the order here is different from that in transcendence, the same four fundamental positions are concerned. There is as much symmetry here as in transcendence, but of a different kind. In each, the first pair concerns an unchanging world and the second pair a changing world; but in transcendence the order of each pair in Existence-Essence, while here the direction or kind of transcendence is stated second—an essence is transcended in time (towards an infinity of appearances), an existence is transcended in space (towards an infinity of forms). Referring to the table in para. 4 above, these four views are as follows:— 2. R¨pavantaµ attånaµ (ENDURANCE) (TO ENDURE)

3. Attåni r¨paµ (CHANGE) (TO CHANGE)

1. R¨paµ attato (A MONOTONY)

4. R¨pasmiµ attånaµ (A VARIETY)

[ EL. 37 ]

4 September 1957

Yours of the 2nd received. Suggest you might envisage the two time dimensions as follows:—Suppose a clock is observed at 12:00 and at 12:05; a change of time is noted, giving one time-dimension; but the clock (or the

49


[el. 37]

seeking the path

4.ix.57

observer) is not present the whole time, giving another time dimension in which no change takes place. Thus 5 minutes needs two time dimensions √(52+02) = 5. A change in the clock (i.e. the observer) cannot be observed (except reflexively) since I am the clock. I said earlier that each arrangement of A  B  C  D, i.e. of the four mahåbh¨tas, is one of 16 possible arrangements of A  B  C  D on a lower level. This is the result obtained by considering the essential hierarchy. By considering the existential hierarchy it seems that the fundamental distinction (not evident in the essential hierarchy) between A, B, C, and D, is that each represents one of the four positions of transcendence of a percept x. That is to say, at any given level (the percept x is, at a lower level, a fully transcended dhamma, and will not therefore do as a homogeneous nature). This leads to the conclusion that the four mahåbh¨tas should be understood as follows:—Pa†hav⁄ = Monotony (of X), for which the notion of hardness is appropriate (how can it not endure?). Åpo = Endurance (of X), for which the notion of uniform flowing, of cohesion in time, is appropriate (a hard object is a sea of time). Tejo = Variety (of X), for which the notion of multiplicity of is appropriate. Våyo = Change or Movement (of X), for which the notion of capricious blowing is appropriate (how can it not take various forms?). [ EL. 37a ]

10 September 1957

From the draft of a letter from Ven. Ñå~amoli to Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra. Einstein was all his life opposed to the Quantum Theory because, he said, it was inherently ‘incomplete’, and his whole life was spent trying to establish absolute validity for the Relativity Theory against the Quantum Theory, because, he said, the Relativity Theory, if established, could give a ‘complete picture’. (Why should the world be complete?) Incidentally it occurs to me as follows: the foundation of the Relativity Theory is a decision (a choice) that space and time are not autonomous but interdependent, multiplied together and inseparable, while the mathematics of it (mathematics being themselves quite neutral) are the ‘how’. So it is a ‘change of field’ on a high level, but one that does not affect either the supposed autonomous observer or the supposed autonomousness of the observed. The Quantum Theory, however, gets on another still higher-level decision (choice) and involves a change of field that cracks open the supposed autonomousness of the observed, but still (though it admits the influence of the observer on the observed) leaves

50


10.ix.57

early letters

[el. 37a]

the observer out and unaccounted for. ‘Feedback’ does not really help here in my decision because it is quite capable of remaining entirely objective or of confining itself to the false-subjective of the psychologists. Certain general axioms occur to me (à propos of nothing in particular). They are incomplete, diffuse and subject to revision, but not-to-be-lostsight-of (by me, that is) till revised or rejected. (i) Food, aging and death must not be forgotten (as seems to happen in every philosophical system), even if they cannot be explained. (ii) Complementarity (à la Bohr), i.e. any description that claims complete coherence is incomplete by omitting to deal with incoherence. This appears in the ‘complementarity’ of the wave/particle descriptions of the percept-bodies called electrons, and again in the ajjhatta/bahiddhå aspects of the subjectively-experienced and objectively perceived body. Perhaps this principle shadows every generalization, the more general, the closer. (iii) Continuity-discontinuity: There must be some recondite fundamental tie between the (as it were) step-function of the Quantum Theory and the converse continuity, the flow, that is an undeniable experience (giddiness and nausea). The simile that comes to mind is that of my walking up a down-going escalator: I proceed by steps (my step-function or quanta), which conform to the shape of the flow, but the steps flow against me and, as it were, fuse my acts. By this means I have to step and flow simultaneously to stay put. (iv) There is only one ‘I’ in the ultimate analysis (given, of course, avijjå): the psychologists’ and psychoanalysts’ ‘other peoples’ egos’ are a fictive compromise, a miragic multiplication of the unique mirage. (v) One has to account for, or keep in mind, the influence of ignorance at some level all the time. Existence (the contra-part of eternity) balances like a tight-rope walker with a long pole, but is made to do so by ignorance, which masks the means (note the curious highly arbitrary, curious and semi-asymmetrical patterns that result from blocking off part of an A B C D operator ‘landscape’); this gives ignorance a blocking out characteristic, but how many aspects has ignorance (avijjå)? I am inclined to equate it on the maññanå (existential, not reflexive) level with transcendence. Transcendence is the being of ignorance. Instead of contradicting what was just said about the characteristic of blacking out, it rather confirms it; for in effecting the ‘negative’ act of blacking out something ‘positive’ is necessary. Transcendence transfigures the transcended and thereby makes it be and blacks out what is made not to be. Forgetting can thus appear as an aspect of transcendence (in M¨lapariyåya Sutta each of the four modes, while structurally related with the others ‘forget’ them on that level: this might

51


[el. 37a]

seeking the path

10.ix.57

be further developed). On the di††hi-level (reflexion) the layout is different, especially in that avijjå can, on that level, as it were, be temporarily and partially ‘pushed aside’. (vi) To exist (or to non-exist) is to be related. I am inclined (with caution) to regard and render phassa by ‘relation’, as the ‘duality’ (dvaya) constituted (phenomenologically ‘intended’), by consciousness (viññå~a rather than citta). It forms the basic axis of any situation or event whatever. The three, namely, the dvaya and consciousness are phassa, not the dvaya. This is most important, as phassa thus appears as the relation allowed by the décompression de l’être, which is consciousness. Two objects or past-objects (I call r¨pa an ‘object’ and nåma a ‘past-object’), I hold, cannot be related at all unless consciousness presides as néant, otherwise there is no situation, no event, no non-situation, no non-event. But, and this too is important, the relation perceived by consciousness as relating an objective or past-objective duality is at least ‘at right angles’ with the so-called relation between the object or past-object and the pure subjective néant (viññå~a), which in virtue of asmimåna gives the unique ‘I’ experience-component (not the psychologists’ ‘ego’): just as, I hold, two seen points do not legitimately subtend an angle to ‘my eye’ (except by objectifying my eye with the help of logic, which is a bogus situation), so too my subjectivity (viññå~a) cannot be properly said to ‘have a relation with’ the cognized. (vii) There are no absolute opposites. Complexity denies the possibility of anything arising alone, since an event is always complex. If any thing or quality discriminated the opposite of another, each will be associated with other qualities that are not opposites, thus apparent-oppositeness is only partial. Perhaps if a complete opposite is not an impossibility, and were found, something frightful would happen. (viii) There is a problem in Extra Sensory Perception which has not yet been formulated (there may be several). Until it is, we are held up. (ix) Determinism does inhere in the purely objective, but first the objective is only pure when considered in abstracto and not even then, from the fact that it is considered. Second, since the objective is never other than probable, the determinism in it is also only probable, and since the variety is infinite, the conflicting possibilities of the probable determinisms are infinite, and which is to be determined for good always remains to be decided, but decision is subjective. Statistics hang a smoke-screen round the probability by means of repetition (which also happens, it is said, to be the soul of journalism). (x) The ‘reality attitude’ is one of the intentions (constitutive modes) of consciousness. It is usually (commonly believed ‘always’) attached to an

52


10.ix.57

early letters

[el. 37a]

object regarded by it as real. Être vu,1 and I would add, ‘being acted upon’ are (contrary to what is usually thought) not inseparable from a ‘real seer’ (man or God) or a ‘real agent’. These too are consciousness’s ‘intention’ (phenomenologically). (xi) Scientists are constantly tilting at what they call the ‘unreliability’ of introspective data (e.g. Sluckin on Feedback), particularly so psychologists, who ought to know better. They complain because they assume that introspective data ought to be ‘reliable’ (i.e. ‘measurable by the average thumbs of their Scotchmen’ as a mile of ground appears to be). But I maintain that it is precisely that very incommensurability (lack of repeatable public material measurability) that must be taken account of as a characteristic in any technique for handling these data. To try and measure them as if they were lumps of earth is quaint. The difficulty seems to lie in this, that if, in this sphere, I look for a material standard measure, say, for the intensity of pain (comparable to the Paris Metre for length) it is impossible to find one. As with temperature so (but much more so) with pain, some concomitant space-variation may be observable and confronted with the Paris Metre, but we have not measured the pain. True, I can confront ideas, just as, or rather as, you can confront a length of tape and the Paris Metre (also ideas, but of another order), but the Paris Metre (I believe when I do this) remains spatially there constant for me to return to with other bits of tape at other times; not so subjectivity, pain, for example. There is no Paris Pain, the standard measure of my suffering, as there is the Paris Metre as the standard measure for my finger nail. If I think a ‘Paris Pain’, it does not remain there at another time. So while I can say that my pain now is greater or less than my pain yesterday, I cannot measure it. Now the physicists’ world, measurable as it is with the Paris Metre, is yet only probable (the exact sciences are probably exact); but the subjective datum, unmeasurable and ‘unreliable’ as it is, is certain. How can I measure a certainty? There is nothing to measure because I am certain of it, and there is no measuring my certainty either, since it is absolute certainty. Cogito ergo sum2 is not susceptible of measure. Consequently, I fancy that the qualitative discrimination is inappropriate to science (being the ‘unreliable’ certainty that cannot be established or proved; vide Heisenberg’s ‘materia’), and I also fancy that qualitative measurement is meaningless in introspective data that are strictly subjective (qualitative comparison of intensity is, of course, always possible, but no measure remains after the comparison is done). The world of experience (phenomenologically ‘experience with the world in parenthesis’) is a combination or intersecting of qualitative discrimination and quantitative measurement (but I do not include intensity). To put it slightly otherwise:

53


[el. 37a]

seeking the path

10.ix.57

the strict subjectivist cannot measure, i.e. set up a fixed objective standard for the quantity of the quality he is certain of, and the strict objective scientist cannot discriminate the quality of the quantities that he measures and whose probabilities he calculates. (xii) What is said and thought about anything is always reflexion. Without reflexion nothing comes to light. The moment I say ‘I am doing this’, I am reflecting, not ‘doing this’. (xiii) Not only the church but all is founded on a pun. And that, if you have got so far, is all for the moment, thank you. (xiv) ‘Progression or regression to infinity’ as it is stated logically (objectively), but stated subjectively this would be ‘extension to the horizon’. Objectivity’s mode of expression is the logical, subjectivity’s mode of expression is the dialectical. Logic freezes the dialectical flow, while dialectic melts down the logical structure. The two are constantly both interdependent and at war. Dialectic is choosing, deciding, logic is the choice, the decision. D. = the scaffolding, L. = the particular building. I feel that ‘the most pleasant available’ is a less satisfactory definition of the present field then ‘the least painful available’. Pleasure is less graspable than pain. The position of a rainbow is instable but the position of the rain is determinable. [ EL. 38 ]

13 September 1957

Slight revision to the names of the four positions of transcendence (or four mahåbh¨tas):—Pa†havi—Rigidity; Åpo—Endurance; Tejo—Plasticity (mobility); Våyo—Change (movement). I now think that the four åruppas are just these four modes of transcendence taken as objects—that is to say, when you have overcome or disregarded all perceptions of matter, resistance, or variety, all you perceive is perception (which is why the åruppas are saññåmayå) in its four modes. The scheme is this:— (i) In the fourth jhåna you perceive a material kasi~a or totality (your translation, I believe). And this is unchanging or rigid. When you disregard the matter you have just an infinite (a totality of) rigid framework, i.e., space. This is rigidity. (ii) You then turn your attention to the existence of this infinite space, and you have an infinity (since transcendence is towards an infinity of appearances) of temporalization or consciousness (consciousness = temporalization as Sartre makes clear). This is endurance.

54


25.ix.57

early letters

[el. 40]

(iii) You then consider the r¨pakasi~a as plastic—i.e. as existing in an infinity of different forms. But since there is not matter there are no different forms so you have simply an infinity of different-things-that-aren’t-there, an infinity of nothings. This is plasticity. (You arrive at the same thing by considering consciousness as a nothing, a néant, and from (iii) there is an infinity of them.) (iv) But for there to be perception of an infinite number of things (thataren’t-there) you must be able to perceive one and then not perceive that one but another, and so on. Thus (iii) could also be described as perceptionand-non-perception. But now we turn our attention to the concept uniting (or behind) (iii). And since we know that this concept or unity possesses (iii)—pa†haviµ me ti maññati—it is obviously not (iii). It is therefore neitherperception-nor-non-perception. And this concept for unity is change. [ EL. 39 ]

22 September 1957

From your letter I rather get the impression that you have discovered that cakkhu = thesis, r¨pa = antithesis and cakkhuviññå~a = synthesis—in a word, that phassa = dialectic. But perhaps I am reading too much between the lines, and this is not what you meant at all. [ EL. 40 ]

25 September 1957

Will you please go to L’Être et le Néant and turn to the chapter on Universal Time (it follows, or concludes, Transcendence), and in that chapter to the section entitled ‘Le Présent’? In this section Sartre describes a moving billiard ball and its être. He uses some expression such as ‘Il est en tout qu’il n’est pas’,1 but I don’t think it is quite that. Would you note down how he does describe it and bring it with you when you come? It is noteworthy that Sartre pins on movement as the nigger in the woodpile. ‘Le mouvement est une maladie de l’être.’2 In his conclusion he suggests that the en-soi pur catches this sickness and that that is how consciousness starts. He does not quite see that mobility and movement are the inseparable counterparts of endurance and rigidity. He has two out of the four positions of transcendence. Or perhaps he does see it, but is led astray by his en-soi pur. What he does not see is that you can only transcend a transcendence (and this misses the hierarchy).

55


[el. 41]

[ EL. 41 ]

seeking the path

1.x.57

1 October 1957

I think Sartre said that in movement a thing is ‘external to itself’—this seems to describe or expand pa†havito. I am fascinated by the idea of the model of Kummer’s Quartic Surface, which Eddington speaks of, saying that it has the same structure as the Electron1. Just fancy a scale model of Being made out of string and cardboard. I wish I had one here. Caught queen (or spotted) spider no. 17 last night. Not so many recently. More no doubt with the rain. No mosquitos. [ EL. 42 ]

22 October 1957

Reflexion. As used by Sartre etc. it means simply to see one’s reflexion mirrored by the world. Unreflexively I say ‘Pierre is hateful!’ Reflexively I see that Pierre’s hatefulness is the reflexion of my anger. In one sense, perhaps, by illuminating the world with my attitude, I do send out visibility rays—certainly if I had no attitude at all nothing would be visible. Does this answer? Camus. Now he has got his certificate of respectability and I hope he enjoys it. Kierkegaard. CUP 1 Delightful and very quotable. I seem to follow him with no difficulty. I read him like an open book. God gives no trouble at all, and Christianity, without Bible, church and Christ, is almost passable. He is magnificent against the scholar and detached observer, and as for the poor Herr Professor and his System… ! Kierkegaard is a much more important and profound thinker than I had realized; and as he grows in stature so his successors shrink. [ EL. 43 ]

13 November 1957

I must now revise my opinion of Kierkegaard. Certain things he emphasizes much better than anyone else—particularly the fact that the observer is existing and must not be left out; and his comments on speculative philosophy are admirable. (‘Nowadays we do not have philosophers so much as observers of the achievements of Philosophy’—and we can equally well read ‘scientists’ for ‘philosophers’.) And it seems to be a characteristic of existential writers that each develops one particular aspect, somewhat neglected by the others (vide Camus and l’Absurde). But as soon as Kier­kegaard becomes religious,

56


13.xi.57

early letters

[el. 43]

and, worse, Christian, he becomes intolerable. Not because his argument, though ingenious, is wrong (which it is, and it is plain where), but because he at once becomes patronizing. I have noticed that all sincere God-believers, and particularly Christians, have this attitude, and it seems to be inherent in the belief. I think it is because, having humbled themselves—having made an exhibition of themselves—before God, they compensate themselves with a superior attitude towards non-believers (who must really appear most irritating to a believer). Such expressions as ‘the tremendous fact of Christianity’ are quite unpardonable, and leave an atmosphere of stale food behind them. But he is worth reading for the good things he says—his strictures on the historical approach to unhistorical truths, for example, and his equation: —Truth is = ‘Truth is’ is (which, however, he fails to pursue to infinity (the infinite hierarchy), but cuts short by postulating God). I have finished Gli Ossessi.1 Perhaps the best of Dostoievsky. No boy scouts. Everybody comes to a sticky end, and no bogus happy ending. A bit long-winded in parts, and Stepan Trofimovic (the first character to appear) is perhaps made too much of, though he does serve as background. Kirilov is a most satisfying character, and, to me, extremely sympathetic: in comparison, Stavrogin is a bore—continually breaking butterflies on wheels to try out his strength. But the interesting thing is this, that only Kirilov knows that they are butterflies that Stavrogin is breaking. If one finds Stravrogin sympathetic then Kirilov will be incomprehensible. I think it probable that most readers of the book (I speak of the intelligent reading public) would say of Kirilov, ‘Interesting, but quite invraisemblable: 2 not a real person, unlike Stavroghin’. For me he is the only living character in the book. La Nausée3 is more didactic than vraisemblable, and probably gains in consequence—I believe you are of the same opinion. Sartre’s England, or rather London, seems to consist of Piccadilly, Pall Mall Street, and Kew Gardens. I think he must have had an English girl-friend from whom he got his local colour. P.S. I seem to begin to see myself as the ‘Philosopher of the Infinite Hierarchy’, as Camus, for example, is ‘Le Philosophe de l’Absurde’. Right or wrong, it is (as far as I can tell) my own discovery, and I do not owe it, directly at least, to anyone (amongst modern writers no one has paid attention to it).4 And I constantly find myself saying (when reading some philosopher): ‘If only he had seen the hierarchical structure of things.’ I shall have to write some books to establish myself in this part, so clearly reserved for me by an all-wise, though non-existent, Providence.

57


[el. 44]

[ EL. 44 ]

seeking the path

20.xi.57

20 November 1957

Though you expect no comment on your sundry thoughts, you do not forbid it, so I make a few. 1. Essence, I think, is merely a misnomer; whether or not it is misleading is obviously a personal affair. I use essence as = nature. 2. I have been thinking about motion recently and have reached some provisional conclusions. A full account would be far too exhausting to write, but here are some random remarks. (i) In view of the discontinuous nature of the electron ‘jumps’ (which are not motion, but merely changes of attention within a static atom) I am forced to the conclusion that motion, too, at any one level of generality, is discontinuous (this is not by analogy, but because switch of attention and switch of position are connected—the 136 space-like operators concern the former and the 120 time-like operators concern the latter). The view that motion is continuous depends on the law of conservation of momentum—but this is a macroscopic physical law and assumes that steady uninterrupted observation of an object is possible, which from what I conclude from my speculations is an unjustified assumption. It is quite gratuitous to assume that the law of conservation of momentum holds in quantum theory. (ii) In consequence of (i), I conclude that an object is static upon each occasion that I observe it—but I also think (not entirely without reason) that upon each occasion that I observe a static object I also observe, as an absence of 1st order, its next position, and therefore also, as an absence of 2nd order, its next position but one, and so on (which constitutes precognition). (iii) You say that a phenomenological reduction of motion must be made. All right; but it is difficult for the following reasons. A phenomenological reduction of a motionless object consists in observing that object against its background (the world) of other objects, and of paying attention to the relation between object and background and ignoring the nature of the object. This is comparatively simple because the background (which is spatial) is all given at the same time as the object (remember Sartre’s description of looking for Pierre at a café). So, too, in the case of motion one must pay attention to the relation between object and background. The object is a single static appearance, and the background is the temporal series of all appearances, past, present, and future. But the trouble is that this is not all given at once (being temporal). The past appearances must be remembered, and the future appearances (ignoring precognition for the moment) must be anticipated in the light of past experience—memory again. But in sheer reflexion, if we are not to go astray, the less we use memory the better, for the good reason that it is pos-

58


23.xi.57

early letters

[el. 45]

sible to be mistaken. Thus, in order to approach certainty (I think only the arahat attains it, thereby destroying being), we have to pay attention only to what is given at the same time as the object, namely (if my conclusion (ii) above is correct) its future states as absences of varying orders (which are not predetermined, for as in voluntary bodily movements, they can be altered reflexively—psychokinesis). The consequence is that in order to effect in practice a phenomenological reduction of motion, a very keen power of observation must be developed—keener than when the object is static for the reason that we can look at a static object all day, whereas moving objects move; and also we are likely to try and anticipate their movements, which is cheating. Nevertheless, I think, with practice, it can be done. 3. I think that the absolute certainty of the phenomenologist is the same certainty as the relative one of the scientist. The phenomenologist is absolutely certain what the present object is, though he is only relatively certain what the present object really is. In other words, from the scientific point of view the phenomenologist may be mistaken. The scientist will say that the phenomenologist, who is so absolutely certain that the white stuff is sugar that he is putting in his tea, is making a mistake; for the white stuff really is arsenic, since he, the scientist, has already carried out tests. The scientist is absolutely certain it is arsenic. But if he had not carried out tests he would say that it is probable (= fairly certain) that it is arsenic. But this simply means ‘it is probable that when I have carried out tests I shall be absolutely certain that it is arsenic’. But even if the tests convince him, and he is absolutely certain that it is arsenic, someone might have replaced it with an identical bottle of soda bicarb when his back was turned, and he may be mistaken. And so on. A scientist deals with probabilities, but at a certain point they become absolute certainties—for otherwise he would never be able to make any experiment at all. (It is only probable that the flame will heat the test-tube—if the scientist considers the matter—, but if he simply wants to heat the test-tube, he knows it for certain.) As regards absolute disagreement between individual subjects, I absolutely agree. [ EL. 45 ]

23 November 1957

Further to my last letter. Since movement is an existential category (one of the four maññanås), it is redundant to reduce it phenomenologically, just as it is redundant to reduce being phenomenologically. If I reduce a particular being (a book, for example) I arrive at being, and so if I reduce a particular movement (a bouncing ball, for example) I arrive at movement.

59


[el. 45]

seeking the path

23.xi.57

(Strictly, being will include movement, though I have restricted it here to unmoving existence.) * Dostoievsky says: ‘If God does not exist, I am God.’ Sartre says: ‘If God exists, he is contingent.’ Anselm says (according to Kierkegaard): ‘If God exists, he must exist.’ Kierkegaard says: ‘God does not exist: he is eternal.’ This last is very clever and ingenious, but is where Kierkegaard goes wrong—for if God does not exist how can he be anything, even if it is eternal? The point is that eternity does not exist except as the present—and this takes us back to the Dostoievsky.

* Had my first good daylight view of a polonga (outside a zoo). Very bold markings like a python, but rather darker. Lying in the open (near where you dyed) at sunset, very handsome (a cobra is handsome when it prepares to strike, but a polonga belongs on the ground—it is much more viscous and looks as if it had been squeezed from a tube). Every inch a viper—and it was a good four feet long. I did not see it until I was within three yards, but it did not move. [ EL. 46 ]

30 November 1957

Considering the question of Bhante’s monument with the aid of some Kierkegaardian dialectic, the following points seem to be relevant. 1. In general, the proposal to have the monument (I mean the designer’s proposal) as a near replica of Lenin’s Tomb is excellent. In the first place this provides a strong element of Irony. (How few will know, and how curious the effect on those who do!) 2. It sounds perfectly hideous. And it is necessary that it should be; for at all costs we must emphasize the Ethical at the expense of the Aesthetical. (On this point we need not worry: any ‘Work of Art’ produced in modern Ceylon is bound to be incredibly revolting—which is one reason why I stay here.) 3. It will be very heavy. It should be so heavy that it can only be removed by Faith. Thus, if it is also hideous enough, every time we see it we shall be tempted to remove it, and this is a good religious exercise. 4. It is essential that there should be Repetition. In other words there must be more than one: there must be a number, all exactly alike, with an identical inscription ‘Erected in memory of etc.’. I suggest that they are so

60


30.xi.57

early letters

[el. 46]

arranged that wherever one goes in the Hermitage one is always walking towards one. 5. If these conditions are fulfilled the effect should be shattering. Even the most casual visitor will be moved before he has gone to exclaim ‘But this is Absurd ’. 6. If anyone objects that this is a joke, in bad taste, tell them ‘So is existence’. 7. Why can’t they let Bhante’s monument be his books, which, after all, represent him most accurately; and which he himself would doubtless prefer to be remembered by? They seem to be his own valuation of himself. 8. Either one is an arahat, and then a th¨pa is appropriate; or one is not, and then nothing is appropriate. * Further reflexions on movement (i) There can be no existence without movement (or change); for otherwise time cannot pass. (ii) There can be no movement (or change) without existence, for otherwise there is nothing to change from… to… (iii) The changeless timeless }spatiality (136 operators) of a thing is the ajjhattikåyatana. The spaceless change of a thing (120 operators) is the bahiddhåyatana. For a thing to be or exist in time both are necessary. This is phassa. This ‘results’ from the E-operators (as I understand them). (iv) Confusion may arise, when one considers movement, from the fact that one can move one’s eyes without reference to visual objects—I mean as a bodily act, such as in turning the head. In this way we have a thing ‘the field of vision’ which is superimposed on the thing ‘a moonlit tree’ (for example). In order to get at the source of visual movement (for the difficulty is less with other senses—who speaks of ‘the field of taste’ for example) we have to imagine ourselves existing as a solitary eye floating in space, like a planet. We then have to recall that attention switches discontinuously, and that under these circumstances a switch of attention and movement would be indistinguishable (the eye would no longer be able ‘to follow a moving object’, which is a bodily act). And this is true whether ‘I willed (intended) it’ or ‘it happened against my will (intention)’: these are later considerations. (Indeed every change is always against my intention ultimately, since all intention can do is to preserve.) (v) It thus becomes clear that a ‘continuous movement’ is a highly conceptualized affair (like a ‘continuous existence’ of (say) the dånasålå table day after day); that is to say, it involves a great deal of memory (which I describe as ‘reflexive preservation of the past’—i.e. the present as it becomes

61


[el. 46]

seeking the path

30.xi.57

past by means of, or because of, a never-entirely-absent reflexive intention that the present, when it becomes absent, shall appear as ‘now absent but once present’, as opposed to ‘now absent and never present’ of my unrealized possibilities). A proper phenomenological reduction of a continuous movement should ultimately arrive at the switch of attention… [ EL. 47 ]

1 December 1957

It seems to me that the essential difference between existential and scientific certainty is that the former is always present, and therefore absolute, and the latter is always future, and therefore (at present) probable. A scientist cheats when he attributes absolute certainty to a high probability, but not, I think, otherwise (unless perhaps if he says that his present existential certainty is only probable). [ EL. 47a ]

(undated)

From the draft of a letter by Ven. Ñå~amoli. I think that Sartre’s remark about motion being ‘la maladie de l’être’ rather smacks of abuse of what one cannot understand. I am not blaming him for failing to understand the incomprehensible, but it is very plain that he does not view motion with the kindly eye that he views being with. Perhaps we might say that motion, which is the ‘maladie de l’être’, is the santé de la conscience dont la maladie est l’immobilité et chacun des deux vit de la maladie de l’autre.1 I think the importance of the quantum element in motion cannot be overestimated. And, of course, when a thing is it is either moving or stationary, which is the same thing. However (while agreeing that all motion, experiences—and here ‘motion’ includes stationariness—contain a quantum aspect if looked for, though it may not be superficially evident), I think that continuity is a valid aspect too and is also experienced. The Eleatic position is rather ‘all or nothing’ (if there is discontinuity at all, then all is discontinuity). It seems to me that if discontinuity is universal to the absolute exclusion of continuity, then it collapses as a category of existence and becomes non-existent. This is logical argument. Phenomenologically, though, I claim that I do see with the eye, say, a continuity (of motion) as such in experiencing a situation (in ‘existing’ a situation) which ‘on reflect-

62


Undated

early letters

[el. 47a ]

ing it’ I later call ‘a feather floating across my room’, and I claim that as an absolute datum just as much as a red datum or a sweet datum. That does not deny the Hierarchy, but from the momentary standing point from which the hierarchy extends and on which it is momentarily pinned and poised by the individual consciousness by which the existence of the situation is constituted. The ‘mobility-datum’ is (was) no less a continuity experienced as such when I find, on reflexion, that wherever there is continuity there too is the discontinuity of quanta haunting it like a shadow or like a bumbailiff. (I reject, for instance, the scientists’ argument that the ‘solid’ table I eat my solid dinner off and bump into in the dark is really nothing but atoms consisting of space and whirling electrons, or something like that. It is both. The ‘really nothing but’ assertion is an unreasonable all-or-nothing argument dictated by the average scientists’ personal distaste for inconsistency and Complementarity.) I fully agree that Motion is an existential category in the sense that if a thing is at all it is stationary or moving. But, and this is the crucially important point, which it is (whether stationary or moving) can only be decided existentially by the unique ‘I’ (not the psychologists’ bogus quelqu’on que ego) egocentrically (this is where the scientists equivocate and Ptolemy and Copernicus remain each an arbitrary but surreptitious ‘I’-decision). In the scientists’ public and depersonalized world it is (i) inherently impossible to avoid motion (whether described as continuity or by quanta or by relativity) and at the same time (ii) inherently impossible to ascribe it to one or other or both of the two objects that are the minimum number to constitute observed motion. This is the problem. What is raised is the uncertainty, which should be welcomed, not rejected. The fact, as I see it, that if the experience of motion is reflexively interpreted with ‘I’ as the centre of the Universe, calculation becomes impossibly difficult and burdensome, and so, in reflexion the fixed centre is delegated by an ‘I’-decision to some [illegible]… : Ptolemy’s centre of the earth, later Copernicus’ centre of the sun, later it will be the centre of the galaxy, or the centre of the nebula, according to convenience. But strictly scientifically this is always unjustifiable. So it is always unjustifiable scientifically to say that the earth is stationary (Ptolemy) or moving at uniform speed in a straight line (perhaps Ptolemy too) or revolving on its axis (Copernicus) or circulating round the sun (also Copernicus) or accelerating or spinning. And in the last instance the argument that absolute spinning can be established by the centrifugal phenomenon that makes a globe an oblate spheroid and things weigh less on the equator than at the poles establishes nothing since no causal relation between the alleged spin and the observed centrifugal data is

63


[el. 47a]

seeking the path

Undated

properly established… Motion is thus insufficiently analysed, dialectic and instable per se as the position of a rainbow. Sartre is right: from the point of view of orderliness motion is ‘la maladie’. [ EL. 48 ]

10 December 1957

On further study of your letter of the 29th of last month it is clear that, as things are at present, we hold very different views about movement. What follows is intended to define my views rather than to contradict yours. When I say that movement is discontinuous this must not be understood as an affirmation that a thing is either moving or stationary. I mean to say that there is no such thing as movement. But I do not deny that there is movement. Kierkegaard begins Repetition with these sentences:— When the Eleatic School denied the possibility of motion, Diogenes, as everybody knows, stepped forth as an opponent. He stepped forth, literally, for he said not a word, but merely walked several times back and forth, thinking that thereby he had sufficiently refuted those philosophers.1 Had I been an Eleatic I would have taken a cinematograph film of Diogenes, and then shown it the next day, thereby demonstrating that the appearance of Diogenes’ walking can be produced by a series of still pictures. This would prove that Diogenes, by moving (and, of course, he really did move—nobody can deny that) had not at all refuted the contention of the Eleatics that there is no such thing as motion. But it proves nothing else. It might, however, suggest that motion, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps this is not the clearest way of putting it, but it opens a line of investigation. Consider this picture:—

(or the one in Sartre’s L’Imaginaire). What is it of? Clearly it is a man walking. Walking? Like Diogenes? But that is ridiculous, there is no movement at all. Nevertheless, it is a man walking. By this I mean to say that we can even get some sort of appearance of movement even from a single still picture,

64


10.xii.57

early letters

[el. 48]

that movement is not necessary for movement to appear. This approach to the problem, which is quite a good one, is complicated, however, by the fact that a picture of a man has a double life, as marks on paper, and as a representation. But it is not hard to imagine that one might see a man in this attitude in a flash of lightning, and might say ‘He is walking’. Sartre’s analysis, though not entirely satisfactory because of the semi-physiological approach, is valid and valuable. In brief, continuity is to be found in an ‘instantaneous’ (i.e. motionless) view. (I had better abandon the phrase ‘discontinuous motion’, since I assert continuity and not motion.) Naturally, in the case of a man in a certain attitude one can usually guess what he is going to do next, whereas a stone (for example) can hardly be said to take up an attitude. At least at first sight. But I think this is not true. In virtue of transcendence everything takes up an attitude, and it is just here that one must look for continuity. I must make it plain that I perceive motion. Nevertheless, since I have avijjå when I perceive it, I cannot assume that I should perceive motion had I not avijjå. The clue to my paradox is that I perceive motion, and I wish to understand intellectually or theoretically what I should perceive were my avijjå less or none. This way of intellectual understanding before realization I am sure is correct—perhaps you may remember, a few years ago at the Hermitage, what general exception was taken to my statement that the Bodhisatta formulated the pa†iccasamuppåda before enlightenment, and yet this is what the Mahåpadåna Suttanta tells us. About the feather floating across my room. Suppose I watch it the whole time. Then I shall say that it moves because it is stationary relative to my head, and I am (conscious of) turning or moving my head. But the judgement ‘I am moving my head’ is strictly pour autrui; for I only discover that my head moves when I keep in being the experience known later as ‘moving my head’ by means of my other senses (or by one part of my body [my hand]’s taking an outside view of another part [my head], as when with my hand I feel my head turning). In consequence, I maintain that, so long as I am watching the feather it is not moving (outside its own limits). Ultimately (as I think I said before) all I can do by way of action (or intention) is to keep one experience in being: I cannot move or change anything whatsoever. If it is objected that I am at the moment moving my pen, I shall reply that this is because I can see the movement, because I perceive the movement by means of another sense; and that therefore the movement is pour autrui, and in no case pour moi 2. This fact I consider of fundamental importance. The famous ‘uncertainty principle’ is a mystification. It comes of assuming that there is continuous unbroken motion in quantum physics, and then

65


[el. 48]

seeking the path

10.xii.57

of being unable to observe it. It also comes of assuming a universal Time in quantum physics. The fact is this: Time, at any one level, can only be reckoned by change of position (or switch of attention, which is the same). Thus time t = 1 is the interval between observation of a particle at A and observation of it again at B, a distance S = 1. Between these two events my attention is at a lower level (of generality) and I cannot observe that level. Consequently it is meaningless to ask ‘where is the particle at time = ½ ?’ (If I could observe it the particle would ‘move’—not that I should cause it to move, but because Observation of particle = Appearance of particle = Objective Existence of a particle = Switch or ‘Jump’ of particle. And if the particle had ‘moved’ I should be at t = 1, not at t = ½.) But since those who assume continuous unbroken motion do ask these questions, the only answer possible is that it might be anywhere (since it might perhaps go the whole way round the universe to get from A to B). And the usual way of stating this answer is: —‘If the velocity of the particle is known exactly, the position is not known at all’ (or as Professor Heisenberg might say, ‘The particle does not know where it is’). In conclusion, there seems to be a good structural reason why, in general, a thing moving in a certain way continues to do so—i.e. the appearance of inertia or momentum. P.S. I cannot agree that if a thing is it is stationary-or-moving; it is stationaryand-moving. [ EL. 49 ]

16 December 1957

After more thought on the question of movement or motion it now seems possible to say something definite. In my first letter I said that if I watch a feather floating across my room I say that it moves only because I am conscious of moving my head, which, in turn, is an external judgement. (I see my head turning in a glass or something of the sort). I said also that since the feather is the object of my attention it is (within its own boundaries) stationary. This argument is actually circular—the fact is that I am conscious of moving my head because the feather is moving (and is stationary relative to my head). This does not explain why I say that the feather is moving—i.e. why it is moving. But my statement that the feather is stationary, being the object of my attention, remains perfectly valid. So movement remains unexplained. Let us try again.

66


16.xii.57

early letters

[el. 49]

1. It is now clear to me that a single sense can under no circumstances whatever give me movement. (i) By a single sense I do not just mean one of the five, for these, or some of them, must be further subdivided. A single sense is one that gives perception of one quality only (such as taste). (ii) Formerly I thought that each sense must give two intersecting qualities, but I find that in all cases one of these in simply extension. (iii) And by extension I mean a non-spatial extension, but rather an existential one. Thus a particular taste has an extension within which it can vary—that is to say, exist—; and this extension is a direct and necessarily indescribable experience. I mean, that a taste does not present itself as located in a point, but ‘spread out’ or massive. (iv) And a single sense simply gives us whole lumps/blocks/masses of instances of its particular quality, one at a time, and each totally distinct from its predecessor. Nevertheless, other possible tastes are always present as absences, but not in any sense beside the present taste—for the extension is without direction, it is non-spatial. (In this connexion the sense of taste is a particularly good one for study, since it is nearly isolated. Smell, too, is good.) (v) All that can move in the world of one single sense is my attention, from one part to another. Since each part my attention visits is necessarily different from every other part, there is nothing beyond my attention to move. Have you ever experienced the movement of a taste? 2. What we normally call the body-sense is clearly a number of single senses (such as pressures, temperatures, and so on). But the most significant one is what we may call the muscular sense, or if that is too physiological, the sense of direction. Directions exist. Close your eyes and sit still and you will be aware of their existence. There are lumps/masses of direction. This means that directions are on the same footing as smells, tastes, colours, and the rest (i.e. they are pho††habbå 1). In other words, directions require a non-spatial extension in which to exist, and are not themselves fundamental (which I had always assumed them to be). [N.B. My notion of phassa has changed again in conformity.] 3. The visual sense proper is perception of colour. In thinking about my ‘muscleless or bodyless eye floating in space’ I wondered what it would see. And I came to the conclusion that, parallel to taste and smell, it would perceive lumps/blocks/masses of colour (successively) without any directional switching at all. 4. But if a single sense cannot give me movement but only (i) endurance of one object (e.g. smell of cheese) or (at the same level) (ii) switch from

67


[el. 49]

seeking the path

16.xii.57

one object to another (smell of cheese to smell of coffee), how can there be movement? But what is movement? Since it is not switch of attention from one object to another, it must be switch of attention from one object to the same object. In other words, it is a combination of (i) and (ii) at the same time. And this we can only find when we assume or are convinced that the respective objects of the two different single senses are one and the same object and when one of these objects changes (i.e. there is a switch of attention) to a different object independent of the other object. There is then switch of attention from one object to the same object. 5. And it is particularly with our muscular eye that we have this combination. When we look at things we are (i) perceiving colour and (ii) perceiving direction, and the result is directionally oriented blocks of colour. If, then, we change colour without changing direction, we see a stationary chameleon; and if we change direction without changing colour the feather floats across my room or the leaf shakes in the wind. With our eyes we both see and touch (muscularly). It would be nice to be able to say that this line of thought occurred to me in a flash, and that then all was solved. But I can’t. What happened instead was that the senses only very reluctantly disentangled themselves, and then motion was deduced more from quantum considerations than anything else.a Then, after all this laborious thought, when the solution seemed to be clear—, only then did the neat, perspicuous, philosophical argument appear, as a paradox and its resolution. Either endurance or change, but not both (at the same level). Movement is both. Therefore movement cannot exist. But movement does exist. And it exists as the clash of two discrepant or dissimilar objects that we take to be one. Perhaps you will find a certain note of complacency in the foregoing account. That is owing to the fact that for me this clears up a number of untidy ends, and seems to be definite enough to last me for a while without having to seek further afield. The discovery that direction is not involved in extension—which I therefore call non-spatial—is a great advance. Let me draw your attention to the passage of Eddington’s I sent you some time ago, and particularly to the sentences:—

a.  Quantum-ly speaking, movement is the superposition of two probability-wavesystems out of phase with each other. Motion could, no doubt, be proved by means of wave-mechanics, but not by me, since I don’t know any. But you have probably looked through the spokes of two counter-rotating wheels and then noticed the effect of movement as one rotates slightly faster than the other—well, something like that.

68


23.xii.57

early letters

[el. 50]

It also follows that in the small-scale systems we cannot separate geometry from dynamics. As soon as we introduce into our picture of the world anything possessing orientation (i.e. directional orientation), it automatically begins to spin one way or the other.2 This implies that directional orientation is something one may introduce optionally into our picture of the world; and it also prompts the reflexion that, since quantum physicists (‘erotically absorbed in their glorious occupation’—Kierkegaard) use their eyes without realizing that they are employing two senses and not one, their world must necessarily spin (like a geographer’s!) and they are committed to motion as a fundamental datum. If only they would turn their attention to smells they would get along much better. But a physics lab containing only such apparatus as roses, lumps of gorgonzola, crushed bed-bugs, and bottles of eau-de-cologne, would perhaps be asking too much of most universities—I can’t imagine Professor Heisenberg in one. I should be glad to know, to avoid future misunderstanding, what exactly you mean by the word ‘dialectic’ (that is to say, I suppose, what you understand Kierkegaard means by it). I note Kierkegaard (or his translator) uses the word ‘Idea’ in a sense very close to dhamma (in several senses). [ EL. 50 ]

23 December 1957

Tristram Shandy is certainly a remarkable book: I read it some years ago, and it had a profound effect on me. I read it during the same period in which I first read Diderot’s Jacques le Fataliste and Ulysses—both of which books owe much to T.S. (Diderot, I think, says as much). All three books have this in common: they are busy not going anywhere. And it was at this time that the question ‘Well, my lad, what are you going to Do in Life?’ was beginning to raise its ugly head. And the more I read these books the more alarmingly clear (alarming, that is, when one’s Father is waiting for an answer to this question) did it become that I ‘wasn’t going to Do Anything in Life.’ (No three books could be less didactic, yet how eloquent they were! A good example of Kierkegaard’s indirect communication.) When everything is daily looking more comic, how is one to take anything in life, except not taking anything in life seriously, seriously? (‘When viewed from a direction looking towards the Idea, the apprehension of the discrepancy [i.e. between the infinite and the finite] is pathos; when viewed with the Idea behind one, the apprehension is comic.’—Kierkegaard)

69


[el. 50]

seeking the path

23.xii.57

Which brings me to another point. In La Nausée Sartre describes the experience of discovering that an object’s existence is absolutely gratuitous as nausea, as disgusting and unpleasant. But for me, at least, this apprehension has always been extremely exhilirating, decongesting, and liberating, and not in the least nauseating (how is it with you?). As you know, I was brought up (with the best of intentions) with the idea that I should become a salaud (what is the English for this—a shit? Or the Italian—uno schifoso?). The process failed; but that was owing to the fact that, as far back as I can remember, I have always been half-aware of my solitude; and I was always uncomfortable in an atmosphere (the normal atmosphere of my education) of Rights and Duties (which were totally incomprehensible to me). And the discovery that I have neither Rights nor Duties has always been a joy and never palls. Perhaps one is a salaud, or at least has taken life seriously (as Antoine Roquentin and Anny are portrayed as having done at an earlier period). This discovery is painful and brings one to despair (Anny is in despair; and Kierkegaard says somewhere that if God does not exist what can there be but despair); but I cannot conceive what it is to live passionately (with all the stops out). Perhaps the first disillusion is painful (‘It is easy enough to bring a sensuous man to despair, for he always feels a need to have something finished and complete.’—Kierkegaard); but that must have happened to me in some earlier life, not in this one. Probably this is where Sartre goes wrong; being unwilling to admit previous existence, he is bound to portray his characters’ passing from passionate absorption in life to existential contemplation of it within the space of a few years; whereas (it seems to me) the transition probably needs huge periods of slow development. (And what Sartre describes as a kind of disease or affliction—the nausea of existential realization—, which happens to one against one’s inclination, is, in fact, only to be won by cumulative effort over countless lifetimes, and is the paññå consequent upon sati.) In this respect Mathieu, who gains nothing but relief from his realizations seems far more convincing than Roquentin. This is not to deny that paññå is something vertiginous, but it is a vertigo that partakes of strength, not of weakness—and Roquentin is weakened by his nausea. It might be, of course, that the transition from Humanism is unpleasant, that a disillusioned Humanist feels nausea—but then I do not know about this either, never having been a Humanist. The Humanist—Sartre’s lâche,1 who takes refuge in a universal determinism—is also the objective scientist. Either one starts by feeling social solidarity, and then, when the question of one’s existence is raised, one asserts that it is part and parcel of Humanity, and one becomes a Humanist (a study of Marx is the farthest any Communist goes in introspection—‘criticism of Self-Criticism’ is designed

70


23.xii.57

early letters

[el. 50]

to ensure this). Or one starts by being a professor, who objectively studies such objects as nitrogen, comets, schizophrenia, frogs, and Humanity and then when the question of his existence is raised (he didn’t know that he had one) he assumes that it is included in Humanity, and, in the attempt to realize himself, is driven to discover Social Solidarity (which is no doubt why so many scientists are Communists). ‘Being an individual man is a thing that has been abolished, and every speculative philosopher confuses himself with humanity at large; whereby he becomes something infinitely great, and at the same time nothing at all’—Kierkegaard. I should have thought that loss of this was anything but nauseating—but then I am prejudiced, no doubt. I have no feeling of social solidarity at all—; horrifying it may be, to have to leave the coward’s refuge, but I cannot see it as nauseating. For company—if I must have company—give me the salaud rather than the lache, even if it is only for a peaceful life:— How can anybody be so busy wanting to reform the state and to get the government changed! Of all forms of government the monarchical is the best, more than any other it favours and protects the private gentleman’s quiet conceits and innocent pranks. Only democracy, the most tyrannical form of government, obliges everyone to take a positive part, as the societies and general assemblies of our time often enough remind one. Is this tyranny, that one man wants to rule and so leave the rest of us free? No, but it is tyranny that all want to rule, and in addition to that would oblige everybody to take part in the government, even the man who most insistently declines to have a share in governing.—Kierkegaard. Nothing more about motion except details, mostly concerned with the question ‘When do we decide that the objects of two senses are the same?’ I have a provisional answer, to which I can see no objection at present; but unfortunately I cannot do it justice in a sentence. My ‘thing’ against memory is really no more than my objection to its being assumed in order to explain the fundamental structure of phenomena—memory, like motion, is not fundamental, and it is to be explained rather than to explain. It is explained when we have answered the question ‘Why does such-and-such an absent field appear also as past?’ It has evidently to do with reflexion (the Suttas sometimes speak of it as sati), and in particular with an effort to preserve a substantial attå. Its importance is that it is less important than one thinks, and must be kept out of certain questions: it is chemistry, not sub-atomic physics. It is taboo upon certain occasions, not because it is mysterious but because it is inappropriate.

71


[el. 51]

[ EL. 51 ]

seeking the path

27.xii.57

27 December 1957

Thank you for your letter of the 22nd, which, as is only right and proper, crossed my last to you. The extracts from Tristram Shandy (long since forgotten) are delightful, and tell me that I have not outgrown the book. I think (if my memory is correct) that the tiresome journey across Europe is not part of Tristram Shandy but is Sterne’s 1 other well-known work, A Sentimental Journey (which starts with the phrase ‘They order these things better in France’). The two books are normally printed together. From your remarks about loose ends under the carpet, I fear that you do not take at all kindly to what is so clearly the answer to the riddle of motion. Actually you do me both more and less than justice—you give me the capacity to see the loose ends and the mauvaise foi 2 to sweep them under the carpet. But I am much more in the situation of the Ancients who believed that the Sun revolves round the Earth—they lacked the penetration to see the loose ends left over, but at least they were not deceiving themselves. Only those members of the Inquisition, who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope when he said—like you—eppur si muove,3 can be accused of ill faith. But I look down under your telescope and still do not see loose ends. The trouble is, that I am not capable of focusing it properly; but I have no doubt that when I can learn how to do it the loose ends will float (like your feather) across my view. Perhaps I have inadvertently swept some of your loose ends under my carpet? Here are a few comments on your comments (a kind of †⁄kå)4:—Naturally the two experiences of seeing a man poised with a knife raised over me—seen perhaps in a flash of lightning—and of seeing the man actually plunge the knife down at me—as I shine my torch on him—, are different. Nevertheless, in both cases my immediate and unreflected reaction is the same—‘A villain is attacking me’— even though, in the first case, there are no logical grounds for supposing that there will be any movement at all. I do not suggest that the poised assassin is moving in the same way as the other, but I do suggest that continuity is to be found in the pre-logical expectation that is part and parcel of every experience; however motionless. What I am concerned to do is to investigate the structure of this expectation. And here the argument by analogy is no explanation, for analogy is a logical category presupposing the pre-logical category of similarity. If A looks like B—if the posed figure looks like a man attacking me (with a great deal of movement)—I am not using my reason; for reason only comes if I deduce the future behaviour of A from the known behaviour of B, and can never explain why, in the first place, A looked like B. Indeed, even the

72


27.xii.57

early letters

[el. 51]

expression ‘looks like’ is logical; in the first place all I have is A is B—this is a man attacking me. It seems to me that the fact that ‘argument by analogy’ is reprehensible in logic should not be allowed to interfere with ‘illustration by analogy’ in dialectics (thank you for the definition), where it is, ultimately, the sole means of communicating (by Kierkegaard’s doubly reflected communication) an experience. There are simply good and bad analogies, though none is perfect. Thus it is that I do not, and did not, argue that because the sense of taste is so, therefore the sense of vision must also be so: the parallel with the sense of taste occurred to me late in the proceedings. If the suggestion that taste and vision have a similar structure helps to explain things—or rather, to see them more clearly—accept it; if not, reject it. For me, the suggestion made things much tidier—but I shall still have to wait for the day when I have, or am, a ‘muscleless eye’ to know for certain. It is possible—I cannot, however, say for certain—that my use of the word ‘muscular’ may have led you to suppose that I am using physiological data in my descriptions. In fact, I am not. I can do without the word entirely by saying (i) directions exist, (ii) they exist as, they are, our iriyåpathas.5 In a strict sense, this is all I am entitled to say, but in a loose sense (since ‘muscles’ is pour autrui—within limits—for iriyåpathas) I speak of a ‘muscular’ eye to distinguish one sense from another: if this loose usage causes confusion it can be left out. Your statement that when two or more sense qualities are conceived to belong to the same or a different object, they do so by mental glue, is all very well as far as it goes, but does not account for the fact that sometimes they are conceived to belong to the same and sometimes to a different object. I think (as I said in my last letter) that I see a structural reason for this (involving orientations and changes of orientation and arbitrary correspondences between them). In this connexion I repeat my assertion that movement is pour autrui and in no case pour moi, and add that unless this is understood movement can never be. Your query ‘Is not the expression “to keep an experience in being” just another way of saying “I cause it”’, requires the comment ‘but I am the experience’: thus, if ‘I am keeping the experience of walking in being’ then, quite simply, ‘I am walking’; and thus to ‘cause’ an experience is simply to ‘be’ it. But I cannot ‘cause’ movement pour moi. If I blow a stationary feather on a table, I cannot discover from my act of blowing whether or not the feather has moved—this is inherently impossible. Only if I look at the same time will movement appear or (if the feather is stuck to the table) not appear. And any information on one sense acquired by means of another sense (or by means of a different part—though this needs amplification—of the same sense) is pour autrui. If any blowing

73


[el. 51]

seeking the path

27.xii.57

could ‘cause’ the feather to move the movement would be certain; but it is, in fact, only probable. And this is to say that the experience ‘blowing a feather’ is composite (since it contains a probability, which is the néant that separates our senses a)—it consists of (at least) two pour moi experiences, in a mutual relationship of pour autrui. That the feather usually moves when I blow on it is a curious and entirely gratuitous feature of the world, but not otherwise remarkable. All this, however, has nothing to do with the movement as such of the feather. But the fact that I cannot pour moi ‘cause’ or ‘be’ movement suggests that wherever movement appears a pour autrui relationship between two senses or pour moi’s is to be looked for. And it seems to me that that is precisely what we find—though naturally not on the level of a judgement of one sense by another (as in the last case, when I judge ‘my blowing is/is not moving the feather’ and where movement is already a fundamental datum)—but in the immediate, dialectical, pre-logical, prereflexive level. We have our various senses, each with its own gocaravisayo 6, and not encroaching upon that of any other one: but mind is the common ground, the meeting place, of these senses, and it is on this common ground that movement first appears as the interference of one sense with another. I must here register a correction. For some time I had confused change and movement. I now regard them as distinct (though not unrelated). So for ‘moving-and-still’ please read ‘changing-and-unchanging’ passim: this seems to correspond to †hitassa aññathattå.7 O but now I see my mistake! Here am I trying to explain, make quite clear, locate, pin, cut and dry, and absolutely fix, denote, freeze, preserve, isolate, insulate, and so on… motion; and I discover that were I to succeed (in your eyes) you would have lost your avijjå. And since you have not lost your avijjå, you know that it is inherently impossible for me to succeed. So I am wasting my breath—ink, I mean—in a task foredoomed to failure, and must be a comic figure. Purely in self-defense, however, I must remark that even if I had completely explained etc. motion to my own satisfaction, I should not for all that hold that I had lost my avijjå. For I should still continue to see and experience motion in just the same way as you do— with avijjå. An intellectual understanding of how I ought to, or might, or should, see things had I no avijjå, is a mile away from being vijjåvimutti, and in ‘exposing’ motion I do not pretend to go further than this intellectual understanding, and can hardly claim to have got as far. But, then, as we discovered when you were here, there seems to be some difference a.  Within the limits of this example, (i) my blowing is certain, (ii) my seeing is certain, but (iii) it is only probable that I am blowing what I see, or seeing my blowing.

74


1.i.58

early letters

[el. 52]

between your understanding of avijjå and mine, and we may be talking at cross purposes some of the time. However, in discussing motion like this I am unrepentant—after all, you started it with your ill-advised challenge to the world, ‘Motion must be phenomenologically reduced!’ The end of La Nausée is bogus, I fear: there is no justification of existence, not even ‘suffering in rhythm’. To do Sartre justice I have not detected in L’Être et le Néant the slightest concession to existence. The difference in tension between Kierkegaard and Sartre is noteworthy. Kierkegaard has entre vu 8 that existence is not confined to this life, and though his Christian interpretation weakens his vision, nevertheless it is taut enough to keep his nose to the grindstone to the end. Sartre has the ucchedavådin’s fear of existence, which, except when one is being a professional philosopher, is much more accommodating, and can be forgotten when inconvenient. Sartre, in Kierkegaard’s eyes, could hardly fail to be a comic figure—as he would be in Nietzsche’s, being a married philosopher. This difference in tension makes Kierkegaard’s utterances so much more memorable than Sartre’s, though Sartre is by far the better philosopher. Kierkegaard is the better exister.

part v: 1958 (el. 52-83) [ EL. 52 ]

1 January 1958

If you have the energy and time and patience, I should be glad if you would check an observation I have made (which may, or may not, be of significance—I am not sure). With each eye in turn (but not together) look at a bright star or planet (Venus is very bright in the evening now) and count the number of ‘spokes’ or ‘rays’ (what is the right word?) you see radiating from the centre. (I presume you do not see what the scientists tell us we ought to see—namely a bright dot of no size.) Then repeat the experiment on a slightly less bright star (I find that Venus tends to dazzle a bit). If you like you can make a sketch of what you see with each eye, but I should regard this as a luxury. (If you are like me you will find a different pattern for each eye.) Motion remains stationary, but the EF-operators have done a switch and telescoped slightly, resulting in a welcome simplification. They have shaved with Occam’s Razor.1

75


[el. 53]

[ EL. 53 ]

seeking the path

8.i.58

8 January 1958

Thank you for yours of the 4th with enclosures. I had quite forgotten Tristram Shandy’s journey to the South of France, and must take your word for it. I remembered the marbled papers, however, and the blank chapters, and also a curious line and some asterisks. Fowler, speaking of punctuation and of the use of dashes in particular, calls Sterne ‘The Lord of Chaos’. Joyce remarked ‘Sterne was Swift, and Swift was usually Stern’. The horrid newspaper cutting you sent me is really incredible—incredible what, I don’t quite know. It is an excellent antidote to discontent with solitude, and makes me feel ashamed of ever having experienced it. I have to admit to a certain malicious pleasure in anticipating the shock that most modern scientists are going to get when they find they are reborn. They are, indeed, ‘mocked by existence’ in Kierkegaard’s admirable phrase. Your analysis of Sartre’s progress is masterly, and I don’t think I dissent at all. I said that Sartre was a better philosopher than Kierkegaard—actually a loose statement—because of his technical mastery, his power of illustration and analysis, the accuracy of his detail, and the painstaking completeness of his presentation. Kierkegaard’s presentation is not altogether unlike Korzybski’s—I mean as regards diffuseness and reiteration. Sartre gives me definite statements with illustrations and analysis to support them: Kierkegaard is hopelessly unsystematic—that is his genius—and I can only passionately agree (or disagree) with his attitudes. If I understand Kierkegaard, that is because I have read Sartre. Kierkegaard is great fun and a genius, but it is Sartre’s detailed descriptions (not his logic; for he does not use it—my early complaint that Sartre was impressionistic registered my discomfort at not finding logic) that makes him the better philosopher. (I am speaking here of L’Être et le Néant, not of his novels.) What Sartre owes to Husserl and Heidegger I can’t say, of course. I discover that Eddington has described phassa as I now understand it:— But according to our conclusions, the laws of physics are a property of the frame of thought in which we represent our knowledge of the objective content, and thus far physics has been unable to discover any laws applying to the objective content itself. 1 (This statement is a fearful admission of the failure of science to be scientific—i.e. objective.) The ‘frame’ is cakkhu, etc., the objective content is r¨paµ, etc., and the thought is viññå~a.

76


4.ii.58

early letters

[EL. 54]

[el. 54]

4 February 1958

Your star-gazing reports have the rather negative virtue of leaving the situation exactly where it was—at least as far as observed facts go. I am not much inclined at present to write at great length, and I can hardly discuss the matter in a few words. Here, however, is my observation of Sirius one evening:— Left Eye (14 points)

Right Eye (15 points)

It occurred to me that there were approximately 16 radii, and I wondered whether there ought (for ontological reasons) to be exactly 16, no more and no less. Hitherto I had assumed (in my understanding of Eddington) that there ought to be 136, but this observation made me discover that I was mistaken, and that, indeed, every thing, ontologically, has sixteen parts (intersecting at right angles with sixteen qualities). My observation of Venus and Sirius made me discover my mistake—but the comic part is, that even if I now discover that Sirius has 19 parts (say), I cannot now go back on the rectification of my mistake. (The question now is, what is the difference—if any—between 16-spoked Sirius and a 16-spoked cartwheel [which is extremely arbitrary]. I think there is one, but I might be wrong.) In other words, are the spokes of Sirius an example of EF structure or not? While you are in Kandy you might care to ask Mr. A. if he can make enquiries (of University Dons etc.) on the names and availability of any books on the following subject:—(i) Theory of Groups, (ii) EF-operators, (iii) Kummer’s Quartic Surface, (iv) The Philosophy of McTaggart and also if Eddington’s Philosophy of Physical Science is available anywhere. While you are in Colombo you might care to look up Kummer and his Quartic Surface in the Encyclopædia Britannica and see if it is readable (and you might like to read for yourself Husserl’s article on Phenomenology—is it worth copying?) So space travel lengthens life, does it? I am sure it would shorten mine if I tried it. As to the mathematical or philosophical accuracy of the statement, I do not care to commit myself—it is such statistical thinking. I have decided that ‘the speed of light’ is a bogus device for making the subjective-objective switch of attention purely objective.1 P.S. The Dialectics of the Negative are fascinating. It seems that the whole EF structure can be derived from considering the Negative as the relation between one-of-two and both-of-two.

77


[el. 55]

seeking the path

[ EL. 55 ]

26.ii.58

26 February 1958

Thank you for the Kummer Surface and for your letter of the 23rd. I am sorry that Kummer did not give you the fulgurating insight you had half hoped for—it is certainly difficult to know what sort of effect a Model of Being will have on one until one has actually seen one. (We sometimes meet with people who, we are assured, are ‘models of behaviour’, but nobody, as far as I know, has ever been called a ‘model of being’.) For my part the effect of the article was rather complex. In the first place there was the nostalgia for the atmosphere of Pure Mathematics (and its Pure Mathematical Jokes—did you know that this curve:— J

X O

is called a Cissoid—pronounced Kissoid?). This was combined with a regret that I did not go further than I did, and a feeling of having been put in my place by People Who Know More and who can write such articles with such efficiency. Then there was the awe-inspiring, cold, symmetrical, silent, inexorable, serene beauty of Line Geometry, leading up to Kummer’s Surface. Finally there was the double stimulation and frustration of halfunderstanding. Fascinated glimpses embedded in a stream of incomprehensible technicalities. The article is a little too concise to do much more than invite a closer acquaintance. There seems to be an awful lot of lines in space. The upshot of all this was that I decided to put in writing, explaining every step as clearly as I could (so as to make sure I was not skipping anything or deceiving myself), the structure of the Negative, starting with the sole assumption ‘A exists’, and finishing with what the EB article so tastefully describes as a ‘finite group of order 32, of which sixteen are harmonic homologies, and sixteen are involutional correlations.’ LINE GEOMETRY [Kummer Quartic = Biquadratic] 1 LINE GEOMETRY. In geometry, curves and other loci are frequently regarded as generated by a point, the position of which is defined by certain conditions. A straight line, however, may be thought of as the generating element, such as a tangent to a curve, or as a generator of a cone. That branch of geometry is called line geometry.

78


26.ii.58

early letters

[el. 55]

A point in space is determined by its distance from three planes which intersect in one point (i.e. by its co-ordinates), and a plane is defined by the totality of the points the co-ordinates of which satisfy a linear equation. The coefficients of the co-ordinates in the equation are called plane co-ordinates. A point and a plane are in united position when their co-ordinates satisfy a certain bi-linear equation (i.e. linear in the co-ordinates of the point, and also linear in the co-ordinates of the plane). The principle of duality (q.v.) asserts that for every theorem involving points, obtained from properties of point co-ordinates, there is another involving planes, and conversely. These properties remain true if each point co-ordinate is replaced by any linear fractional homogeneous expression in four numbers x1, x2, x3, x4, with common denominator and non-vanishing determinant. The numbers xi are called projective point co-ordinates. Similarly, u1, u2, u3, u4, may be taken as projective plane coordinates, and the condition for united position may be expressed by the equation Σ uixi = ο. In the plane, the projective co-ordinates, x1, x2, x3, may be defined either as point co-ordinates or as line co-ordinates, thus giving rise to point-line duality in the plane. In space a straight line is self dual; it is uniquely determined by any two distinct points on it, or by any two distinct planes through it. The line itself may be regarded as an element; for many purposes in kinematics, in dynamics, and in optics this is more advantageous than to have it defined indirectly in terms of points and planes. Line co-ordinates.—Given two points (x1, x2, x3, x4,) = (x), (y1, y2, y3, y4,) = (y) on a line, the six expressions of the form xiyk-xkyi are called its homogeneous line co-ordinates pik. Apart from a constant factor common to all, they are independent of what two distinct points are chosen. Among them there is a quadratic relation which is identically satisfied P ≡ ο. All the relations between two lines, such as distance, angle or condition of intersection, or any other relation, can be expressed in terms of their co-ordinates. A line meets two distinct planes each in one point, finite or infinite, and a point in each is determined when its two co-ordinates are fixed. Thus it follows that a line is determined by four independent co-ordinates, or there exists ∞4 lines in space. When the co-ordinates pik satisfy one equation, there are ∞ lines singled out, which constitute a complex; if they satisfy two such equations, the ∞2 lines constitute a congruence; if they satisfy three, the ∞1 lines belong to a ruled surface; if they satisfy four, there may be only a finite number of lines. The linear complex Σ aikpik = ο can, by a proper choice of a system of

79


[el. 55]

seeking the path

26.ii.58

co-ordinates, be reduced to the form xy’-x’y + k(z-z’) = ο, in which x, y, z, and x’, y’, z’ are the Cartesian co-ordinates of any two points on a line. If k = ο, the complex is special; it now consists of all the lines which meet the fixed line x = ο, y = ο, the axis. If k is not zero, the line x = ο, y = ο is still called the axis but not all the lines of the complex meet it. The complex can be visualised in various ways. It is identical with the null system of mechanics, i.e., the totality of those axes of rotation with regard to which a system of forces in space have a moment of rotation zero. Associated with every point (pole) there is (see Pole and Polar) a plane (polar) passing through it and conversely such that associated with every point is a pencil of lines of the complex through it, and lying in its polar plane. A geometric picture can be obtained as follows: let a be the axis, and π any plane perpendicular to a. If the plane be moved parallel to itself, and rotated into itself about a, the translation and the tangent of the angle of rotation being in proportion, then every point P of π will describe a right circular helix. The lines of the complex are the tangents to these ∞2 helices. The lines which belong to two linear complexes A = ο, B = ο belong to every complex of the system λA + µB = ο for every value of λ and µ. Within this system are two special complexes A’= ο, B’= ο, and the linear congruence may be defined as the ∞2 lines which meet two given lines, called the directrices of the congruence. They may be distinct, coincident or imaginary. When they are coincident, the congruence consists of ∞1 pencils of lines with vertrices P on the directrix d, and lying in planes π through d, such that P, π are projectively related. Two complexes A = ο, B = ο are in involution when on every line p of the complex, the poles of an arbitrary plane through p in A = ο, B = ο are harmonic as to the intersections of p with the axes of the two special complexes A’= ο, B’= ο in the system. The lines which belong to three linear complexes A = ο, B = ο, C = ο constitute the ∞' lines of a regulus, i.e., one system of generators of a quartic surface; if they are real, they form a hyperboloid of one sheet, or a hyperbolic paraboloid. These lines also belong to every linear complex of the form system λA + µB + νC = ο. The other system of generators belongs to three independent linear complexes, each of which is in involution with A = ο, B = ο, C = ο. The lines belonging to four linear complexes are the two transversals of the axes of the four independent special linear complexes contained in the system. They may be distinct, coincident or imaginary. These ideas have been recognized in part by various writers, but they were first put into systematic form in terms of co-ordinates by Arthur

80


26.ii.58

early letters

[el. 55]

Cayley 2 in 1860. The results attracted the attentions of several mathematicians, in particular of Julius Plücker 3, who soon contributed a number of notes leading to their further development. Eight years later appeared the first part of Plücker’s book on line geometry. By means of a simple transformation of the line co-ordinates pki, the quadratic identity P ≡ ο can be reduced to the sum of six squares, Σ xi2 = ο. These xi are called Klein co-ordinates; they furnish one of the most striking examples in mathematics of the power and the ease of obtaining results in consequence of a proper notation. The Line-sphere Transformation.—The pik or the xi can also be interpreted as the co-ordinates of a sphere, since the co-ordinates of the centre and the length of the radius furnish four independent quantities which determine a sphere. By making the co-ordinates homogeneous, and be expressing the length of the radius in terms of the coefficients in the equation of the sphere, the quadratic identity appears. Two lines which intersect are thus transformed into two spheres which touch each other. The points of space (spheres of zero radius) are the images of the lines of a certain complex; the planes of space (spheres whose radii become infinite) are the images of the lines of a certain special linear complex. A linear equation in sphere co-ordinates (linear complex of spheres) defines the ∞3 spheres which cut a fixed sphere at a constant angle. The line-sphere transformation together with its projective generalizations, is a powerful weapon in the study of certain curves and rules surfaces. Thus, all the sextic ruled surfaces (12 types) and those of order seven having a straight line directrix (about 300 types) have been determined by this method. Given a line l not belonging to a non-special linear complex A = ο; as a point P describes l, its polar plane π as to A = ο describes a pencil whose axis l’ does not belong to A = ο nor intersect l. Dually, every plane π' through l has a pole P’. As π' turns about l, P’ describes l’. Two such lines l, l’ are called conjugate polars as to A = ο. Any line of A = ο which meets l will also intersect l’ and every line which meets both l and l’ is a line of A = ο. By this transformation a linear complex B = ο is transformed into a complex B’ = ο. If A and B are in involution B’ = B. The six co-ordinate complexes xi = ο in the Klein system are mutually in involution. Mapping on Hyperspace.—If the pik (or the xi) are thought of as homogeneous point co-ordinates in space of five dimensions, the quadratic identity P = ο becomes the equation of a quadric variety, hence line

81


[el. 55]

seeking the path

26.ii.58

geometry may be interpreted as the geometry on a quadric variety in five-way space. A linear complex is then the section of the quadric by a linear four-way space, and hence it defines a three-dimensional quadratic variety in space of four dimensions. By stereographic projection this can be mapped on the points of three-way space, hence there is a one-to-one correspondence between the points of ordinary space and the lines of any linear complex. The axes of the complexes of a pencil describe a ruled cubic surface, the cylindroid, which is of value in the application of line geometry to dynamics, as is shown in the treatise of Ball. It may be generated as follows: Given a line d, and on it two points P, P’. Through P draw any line p perpendicular to d, and through P’ draw a line p’ perpendicular to d and to p. Now as a variable point G moves along d from P to P’, associate with it a line g always passing through G, perpendicular to d, and such that the distance from P is proportional to the cosine of double the angle that g makes with the plane d, p. At P, g coincides with p, at P’, g coincides with p’ and when G is in the middle of the segment PP’, g makes an angle of 45° with the plane d, p. Then think of a second line g’ doing the same thing, but winding in the other direction. The line d is a double line on the resulting surface. The planes containing the pairs of intersecting lines g, g’ are all parallel; they intersect in an ideal line d’ which also lies on the surface. By taking d for the z axis, x – y = ο, z = h for p, x + y = ο, z = -h for p’, the equation has the form z(x2 + y2) = 2hxy. Every ruled cubic with two distinct directrix lines can be projected into this form. The General Complex.—An algebraic equation homogeneous and of order n in pik, together with the identity P = ο defines a complex of order n. By holding one point (y) fixed, the points (x) which satisfy the equation all lie on a cone of order n, having (y) as vertex. Similarly, the lines of the complex which lie in a fixed plane all touch a curve of class n. For an arbitrary point, the complex cone has no multiple or cuspidal generators, and in an arbitrary plane the complex curve has no double or inflexional tangents. A point (y) which is the vertex of a cone having a double generator is called a singular point. The locus of the singular points is a surface. Similarly, the plane (u) which contains a complex curve with a double or inflexional tangent is called a singular plane. The envelope of the singular planes is identical with the locus of the singular points. It is called the surface of singularities, and it may be simply a curve.

82


26.ii.58

early letters

[el. 55]

A congruence may be the complete or partial intersection of two complexes. If it is algebraic the number of its lines passing through an arbitrary point is called its order, the number in an arbitrary plane is called its class. Let p be any line of a congruence; the distance from p to consecutive lines of the congruence is a certain differential expression of the first order, which vanishes to the third order for two points P, P’ on p. These are called foci, and their locus, as p describes the given congruence, is the focal surface, to which p is a bitangent. P and P’ may describe the same surface, or different surfaces, or either or both may describe a curve. In the last case the congruence consists of the lines which intersect both curves. Congruences of lines are of particular importance in differential geometry (q.v.), both metric and projective, e.g., that formed as lines of curvature, asymptotic lines, etc., and that formed by the tangents to one parameter systems of curves on a surface, by the normals to a surface. They are also of importance in optics. The complete or partial intersection of three complexes is a ruled surface. The number of its lines which meet a given line is its order, which is also its class. For every order greater than two, a con-conical ruled surface must have one or more double curves. Every plane section is either proper or, if composite, must consist of one proper curve and of straight lines, counted simply or multiply. All the plane sections, apart from straight-line components, are birationally equivalent, hence if the surface is algebraic all have the same genus, which may be called the genus of the ruled surface. These ruled surfaces of maximum genus for a given order are those contained in a linear congruence. If all the generators of a ruled surface are tangents to a curve C, the surface is called a developable surface. Then C appears on the surface as a cuspidal curve. The surface also contains double curves, if the order of the curve C is greater than 3. Every generator of a non-developable ruled surface of order n needs n-2 other generators. The Quadratic Complex.—If φ = ο is the equation of the complex of order 2, then the lines belonging to it satisfy the equation φ + λP = ο for every value of λ. When the discriminant of this form has six distinct roots λi ; the equation can be reduced to φ = Σ λi xi 2 = ο when P = Σ xi 2 = ο. The surface of singularities is in this case the most general Kummer surface of order and class 4, with 16 double points and 16 singular planes, i.e., planes which touch the surface at every point of a conic. Each conic passes through six double points, and each double point lies on six such conics. The same surface is also a complete focal surface for six congruences of order and class 2, namely those defined by φ = ο, xi = ο (i = 1, 2, … , 6).

83


[el. 55]

seeking the path

26.ii.58

The surface is invariant under the operation of interchanging the points of contact of the lines of each congruence; these generate a finite group of order 32, of which 16 are harmonic homologies, and 16 are involutorial correlations. For particular forms of φ, corresponding particularities exist in the Kummer surface. Thus, if φ = Σ aik p2ik = ο, the complex consists of lines which intersect two given quadrics harmonically. The surface of singularities is now the tetrahedroid. The six nodes on each conic are in involution. It is a projective generalization of the wave surface of Fresnel. This complex is known as Battaglini's Complex. Another particularization is that in which the λ-discriminant is a square and each λi makes every first minor vanish. The complex consists of the lines which meet the faces of a fixed tetrahedron in projective tetrads. The surface of singularities consists of the faces of the tetrahedron. This complex is called the tetrahedral complex. The first systematic study of the quadratic complex was made by Battaglini, who assumed, erroneously, that the most general one could be expressed as a linear function of the squares of the pik. The correction of this error led to the complete classification according to the form of the λ-discriminant, thus affording one of the early applications to the theory of elementary divisors. The Kummer surface also furnished one of the first illustrations of a surface which remains invariant under a infinite number of distinct birational transformations, but this property is shared by the focal surface of many other congruences. The geometry of the straight line has shown a close relation to exist among many apparently divergent fields of mathematics. [ EL. 56 ]

3 March 1958

did you know that a thing is itself the evidence of its own existence? [ EL. 57 ]

12 March 1958

Your views on phassa are interesting and have been noted; you will discover mine when (if ever) you get ‘Ñå~av⁄ra on the Negative’. I cannot say that we altogether disagree. Phassa, I think, is perpendicularity tout court.1 I have discovered that ‘the true negatives always make a third’ (a true negative is distinct from an absolute negative, which is that between two independent objects and therefore reversible; a true negative is not reversible), and this, it seems to me, is expressed in the Pali thus: ‘Dvayaµ pa†icca phasso’ 2 and

84


12.iii.58

early letters

[el. 57]

‘Tinnaµ saπgati phasso’ 3. You are right in saying that the third (though I do not say ‘the observer’) is perpendicular to the duality of the first two, but I must add that the first two are also perpendicular—related, that is to say, as ‘one’ to ‘both’, and therefore as the third to the duality of the first two. A and B are perpendicular when B is the relation between A and B. (this statement, I may add, has cost me many hours of labour.) I can hardly restrain my admiration at the way you have worked your way into the position that atheism is sassatavåda 4. The final step is evident: theism is ucchedavåda, and this is not so absurd as one might think. The fashionable up-to-date idea of ‘religion’, as far as I can make out, is that it is a kind of emotional outlet necessary for mental health, just as a material outlet from time to time in the privy is necessary for bodily health. One can perfectly well be a Christian these days without any belief in the immortality of the soul, and the ‘best’ Christians today don’t believe in it. You are probably aware that I do not hold the dictionary (not even the Concise Oxford Dictionary) as the final authority on what words really mean. A dictionary, in any case, gives, not the meaning, but the meanings of words—and besides, we have to find out what the words in the dictionary mean. If I am writing for the general public’s edification I shall be sure that my usage (unless otherwise stated) conforms to the dictionary, but if I am talking with an individual I shall ask him what they mean. Consequently, if I am talking with you I shall take good care not to say that the Dhamma is atheistic. If I am talking with the Ven. Soma Thera I shall probably say that it is atheistic. If I am talking to the world I must first find out what the Concise Oxford Dictionary means by ‘Disbelief in a God’ before deciding. If I am talking to myself I shall not use the word. Gibbon is described somewhere as being a ‘deist’ but not a ‘theist’, and the distinction made is that a theist believes in a personal perpetual God à la Chrétienne, whereas a deist believes in, shall we say, ‘a spiritual authority in the universe’. Kierkegaard seems to present an odd combination of these two—he is a deist when he says ‘God does not think; he creates. God does not exist; he is eternal’, but he has most depressingly parochial theistic moments. Perhaps you would allow that the Dhamma is ‘non-deistic’, which seems to deny a thoughtless (pure) creator—perhaps you would not. Perhaps we can regard ‘theism-atheism’ as a duality, and ‘deism’ as perpendicular to this duality. The Dhamma will then be perpendicular to this duality:— Theism Deism Atheism.

85


[el. 57]

seeking the path

12.iii.58

Now that we seem to be back at perpendicularity, there is a little more on it. The thing that Kummer illustrates is the dependence of absoluteness upon the principle of duality. The objects of our world exist absolutely (Sartre says they are de trop), which is to say that they are separated from each other by absolute negatives. This means that I can look at a thing, then look elsewhere, and then look back at the thing, and I find it just the same as before. The hierarchy of absolute negatives is this:—

(and so on). But in order to arrive at this we have to take the true negative:—

(A”)

and duplicate it:—

(A)

(B’) (B) (A’)

repeatedly:—

86

(B”)


23.iii.58

early letters

[el. 58]

How can people go to a meet of the Berwickshire Hunt? How can Sartre write articles on Tintoretto? Can’t they see that these things are no longer the same? But, evidently, they can, and they can’t. You say that Malcolm Muggeridge complained that Her Gracious Majesty is stuffy, frumpish, and makes very boring speeches. Doesn’t he realize that that is what she is paid for? [ EL. 58 ]

23 March 1958

Thank you for your letter. I have to say that it could scarcely have arrived at a more inopportune moment. I am right in the middle of a desperate attempt to visualize Kummer with his 16 points and 16 planes and 6 congruences and heaven only knows how many lines and negatives, and here you go and send me several pages more. If I mix all the lines of my heated imagination with all those of your heated imagination, a complex far beyond the wildest dreams of line geometry will certainly be the result. So I am putting your letter on one side for perusal in a calmer moment, when all the planes have been laid flat on top of each other like a plate of sandwiches, and all the lines gathered together like a bundle of firewood, and all the points swept together like a heap of sand, and all the perpendiculars dropped and there is peace and quiet. I have only one comment to make at present, and that is that there is, mercifully, only one line at infinity, to wit, the circumference of the circle, centre X = 0, Y = 0, and radius ∞. About counting star-spokes. There is no question as far as I am concerned, of seeing all at once as a definite number. I have to concentrate my attention on different parts of the star, decide how many spokes I see there, and then move on to the next part. Sometimes I can go right round clockwise or anticlockwise counting 1, 2, 3, 4, … 13, 14, 15. The pictures I drew are composite affairs, checked and rechecked by observation. I still seem to have the same patterns. [ EL. 59 ]

28 March 1958

I have now, in a calmer moment, perused your trivialities on Great Subjects. Without actually venturing to disagree with you on what you say, I cannot say that I always entirely agree with you. It’s like a fascinating glimpse into somebody else’s workshop, where the actual thing under construction is not in view. Some of the fragments I see might turn out to be useful in the construc-

87


[el. 59]

seeking the path

28.iii.58

tion of my ‘thing’, for other fragments I can see no practical use at all. This will hardly be strange unless we happen to be constructing the same thing. About the sassatavåda of the modern materialist, I go with you only half way. I think that the view ‘the world will continue to exist long after I am no more’, which seems to me to be the commonest, contains elements of both sassata and uccheda vådas. Much will depend on whether this is regarded as a matter for rejoicing or not; but anyone who says that death is annihilation, whether he likes the idea or dislikes it, cannot be altogether acquitted of ucchedavåda. With Sartre and Camus I think it depends on what period of their life you are thinking of. Both ‘accept existence’, but then it seems to me that it is impossible for anyone not to, since he has it anyway. Cf. Freud’s remark that we cannot concieve our own death (i.e. annihilation). The Camus of Le Mythe, as he appears there, is ucchedavåda in my opinion; but what he is now I can’t be sure. The Sartre of L’Être et le Néant is also ucchedavåda. But as soon as people begin to imagine themselves as ‘part of humanity’ we get chaos. In a sense they commit suicide in order to become immortal. Thank you for the Husserl. Upon re-reading him I don’t seem to find anything fresh, but I wanted to make sure. I wish I could write like that. His sentence: ‘The “I” and “we”, which we apprehend, presuppose a hidden “I” and “we” to whom they are present’ is put in its place by this: ‘Attanå va attånaµ sañjånåm⁄ti vå ’ssa saccato thetato di††hi uppajjati’.1 After copying and re-reading the line geometry article it seems to me that it should not be beyond my mathematical capabilities to grasp it. Kummer, with what I had already done with the EF-operators, can be partly reconstructed: 16 planes, 16 points, 6 points to a plane, 6 planes to a point, each in two pairs of 3, 15 lines on each plane, 15 lines through each point. I have no desire at all to leave this place (in one way this is good, because it seems to show that I am contented here), and still less to leave it for Colombo. Nevertheless, I think I shall go—a week should be enough for me to find out what I want. … I shall wait, however, until I can find somebody who is going to Colombo by car and can take me: I am in no hurry, and six hours by car is better than fourteen by bus and train. Is there anything I can do for you while I am in Colombo? P.S. I now think I have got the fundamental definition of perpendicularity: B is perpendicular to A when it is the repetition of A. P.P.S. By the principle of duality, if an object exists in three spatial dimensions and one temporal, then a subject, a consciousness, exists in three temporal and one spatial.

88


4.iv.58

early letters

[ EL. 60 ]

[el. 60]

4 April 1958

Thank you for your letter yesterday (yes, arrived and delivered in one day), with the unsolicited testimonial to my mathematical ability regarding Kummer and so on. Kummer, in fact, has produced something. In the first place, wondering why it should be possible to represent reality, I came to the conclusion (agreeing with what I had thought before) that reflexion is the same as projection. We produce existence simply by existing, by being immediate; we then, without ceasing to exist, take one pace step back and look at the existence we are producing. But this is equivalent to not taking one pace step back, and to projecting the existence we are producing into one less dimension than we are existing in. The peculiarity about Kummer is that it is eminently projectile (which means, of course, ‘capable of being projected’), since it is entirely composed of conics, and a conic, when projected, always becomes a conic. And this means that it is always possible to take an outside view of Kummer, and it also seems to mean that Kummer is an outside view of whatever happens in four dimensions. And if this is so, it means that at any one level (Kummer represents only one level) we need not go beyond four dimensions, because there are only four represented in Kummer. It is only in reflexion (or pre-reflexion) that we get an outside view of (4-dimensional) Kummer: immediately we are located in Kummer and get an inside view. This inside view is simply the projection of Kummer from one of its points (point 16). Note that projection does not simply give you what is in front of the camera, but also what is behind (which is why there are two parts to a hyperbola:—

point of projection plane of projection

ellipse being projected into hyperbola.)

89


[el. 60]

seeking the path

4.iv.58

Thus, it is possible to make a projection of Kummer onto a flat surface from a point within it or outside it.a In the second place Kummer has thrown light on Eddington’s rather mysterious—at least as you would have it—obtaining of only four dimensions from five directions at right angles. The answer is laughably simple, and you will kick yourself for not having thought of it:—the three spatial dimensions (E11, E4 and E14, say) [note incidentally that the sixteen E-operators are ten points and six planes, and the sixteen a.  I have made a fairly accurate drawing of Kummer as seen from point 16, and this I enclose. You will be pleased to see that the fifteen lines joining point 16 to the other fifteen points all become points, because you are looking at them and on: this features in your account of phassa and perhaps will help. Note that there are sixteen points, of which fifteen are shown (and your eye is the 16th), and these are points 1, -2, -3, 4, -5, 6, -7, 8, -9, -10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. There are also sixteen planes (or conics in planes), of which one, π-16, is directly facing you, six, π2, π3, π5, π7, π9, π10, are seen edge on (they pass through your eye) and appear as lines;b and nine, π-1, π-4, π-6, π-8, π-11, π-12, π-13, π-14, π-15, are foreshortened. (But the conics lying in them still appear as conics, since as noted above, a projected conic is a conic.) The six points, -2, -3, -5, -9, -10 all lie in the conic in π-16. From whatever point you choose in Kummer, the view is always as described here. Kummer’s Quartic Surface (as seen from point 16)

b. In ink—the lines in pencil are the intersecting of the planes with plane π-16. Including the ink lines there are fifteen lines in plane π16, as there are fifteen lines through point 16.

90


4.iv.58

early letters

[el. 60]

F-operators are ten planes and six points], are indeed perpendicular to both E3 and E10 but not at the same time; consequently E3 and E10 represent, together, time. Having given you this laughably simple explanation, I must now withdraw it and say that E11, E4 and E14, are perpendicular to both E3 and E10 at the same time. But this is shorthand. E3 and E10, it will be noted, are planes, whereas E11, E4, and E14 are points (or lines, when joined up with E16), and these three points or lines lie in one plane (E5). If it is meaningless to speak of three lines in a plane being perpendicular to two planes (or even one plane) that lie right outside their plane—they can only be perpendicular to the lines of intersection of these two planes (E3, E10) with their plane (E5) and these lines of intersection are respectively E16 to F-10 and E16 to F-3. Consequently to cut a long story short, if we say that E11, E4, and E14 are perpendicular to the point (or line) F-10, and at the same time the planes F-11, F-4, and F-14, are perpendicular to the plane E10 ; alternatively (and not at the same time) E11, E4, and E14 are perpendicular to F-3, and at the same time F-11, F-4, and F-14 are perpendicular to E3. (This alternative reinstates the laughably simple explanation above.) This result can be interpreted so:—The object possesses three spatial dimensions, and one temporal dimension; the subject possesses three temporal dimensions, and one spatial dimension; and object and subject are always found together.a From this it begins to appear that whenever anything happens, it is one of three things:—a change of object, a change of subject, or a change of both. But because the object possesses one subjective dimension, and the subject one objective dimension, a change of object does not leave the subject entirely unaffected, nor does a change of subject the object. Or, a change of object is a change in one temporal dimension, but not in the other three; and a change of subject is a change in one spatial dimension, but not in the other three. And these three kinds of change I find in my experience. (i) The object changes, but not the subject. This is quite clear—the sun is shining, then a cloud passes in front of it. I am not affected except to the extent that I am conscious of the passage of time—my present attitude has only undergone a peripheral change. (ii) The subject changes, but not the object. This you described in your last letter—the cube may suddenly change its orientation whilst remaining the same cube. This change of gestalt is a subjective change of attitude, and the object is only affected in so far a.  Strictly, the interpretation is this:—The three spatial dimensions of the object are perpendicular to the one spatial dimension of the subject; and the three temporal dimensions of the subject are perpendicular to the one temporal dimension of the object. But these two interpretations are the same.

91


[el. 60]

seeking the path

4.iv.58

as ‘it is the same yet not quite the same’—its determinations have switched around, a peripheral change only. (In a subjective change, although there is no change in the direction E11, E4, and E14, nevertheless E4 and E14 change places—the cube ‘turns inside out’.)a (iii) Both change. The best example of this breathing. If I intend to breath in, the in-breath is manifest; and if the in-breath is manifest then I find that ‘I am breathing in’. (Contrast with the heart, which seems to belong to (i). It is possible, it seems, to make a very slight difference to the heartbeats by a voluntary effort, but the change is primarily objective.) This will cover all our direct action on the world. You will notice that (ii) accounts for our ability to think or imagine when in the presence of an unchanging object—imagination is necessarily a peripheral activity with respect to an object. (I use the word peripheral metaphorically—an image, even if actually placed in the field of vision, is peripheral or absent with respect to the actual object in the centre of the field of vision.) This may throw light on your column-counting experiments. For me, the discovery of these three categories (discovered theoretically) clears up a great deal of difficulty in understanding action and intention and changes forced upon me by the world. It also seems to show that the object is never entirely objective, nor the subject entirely subjective. This is all rather hurriedly thrown down on paper (‘projected’ if you like) and you will be able to expand it for yourself if you are interested. It all comes of the negative E-operators (E2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10) being planes, i.e. joining F’s camp, and the positive F-operators (F-2, -3, -5, -5, -7, -9, -10) being points and joining E’s camp. Nobody has come here with an offer of a lift to Colombo, so I stay here. I am still in two minds whether to go or not. Much will depend on the weather at the time… Shall bring books if and when I come. Herr R. visited and seemed, as you say, quite amiable. He is trying to decide whether to seek ordination in Vajiråråma (where the food is less loathsome) and live at the Hermitage (where there is less noise), or seek ordination at the Hermitage (where there is less noise) and live at Vajiråråma (where the food is less loathsome). He appears to be much concerned about cleanliness, especially regarding food. It seems there is a legend in existence that my upbringing took place in fabulously elegant and luxurious circumstances, and that I made a wonderful effort to adapt myself to my present surroundings. Who started this?

a.  I think that Rhine’s psychokinesis experiments probably detect this minor change in the object that accompanies a major change in the subject.

92


25.iv.58

[ EL. 61 ]

early letters

[el. 61]

25 April 1958

I am rather inclined now not to go to Colombo (Kummer, now that I have drawn him, is serving his purpose fairly well without systematic study, which is now less urgent) … I should be very glad if you could post (as you offered to do) the remaining books. About your last letter. I totally disagree with you about ‘Super Mathematics’ being ‘pure aesthetics’. I insist that they (or it) are (or is) essentially religious (i.e. existential). Pythagoras is the first example of this, and Jeans follows him a tawdry fifth or sixth. Unfortunately, most mathematicians don’t understand this at all, and go wandering off into applied mathematics (which is like teaching religion for money) or statistics (which is Mammon). Super Mathematics, ultimately, is concerned with structure as it is met with, whereas aesthetics, as I see it, is concerned with communication by means of empirical ad hoc structure, i.e. with creation—no artist would dream of calculating his efforts mathematically. (Jeans confuses matters by supposing that the mathematical universe is a communication—or work of art—by the Creator.) Precisely because the universe is mathematical it is not a creation. If Super Mathematics delights the mind, it is religious and not aesthetic pleasure that we experience. Otherwise I totally agree with you. About sassata-uccheda. Naturally the question of vibhavata~hå must enter into the reckoning when we consider ucchedavåda: but surely, for this very reason, it is inaccurate to say that any given doctrine (advaita vedanta, for example) is or is not uccheda. I mean that we ought not to say so without considering the person who holds the view, and why he holds it. Perhaps it is possible to say ‘most who hold X view are Y-vådins’, but this smacks of humanity-views. How do you classify a Såπkhya disciple to whom the doctrine seems dialectically and logically inevitable, but who hates existence? The snake that lives in my roof does not chase geckos—it ‘sits’ with its head out and fascinates them. I watched a wretched gecko, clucking feebly, slowly walk straight towards one of these snakes. I interposed a broom when they were about six inches apart, and the gecko fled. Fascinating to watch—quite horrible—and I quite understand the gecko. The Law of Entropy must, I think, be subjectively-objectively revised as follows:—‘In any closed system the total quantity of boredom tends to increase’. Weather now less pleasant—cloudy and dampish, but not really unpleasant.

93


[el. 62]

seeking the path

[ EL. 62 ]

1.v.58

1 May 1958

The sketch of Kummer that I sent you I now discover to be the special case of Battaglini’s Complex, and not the general case. In the figure for the general case of Kummer the three inside elipses overlap the fourth instead of touching it, so:—

and the points 1, 6, 11 are not (necessarily) in a straight line. Otherwise it looks much the same. Oddly enough, I seem to have made the same erroneous assumption as Battaglini, namely that the six points on the conic you begin with are in involution, so:—

whereas I now find that any six points will do, so:—

This, in fact, simplifies the situation considerably, and I had wasted a little time trying to find the connexion between perpendiculars and harmonic ranges and pencils (with which Battaglini abounds); but in the general case these are absent, and we are left with the simpler fact that any two intersecting lines represent a right angle. On this account, some of what I said in my last letter turns out to be irrelevant. In the meantime the structure of Kummer and his transformations becomes a little clearer, and I can say that he certainly represents the structure of existence as I had conceived it about fifteen months ago (i.e. just before the connexion with the quantum theory had occurred to me). Whether or not it represents the structure of existence as I ought to conceive it is another matter. In any case, what I want Kummer for is to serve as a reliable image for thinking with. As Sartre points out in a chapter of L’Imaginaire, the danger of using images to think with—i.e. the danger of thinking at all—is that we are liable to rationalize the images. (This is perhaps what you mean when you speak of ‘argument by analogy’ being untrustworthy; but it

94


1.v.58

early letters

[el. 62]

seems possible to avoid that trap.) Of course, after thinking with Kummer as an image, I still have to become part of the image, because I can’t stay outside existence. If I imagine Kummer as a surface in space I must not forget that I am thinking time spatially. If the points of Kummer represent objective determinations, the planes represent subjective determinations (or vice versa). (Kierkegaard has missed an opportunity—how’s this for a definition of God-Eternity? ‘God remains Invariant under an Infinite number of distinct Bi-rational Transformations’?) I still have no idea at all what an actual Kummer Surface looks like. This is of less importance than one might think, because the points and planes are what really matter (anyway, how can one possibly imagine any particular shape for existence as a whole?). I still can’t decide whether to go to Colombo if an opportunity presents itself—my intentions vary with the weather (which is normally wet) and with whether Kummer seems transparent or opaque. Angst. One factor that perhaps makes the determination of ucchedavåda difficult seems to be that many people seem to be able to enjoy life (sensual immediacy) on the express condition that they disbelieve in an after-life. Sensualists very often deny the possibility of survival with remarkable violence—perhaps they do not like to think that their behaviour and enjoyment may have unforeseen consequences beyond the grave, that they might have to become ‘religious’ and take life seriously. ‘Half in love with easeful death’ I think is only half the picture—dislike for existence is not incompatible with the most abandoned self-indulgence, and possibly the two are inseperable. The Sartre of L’Être et le Néant invents the En-soi Pur precisely in order to avoid the conclusion that the Pour-soi 1 is beginningless—if he enjoys existence, that is because he believes it to be limited to the space between birth and death. The early Camus (rather like speaking of ‘the late Beethoven’) advocates non-suicide precisely because he believes suicide to be the end, and he stresses the absurdity of death as the crowning absurdity that makes indulgence in existence now a matter of urgency. Sassatavåda is very sobering when a man is drunk with sensual indulgence, and not at all welcome, and the gloomy self-mortifications of the earnest sassatavådin often give the impression that he does not ‘enjoy life’—and this is true, precisely because ‘enjoying life’ and the eternalist view are incompatible. The ucchedavådin enjoys life; the sassatavådin is gloomy and does not—this seems paradoxical and complicates the picture. But I must say that, though I do not seem to agree with you on these matters, my views are fairly fluid and I am open to persuasion. I am not at all sure that bhavata~hå and vibhavata~hå are on the same level as (and therefore equatable with) sassatavåda and ucchedavåda. I should prefer bhavåråmatå 2 (as in the Itivuttaka Sutta) and vibhavåråmatå 1

95


[el. 62]

seeking the path

1.v.58

(the Sutta says ‘vibhavaµ abhinandanti’ 3). Both of these are overcome by the cakkhumanto 4 who, in the gåthå, are qualified by bhavata~håparikkhayå 5. Vibhavata~hå seems to me to be craving for a thing’s absence, which is at the bottom of dosa—but a sassatavådin can well have hate. Kåmata~hå = craving for a thing to be present. Vibhavata~hå = craving for a thing to be absent. Bhavata~hå = craving for a thing to be. What is the etymological derivation of satta? Someone said that ‘creature’ reminds him of ‘Creator’, and this is a disadvantage. (I don’t know if this is generally true—if someone tells me ‘Look, there is a nasty creature crawling up your leg’, my first reaction is by no means to contemplate the mysteries of Creation.) Perhaps the word ‘individual’ might do as an alternative translation—it is appropriate in this Group Age. Today is Workers’ Day, and I have spent it (in part) in a study of the Theory of Groups, which is also appropriate. [ EL. 63 ]

11 May 1958

To comment on some of your comments. I. The difference in appearance between the photograph of Kummer’s Surface 1 and my drawing is due to the fact that what I have drawn is a projection not of the entire Kummer Surface (which could only produce a kind of profile) but of one particular set of points and planes out of the ∞ (or ∞2 or ∞3) of such sets associated with each Kummer Surface. You are quite right in saying that one cannot get ‘outside’ the Existential Kummer Surface (= Being) to view it as a whole: what I intended to say, but perhaps did not make clear, is that one can get ‘outside’ any one particular set of points and planes by being at a point in the Surface—i.e. in Being—that is not one of the sixteen of the given set. It is, in fact, just in this way that the hierarchy occurs. There are certain transformations (136) that can take place using a point (or a plane) as reference or ‘pivot’ that belongs to the given set, but each set implies other points outside the set, using one of which as pivot other transformations (120) can take place. These are the basis of transformations of the next higher order of generality. But these ‘transformations of transformations’, as they turn out to be, can be considered simply as transformations taking place within a set of sixteen points and sixteen planes, where the points and planes represent the transformations (16 x 16 = 256 = 136 + 120) of the original set of points and planes. In other words, the actual transformations of a set of points and planes on a surface can be

96


11.v.58

early letters

[el. 63]

represented by a set of points and planes on (another) surface. In terms of operators, the group of sixteen (or thirty two) operators is generated, as you know, by two groups of four SαSβSγSδ and DαDβDγDδ; but (taking one side only) of the operators thus generated, number -16, 2, 7, 9 on the one hand (2, 7, and 9 are those other six negative or ‘time-like’ operators) and 16, 3, 5, 10 on the other hand (3, 5, and 10 are the other three negative operators) become the SαSβSγSδ and DαDβDγDδ respectively at a more general level. And this scheme is endless. Thus any given set of points and planes can transform into an infinity of other sets, but the point of reference may, or may not, be one of the original sixteen points (throughout ‘planes’ can be read for ‘points’ and vice versa). This may, perhaps, account for your ‘observer’ who is in one way outside existence (as spectator) and in another within it—the point (or plane) of reference is outside the given transformation, but within a possible transformation (i.e. within the Surface). The thing to be noted, however, is that the transformation is double—a point and a plane are both ‘pivots’ together, and thus a point (or a plane) may itself be ‘pivoted’ in the process of ‘pivoting’. II. The parabola and circle do not appear in the picture simply because they are special cases of conic sections—they can be obtained if you will tilt your picture slightly in the appropriate manner. The special case of a pair of straight lines does appear, simply because I have adopted a special point of view, one of the sixteen points. From a point outside the set of points and planes you would see, in the general case, nothing but ellipses and hyperbolas, which are the only two general conic sections. (If you slice a cone at random you will get one or the other of these curves.) III. Your existential interpretation of the points of the compass is pleasing. Past-Present-Future at right angles is also pleasing. But I must note that I do not think it occurs at the most elementary level (which gives only ‘present’ and ‘absent’ in varying orders). Nevertheless, if three distinct things occur together they must be perpendicular to each other (though not necessarily with reference to the same point or pivot, but perhaps to two points on different levels). In other words, they will belong to a structure represented by Kummer. Kummer, as I now see, is the structure of the Negative, no matter how or where it occurs—if two things, ‘A’ and ‘not-A’, occur anywhere or anyhow, they imply Kummer. Kummer himself may be obtained dialectically from a point (A) and another point (not-A): a point = ‘A’, another = not, therefore another point = not-A. ‘Another’, graphically, is of course a line:— A. _______________ .Å another

97


[el. 63]

seeking the path

11.v.58

Thus, you start with a point and a line. ‘Another’ line gives a plane, and so on. (In terms of operators, the first ‘another’ is ‘turn upside down’, thus A is A and another A is Å.) This brings us to the fundamental datum, a positive and a negative—the positive is a thing, and the negative is an operation. To get another thing you operate on the thing. But, you will object, a thing is one thing, and an operation is already another thing. Quite right, and that is why there is no shortage of negatives about the place. Kummer appears as the structure, or the pattern if you like, thrown up by the infinite pullulation of negatives that appear as soon as any negative appears. Eddington studying electrons dialectically comes across Kummer, and similarly a dialectician studying cheeses (say) dialecticallya would come across Kummer if he went far enough. An electron is not a peculiar object reserved for certain physicists’ contemplation, it is a thing like any other thing—an electron behaves like anything else. So, if we start with a thing ‘A’ and let the operation be ‘to exist’ and we operate with existence on A (‘not-A’ is of course ‘A’s existence’), we shall eventually construct a pattern represented by Kummer. (Note that Russell’s ‘relation between “A” and “and”, and between “and” and “B”’ is dialectically sound but logically nonsense.) IV. You note, correctly, that the three space dimensions are in practice distinguishable from each other. This is also evident in Kummer by the order in which transformations are carried out, and you will yourself note that the sixteen or thirty-two EF operators are all different. Similarly, however, the time dimensions (three of them) are all distinguishable, to wit, by a certain difference in priority between attention, intention, perception, and feeling, all of which are present in each. Just as space, in no case, is a pure abstraction, but a concrete change in the object (to be understood according as the object is an extension, a colour, a smell, etc.) so time is never a pure abstraction but a concrete change in the subject. Admittedly, this is only seen in pre-reflexion, and it must appear as a change in the nåmakåya (which, as we gather from a Sutta, is bahiddhå). It now becomes clear that the coefficients spoken of by Eddington, and which you seemed to regard as of some mysterious (to me) significance, and which I simply did not understand, are the point where Eddington stops being dialectical and becomes logical, where he ceases to be the ‘infinitely interested existing individual’ and becomes the ‘fantastic objective somethingor-other who has pure being to live in’. In other words, it is the appearance a.  One cheese (a Camenbert) and another cheese (a Stilton) are related by the operation or negative of turning a Camembert into a Stilton. But the cheeses that would occur in a further development on these lines would be distinctly ‘processed’.

98


11.v.58

early letters

[el. 63]

of statistics, it is the confusion of the possible with the actual so rightly condemned (if one claims to be dealing with reality) by Kierkegaard. It is the point where quantum theory stops and relativity theory starts. These coefficients have no place at all in Kummer (unless, of course, you can manage to be in a number of different places at the same time). Eddington uses them to illustrate Pythagoras and Minkowski; and it is clear that Pythagoras and Minkowski (their theorems, I mean) are in the realm of abstract thought. I am still not decided whether to go to Colombo—Mr. N.Q. Dias2 is supposed to be coming here on the 27th and can give me a lift if I want it. Kummer is now much clearer, but the 256 transformations seem to ask for a methodical study. I now see more clearly just how much and what I need and do not need to look at, and am less likely than before to read useless things (such as harmonic ranges and their significance). The main thing that worries me is this: can my knowledge of a Surface ever be anything more than superficial? (If you look hard you will see a pun concealed here.) I am glad to hear about H.’s intentions about books. The Ontology might be of interest, but we may be able to give him some points. The Dirac 3 will probably be too difficult, at any rate to begin with, but that is an advantage, provided something can be understood, because it is from these ‘too-difficult-to-start-with’ books that one learns (cf. Sartre). A newspaper report (Daily Express, date unknown) tells of a poltergeist haunting a Lancashire industrial draughtsman’s office. The case is quite normal (things thrown about) and uninteresting except for the following:— ‘Last night works manager 48-year-old Mr. Frank George decided to close the office for a few days to give (the poltergeist) a chance to quit before psychic researchers have to be called in.’ This, I find, is a fine example of the mauvaise foi that besets the modern world. The works manager wants his poltergeist (who throws screwdrivers at people) exorcised, but he wants it done scientifically; for otherwise he will be accused, or at least suspect himself, of superstition. He therefore conceives the Society for Psychical Research as a kind of scientific organization (psychic researchers) able to deal with such disturbing things in a respectable manner. Think of the awful scandal if he called in the parson (whose job it properly is) to mumble or chant exorcisms. Of course the trouble is that so few parsons believe in devils these days, let alone know how to exorcise them. Ceylon is far in advance of Europe in that respect. But the works manager has successfully managed to smother the distasteful fact that poltergeists are not scientific objects. In the foregoing, the word scientific needs to be in faint inverted commas—faint, to indicate that ‘scientific’ and scientific are beginning to be synonymous, that scientists are becoming indistinguishable from science.

99


[el. 64]

[ EL. 64 ]

seeking the path

14.v.58

14 May 1958

You had better finish Either/Or before you send the books, since, as we are in the process of discovering, there are delays and complications in the exchange of books between D. and B. and once you send a book you are not likely to see it again for some months. I only suggested that you wait for the box because it seemed a convenient and safe form of package for these rather large books, and I am not particular about getting it back—but nor is there any particular hurry about sending the books. You had best suit your own convenience in the matter, but I do not want to throw you into a state of angst about whether or not to wait for the box. Perhaps it will arrive before you finish Either/Or. If it doesn’t, you might get Pemadasa to toss a coin for you to relieve you of the awful necessity of choosing. Answers to Your Questions: Applied mathematics are applied to impurity—i.e. dirt—i.e. matter. Pure mathematics are, conversely, purified from application to impurity. Your point about a discrimination between absurds is a good one, but I fancy that a true believer, if pressed, will believe all that is absurd—for, with God, all things are possible. Your stray thought about Being is specious in its bad sense. The whole point of the Hierarchy is that Being Exists, and that the Existence of Being Exists, and so on, ad inf. Were it not so it would be totally impossible (except, of course, for God—see above) ever to have any idea of Being—but the usual mistake is to suppose that one must be outside Being in order to have it as an object. My last letter about being outside a given set of points and planes, but not outside the Kummer Surface, refers. Your stray thought has apparently strayed into the entanglement of the Theory of Types, and got stuck there. I come to your aid with a pair of ontological wire-cutters. About Kummer: I now find I was under a misapprehension, occasioned by the extremely condensed E.B. presentation. Under the title, ‘The General Complex’ it is said:—‘Similarly, the plane (n) which contains a complex curve … is called a singular plane.’ From this I had assumed that the sixteen conics lie in their respective singular planes. But I now see that the conics are not the ‘complex curves’ referred to here. Consequently the following further amendment is to be made to what I have sent you. The sixteen conics are each the locus of the point(s) of contact with the Kummer Surface of a plane (which you may imagine as, in a certain manner, revolving) through the corresponding point. Thus plane π-16 passes through (or contains) point π16: and touches the surface as it revolves at each point of the conic marked in the picture as π-16. Fortunately this does not in any way affect the (previously amended) picture, and it considerably simplifies my idea

100


24.v.58

early letters

[el. 65]

of the surface. It calls, however, for some readjustment of my images, with which I shall be occupied, no doubt, in the immediate future. Unfortunately, it does not throw any light at all on whether I shall or shall not proceed to Colombo with Mr. N.Q. Dias. For your information, a harmonic range is as follows:— A

B

C

(B’)

D

AB/BC = AD/DC. This uniquely determines one other point B’ such that DB’/B’C = DA/AC. I have no idea what relation, if any, this bears to musical harmonies—probably there is one, based on the distances between nodes on a vibrating cord… [ EL. 65 ]

24 May 1958

Thank you for your letter and the post cards. With the impeding arrival of Mr. N.Q. Dias tomorrow, Kummer has been giving me sleepless nights, since I must decide before he (Mr. Dias) comes whether I understand him (Kummer) or not, that is, whether I am to go to Colombo or not. After much labour I have managed to derive the 16/32 operators from the figure: this is much complicated by the fact that one does not start with A  B  C  D but with six points on a conic:— 1

2 3

6 5

4

and these do not represent operation A  B  C  D, which must be discovered. It turns out that operation A  B  C  D is 3

6 5

4 1

2

101


[el. 65]

seeking the path

24.v.58

– – – – and operation A  B  C  D is 2

5

3

4 6

1

My present feeling is that I either understand Kummer or have made enough progress not to need to refer to books on the subject; in consequence I shall almost certainly not go to Colombo, and if this letter does not contain any postscripted amendment to this statement, you will know definitely that I have not gone (I shall not have it posted until after Mr. Dias’s visit). I still intend to look up Kummer in textbooks, but not now—that will do as a profitable passa-tempo if I find I am obliged to go to Colombo. There remains the illogical, but very compelling, reason to go to Colombo, namely, that it would be a pity to waste the opportunity of doing so at speed and in comfort. (What a shame we can’t store up such things for when they are needed!) With your decision not to send the books until knowing whether or not I am going to Colombo, it is just as well that I did not decide to have the question whether or not I shall go to Colombo decided by whether you sent the books in the box or not. An intolerable situation would then have arisen. How can people talk of determinism? I find it most instructive to keep myself in a state of indecision and to watch the various changes in equilibrium that take place; this is much what Sartre describes towards the end of Le Sursis in Mathieu’s experiences on his night in Paris. I enclose a beautiful picture of Kummer (on this green paper) to show that, if drawn with some care in choosing suitable conics and placings of the six points on them, a figure that is not too confusing can be produced. I also enclose another picture of Kummer (actually a Butter-gleeny which is supposed to be neater and tidier than the General Kummer) to show that if you fail to take such care (and start with an eccentric hyperbola as -16) you can get a very confusing picture. (This second picture was an early attempt to draw Kummer.) Further reflexions produce modifications to my last statement regarding time. It now seems that the object has three objective dimensions and one subjective dimension (these four I now identify with the M¨lapariyåya tetrad where the fourth ‘pa†haviµ me ti maññati’ is clearly subjective), while the subject has three subjective dimensions and one objective dimension; and both exist in time, which is, precisely, the progressive shift of everything from subjective to objective (or of the zero point in the opposite direction).

102


24.v.58

early letters

[el. 65]

103


[el. 65]

seeking the path

24.v.58

Thus, the passage of time is the waning of interest (my remark in an earlier letter substituting ‘boredom’ for ‘randomness’ in the Law of Entropy refers; Eddington has two electrons for object and subject and thus cannot distinguish the direction of time): when we are interested we do not reflect (or ‘put the world in brackets’), but then we gradually lose interest and become pre-reflexive (‘I’ gradually appear), and having lost interest switch to some other object—pre-reflexion is the condition for the object to change, as reflexion is the condition for the subject to change. But reflexion, being dual with pre-reflexion (appearance of the subject), which is dual with the object, returns to the object, and the subject can thus change while the object does not, thus counterbalancing the change in the object where the subject does not change. Things are ‘in involution’, so far as I remember, simply when one is the opposite of the other in some way (upside-down, inside out, back to front, etc.): this can certainly be interpreted as perpendicularity, or negativity. If there is a thing and an operation, then what is ‘in involution’ with the thing is the same thing operated upon with the operation. I think this is probably correct. No doubt (although I do not well remember) there are more particular applications and definitions in mathematics. The points A, B, C, are ‘in involution’ with X, Y, Z. Z

B

A

X

Y

C

The ‘ingenious reply that applied mathematics is (are) applied to infinity’ is, in a way, my own (and not quoted); on the other hand, it is also a result of collaboration with you. It is mine in the sense that my writing is mine, and a work of collaboration in that you have read the writing. What I intended to write was ‘applied mathematics are applied to IMPURITY—or dirt—or matter’, and the exact authorship of the ‘ingenious reply’ is a little hard to determine. The trouble with Albert Schweitzer’s solution (as with all solutions that appeal to the popular imagination) is that they are too simple. Purely on that ground they are to be rejected. Kierkegaard’s Christianity is a million miles more complex, and therefore preferable. But Kierkegaard is a Christian by accident.

104


29.v.58

early letters

[el. 66]

[ EL. 66 ]

29 May 1958

This is just to get rid of a few things before the books arrive, and clear the decks for fresh action. I feel I am about to be fertilized. I said earlier that the object has three spatial dimensions and one temporal, and that the subject has three temporal dimensions and one spatial. I then modified this (in my last letter with the pictures) by saying that the object has three objective dimensions and one subjective dimension, and the subject has three subjective dimensions and one objective dimension, and that both have time. These two statements now seem to have become one, as follows: the object has three objective dimensions and one subjective dimension, and the subject has three subjective dimensions and one objective dimension; furthermore for the object, a subjective dimension is temporal, and for the subject, an objective dimension is temporal, the essential characteristic of time being repetition (craving demands repetition of an experience until interest is lost). It is now clear that these two things are dual if one is the repetition of the other. (I think I said in an earlier letter that the key to perpendicularity or negativity was repetition.) In particular, this can be seen from the initial movements in deriving the 16/16 operators from the six points on a conic. We start with 6

1

5

2 4

then go on to

4

3

3

6

1 2

5

by the following operation:—

105


[el. 66]

seeking the path

29.v.58

We then repeat this operation and arrive at 2

5

3

4 6

1

If we then repeat all this (i.e. repeat both operations, repeat repetition) we get to 3

6

4

5 1

again. Thus repetition of

2 3

4

6

1 5

2

is 2

5

3

4 6

1

and vice versa. Thus these two are dual. It is clear that operation A  B  C  D (or simply A) is the operation of transforming 6

1

5

2 4

4

3

into

3

6

1 2

106

5


29.v.58

early letters

[el. 66]

– – – – – and that operation A  B  C  D (or A ) is repetition of A  B  C  D (or A). Now I have also said that we start with a thing A and then perform any given operation on it (such as ‘turning upside down’). There is actually no contradiction at all, for ‘turning upside down’ is ‘repetition of A’ provided that A is the operation of ‘turning upside down’. In a word, we either start with an operation A and repeat it, or we start with a thing A and operate on it, but in the second case the ‘thing A’ turns out to be the operation that we perform on it, and ‘performing this operation on A’ turns out to be ‘repetition of A’. In this way it is just the same whether we start with six points on a conic (to be interchanged in a certain way) or four letters in a row (to be manipulated in a certain other way). It also shows the fundamental importance of repetition—it is the negative—, and Kierkegaard is quite right in insisting upon it (the early pages of Repetition are more significant than they seem to be at first sight), but he tangles it up with his love affair and with God in a hopeless fashion. In my ‘Dialectic of the Negative’ (oeuvre inachevé 1) I have written several pages on ‘A and B’: I now see that I shall have to preface it with several more just on ‘A’. I am also satisfied to have found the place of reflexion in Kummer: although a point and a plane are dual (two points define a line, two planes define a line: three points line in a plane; three planes pass through a point), they are not symmetrically so. A point is dual with a plane, and a plane is dual with a point; but a plane is also similarly dual with a four-dimensional space (which itself has a double duality and so on). This means that on the subjective side (taking the point as the object and the plane as the subject) a reflexive structure, absent on the objective side (the objective perhaps has a double duality, but only if we consider negative dimensions—which is perhaps other people), is not only possible but necessary. Ven. Siridhamma has just sent me the ‘Bosat’. I like to see the varied treatment of reason and logic: the Ven. Nårada Mahåthera starts the ball rolling by saying that the Dhamma is ‘perfectly rational’. In the next article but one Prof. Wijesekera says that ‘awareness comes not by reason or rational knowledge, but by other and more reliable means’; but the worthy Professor makes the curious statement that ‘intellectualism… leads to… subjectivism’ which he says is condemned by the Buddha. What does he mean? What is ‘subjectivism’? If it is Kierkegaard’s ‘becoming subjective’, then intellectualism does not lead to it, and the Buddha does not condemn it. If it is something else, what is it (have you any idea?) and where does the Buddha condemn it? K.N. Jayatileka points out the limitations of logic (as I do too), but then speaks of the Dhamma as a ‘verifiable scientific theory’, and therefore to be condemned according to what he has just said. (Perhaps

107


[el. 66]

seeking the path

29.v.58

he believes that inductive logic is certain, not probable.) The Ven. Kassapa Thera, in an article whose English is better than it afterwards becomes, attacks common sense and logic; but the Ven. Piyadassi Thera tells us that we must approach religion by way of ‘individual reasoning’. Who are we to listen to? Returning to Repetition—repeating repetition, I had almost said—, the cheese transformation process is a little complicated now. If operation A is ‘turning milk into Camembert’ then the operation to be performed on Camembert is ‘turning milk into Camembert’. This is a kind of squaring of Camembert, which does not seem to lead to Stilton (this, moreover, implies that milk is itself the result of turning milk of a lesser order into Camembert). If, on the other hand, we start with the ‘thing A’, which is Camembert, and then operate on it and turn it into Stilton, the definition of Camembert becomes ‘the operation of turning Camembert into Stilton’, which we repeat to arrive at Stilton. Neither of these seems to promise any very definite advance on the orthodox methods of cheese-making. Camus, in Le Mythe, with his substitution of quantity for quality, has noticed the importance of Repetition (he will, by now, have unnoticed it again), but Sartre (as far as I can remember) makes no mention of it (except that it is implicit in ‘transcendence towards an infinity of appearance’). There is a small and rather transparent mantis that conceals itself by looking like a bit of fluff agitated by the wind. And even when there is no wind it looks like a bit of fluff agitated by the wind. Geckos are completely deceived and never touch it. I also found a stick insect nine inches long (plus legs) and as thick as a pencil. But for its symmetry I should have been completely deceived. If they get much longer they will have to be called ‘log insects’. 31.v. To return again to repetition, it appears that the example of cheeses was not well chosen. This, of course, is due to cheeses’ (and even milk-andcheese’s) being related by an absolute negative, and not a true negative. As an example of the hierarchy of the true negative I think the transition from black to white via blue is correct. It is significant that the blackest black is blue-black and that to emphasize whiteness you add blue (as in laundry or whitewashing). Blue may be described as the operation of ‘lightening black’, or more correctly, ‘lightening blue’. Each shade of blue is white in comparison with the next darker shade, and each time you perform the operation ‘blue’ on blue you get white. But as soon as you move to a whiter white, that white appears as blue (i.e. ‘to move to a whiter white’ is to ‘lighten blue’, or to perform the operation ‘blue’ on blue, to repeat

108


5.vi.58

early letters

[el. 67]

‘blue’). It seems to follow that, if painting in white light, shadows should be put in blue: perhaps you can tell me if this is so in practice. Furthermore, it now seems to me that the dimension ‘blue’ has two dimensions, ‘red’ and ‘yellow’, perpendicular to it, and these three are objective dimensions, and there is also the one subjective dimension ‘white’ perpendicular to these. ‘White’ is clearly the subjective dimension being my standpoint when I am considering colours—and the evidence for this is that when, at that time, I see something white I say that it has no colour (like the things that came out of the cave at Aicceth). The order of the four colours in the Suttas is not, I think, arbitrary; and in particular I see this order as corresponding to that of the M¨lapariyåya tetrad. (This tetrad, I am convinced, is the basis of a large number of the tetrads in the Suttas—mahåbh¨tas, colours, r¨pa jhånas (perhaps), ar¨pa jhånas (more probably), abhibhåyatanas (twice), vimokhas (twice), sakkåyadi††his, the logical tetrad (is, is not, both, neither), and probably others.) In our positive way we think of white light as splituppable into the three primaries, but if we think negatively we must hold that black light (the sort, evidently, that shines in Ireland) is split up by existence into blue, yellow, and red, which combine, in existence, to produce (white) light. Similarly, existence splits up silence into three fundamental kinds of noise (in theory, anyway) which combine to produce (noisy) noise (analogous to ‘(white) light’). And furthermore, existence splits up nibbåna sukha (which is no feeling) into three kinds of feeling (sukha, dukkha, and adukkhamasukha) which together produce the pleasure of existence associated with bhavatanhå. (This needs a little more considering, but possibly it is on the right lines.) The two operators of the pentad whose square is -1 are two because they represent the dimension of repetition. 2.vi. Mr. Perera writes to me to say that dreadful things (unspecified) are going on in Ceylon and that he is much worried. He also sent me a newspaper, presumably so that I, too, can be much worried. It tells me nothing, fortunately, except that there is an emergency. [ EL. 67 ]

5 June 1958

Dirac’s two assumptions (as mentioned by you) are most tantalizing. I think I see their necessity (for Dirac), and also where they are limited or wrong. The assumption of Absolute Size won’t do, of course, unless you assume that our normal macroscopic world is statistical. (Absolute Size is then the point where you stop [or start] being statistical.) In other words,

109


[el. 67]

seeking the path

5.vi.58

it is a device that conceals the hierarchy (not, of course, deliberately). In terms of Kummer, the sixteen points and sixteen planes are dual, but, as I pointed out in my last letter, not symmetrically so, because the planes are also similarly dual with four-dimensional spaces (point = 0 dimensions; plane = 2 dimensions; 4-dimensional ‘space’; 8-dimensional ‘space’; and so on ad inf.). Now what the Quantum Physicists seem to have done is to assume two electrons dually, related as point-to-plane, but forgetting that the plane has another duality. This forgetfulness is equivalent to considering the two electrons as two (sets of) points, dual, and superposed. (This, I think, is a contradiction.) (More probably, it is not claimed that the superposed electrons are dual. But this amounts to asserting the points and denying the planes, which is illegitimate. And why bother to have two, then?) In order to achieve Absolute Size, you must superpose the two ends of your relationship; for otherwise one end is larger than the other (as the plane is ‘larger’ than the point). But the Principle of Superposition is not (existentially) wrong (as the Principle of Size is)—it is merely superfluous. In existence one end of the relationship is the Subject, and the other end (the Object) has no need to be dual. But, in fact, since I have a plurality of senses, it turns out to be multiple. In a word, the Principle of Superposition is nothing more nor less than the association of qualities in an object. I say all this, mark you, without knowing in the least what these two principles of Dirac’s really are—they may well turn out, when I come to read the book (if I understand it), to be quite different from what I have assumed them to be. But I shall be very pleased if they are as I suppose them, and if my comments on them are justified. Immediate comments on the pa†iccasamuppåda formula. 1. I like ‘nescience’ for avijjå (‘inexperience’ seems to sound quite the wrong note). 2. The ‘Sixfold perspective’ is admirable, but will ‘perspective’ always do for åyatana? 3. ‘Need’ is good, though ‘craving’ is perhaps stronger. Sartre’s ‘manque’ is the word? ‘Insufficiency’, or ‘unsatisfaction’, or ‘lacking’, or ‘deficiency’, or ‘want’. (I like the last which combines the subjective ‘want’ = ‘desire’ and the objective ‘want’ = ‘deficiency’.) 4. I prefer ‘stability’ or ‘holding’ for upådåna: it seems to me that what is intended is the stability of an object which is held by my interest (= want) in it. The various kinds of upådåna are the kinds of object that are thus held stable. It is the stability of the telos that we hold before us. This stability is characteristic of being. I agree that ‘craving’—‘clinging’

110


10.vi.58

5.

early letters

[el. 69]

tend to coalesce, but ‘craving’—‘stability’ or ‘need’—‘holding’ and ‘want’—‘holding do not. ‘Category’ for khandha I seem to approve of.

P.S. I am particularly interested in finding out just where and why the Quantum Physicists have missed the hierarchy. Perhaps I now have the answer: they have started with two gratuitous assumptions, but which are necessary in order to preserve a statistical world. (In other words, an assumed observerless statistical world requires these two assumptions.) Obviously, the smallest object in a statistical world has absolute size, since it is the one non-statistical thing, multiplication of which produces everything else. By definition there is nothing smaller. But in an infinite hierarchy there is no smallest object. What a useful and informative book! But also, how useful Kummer is, who gives structure without making assumptions. (Sartre, I notice, has given me the underlining habit, and shall soon be like Queen Victoria.) How right of you to spot these assumptions as ‘curious’. [ EL. 68 ]

6 June 1958

Many thanks for the boox [sic.] in the books, which has just arrived. Did you see the statement on p. 58 of the Dirac: ‘Our work in para. 10 led us to consider quantities involving a certain kind of infinity’? Not content with the ordinary kind, they must have other kinds, too. P.S. Much puzzled by ‘ket’ and ‘bra’ vectors, until it occurred to me that they are ‘bra’-‘ket’ = ‘bracket’ vectors. P.P.S. ‘Superposition is not what I thought it was, but is not unintelligible—our possible choices, at any time, are ‘superposed’. This Principle is therefore correct (unlike Absolute Size). [ EL. 69 ]

10 June 1958

A few first reactions. On starting to read Dirac I am, quite definitely, taken aback. It is clear that when Eddington says that Kummer is the structure of the electron he is oversimplifying—the mathematics of the quantum theory are by no means an alternative formulation of Kummer in non-geometrical terms; they are something rather different. (Precisely what I shall attempt to say in a moment.) But before proceeding, I have to say that in Kummer,

111


[el. 69]

seeking the path

10.vi.58

and all that is implied by Kummer, I have found what I am as certain as I can be is the structure of existence. Whether or not it is the structure of the electron is now of no importance; in its own right Kummer is correct and cannot be discarded. (In Kummer I have found—this, of course, is a provisional statement—the place of the pa†iccasamuppåda—in a sense, it is the pa†iccasamuppåda—, of the pañcakkhandhå, of the sa¬åyatanå, of the four mahåbh¨tas, of bhavata~hå; and also of space and time, and of the various structures such as pre-reflexion and reflexion occurring in Sartre.) Kummer is the structure of the negative and can be entirely built up from the single proposition, ‘An Operation is Repetition of an Operation’. (Starting with a point—a given operation—a line is repetition of the point, a plane is repetition of the line, and so on.) An operation is positive and repetition is negative, and together they satisfy Kierkegaard’s condition, that all the positives and the negatives are equally balanced—and furthermore, this applies both to the positives (for the positive, an operation, is a combination of the negative, repetition, and the positive, an operation) and to the negative (for the negative, repetition, is clearly an operation,a and therefore positive, and therefore positive and negative. If, then, there is anything amiss with the quantum theory, it is in that wherein it differs from Kummer taken as a whole. That there is something amiss with the quantum theory (I mean from the physicists’ point of view) is made clear in the last sentence of Dirac’s book:— The difficulties, being of a profound character, can be removed only by some drastic change in the foundations of the theory. (This was written in 1957, so it is up-to-date, and straight from the horse’s mouth.) It is thus rather ironical that in simplifying what he believes to be the truth, Eddington has, unwittingly, arrived at the truth. (Naturally I make no apology for calling what I believe to be the truth, ‘the truth’.) But is Kummer a ‘simplification’? In one sense it is, in that Kummer requires but one assumption (see above) whereas, in order to build up the quantum theory, Dirac needs a whole chapter of assumptions. But then that is his confessed method—experiment, devise a notation and an algebra, experiment again, make corrections, and so forth, until your assumptions correspond as closely as possible to the results of your experiments. In another sense, however, ‘simplification’ is quite the wrong word. On p. 15 Dirac says:—

a.  Repetition is Repetition of Repetition—this gives the reflexive hierarchy.

112


10.vi.58

early letters

[el. 69]

The justification for the whole scheme depends, apart from internal consistency, on the agreement of the final results with experiment. About the agreement with experiment I can say nothing; but what about the internal consistency? It must be admitted that, once the initial assumptions have been made, the consistency is admirable—were it otherwise it would have been spotted long ago. And the assumptions? It is at this point that I am taken aback, for they are transparently false, as any mathematician should be aware. Without distinguishing between the contribution to the general falsity of each several assumption, the fact that they are, taken together, false, is patent from this passage:— Our bra and ket vectors are complex quantities, since they can be multiplied by complex numbers and are then of the same nature as before, but they are complex quantities of a special kind which cannot be split up into real and pure imaginary parts. The usual method of getting the real part of a complex quantity, by taking half the sum of the quantity and its conjugate, cannot be applied since a bra and a ket vector are of different natures and cannot be added together. (p. 20) For your information a ‘complex quantity’ is the form A + iB, where A and B are any real numbers (not necessarily whole numbers) either positive or negative; and the conjugate is A – iB; so by adding the quantity and its conjugate we have A + iB + A – iB = 2A, and taking half the sum, ½ x 2A, we have A as the real part. Now the only way of defining a complex quantity is as I have just done, and so defined any complex quantity can be split up into real and pure imaginary parts. It is thus a simple fudge to postulate a ‘special kind’ (which is never thereafter elucidated) of complex quantity which has not this property. I am taken aback because this is the first time that I have seen a mathematician include his mauvaise foi in his calculations. (This is not the same as inclusion of uncertainty—which may well be given mathematical expression—, nor has it anything to do with concepts of infinity or of infinite smallness, which may or may not (I am not concerned to argue this here) be equivocal. It is plain self-deception, like the assumption—not the delusion or illusion—that black is white. It is pure mysticism, this invention of a self-contradictory entity. (Read the passage again, which I have quoted, and see if this is not so.) The effect of this bit of trickery, of legerdemain, of prestidigitazione, is plain, however, only if you have an idea of the endlessly repeated duality of the Kummer (or negative) structure, resulting in the hierarchy. (If A is opposed to B,

113


[el. 69]

seeking the path

10.vi.58

then AB is opposed to CD, and ABCD is opposed to EFGH, and so on endlessly.) By the device of two ‘special’ complex quantities a bogus duality is introduced that comes to an end in a couple of steps,a whereupon statistical treatment begins. In a word, the effect of this huggermugger is to provide a hierarchy that lasts for a couple of steps only and then stops—enough to let the sixteen E-operators operate on the sixteen F-operators once, to produce 256, of which 136 only are valid. Thereafter, if we want to increase in size, all we can do is to multiply. Kummer, on the other hand, being an infinite hierarchy, gives us objects as small, or as large, as we want without any multiplication at all. You will notice, to return to the quoted passage, that the bra and ket operators are ‘complex quantities’. From the same passage it is clear that ‘complex numbers’ are also ‘complex quantities’ (though, of course, not of a ‘special kind’). In the second chapter we are introduced to the linear operator, which (i) is a ‘complex quantity’, and (ii) can be split up into a real part and a pure imaginary part. One might, therefore, be tempted to think that a linear operator is a ‘complex quantity’ of the ordinary kind, since it can be split up in the normal way. But no. A linear operator is a ‘complex number’ only in a special case. And, in fact, on pp. 20-21 is found the phrase ‘numbers and other complex quantities which can be split up into real and pure imaginary parts… ’. So, though ‘numbers’ are ‘quantities’, ‘quantities’ are not always ‘numbers’. This distinction, which is perfectly consistent given the assumptions, can, I think, be described as ‘the linear operation of splitting up into real and pure imaginary hairs’. To be a quantum physicist it is necessary to make a saut.1 You will remember that in my last letter I said that I was particularly anxious to discover where and why the hierarchy had been missed. I have now, I think, done so, but in a rather unexpected way. I had thought that it was missed simply by ignoring it, but now I see that since the approach to the problem was empirical (via experiment and trial and error) and not dialectical, the hierarchy can never have been envisaged. The connexion with the Kummer structure must have been discovered later (there is no mention of the magic number 136 in Dirac) and accidentally, and the connexion is limited, in any case, just to one level of Kummer (to which it a.  The product of bra A and ket B—both ‘special’ complex quantities—is a normal complex number (p. 21), but a normal complex number itself represents a vector in a plane, and ‘from any two vectors one can construct a number—their scaler product— which is a real number and is symmetrical between them’; and this is the end of the process.

114


10.vi.58

early letters

[el. 69]

approximates). I do not quite know whether to be lost in admiration at the extraordinary neatness and economy of the fudge (which I have by no means fully grasped) or aghast at the extraordinary untidiness and wastefulness of the approach to the problem. The quantum theory, as it now stands, is a fantastic compromise or half-way house between the logical (or statistical) and the dialectical (or existential). Dirac is right: a drastic change in the foundation of the theory is needed—but knowing what it is, I can say that such a change will have a serious drawback. It will make science impossible. If the process of counting is limited to ‘one’, measurement is out of the question—or to put it in another way, if you disturb everything, large or small, to the extent of annihilating it as such or changing it completely, whenever you measure it, you cannot measure anything. The physicists are in a very comic position—if they correct the quantum theory they will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. What industrial firm, or materialist government (all governments are), will have any interest in a lot of existentialists investigating angst in university laboratories? However, so long as the physicists follow their will o’ the wisp ‘the ultimate structure of matter’ (p. 3), I think they will tinker at the theory but take good care not to correct it. I must confess I am disappointed. I had hoped for enlightenment, but find only darkness. In one sense it is a relief, because Dirac’s book, like the Attack Upon ‘Christendom’, now has only an academic interest—I can read it or not as I please. The result, however, is not discouraging—even if the Quantum Theory is the last word in Western Wisdom, I find I have nothing to learn from it, and need not fear I am missing something. (Later addition:—I have just discovered an enormous sense of hilarious satisfaction in looking at the book with the realization that it is all a fudge, and nobody knows it.) Although it is not easy to build up an exact picture—a wrong picture— of what the quantum theory describes, there are certain correspondences with experience that give some idea. I find, for example, that I have already described the ‘Principle of Superposition’ in Appendix VII of the ‘Sketch’ (I think you have not read this). Here are the parallel passages. ‘Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth’—Appendix VII:— We suggested earlier that a field is always the field that would supplant it were it to change at that instant, but this was not satisfactory. Let us modify it by saying that a field is always all those fields that might supplant it were it to change. The present field, then, might be regarded as some kind of simul-

115


[el. 69]

seeking the path

10.vi.58

taneous synthesis of all its alternative absent fields; and this would still be true at the instant of its changing, since the single alternative field at that instant is no longer absent—the two fields are then one and the same. This is to say that they form one field; and this one field is none other than the more general field that we are already acquainted with, which is now explicitly in evidence as the common element in one actual change instead of implicitly so as that in a number of only probable changes. It is clear, first, that all the absent fields are present together. In this way we have all the absent fields present simultaneously, and, at the same time, a perpetual variation in the manner of distribution of emphasis amongst them. Dirac, p. 13:— When a state is formed by the superposition of two other states, it will have properties that are in some vague way intermediate between those of the two original states and that approach more or less closely to those of either of them according to the greater or less ‘weight’ attached to this state in the superposition process. The new state is completely defined by the two original states when their relative weights in the superposition process are known… You will notice that in the ‘Sketch’ a ‘more general field’ is taken into consideration. In the Dirac this is missing, but the state formed by the two other states has variable properties. This amounts to much the same thing, at least at this stage of description; but the ‘more general field’ paves the way for the hierarchy. But you would hardly guess that whereas one is the description of an atom (or photon) the other is the description of a leafy bush. This is my evidence for saying that there is no difference in structure between ‘large’ and ‘small’ objects, and that the statistical world is a falsification. But Professor Dirac, I fear, must go into the same pigeonhole as Professor Heisenberg. Sartre is right about Camus—L’Étranger is a humorous work, not an existential one; and the absurd does not lie in the absence of sense or significance or orientation of things (the two quoted passages above refer to the orientation of things), since the sense, etc., is always given with the thing; it lies in the very existence of the thing-cum-sense at all. Thus l’homme absurd is not in fact as Camus pictures him in L’Étranger, but one who has normal experience with a double vision showing him the repetition of the structure.

116


14.vi.58

early letters

[el. 70]

It is concentration upon this absurd repetition, or repetition of the absurd or gratuitous structure, that constitutes lucidity. It is easier to understand Camus’s saut than Sartre’s. I have only dipped into the Kierkegaard in occasional places. Less stimulating so far than the Postscript, which sometimes reaches great heights (e.g. about the negative)… [ EL. 70 ]

14 June 1958

Perhaps to make things clearer, and since I attach much importance to the concept, I should define more exactly what I mean (whatever anyone else may mean) by the word repetition. In a loose sense a line may be described as a ‘repetition of points’ in the purely additive sense that a line is composed of an infinite number of points set side by side. In this loose sense all the various objects of the world are a repetition of the same fundamental structure; or, you can repeat an experience any number of times (for example, by looking at a thing, looking away, looking at it again, and so on ad inf.—breathing is another example). This is the sense in which Camus, in teaching that the absurd is realised in the pursuit of quantity, is preaching repetition; and it is also the sense in which a thing’s existence, described (by Sartre) as a transcendence towards an infinity of appearances, may be described as a repetition. It is defined, as you rightly point out, by S12 = S1, or ‘repetition of an operation does not produce a new result’. In this loose sense, it corresponds to the ‘absolute negative’ which exists between any two independent objects, a jug and a bottle on a table, for example. It may be called ‘absolute repetition’ (I have remarked earlier that repetition is the negative). But just as there is a ‘true negative’ underlying the absolute negative, so there is a ‘true repetition’ underlying absolute repetition. This strict sense is just the opposite of Eddington’s lions1, S12 = S1; true repetition always produces a new result, for the good reason that it is repetition of all that has gone before. Thus, if I repeat an operation X, I do not simply arrive at X (as I do when I repeat the operation of sieving lions), I arrive at – – another X, or not-X, X. (This operation can be described as (X, X).) And if I repeat the operation of repeating an operation X, I repeat the operation – – – describable as (X, X), and thus arrive at not-(X, X), (X, X). This whole – – operation can then be described as [(X, X), (X, X)], and, obviously, each time I repeat it I get a new result. (It is on this level, with some further developments, that we find the absolute negative, expressible as operations on four things, [A, B, C, D].)2

117


[el. 70]

seeking the path

14.vi.58

From this it follows that I can no longer define a line, which is a ‘repetition of points’, as an infinite number of points, but only as two points—three points on a line, in this fundamental dialectic, is a contradiction. If you repeat the second point you automatically repeat also the first point; so you are repeating the line—which gives you two lines, or a plane. (It is for this reason that conics appear in Kummer—a line cuts a conic in two points only, and a conic is thus simply the geometrical representation of this restriction; in the pictures of Kummer I have sent you, you will find no less than five points on each line, but that is simply because you are looking at a plane edge on, and in the solid Kummer this would not happen.) Now, when I say that the Kummer Structure can be entirely built up from the proposition ‘An operation is repetition of an operation’, I am using the word repetition in the strict sense of true repetition, and not in the loose sense of absolute repetition. Absolute repetition is the operation of addition, and therefore of multiplication, whereas true repetition is the operation of—repetition. That this distinction must be kept clear of the self-contradiction of the quantum theory is to be seen clearly—the quantum theory wants absolute repetition (‘a sea of electrons’ is a phrase that catches the eye) without true repetition (which is the basis of the hierarchy). I am basking gently in the Dirac, turning over a page now and then and glancing at a theorem or two. It is all so delightfully unreal and devoid of any sense of urgency, now that I know it is nonsense, and affords me a very unusual occasion of indulging in the enjoyment of Art for Art’s sake. (Kummer, however, is stern reality.) I am really most grateful to H., not merely for this pleasure, but for sending perhaps the one book on which a reliable understanding of the theory can be based. It is the standard current work on the quantum theory, and explains it from first principles (!) and initial assumptions (!!), giving the philosophical background (!!!) and justification of the method adopted (!!!!). But if you do tell H. that I am pleased with the book you had better restrict yourself to some such phrase as that I find it most enlightening and that it has cleared up a very troublesome point, but without mentioning that the very troublesome point was the fear that the quantum theory might be important, and carefully avoiding the brackets in the last sentence. I find that Kierkegaard (whether intentionally or not I do not know) has exactly the right comment:—‘To think a contradiction is… not an easy matter; it is always connected with great difficulties’. To which I add, in a pious tone of voice, ‘Eddington, too, has said that the quantum theory is a difficult study’. The failure of the expected crescendo in the second part of Kierkegaard’s remark (we expect something like ‘… ; only a few men in each generation are capable of it’),

118


14.vi.58

early letters

[el. 70]

and the artless repetition of the thought contained in the first part that we are given instead, make it a wonderfully ambiguous statement. (Did you ever notice the extraordinarily mystical statement in The Meaning of Meaning: ‘Exceptionally powerful thinkers apart, we do not base our conclusions on directly conflicting evidence’? Does this refer to the quantum physicists?) There is one thing about reading books written by mathematicians—they cannot hide their false assumptions. Ross Ashby 3 and Dirac are the same in this respect: the books they write are beautifully lucid and quite without contradiction—given the assumptions. Both of them state their assumptions (for which, I suppose, they hardly consider themselves responsible, which is why they so boldly state them—so boldly? so foolhardily, I mean), and the limitations of their books are seen at once. (Ross Ashby states that he assumes common sense—and so, indeed, do all scientists, but not many of them realize the fact.) I do not altogether agree with you that statistics and probability are incompatible with certainty and private data. Certainty and private data are the stuff of which statistics are made of, and confusion only arises when probability is taken for certainty and statistics for private data (or vice versa). I do not find any contradiction between them, and consequently the question of establishing one over the other does not arise—they are not opposed. But if you want certainty, then the statistical world (which is not a world) is a falsification; and if you want results (which are only probable) then private data are useless, since all you get are arbitrary changes (changes in the objective component of consciousness—i.e. what it is ‘of’—are gratuitous). What are incompatible are the two different wants; you cannot get them together. To return to the quantum theory, you remember that a few letters ago you sent me some quotations from Russell and others saying that super mathematics are aesthetic, and that I denied this, saying they were religious? Well now, I think, we have some super mathematics that are aesthetic—the quantum theory. Sartre says in his commentary to L’Étranger that every artist lies to produce his effect. That is what Dirac (or whoever before him is responsible) has done. Dirac is aesthetically beautiful; Kummer is dialectically beautiful. But whether Dirac would feel quite happy at being described as a great artist is another question. This discovery is not at all what I had expected (and I have still not caught my breath again), but it does throw some light on a few hitherto rather obscure remarks of Eddington’s, and it also explains why the quantum theory has been and is still such a controversial subject (for there is nothing controversial about Kummer or about Einstein).

119


[el. 70]

seeking the path

14.vi.58

N.B. Does this throw a new light on Einstein’s dislike of the quantum theory? Or did he dislike what it is attempting to describe—i.e. Indetermency? [ EL. 71 ]

23 June 1958

A few remarks on commutation and anticommutation might be of interest in view of your statement that in commutative multiplication XY + YX = 2XY. I presume that you derive this from the basic definition of commutation, XY = YX, in the following way: (i) XY = YX (given); (ii) therefore XY + YX = XY + YX (by adding XY to both sides); (iii) therefore XY + YX = 2XY. Q.E.D.1 This, of course, is a flawless argument, provided that X and Y are numbers (real/imaginary/complex; rational/irrational; integers/ fractions; positive/negative—I think this is exhaustive). If X and Y are not numbers addition and subtraction are meaningless (cow plus cow is just cow, for there is still only cow—i.e. cow plus cow is not a fresh animal as a number (say 3) plus a number (3) is a fresh number (6), and cow plus horse is just cow plus horse) and step (ii) above is irrelevant. Now, if X and Y are not numbers they are still operators (the third, bogus, alternative—after all, one cannot have a third alternative, can one?—we shall consider later; I mean when X and Y are operators that are quantities but not numbers), and the expression ‘XY’, though it no longer means ‘Y multiplied by X’, still has the meaning ‘the operation Y followed by the operation X’. Thus the basic definition XY = YX is not meaningless. The basic definition of anticommutation, namely XY = -YX, is also not meaningless, provided we understand the minus sign (-) simply as ‘not’ and not as ‘minus’ (if a cow is not a donkey, it does not follow that a cow is minus a donkey). The meaning is simply ‘operation Y followed by operation X is not the same as operation X followed by operation Y’. A simple geometrical illustration can be given. Suppose X and Y are the respective operations of moving a point from one end to the other of two limited straight lines, AB and CD, and ignore the fact that AB and CD could be replaced by numbers giving the respective lengths of these lines. Now if AB and CD are laid end to end thus: A_______BC_______________D, the successive operations of moving a point from A to B and then from C to D would be exactly the same as having the lines thus: C_______________DA_______B and moving the point first from C to D and then from A to B—in both cases we have moved the point along the line EF, which operation we may call Z. Thus:—

120


23.vi.58

early letters

[el. 71]

A___>____BC_______>________D C_______>________DA___>____B E_____________>______________F Here we have YX = XY = Z, an example of commutation. But now suppose that the lines AB and CD are put end to end in this way:— D

A

C B

and the point is moved from A to B and then from C to D. Now suppose that AB and CD are arranged thus:— DA

B

C

and the point is moved from C to D and then from A to B. In both cases the point has moved from the same starting point to the same finishing point, as we can see thus:— A

B

D

D

C

C A

B

but the course taken is different in each case. We cannot, therefore, have the equation YX = XY = Z, because there is no single line EF (corresponding to operation Z) along which the point has moved. So we have YX = -XY, an example of anticommutation. You will see at once why it is that anticommutation signifies perpendicularity as against commutation. This example, however, is ambiguous from the fact that we had to ignore the possibility of representing the various lines by numbers signifying their length—we

121


[el. 71]

seeking the path

23.vi.58

have, in other words, been treating the lines as quantities but not numbers. In order, therefore, to illustrate commutation and anticommutation as it occurs in the Kummer structure, a quite different example is needed. Suppose I have the idea ‘transport’, and suppose (for simplicity) that I have the following images: a cow, a horse, a tractor, a lorry. It is evident that between any two of these there is a negative (an absolute negative)—a cow is not a horse, a horse is not a lorry, and so on. But it can also been seen that these negatives are, so to speak, of two different orders. Thus, a cow is not a horse, and a tractor is not a lorry; but also, an animal is not a machine, and therefore we have the negative a-cow-or-a-horse is not a-tractor-or-a-lorry. In other words, the negative between a horse and a tractor is more general than that between a horse and a cow. This can be represented thus: cow/ horse//tractor/lorry, and this is equivalent to animal//machine, if we neglect the more particular negatives. It is at once clear that the negative animal// machine is in no way affected if I interchange, say, the cow and the horse, thus:—horse/cow//tractor/lorry. So I can say that the cow and the horse commute. But if I interchange the horse and the tractor (say), I get cow/ tractor//horse/lorry, which quite destroys the negative animal//machine (and must be written cow//tractor//horse//lorry). The tractor and the horse, therefore, anticommute. In other words, anticommutation is simply the sign of a more general negative than that signified by commutation; and you will see that no question of numbers arises here at all. You will also see that it is a relative matter; for I can interchange the horse and the tractor without in any way disturbing my general idea ‘transport’—cow/horse//tractor/lorry and cow//tractor//horse//lorry are alike ‘transport’, and this interchange is expressible as animal//machine = machine//animal = transport. Now we come to Dirac and the Quantum Theory (to which the first example properly belongs—the X and the Y at right angles being differentiated is real and imaginary: ‘I’ is perpendicular to ‘i’). To begin with, the basic definitions of commutation and anticommutation are given as αβ - βα = 0 (p. 24) and αβ + βα = 0 (p. 149), respectively. You will see at once that, with the moving of both terms to the same side (instead of αβ = βα and αβ = -βα) the question of addition and subtraction arises. α and β, though in general not numbers, are quantities, and quantities, as everybody knows, can be added and subtracted—see how the quickness of the hand deceives the eye! Since addition and subtraction are allowed, it is possible to deduce your conclusion for commutation from the definition given here (αβ - βα = 0), that is to say, αβ + βα = 2αβ. But, though 2αβ is a quantity, and indeed a fresh quantity (not just αβ + αβ = αβ as cow + cow = cow), it is not in general a number. Nevertheless, there is a sentence in Dirac that says in ef-

122


23.vi.58

early letters

[el. 71]

fect that we can consider such a quantity and the number that corresponds to it ‘as both the same thing, without getting into confusion’ (presumably because we are already in confusion from the start, and a little more won’t make very much difference). You see that in the Quantum Theory we are between the devil of a pure statistical world (the world consists of numbers, and numbers of numbers, and numbers of numbers of numbers, and so on for evermore), and the deep blue sea of existence, where the only number is one—the present. Paccuppannañ ca yo dhammaµ tattha tattha vipassati.2 The scheme for commutation is as follows: 1. In general α and β are complex (A + iB, A’ + iB’) and do not commute (αβ - βα ≠ 0) and αβ and βα are also complex. 2. If α and β are real, but do not commute, αβ and βα are still complex, but are conjugate complexes (i.e. X + iY and X - iY where X and Y are real quantities [though not necessary numbers]), that is to say, αβ + βα is real and i(αβ - βα) is real; note, however, that though α and β do not commute (αβ - βα ≠ 0), still they do not anticommute either, since αβ + βα ≠ 0 (this is a wonderfully ambiguous situation, which can be expressed as follows: ‘operation β followed by operation α is rather like operation α followed by operation β’—nothing of this sort occurs in Kummer). 3. If α and β are real and commute, then αβ is also real (i.e. Y above is zero) (though it is still in general not a number but a quantity). Anticommutation comes much later in the book and I have not reached it yet (if I ever do), but that is of much less interest than this. I am reading slowly, and have got to page 52 without having to skip anything, and I think I can still go on farther without too much trouble. You will perhaps have gathered, however, that one must approach it as one approaches a fairy story—in a spirit of makebelieve. (Dirac has some horrible fused participles—I hate them.) You say that absolute size is perhaps a subjective fact—‘the smallest entity in my field of vision’. What I say is that absolute smallness is perhaps a subjective fact, but not absolute size. The reason for this is that ‘the smallest thing I can see’ necessarely presents itself as being without size—if I see it as possessed of size, it is no longer the smallest thing. Only if it has no parts, and therefore no size, can it be the smallest thing I can see. The confusion of the quantum physicists is that the smallest thing does have size, axiomatically, and thus that there is absolute size. Perhaps you will say that the smallest sizable thing that I can see has absolute size. I say no, for there is something smaller than that thing, and when I look at that thing, I am aware that there is something smaller, and I am not at the same time aware that the smaller thing has no size—to become aware of this I must shift my attention from the sizable thing to the smaller thing, which is part of that sizable thing. Thus I never arrive at absolute size but only absolute

123


[el. 71]

seeking the path

23.vi.58

smallness. (I am inclined to think that the smallest object I can fix my attention on presents itself as possessing parts and therefore as sizable. But the parts are smaller, though I cannot fix my attention long enough to decide whether they have size or not—and therefore they have size.) I am glad to say that your star-gazing observations seem to have borne fruit at last. Quite theoretically, and without thinking of it at all, I came to the conclusion a day or two ago that every object consists of sixteen parts, made up as follows: one part in some sense central (operator no. 16); nine parts presenting themselves as ‘alternatives’ to this central part—thus suggesting plurality or dispersion (the nine remaining positive operators); and six parts presenting themselves as subordinate parts of a more general structure—thus suggesting unity and concentration at a more general level (the six negative operators). You may remember that in the drawings of Sirius that I sent you, I found 14 spokes with my left eye, and 15 with my right; I did not, however, count the central blob 3 (which is quite distinct and marked so in the drawings); if I count this as the central part, I then have 15 parts with my left eye and 16 with my right. So far so good. I find, however, that if I look at a star now I can quite easily persuade myself that there are six spokes that suggest the star as a whole (as opposed to just the central blob), but I can just as easily persuade myself that there are five or seven or perhaps eight (or even none at all), and so this is not at all decisive. Now when I received your drawings I was interested only in knowing the total number of parts , and this you were unable to give. What you did give, however, was a drawing something like this (valid for each eye):—

which you described as ‘six principal spokes, with an indefinite number of other spokes’ or words to that effect. So you see that our combined description tallies exactly with theory. (Of course I am far from supposing that the single example of a star is incontrovertible evidence, nevertheless it is gratifyingly suggestive. Perhaps a star is in a privileged position, since ‘having no size at all’—though it is certainly not ‘the smallest object I can see’—it is in a way not prejudiced, and can perhaps display its parts [rather a doubtful expression, no?] in an exceptionally distinct manner.) (Evening) Your registered letter just arrived.… As for the various points you raise: (i) Your query about scientists being absurd and consequently

124


23.vi.58

early letters

[el. 71]

fit objects for faith unaided by understanding is unpleasantly close to the mark—and what is worse, the scientists believe it is their due. (ii) The reference to churches in the newspaper cutting is almost incredible—I don’t believe people can say such things. (iii) The article on space travel I think clears up a point that hadn’t been worrying me at all—why time should go faster in one body in space than in another. The answer seems to be, because it is accelerating (i.e. a force is being applied to it). However, I am not at all at home in relativity theory (unlike quantum theory [!]), first because I have not studied it, and secondly because it is essentially statistical and I am busy becoming unstatistical and statistical statements have less and less reality for me. I congratulate you on your discovery about flying saucers—I certainly ought to have thought of it for myself. (iv) Your remarks on identification have so far not succeeded in conveying their meaning—perhaps further reading of them tomorrow will be more successful. (v) As regards the theory of types, I have hardly considered the matter specifically, since it has never seemed to give difficulty. A few observations, however, present themselves, to which I shall devote a fresh paragraph. In the first place, propositions containing ‘all’ can be divided in two classes, ontological or structural, and statistical or probable. A proposition in the second category is arrived at by generalisation from a certain number of observations. Thus, if I say that all the inhabitants of Bundala have a pearshaped head I am making a probable, not a structural statement. It can be disproved if there is a single exception. Such a statement may be applicable also to the statement itself, and your example ‘all statements are false’ is one such. Since I have met with statements that are not false I can say that the statement ‘all statements are false’ is false—but note that it is false not because it is true that all statements are false, but simply because there are true statements. In the case of a statistical statement it is purely accidental if the statement itself comes within its own range, and consequently it is to be presumed that the statement does not refer to itself. It is characteristic of a statistical statement that the speaker is purely objective—that is to say, he himself does not exist. It is the scientific attitude; and a scientist, when speaking ex cathedra, does not refer to himself. There is no need for me to elaborate this for your benefit. An ontological or structural statement, on the other hand, must necessarily include itself. This is because it is arrived at in an act of reflexion, when the observer is himself his own object. A person making an ontological statement is referring to himself, and since ‘himself’ has an infinite hierarchical structure (i.e. there is an infinite hierarchy of reflexion), the ‘all’ of such statements leave nothing outside. Thus, if I make the ontological statement, ‘all feelings depend on contact’, it cannot be valid

125


[el. 71]

seeking the path

23.vi.58

unless the feeling involved in the making of this statement also depends on contact. If it does not, the statement is thereby disproved. This does not, of course, mean to say that when I make this statement I have in view the particular feeling involved in making the statement; but it does mean to say that, unless I make the statement parrotwise (which however is normally the case), there will be an immediate awareness of the incongruity if the statement is false. (An analogous case is when, out of politeness, one makes an expression of sympathy one does not feel at all—there is an immediate awareness of hypocrisy, which afterwards one may rationalize.) It seems to me that when the Buddha asked D⁄ghanakha if he did not like his doctrine that he did not like anything, he did so in order to emphasize the fact that if such a doctrine was to be valid it must necessarily include itself—if it did not then it was only an objective theory. The question, in other words, shifted the whole discussion from the Objective-Scientific to the SubjectiveExistential. I do not know whether this covers the ground? In an earlier letter you said that you found the first part of the second book of Either/Or an agony because you detest ethics. I see what you mean. Judge William on marriage is a bore. But the question arises, what exactly is ethics? Some time ago you defined it as behaviour towards, or in connexion with, other people. Since you have not amended this statement, I presume it is still your definition. For my part, if I were to use the word, I should define it in general as concerned with the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This has the advantage that one can then speak of ‘Buddhist Ethics’, referring to kusala-akusala, or actions with pleasant or unpleasant vipåka; and one can speak of ‘Christian Ethics’, which is quite a different thing, and is concerned with what pleases or displeases God; and one can speak of ‘Socialist Ethics’, which concerns the morals of the Labour Party; and one can speak of ‘Communist Ethics’, which is a variable function, expressible only by means of differential equation. But it is characteristic of all ethics that there is really nothing to discuss—which is why discussions of it is a bore. Kierkegaard, however, gives it the wider meaning of the choice of oneself whereby one is able to choose good rather than evil. This presupposes that when one sees and approves the better one must needs follow it. This is a confusion. When one ‘chooses oneself’—i.e. when one practices mindfulness and awareness—one is choosing to put an end to both the good and evil, and the choice of good under such circumstances (if one does choose it) is really irrelevant. But Judge William on ethics (in his sense)—the second part of Book II—is quite interesting. Returning to Dirac. It is really most fortunate that I became acquainted with Kummer before Dirac; for the path from Dirac to Kummer would have

126


29.vi.58

early letters

[el. 72]

been most tiresome. Now, instead, the situation is admirably clear, and I really have your industry in copying out the E.B. article on Line Geometry to thank for it. It is also most fortunate that I wrote the ‘Sketch’ (and particularly Appendix VII) before reading Dirac—but then I should hardly be reading Dirac if I had not—; for otherwise I might have wondered if I had not imposed upon my perception a structure that it does not actually have and that I had borrowed from Dirac. In a word, Dirac has come too late in the day to pull the wool over my eyes with his conjuring tricks—which nevertheless are really most skilful. [ EL. 72 ]

29 June 1958

I must really apologize for boring you (if they do bore you) with these rather technical letters, but since this technical matter is more or less all I think about it is more or less all I have to write about. And to write about it helps to clear the mind about it. I am far from supposing that it necessarily interests you, or even ought to interest you. If it should interest you, that is a happy coincidence. Amen. In my long letter1 I sent you about a year ago I made some attempt to deal with ‘coefficients of absence’, but not very successfully, and I abandoned the attempt ‘not having the equipment to demonstrate it mathematically’. It was really on this subject that I was hoping for enlightenment from Dirac—and as it now (quite unexpectedly) turns out, I have got it owing to Dirac, but against him, not from him (a very useful book). To begin with, coefficients of some sort are needed to express the intensity or quantity of an object (as against its essence or quality—which is adequately dealt with by Kummer). In other words, they express consciousness of an object—if an object has no intensity I am not conscious of it, whereas if it has great intensity I may be conscious of little else. In my last letter I stated that cow plus cow equals cow. This is not a very happy example, since it might be argued that it equals two cows (which, however, would be a misunderstanding). I suggest instead that ‘one brass band playing “God Save the King”’ plus ‘one brass band playing “God Save the King”’ equals ‘two brass bands playing “God Save the King”’, that is to say, ‘God Save the King’ twice as loud. In a word, if I add ‘God Save the King’ to ‘God Save the King’ I still get ‘God Save the King’ but with an increase in intensity. (This is an illustration, not an argument. I do not say ‘therefore’.) From this I assume that multiplication of an operator by a number will represent increase in intensity of an object, and in this we agree with the Quantum Theory—provided, that is

127


[el. 72]

seeking the path

29.vi.58

to say, we are speaking of numbers and not of mystical quantities that are not numbers. In brief, numerical multiplication changes the intensity but not the nature of an operation. Numerical coefficients, in my experience, are valid—i.e. have a meaning. So far, so good. But… The great trouble always has been, and you, who are well versed in the negative, will see at once that it is, that between any two numbers (or quantities) whatsoever there must be a negative. Nobody ever thinks of this. Failure to understand this results in statistics and most of the other evils that beset us. In other words, we cannot just apply any numbers at all to operations and multiply indiscriminately (as Eddington does: 1E1 + 2E2 + 3E3 - 4E4 etc.); we have to find the structure relating different quantities or intensities of any object—and this means Kummer again. You will see that this difficulty is the reason for not at once accepting the idea of a line as an infinite number of points placed side by side—there is nothing to keep them apart. And the same applies to time as a number of instants following each other. But if we somehow introduce a negative between the adjacent points or successive instants the objection vanishes. But how to do it? It was perhaps some comprehension of this that led me in the letter I spoke of to conclude that ‘at each level of experience time is getting progressively shorter’; and (stimulated no doubt by references to time in your space-travel article—though not otherwise owing anything to it) it was really this conclusion that I took as my starting point in my present meditations on the structure of being. The argument that follows is, in a sense, presented backwards. In my letter on repetition a week or two ago I said that ‘an operation is repetition of an operation’ and that ‘repetition is the negative’, from which it follows that the negative of an operation X is operation X performed on operation X. This we might write as X2, and we should then have that X2 is the negative of X. Now, X squared, in terms of Kummer or Eddington’s operators is expressed by saying that an operation ABCD operated on by any one of sixteen operators results in that one of these sixteen operators, but at a more general level. Thus, to ‘square’ an operation ‘has a meaning’. But hitherto I have assumed that X2, with this meaning of squaring operation X, gives the negative of X. This, however, as I now discover, is only partly justified. If we think of an operation as a process that goes on more or less indefinitely, we shall see that it corresponds to the existence of a thing—a thing’s existence, after all, takes time, which is the characteristic of a process. Now a process implies a continuing change, and a continuing change gives the idea of a steady rate of change. An operation, then, can be thought of as

128


29.vi.58

early letters

[el. 72]

a certain rate of change, which rate is uniform so long as the operation or ‘thing’ exists. But this implies another operation, of which this operation is the rate of change. Thus an operation has, as rate of change, an operation. Comparing this with the earlier statement that an operation is repetition of an operation, we find that the repetition or negative of X is what has X as its rate of change. This means that the negative of X is the integral of X, and that to repeat the operation X is to integrate X with respect to itself:—

∫ x dx But this integral gives ½ X2. This means that the negative of an operation is not its square, but half its square. The negative of an operation is its square with half its intensity. Now you can see that coefficients have made their appearance within the structure of the negative. And this is quite enough to account for all the coefficients that we can possibly want. It ties up beautifully with everything. The mistake made in assuming the square to be the negative was to neglect existence or consciousness. From the Kummer structure we see that a thing has sixteen possible ‘squares’, one of which is itself. (Any given operator [ABCD] can be operated on by any of sixteen operators, operation by one of which—ABCD— will give itself.) The square is a spatial absolute negative if integration is the temporal true negative, and a temporal absolute negative if integration is the spatial true negative. (And it also follows that as we go forward in time we are constantly presented with a choice of sixteen possibilities; for the integral can take any one of sixteen values corresponding to the sixteen squares. And the intensity of the sum of possibles is always one half the total intensity.) Thus, if an object continues ‘to exist’ it is perpetually replacing itself, but at half the previous intensity. ‘Nonsense!’ you will say, ‘A thing I look at steadily continues at the same intensity; it does not decrease at all’. And of course you are quite right—our asm’ti chanda will not allow any falling off of the intensity of existence. How, then, is the paradox resolved? Answer: by the acceleration of time. (A unit of time at any level is, of course, the interval between changes at that level.) Every object exists eternally (the series 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 … has no final term), but its intensity progressively falls off. If, on the other hand, we want it to exist at the same intensity, its days are numbered, since its time then has the value 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 … , and the sum of this series is 2. By a reflexive effort we can continue to pay attention to an object indefinitely—but then this effort becomes progressively greater in compensation for loss of interest. (We neglect in this the arbitrary changes that are an integral part of

129


[el. 72]

seeking the path

29.vi.58

experience—‘circumstances beyond our control’. These have, in a sense, to be ‘superimposed’ on the present description. They can be described as an arbitrary intensity, that is given, and variable independent of our intention. In no case are they outside the structure of the negative.) Of course, whenever the object ceases, we can choose it again at a more general level (i.e. as part of a more general object that is replacing itself), and so on indefinitely. But at all levels the same thing happens. In this way the old question ‘What is time made of?’ (or ‘What is space made of?’) gets answered. It is obviously useless to say ‘hours are made of minutes, and minutes are made of seconds’—this is a hierarchy that is no hierarchy at all. But the very expression ‘time accelerates’ implies a hierarchy; for time, if it accelerates, must get faster with respect to time, and this second time cannot be the same as the first. And if time accelerates it must come to an end—it must come to an end in time. Thus eternity is repeatedly coming to an end in time (this disposes of Kierkegaard’s God equals Eternity). And time is made of successive eternities, and space of adjacent infinities. (The usual opinion is that eternity is made of time, but the contrary is equally true.) So there you are. From Dirac I send you a gem:— However, for some purposes it is more convenient to replace the abstract quantities by sets of numbers with analogous mathematical properties and to work in terms of these sets of numbers.2 I do not always follow you in your condemnation of what you call ‘argument by analogy’, but I confess I am a little startled by its appearance as a principle of physical science. I think there will be no disagreement between us here. I think that perhaps Eddington’s remark that three spatial and one temporal dimensions are the structure of the universe is less clear than it sounds. From Dirac it seems that you assume that an electron exists in a space-time of three dimensions, and then obtain its equation agreeing with experimental evidence. The equation of the electron then shows that it exists in a spacetime of these dimensions. Q.E.D. All you have done is to show that your initial assumption was correct. You have not shown why you made the initial assumption, why it was the only assumption you could have made. That is shown by the dialectic of the negative—where repetition of an operation is its integral, a space-time of these dimensions is necessary. Existence requires these dimensions, and Eddington’s comment that the universe happens to have these dimensions, but could well have other dimensions, gives him

130


29.vi.58

early letters

[el. 72]

away. He is not so much of an exception to the general rule of quantum physicists as I had thought, though perhaps he had some suspicions of a muddled sort. I don’t know. He is certainly better than Heisenberg. Perhaps I now underestimate him. These Goddists are so confusing. Upon the rare occasions when I unfortunately happen to read newspapers (or scraps of them) I find that I agree with all the Americans say about the Russians, and with all the Russians say about the Americans. And from all this talk of Peace (it even got on the Jayanti stamps) from both sides—or all three sides, the Americans, the Russians, and the Indians—I can only conclude that everybody wants war. If you want war prepare for peace. Everybody is preparing for a different Peace, however. Inscriptions de Truies au Pig-book 3 Ourrah! Vive le Sport! Vive l’Angleterre. Vive le Pig-book. Em-bas les Boches! Merde alors! 4 I see that is has become the fashionable thing to winter (or summer) at the South Pole, and the next best thing to careering through space in a sputnik is to be a scientist in a hush-hush base in the Antarctic. Tastes vary. You remark on identification. If you mean to say that what is ignored in the process of identification is the possibility of the two elements becoming separate, which is what perhaps you do mean, then I agree with you. This is the delusion of permanence, and it has to do with what I have been saying about a thing’s existing eternally—at the cost of loss of intensity—, or alternatively of its maintaining its intensity—at the cost of its permanence (because its eternity comes to an end in time). But you may mean something else, or perhaps this in some other way than I understand it; and if so, then I don’t altogether follow you. The interest of a thing (= its intensity) keeps the identification immediate and its impermanence is inconceivable. As interest (or intention) wanes, blindness or nescience (or ignorance) gets less dense. Finally it vanishes—but there is then some other identification (one of sixteen) that has taken its place. The blindness (or ignorance) of identification is not mauvaise foi, because I do not at all secretly doubt the identification. I am not deceiving myself. The identification is perfectly real—that is to say, I cannot possibly doubt the existence of the present object. Avijjå, therefore, is a primary structure of being, and it approximates to innocence, not to bad faith, which is a reflexive structure, far less fundamental. (Is it not odd that, existentially, avijjå would be translated alternatively by ‘guilt’—Kafka, Kierkegaard—and ‘innocence’—Camus,

131


[el. 72]

seeking the path

29.vi.58

Sartre? Innocence and guilt, both are nescience.) Lavelle, you say, is ontologically absurd—i.e. basically orthodox. But orthodox what? Surely not orthodox ontology, because the orthodox view is that ontology does not exist—isn’t it? I should almost have thought that ‘orthodox ontology’ was a contradiction in terms, either you have ontology or you don’t. Or do you mean orthodox Christian (or Scholastic) ontology? Or do you mean in the Descartes-Locke-Berkeley-Hume-etc. tradition? But although these are often mistaken, they are hardly absurd. Berkeley’s esse est percipi 5 is very close to the mark, for example, and Descartes’ cogito ergo sum is the dual statement—had you noticed this? Judge William is very tiresome on the ‘universal-human’, which, he maintains is revealed when one ‘chooses oneself’. Choosing oneself is perfectly in order, but what is revealed is simply being. Certainly this presents itself in the form of tasks (cf. Sartre), but it by no means follows that it is my duty to fulfil them. It is not my duty to exist, but only to know that I exist. He is almost as tiresome as Walter Lowrie. The Attack Upon ‘Christendom’ 6, taken in small doses, is very readable. If, impossibly, I was a Christian, there is no doubt I should have to agree entirely with Kierkegaard; and certain things (as for example that the State is a numerical determination, whereas Christianity is an individual determination) hold not only for Christianity. But its interest otherwise is purely academic. Upon reflexion, it now occurs to me that the ‘universal-human’, which appears in Kierkegaard, if not as a religious category (which is the absurd), at least in relation to God—it is our duty to God to express the universalhuman—is precisely the humanism attacked by Sartre in La Nausée, and for which he himself falls in L’Existentialisme est un Humanisme— as you so rightly pointed out. In this last work, Sartre says explicitly ‘in choosing myself I am choosing all men, and I must always ask myself “What if all men were to do as I am doing?”’. There is not a word of this in L’Être et le Néant. Sartre is a better disciple (as soon as he relaxes from the effort of lucidity) of Kierkegaard than one might think, and as soon as ‘humanity’ appears (not excepting the Communist variety) God is just around the corner. God, positively or negatively, is necessary for human solidarity. Saying this to you, however, is carrying coals to Newcastle—your analysis of European thought as possessed always of the coefficient ± God is admissible. In this respect your condemnation of ‘atheistic’ as a qualification of Buddhism is perfectly correct. But the theist-atheist determination is strictly postChristian, and I am not prepared to call the Greeks, for example, theists. In other words, they are not-atheists, not because they have gods, but because theist-atheist does not apply to them. The Greeks were sometimes absurd,

132


29.vi.58

early letters

[el. 72]

but the absurd was not an article of faith to them. I am almost tempted to say that the absurd appears when one discovers that God (not ‘gods’) does not exist. This implies that it was first assumed that God does exist. Thus the switch from theism to atheism is the switch from Kierkegaard’s absurd (God) to Sartre’s absurd (no God after all, i.e. gratuitousness). If the idea of God has never been present, the absurd does not appear at all. In the Dhamma there is no ‘absurd’. The absurd is a Christian category, whether Kierkegaard’s or Sartre’s variety. I cannot think that the Greeks would have perpetrated the Quantum Theory: not because it is wrong—because it isn’t entirely—but because, precisely, it isn’t entirely. (Kierkegaard, in the Attack, shows himself a true Christian—i.e. truly absurd—; for he attacks those who are not entirely Christians. Now, to be a Christian is absurd; and to be not entirely an Christian is doubly absurd, and thus doubly Christian; and to attack people who are doubly Christian on the grounds that they are not entirely Christian is clearly very absurd indeed. Therefore Kierkegaard is very absurd indeed—very Christian indeed. Q.E.D.) From the rather desultory and trivial nature of my remarks in the last two pages, I conclude that this batch of Kierkegaard has not been very inspiring. I must not complain, however; for the Dirac has in this respect been all that could be asked for. Returning to the question of points and lines. As you know, a line is sometimes thought of as made up of an infinity of points. (Dirac, for example, uses the phrase ‘an infinity equal to the number of points on a line’), and provided any two adjacent points can be separated by a negative, this is in order. And on the assumption that repetition = integration, this can be done. But you also know that in line geometry a line passes through just two points (and no more—in reckoning the number of lines and points in space, ∞3 points, ∞m lines, this is the assumption, as seen from the E.B. article). This seems to be a contradiction, but in fact it resolves itself beautifully. For the negative that separates any two adjacent points on a line consists of … an infinity of points. So if a line consists of an infinity of points, the two ends of the line will be two adjacent points. Now, in the first place, if these points are the ends of the line there can be no other points outside them; and in the second place, if these points are adjacent, there can be other points between them. Thus there are two points, and two points only, on a line. (You will see, naturally, that the infinity of points making up a line are not evenly spaced; for any two adjacent negatives—separating three points in a row—are themselves separated by a negative. The second negative is the repetition, or integral, of the first. So three points cannot be conceived as co-existing on equal terms. Just as time has to contract to maintain level intensity, if we consider one factor of existence, so space has to contract to

133


[el. 72]

seeking the path

29.vi.58

maintain level intensity, if we consider the dual factor of existence. This can quite easily be thought of:—if the intensity of an identification is failing, it can be maintained either by contracting the subject, or time, by having the object ‘exist more quickly’, or by contracting the object, rather as one can increase the concentration of a solution by means of evaporation. [I have an idea that both contractions must happen at once.] Thus, if we have three points in a row, the space between the second and the third is bunched up, as it were, twice as much as the corresponding space between the first and the second. In other words, the third point cannot be considered to be on the same line as the first. The nature of the space between successive points is different. This fundamental contraction of space and time is no doubt the ‘reason’ for the anomalous effects of the Relativity Theory, as described, for example, in your space travel article.) I do not at all suppose that the line geometers had all this in mind when declaiming that a line passes through only two points (‘two points fix a line’), but it now becomes clear why Kummer gives the structure of the absolute negative—it assumes the true negative, the integral. Upon further reflexion, I think the affair can be stated as follows. Given a spatial operator X, to repeat it—i.e. to get the negative—one integrates and gets ½x2. But any spatial operator has three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension. Thus its square has ten spatial dimensions and six temporal dimensions ((3 + 1)2 = 32 + 3·1 + 1·3 + 12. The squares here are spatial and the non-squares temporal. So we have 32 + 12 = 10 spatial and 3·1 + 1·3 = 6 temporal). But this, on a more general level, reduces the three spatial and one temporal dimensions. Thus the square of X differs from X in being on a more general level. In terms of extension it is larger in size (in terms of colour one might say whiter in colour) (as a bush is larger than a leaf—though this is an oversimplification, since I think it is not exact to say leaf2 = bush). But in the integral the square has only half the intensity. Now to double the intensity, each dimension must be contracted by one half. This has the effect of reducing its (i.e. X2’s) four-dimensional ‘volume’ to one-sixteenth of its size—which is precisely the size of X. (Suppose ½ X2 is in colour but half as bright as X. To increase its brightness one must contract it—but in contracting it, it becomes bluer in shade as well as brighter in illumination. Now when the brightness equals that of X, so also does its shade of colour. But I don’t want to be dogmatic about colour—this is only an illustration. I note as suggestive, however, that if you ‘accelerate’ (or contract) white light it becomes blue.) So ½ X2, though of a more general order, ‘looks like’ X as regards size, and if we have chosen the square that is X itself (ABCD·ABCD—i.e. ‘stay as you were’) ½ X2 will ‘look

134


29.vi.58

early letters

[el. 72]

like’ X in all respects. But the dimensions concerned here are three spatial and one temporal; and in order to justify X’s sixteen possible squares—i.e. in order that all X’s squares should be spatial (and not ten spatial and six temporal)—we need four spatial dimensions. And these are provided by the dual integration of X as a temporal operator, giving three temporal and one spatial dimensions. Thus we have four spatial and four temporal dimensions; and we have the choice of sixteen spatial and sixteen temporal alternatives (though only 136 combinations will give us the four plus four dimensions at the next level); and there is always, at each change, a double contraction, spatial and temporal. Yes, I know, Reverend Sir: if ½ X2 ‘looks like X in all respects’, then it is X, and there is no reason for all this fuss and bother. But of course I don’t mean that ½ X2 looks exactly like X in all respects—there is a difference. The difference is a difference in order, and the effect is this: with each change that takes place there is a step up in the order, and with each step up in the order there is a decrease in subjective immediacy (or interest), or an increase in X,

X2,

X4

X,

X2,

(X2)2,

X8 ((X2)2)2, ....

objectivity (or boredom). Thus ½ X2 is more objective/boring than X, and this is progressive: suppose X is 99/100 subjectively immediate, then X2 (the ½ doesn’t matter here) will be (99/100)2 subjectively immediate. But (99/100)2 = 9801/1000 = 98·01/100. Thus (½)X2 will be slightly more objective, and this tends to increase more and more rapidly. It is, however, an infinite series, and one might think that it never comes to an end. But—and this is where the ½ comes in—there is a contraction of time, and in time ½ X2 becomes completely objective. As soon as this happens, the change, instead of being a single step up in the order, is a double step up—or, if you prefer, a change has taken place at a more general level. And, of course, the double step eventually becomes a double-double step, and so on, ad inf. And so it goes (like this letter, which has already come to an end several times, but manages to replace itself with no loss of intensity). It remains to say, perhaps, that if this is the structure of being (and all my thinking and reflexion for the last two or three years has tended to this conclusion), yet it is not a thing I can see at all clearly in practice—I cannot by any manner of means assert ‘In my experience I see that this is the structure of being’. Nevertheless, (i) things certainly do seem to be (rather indefinitely) divided up into (an indefinite number of) parts, and in

135


[el. 72]

seeking the path

29.vi.58

a hierarchical manner, (ii) a star seems to be divided up into sixteen parts in agreement with theory, (iii) the division of the subject into corresponding parts is, at least, not inconceivable, (iv) there are certain other points where this theory and experience seem to coincide, and (v) it is a round peg exactly fitting the round hole in which the square peg of the Quantum Theory is at present jammed. Negatively, it does not appear to be inconsistent, and it does not seem to conflict with the Suttas. Finally, it does conflict with positive thinking. Even if you don’t agree with me that it is the structure of being, you will hardly deny that it must be the structure of something. It is now high time that this rambling and inconsequential letter came to a. [ EL. 73 ]

10 July 1958

Many thanks for Lavelle, your letter, and H.’s letter, all just arrived. First glance at Lavelle conveys very little, except perhaps the impression that he oversimplifies matters a trifle. No doubt we shall see. Presumably you don’t want H.’s letter again. I have soaked the stamps off to give to the children here, who enthusiastically collect (quantity, however, is their forte, not quality—Camus [old style] would no doubt approve). If you want the letter back (minus stamps), let me know. Your remarks on acceleration will be awaited with an accelerating impatience. I am glad you don’t seriously disagree with mine. Rather naturally, what I said in my last letter needs polishing to make it coherent but since the fundamentals are given—repetition of X is ∫x dx (= ½ X2), and then Kummer structure—a consistent scheme is certain (though anyone may question whether it represents what I say it represents). In particular there was a not-properly-thought-out parenthesis on the question of ‘outside circumstances’ needing revision; and also I think I said that intensity (= interest) is maintained, and, a page or two later, that interest decreases with increasing objectivity. This last is to be understood as follows: intensity (or interest) of the total experience is maintained (i.e. consciousness must always be taken as having the value 1), but intensity (or interest) of the present object (as opposed to all the absent objects, also part of the total experience) decreases (naturally by transfer to one of the absent objects); and even this statement is not quite accurate, but no matter. As far as Kummer and Riemann 1 geometry is concerned, the situation is this. Riemann geometry (if it is what I think it is) can be regarded as a distortion of ordinary space. Now if you imagine a three-dimensional elastic model of Kummer embedded in solid rubber, you will see that if the block

136


10.vii.58

early letters

[el. 73]

of rubber is in any way distorted, the model of Kummer will be too. But the essential thing about Kummer is the intersection of sixteen conics, six at a time, in sixteen points. However the rubber is distorted these sixteen nodes remain, though the conics are no longer conics. But in compensation for this alteration of the conics, what were formerly straight lines are no longer straight lines, but conics; and the essential relationship between the former straight lines (now curves of a certain order) and the former conics (now curves of a higher order) is maintained. Or, if you prefer, any line, straight or not, has the structure I discussed in my last letter. If you were to say that infinity = uncertainty, I am uncertain what I would say. Does this make me infinite? The Coleridge story is pleasing, and so is the Pierre-Marie Ventre, Resistentialist philosopher. His aphorism ‘Les choses sont contre nous’ 2 is surely his Pièce de Résistance. I quite agree with your attachment to Chaos—a most sympathetic personage. One of the most moving stories in the world is that about the well-intentioned but fatal hole-boring operation carried out on him by his neighbours. Enough to weep an age over. H.’s letter is of a troubling simplicity. His special aim to investigate the Buddha’s relation to the Brahmanical religion is rather like the aim of the Quantum Physicist to investigate the ultimate structure of matter. First you must assume that there is such a thing. Though Sartre’s criticism of Camus is justified—namely, that in writing like Hemingway he hopes to cut off the significance of the world and its objects, and that this is unjustified since the significance of the world is given with the object—yet it is a criticism that rebounds on Sartre. For Sartre’s Ensoi Pur is just such an object. Both Sartre and Camus believe in the En-soi Pur, and Camus is perhaps more consistent than Sartre in supposing that it is a real object. There is much of Camus quite untouched by Sartre’s criticism, and anyway Sartre is not condemning him wholesale by any means. I think I discover what Prof. Wijesekera means by the dangers of ‘Subjectivism’. I see that Lowrie says of Kierkegaard (in a note to the Attack) that Kierkegaard was continually tempted to go over into ‘unbridled subjectivism’ and as I understand this it means the relying upon conscience, or ‘the inner voice’ or the direct command of God, as one’s guide—i.e. the absolute authority of the ‘teleological suspension’. Lowrie is perhaps not altogether wrong—but this is not Kierkegaard’s particular weakness, it is the weakness of Christianity and all inspired religions. Prof. W. presumably means that the ‘subjectivist’ relies only upon his own intuition as a guide to his conduct. If one misunderstands the Dhamma (Kålåma Sutta, for example), this may well occur, and probably does.

137


[el. 73]

seeking the path

10.vii.58

Some time ago—no doubt when we were discussing motion—I said that whenever anything moves it moves ‘with the speed of light’. This was based on the consideration that at any given level of generality all distance is unit distance and all time is unit time. Thus if a thing moves it moves space = 1 in time = 1 (though it can also ‘stay where it is’ in time = 1—strictly to ‘stay where you are’ in time = 1 is also to move space = 1, but this move apparently brings you to where you were before; this is the square of X that is itself). This combined with Eddington’s statement that ‘one unit of time dimension is the time taken by light to travel one unit of space or distance’ gives the statement above. Now I find in Dirac that an electron always moves with the speed of light (though since it is oscillating at high frequency it appears experimentally to be moving slower).3 This, of course, is in theory—i.e. in quantum theory—, and must be accepted with due precautions and qualifications. Nevertheless the Quantum Theory is not entirely wrong (which is why it persists), and this seems to be a good illustration of its not-entirely-wrongness. I say (and I don’t see that I am wrong here) that any ‘thing’ moves unit distance in unit time (derived from consideration of the structure of the negative). Relativity theory says that light moves unit distance in unit time. Quantum theory says that the electron moves with the speed of light. The electron is thus seen to be a kind of compromise between a ‘thing’ and light. Or, if you prefer, my statement unifies relativity and quantum theory by rejecting the ‘speed of light’ as a statistical concept (it implies lesser speeds, which are all average speeds),a and the ‘electron’ a.  ‘Light’ as an entity (undulating or corpuscular) located somewhere between the lamp and what is illumined is an impossible notion. But it is inevitable so long as the speed of light is ‘discovered experimentally’ to be 186,000 miles per second. This arbitrary figure is incompatible with ‘unit distance in unit time’. Relativity theory is self-contradiction. But then to say that an electron moves at 186,000 m.p.s. (i.e. ‘at the speed of light’) is doubly ridiculous. ‘Unit distance in unit time’ is no more a ‘speed’ than I am a given fraction of ‘humanity’. Unit distance in unit time does not imply ‘two units of distance in two units of time’, for the reason that in the Group Theory two jumps are always equal to one jump. And, in general, ‘m units of distance in n units of time’ reduces by this rule to ‘unit distance in unit time’. Where 1 + 1 = 1 you can neither add nor multiply: all you do is to integrate—but integration is not a statistical operation. An operation is defined by ‘unit distance in unit time’; and if I integrate I simply get another (or a different) object defined by ‘unit distance in unit time’. (Even the word ‘another’ is inaccurate since it implies a rationalization. Strictly speaking, [the integral of] the present object [is] the present object [and so on, giving an endless repetition of ‘the present object’].) These are not successive integrals with respect to an original operation X (∫s∫s∫ssssx dx dx dxxxxx) but successive integrals of the present object (or operation) with respect to itself (∫x dx = ½ x2 ; ∫x2 d(x2) = ½ x4 ; ∫x4 d(x4) = ½ x8 …

138


17.vii.58

early letters

[el. 74]

as involving the bogus concept of absolute size. From relativity theory you cannot deduce that the ‘electron’ moves with ‘the speed of light’, whereas from my theory you can deduce that (if statistics are introduced) light moves with an absolute speed (unit distance in unit time) and furthermore that the ‘electron’ moves with this speed (that is, when the idea of absolute size is introduced). So I get both results with a great economy in unjustifiable assumptions, which is an advantage. P.S. (11th morning) Have just woken up with nausea and giddiness. This is perhaps due to strong tea on an empty stomach last night. Have taken vegamin and feel a little better—more integral. Hope I shall not differentiate. [ EL. 74 ]

17 July 1958

Thank you for your letter of the 15th, which arrived yesterday. My giddiness has now vanished, though a few traces persisted for a day or two. It might perhaps have been, like Meursault’s murder, ‘à cause du soleil’1; for a day or two earlier, having literally ‘bagged’—or rather ‘sacked’—a large måpila 2 from my roof, I carried it in the heat of the afternoon for a considerable distance. Possibly the nausea follows upon an unaccustomed exposure to the sun—possibly, also, not. I am glad you have discovered that the situation is comical: ever since studying Kummer I have been, with some difficulty, refraining from making that remark. Now that you have made it the tension has eased. Life is certainly either an opéra comique or a trajectory in one act after another. Your views on the puniness of integration are quite right. The negative is fundamentally the absolute distinction between one and infinity, and each time a switch takes place infinity becomes one (since we transcend infinity and make it an object) and one shrinks into insignificance, or rather, disappears abruptly. Perhaps it is clearer if I say that with the sudden disappearance of one, infinity is enabled to become the new one (with, of course, a new infinity looming up behind it, waiting to become one in its turn). A ‘rate of change’ is one, a single object (represented by a straight [on each occasion the ½ is absorbed in the contraction of space or time as the case may be]). And the whole of this series constitutes one object defined by ‘unit distance in unit time’ on the next more general level…

139


[el. 74]

seeking the path

17.vii.58

line), and this object, the ‘rate of change’, defines an infinity of different gradients, all successively adjacent (represented by a smooth curve). You can thus ‘straighten out’ this smooth curve, and it becomes one, and, in its turn, it defines an infinity, a further smooth curve. (Of course, the straightening-out process does not turn the previous straight line into a smooth curve—as would happen if the straightening out were achieved simply by curving the axes in an appropriate manner—, but changes it into a point—i.e. makes it vanish.) ‘Antimatter’ (I return the article herewith)3 is indeed a pleasing notion. Unfortunately, to be able to believe in it one must already have an implicit faith in ‘matter’—one must be a quantum physicist. I do not say that it does not (or may not) represent anything in our experience (one might have witnessed the affair in Russia), but that the physicists’ ‘matter’ and ‘anti-matter’ are mystical concepts. I am led to the hope, however, for the discovery of the anti-photon in the not-too-distant future. When this is discovered we shall be able, if we see something or somebody unpleasant, to unshine our neveready4 flashdark at the object and envelop it (or him) in impenetrable gloom (or if our batteries are run down, at least in a dim twilight). This might be extended to the invention of the ‘softsilencer’, which, when directed towards a blaring loudspeaker, would drown it in silence. It could also be used generally to flood a given area (such as the Hermitage) in quiet. No doubt the principle has further applications. The Archbishop has evidently created panic by his specification of what he doesn’t know God’s intentions not to be. There seems to be a suggestion of an existential deity in his statement. ‘Dieu est peut-être haineux et haissable, incompréhensible et contradictoire, mais c’est dans la mesure même où son visage est le plus hideux qu’il affirme le plus sa puissance.’5 (from Le Mythe de Sisyphe) No wonder the other bishops are alarmed! The Archbishop had better watch his step, or he will find himself a Witness to the Truth, or an Apostle, or something unmentionable like that. How explosive a negative statement can be! I have made little progress with Lavelle, mainly because I cannot make out what he is talking about. ‘Le tout de l’être’ is not a very happily chosen starting point, since it leaves M. Louis Lavelle outside. His first démarche 6 seems to be to examine the consequences of denying my statement. I venture to applaud your doubt that being and existence are different. (Kierkegaard makes a distinction between being and becoming that is valid at one level. But as soon as you change level in the hierarchy being becomes. It is a relative distinction between what is changing (becoming) and what, necessarily, is at that time unchanging (being). But this, I think, has nothing to

140


25.vii.58

early letters

[el. 75]

do with Lavelle.) I am trying to write to H. thanking him for the books and explaining why we asked for one on Quantum Theory and why his choice of Dirac was so good. But unfortunately every other sentence contains a condemnation explicit or implicit of the scientist’s attitude—which is also the scholar’s attitude. And this won’t do at all; for H. is, unless I am much mistaken, a Privatdocent 7—and happy to be one. So unless I can change my style I had better keep quiet. I am held up on p. 77 of the Dirac, perhaps only temporarily. I presume you are in no hurry for it… [ EL. 75 ]

25 July 1958

To judge from the quantity of paper you have sent you are thoroughly dissatisfied at the shortness of my letters, and want twenty or thirty pages each week. The pen is willing, but the hand is weak. I like the pad whose corner is decorated with three lilies and which calls itself ‘TRIBLE FLOWER WRITING PAD—Best Quality, Blue Ruled—Made in British Empire’. I find that although the quality is, in fact, quite good, the paper is white and unruled. I wonder in what precise part of British Empire it is made. I have already carried out your suggestion of carrying out a mapila again to see if the giddiness was repeated. I caught another about a week ago (brown this time, whereas the first was grey). but the giddiness did not recur. I now have a cobra (I think it is a cobra and not a rat snake—it looks like a cobra when on the ground, though when seen from underneath and close to it is hard to decide) coming to my roof to eat the frogs. (Mr. Kruschev said the other day that sugar is for feeding workers: I now find that frogs are for feeding cobras.) It is very docile and allows itself to be prodded without hissing (unlike the brown måpila), but is much too lively (unlike both the måpilas) to be caught. I chivvy it until it vanishes to some remote part of the roof not immediately over my head, and try to forget it. But some branches will have to be trimmed. Snakes generally are much in evidence this year, whereas queen spiders are absent. Today, for example, I saw, beside the cobra, two others: one a very small quite common snake, and the other the long thin green snake with very pointed nose (which we saw in the woods in Kandy and also at the Dehiwela zoo). The place is almost literally ‘literally crawling with’ snakes. Here is a Belgian interlude:—1

141


[el. 75]

seeking the path

25.vii.58

association internationale de la fertilité fédération internationale de médicine-sportive The second throws an entirely new (and really rather sinister) light on the medical profession: medicine is sometimes called an Art, and sometimes a Science—but a sport? July here this year has been cool and cloudy—quite pleasant. And there seems to be enough water in the field to last to the end of next month. I was visited by the English-speaking Thera who visited last year. He said that ‘apart from a few who meditate, all the Ceylon monks are heathens’. I rather like the definition of heathen as non-Buddhist. Also visited by the local bus driver who just speaks English—he was in the Ceylon Royal Engineers in the war (but was not out of Ceylon). He asked me if I was English, and when I said yes he replied ‘Oh, I thought you were Irish’. This is very odd. About acceleration. Newton said that a body continues at rest or in motion in a straight line unless a force is applied to it; and that when a force is applied to it the acceleration is proportional to that force (Pg = mF). Now, if I whirl a stone tied to a string round and round, there is a (measurable) tension in the string. This tension is a force applied to the stone. Therefore the stone is accelerating towards me (or I am accelerating towards the stone, since the tension also applies to me). If we consider the moon circling the earth, then by the reciprocal ‘force of gravity’ the moon is accelerating towards the earth or the earth is accelerating towards the moon. But the ‘force of gravity’ is action at a distance which is recognized to be a fiction (magnetism and electricity, for some reason I do not properly understand, do not exert action at a distance, but somehow pervade the space intervening between, for example, the magnet and the iron nail—the magnet is the field rather than just the horseshoe-shaped object). Since the ‘force of gravity’ is a fiction, there is no reciprocal force between the moon and the earth, and, consequently, both moon and earth are moving in straight lines (unless you regard the earth as at rest). The moon only appears to be moving in a circle (or ellipse) because (in Einstein’s formulation) ‘space in the region of matter is more curved than usual’. So: (i) you are right in supposing (if this is what you are supposing) that if two bodies are related by a reciprocal force, then you cannot objectively say that one is accelerating towards the other without implying that the other is accelerating towards the one—i.e. from a purely objective point of view ‘they are accelerating towards each other—they are related by an acceleration’—but subjectively, it is always the other that is accelerating towards me; and (ii) you are unfortunate in your choice of the motion of

142


2.viii.58

early letters

[el. 75a]

bodies in space as examples of acceleration, because in fact none of them is accelerating (unless this turns out to be rocket-propelled space-ships) since, action at a distance being a fiction, none is moving in a circle (or other orbit). Note that, according to Newtonian definition, any object lying on the surface of the earth is accelerating away from its centre; because of the pressure exerted upon it by the earth (commonly called its weight). A more complicated system arises when we compare (a) the earth, for example, which is not accelerating (because no force is applied to it) with (b) a rocket in space, which is accelerating (because the thrust of its expanding fuel is applied to it), that is to say, which has a ‘relation of acceleration with its exhaust’. According to the Newtonian definition (a) absolutely is not accelerating, and (b) absolutely is accelerating. Einstein would probably say that (a) has a constant frame of reference, whereas (b) has a changing frame of reference. The question possibly arises whether we are justified in comparing the rocket with any object other than its exhaust; for it is only with its exhaust that it ‘has a relation’. [This may be the situation when space-travellers are said to age more slowly than those who are ‘at rest’ on the earth (but is it not forgotten that we ‘at rest’ on the earth are accelerating at 32.2 ft/sec2 away from the centre?).] Can’t you feel that you are accelerating?… [ EL. 75a ]

2 August 1958

From the draft of a letter by Ven. Ñå~amoli to Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra. You are perfectly right to raise the subject of ‘frames of reference’ with respect to motion. However, my contention still holds good, I think, that neither motion nor acceleration can be attributed scientifically or mathematically absolutely to any one ‘thing’ (call it a body, a frame of reference, a coordinate system, or what you will), except arbitrarily, that is by projection on the objective scientific world. And the same applies to acceleration as ‘change of motion’. I fancy that in the concept of acceleration there may be a pun between (1) an ‘observable increase in rate of speed between two objects relative to each other and/or to a frame of reference’, and (2) ‘absolute acceleration’ (which is perhaps connected with: (a) what is called ‘spinning of a body’—though how can we be sure that the body is not still and its surroundings spinning round it?—and (b) gravity [which Eddington brightly describes as spinning in two directions at right-angles at once, or something like that] and anyway no scientist has any explanation to offer of gravity so far). So far so good:

143


[el. 75a]

seeking the path

2.viii.58

neither motion nor acceleration, as conceived by scientists, mathematicians, or common sense, can be absolutely ascribed to anything. This leaves the subjective description as yet untouched. That I may return to later on. As to ‘frames of reference’ (which, I take it, are synonymous with ‘coordinate systems’, a term Einstein uses): (1) Is it not also arbitrary, purely objective, to decide what is frame of reference and what is not? (This problem haunts Ross Ashby’s homeostat.) (2) As to a ‘changing frame of reference’, a ‘frame of reference’ must have some constant or it cannot be a frame of reference at all. What I understand to be the difference between a ‘constant frame of reference’ and a ‘changing frame of reference’ is, the difference between one to which no motion is attributed (either space or ether), and one to which an element of speed or acceleration (though with some constant of rate, expansion, thrust, etc.) is attributed: as to frames of reference, too, in the Relativity sense (which I don’t profess to understand); in the old sense there was supposed to be one unique ‘frame of reference’, which was SPACE, but when this was looked for and hunted down, it became the ‘ether’ and a mytha then vanished. So now we have a plurality of relative coordinate systems (frames of reference) (a plurality of uniquenesses), each set up (justified?) by an ‘observer’ (Einstein talks a lot about ‘observers’ in their relative ‘coordinate systems’). Now a foolish mind might conceive all these observers, each embedded in his, to him, absolute coordinate system (like Leibniz’ windowless monads, perhaps) laid in rows and layers on top of and beside each other expanding out to infinity in all directions—but here, of course, our old friend SPACE has crept in again. No. The ‘substance’ of each observer’s ‘coordinate system’, it seems to me, is a negation of the totality of all other actual and possible observers’ ‘coordinate systems’, all of which are different, and consequently they all interpenetrate and undermine and negate each other, agreeing, however, on what it is they negate, i.e., each other’s time and space, and space is then for each a subjective mistake (i.e. a maññanå fancying that the extension I perceive with two eyes simultaneously and feel with waving limbs is an objectively independent infinite reality). To return to acceleration for a moment (still reserving the subjective description): acceleration (like ordinary motion) is conceivable (1) as absolute, when it is describable as an orientation of a coordinate system in one direction, as with gravity, and (2) as towards some thing or away from a.  Have you considered that MYTHS can be and have been and are measured? Phlogiston was, and ‘force at a distance’ is measured: perhaps any myth—even God—is measurable?

144


2.viii.58

early letters

[el. 75a]

some thing. It seems to me that the two concepts (however much they may be associated in experience) are quite different. Hence the difficulty that if gravity is due not to ‘force at a distance’ but to the ‘thrust of what (and what is that?) is driving the earth’s surface towards me’ then the earth, if round, must be getting larger (and maybe I am too). There is no escape from this consequence unless the earth is really flat (and if the revolving moon is really moving in a straight line, why is the earth too not flat, both being ‘straight’ in ‘curved space’? But isn’t this the old myth creeping in again?) and something is pushing it underneath. You say that ‘subjectively it is always the other that is accelerating towards me’. But why? Is this taking acceleration in its sense of (1) or (2) above? In vulgar experience (such as travelling by train or car) there is objectively both ‘acceleration’ and ‘deceleration’, which is conceivable with respect to the object one is going towards or away from or the surface one is travelling over (acceleration in this sense differs from ‘constant motion’ in the fact that with acceleration relative to an object the object must eventually become unrecognizable, while with constant motion it [other reasons apart] remains the same). This is objective, but quite ‘real’ experience. When the accelerator is stamped on one is flung back against the back of the car, and when the brake is jammed on one is flung forward. But this is subjective, and is a matter of direction only. For imagine a perfectly smooth road and a perfectly smooth engine whose brake was simply an accelerator in reverse gear. Then, from moving towards X at 90 miles an hour the reverseaccelerator brake is applied. I, from sitting comfortably, am thrown forward and remain ‘pulled’ forward because we are ‘decelerating’. With the rate of ‘deceleration’ constant we soon come to a point which, with reference to X and the road, we can call ‘stop’; but the stop there is instantaneous and ‘of no duration’, since the reverse-gear accelerator is still pressed down and we ‘start’ at once accelerating in the opposite direction, away from X, and go on like that (we cannot go on for ever, though; for although the road might have no end, by our constant acceleration its nature will eventually be found to have changed, and it will no longer be a road—and then what happens to the car and me?). But in one respect, subjectively, one thing has remained constant: when the reverse-gear accelerator was put on, I started having the new experience of being pulled towards the windscreen, which continued right through the stop and still continues and will continue as long as that accelerator is kept down (or until the road vanishes). So we have this difference: (1) absolute acceleration (i.e. the subjective orientation) can go on forever, but (2) acceleration towards or away from or over any thing

145


[el. 75a]

seeking the path

2.viii.58

cannot inherently last for ever and must destroy its own frame of reference eventually—either what I was accelerating from vanishes or what I was accelerating towards collides with me (destroys, maybe) or I pass ‘through’ it and it is ‘behind’ me and so turns into what I am accelerating from, which must eventually vanish. And all the time, what I am accelerating over (my ‘road’) is gradually losing its nature. At the moment I am inclined to think that existence (being) is acceleration, which, for the foregoing reasons might both explain and necessitate ageing and (not violent but inescapable) death—perhaps my name-body (nåma-kåya) has an accelerated relation to my form-body (r¨pa-kåya)—the details might perhaps be worked out—but that existence (being) necessitates ageing through an acceleration-relationship seems to be a plausible, attractive notion. What do you think? Then there is, of course, the question of accelerated acceleration (accel2… eration2) etc. (not to mention acceleration2 and such horrors). Have you noticed that, subjectively, only one of the three ‘space dimensions’ is fixed, namely the ‘vertical’: I always know how my body is placed vertically (the vertical reference-axis being projected outside my body—and this is what objectively we call gravity—if it was not so projected outside, upwards would always be the direction of my head, and when I ‘lay down’ I should remain apparently unmoved but shall revolve my room till the bed’s surface was against my back—but I should still be upright. The world ‘on edge’. This does in fact happen when a plane banks steeply), but that as to which horizontal direction I am facing, that I have to decide by what means I can, since it is not given that I am facing east as it is given that I am standing up. And what of giddiness in this context? Subjectively the ‘movement’ of giddiness is unquestionably certain. P.S. I fear there may be more on this subject later. [ EL. 75b ]

undated

Two further fragments, undated, in Ven. Ñå~amoli’s writing. ‘thing’ as a constant (but remember the arbitrariness of the attribution of motion). But (b) an accelerated relationship alters natures, yet at the same time ‘in a situation: where there is rest there is motion, and where there is motion there is acceleration’. (1), also acceleration necessitates change in the nature of the frame of reference (2). This change is irreversible and

146


4.viii.58

early letters

[el. 76]

eventually must result in the loss of the nature. There is no exception and it makes no difference whether ‘I’ ‘keep still’ or ‘rush about’ though possibly that might alter the succession of natures that proceeds hierarchically. But what is this working up to? Simply this: at the moment I am inclined to think that existence (being) is accelerated for the above reasons and that this accounts for ageing, as the gradual transformation of natures (like the appearance of the nearest road-surface, or the less-near telegraph poles, etc.) and eventual death. Ageing is purely objective as a flux, but death is a quantic change and so subjective-objective (I don’t want to call it ‘purely subjective’); it is ‘loss of all frames of reference’, and it is a seizing of a new frame of reference at the universal level, while ageing is the gradual change of natures at all lower levels. (I leave out violent death for convenience… it isn’t important.) Perhaps my nåmakåya is an accelerated relationship with my r¨pakåya (at the highest level); I am inclined to think so, since I think that anything that can be distinguished from anything else is in accelerated relationship with it (which necessitates attributing rest, motion, and acceleration arbitrarily in the situation that contains them with a frame of reference). So there you are. What is your opinion? Or isn’t it? I just wrote this letter in three sheets and then rewrote it in order to shorten it, but it came out in six sheets, so I shall not try that again. Thanks for ‘Médicine sportive’—entrancing.

*** What it boils down to is simply this: that any things that are distinct are in relationship that has to be described either as uniform motion in a straight line or rest or acceleration; but which is attributable to any member of the relationship or withholdable from it, is arbitrary, depending on the constituting of an observer and a frame of reference ( coordinate system). While a choice must be made, there is no necessity that the dialectic be resolved in any one way. [ EL. 76 ]

4 August 1958

I had hoped not to have a ka†hina this year: it is a great disturbance, not to mention the fact that I am gradually accumulating a stock of almost new double robes. Besides, Mr. Perera’s efforts to gather together important people on such occasions is faintly embarrassing. Alas, vain hope! I am

147


[el. 76]

seeking the path

4.viii.58

Mr. Perera’s invested capital and dividends must be drawn from time to time. However, in other respects he looks after me very well, and I can’t really complain. To invite me for Vas a small party from Hambantota came, including the District Revenue Officer and the Postmaster (who, it appears, is the regular Hermitage dåyaka of 31st December). Then, for the first day of Vas, Mr. Perera had written to the villagers saying that ‘all would give dåna’. For a village that is divided into two factions at daggers drawn this suggestion was most unfortunate: when Mr. Perera eventually arrived he found himself hated by everyone, and particularly by the headman whose day for giving dåna was thus snatched away from him. The villagers, individually, are all only too happy to give dåna, but by no means in company with the fearful scoundrel of the opposing faction living in the house next door. And Mr. Perera’s efforts at reconciliation were not much happier (if you want to reconcile a mongoose and a cobra, you do not simply bring them together). However, it is all rather a storm in a teacup, and when Perera returns to Hambantota, all will be forgotten. Of course, on the first day of Vas I got a large and heterogeneous dåna through which I had to pick my way rather carefully. My state of samatha-vipassanå, or rather the state of my samatha-vipassanå, while nothing to write home about (even if I had a home), seems to be noticeably better than this time last year. Yesterday I was visited by the Bundala Salt Superintendent. He has recently been moved here from Hambantota to be in charge of the grandiose developments that are now on foot. He confirmed that Bundala village will probably be evacuated (that is, unless the old guard [village headman and co.] ‘obstinately’ insist that it is their ancestral property—in the matter of ancestral property versus government schemes I am wholeheartedly [if I have any interest in the matter at all] on the side of the ancestral property), but assured me that people would be coming to the area beyond the saltern, who would provide me with ‘better and more regular support’ than the villagers. Since I have missed precisely two gilampassas out of over 1200—an astonishing number!—gilampasa/hila dåna/devala dåna’s,1 that is, over 99.8% regularity; and since what I have been given has exactly suited me;—this statement is a little unjust in its implications. In fact, the Superintendent, though an enthusiastic Buddhist, very helpful and obliging, and no doubt someone who will give much support in the future (he already appears to be giving me a supplementary dåna every day), is a good example of an ‘English-educated’ (he has spent some time in England and is clearly ‘upper class’) who has little sympathy for the ignorant and prejudiced villager,

148


4.viii.58

early letters

[el. 76]

and tends to patronize him. But this is not my business. He also said that this ku†i is now within the boundaries of the Scheme, and that this would be an advantage to me since squatters would be kept away from the area and trespassers discouraged. Changes are undoubtedly taking place, but it seems, to adapt Dirac, that I shall be ‘an invariant of the transformation’. It is undoubtedly a relief that it does not seem that I shall have to move from here, though my dånas promise to be more of the pink muslin variety and less of the sweaty sarong (which means that I shall have to be still more careful of what I eat). I endorse your opinion of Lavelle, and add that reading him is like trying to solve a number of simultaneous equations where there are far more unknowns than there are equations, and where the algebraic signs are indistinct or illegible. He is an admirable soporific. I see what you mean when you say he is orthodox—orthodox middle-class Christianity (which, of course, includes God). At no time does he show that what he is talking about has anything to do with experience—not a single illustration in the whole book. Rather like Sartre’s charge against Bergson, that he never looked at his images before talking about them. Dirac, on the other hand, is rather anti-soporific if one makes the effort to follow his argument. The blockage on p. 77 has now become unblocked, and we have advanced to p. 92. His method now becomes clearer. In chapter IV (p. 84) we begin to see what modifications in the Classical Theory have been found necessary in order to account for experimental evidence, and thus we discover the reasons for the assumptions made so arbitrarily in the earlier chapters. Dirac presents these assumptions first, in the evident hope that they will be swallowed uncritically by the earnest student who believes all he is told; then, when the said student arrives at chapter IV he discovers that the modifications in the Classical Theory he is required to accept appear to his newly acquired way of thinking as quite natural and even logically necessary. Like the Jesuits, who say ‘give us the first seven (is it?) years of a man’s life, and anyone can have the rest’, so the quantum theorists say ‘give us the first three chapters of a man’s reading… ’. I have succeeded in writing rather an oblique letter to H., thanking him for the Dirac and asking him to enquire about (but not send) what is available in English, French, or Italian, on Kummer, in one volume. (I rather fear that what I want from line geometry may be scattered amongst several large volumes, most of which will be of no interest. Naturally I don’t want to ask for these.) I am despairing of ever going to Colombo—that is, of wanting to go to Colombo—to visit the University Library. But I do want to know more about Kummer in detail. I described the quantum theory

149


[el. 76]

seeking the path

4.viii.58

to him as ‘a gentleman’s agreement between Science and Existence’, but refrained from telling him that the relation between the Buddha’s Teaching and Brahmanism was exactly the same (vide Brahmajåla Suttanta) as the relation between the Buddha’s Teaching and any other Teaching whatsoever (and even to itself as a teaching). (But that is not what H. means at all.) I am sorry H. is no fat Göttingen, or I might have said something about the ‘homogeneous materia’. The weather has been, and is, rather cloudy and thundery, not much S.W. wind. P.S. The word ‘reflexion’, which I have taken over rather uncritically from Husserl and Sartre, to describe the experience of making oneself the object (or quasi-object) of one’s consciousness, is misleading in that it suggests that the self sees itself, that its vision is turned upon itself, and this, of course, is not the case. (Cf. the most illuminating passage in the Sabbåsava Sutta on self being seen by the self etc.) ‘Self’ occurs at each level of the hierarchy, and all levels are present together with varying degrees of explicitness. So-called reflexion is simply the holding of two successive levels equally explicit, so that what becomes evident is the relation between them. This (i) ‘puts the world in brackets’ and (ii) shows the structure of ‘self’. Can you suggest any single word to describe this, as an alternative to ‘reflexion’? ‘Inwardness’, Kierkegaard’s term (or his translator’s) is better in some ways, but worse in others (it has a mystical flavour). It is, no doubt, sati or mindfulness, but I don’t want to prejudice things by assuming the identification. What is the English for εποχη? 2 Some word with the sense of ‘retreat’ might do. What is the contrary of ‘immediacy’? [ EL. 77 ]

11 August 1958

Thanks for yours of the 2nd, which arrived at Bundala on the 7th, and reached me on the 9th, and which crossed my last letter. Your observations on what I might call ‘conceptual acceleration’ are, on the whole, not-to-be-disagreed-with, except for your example of a car with a smooth engine and braking system on a ‘perfectly smooth’ road. My objection to this is that, in the language of (applied) mathematics, the words ‘perfectly smooth’ are synonymous with ‘neglect friction in this problem’. And if you neglect friction your braking system will fail to have any effect on the motion of the car (unless, of course, it consists of a device for hoisting sails and making use of wind resistance—but you

150


11.viii.58

early letters

[el. 77]

did not mention that there was any wind in your example, so I remain in suspense). But while not disagreeing with you, I must add that I find that thinking of motion in terms of scientific concepts (frames of reference, motion in a straight line) is only a source of confusion to me. For example, long before I can decide what relation motion (uniform or not) in a straight line has to my experiment, I have to decide what a ‘straight line’ (or indeed any line) is in my experience; and the dialectic of the line (as briefly indicated a few weeks ago—i.e. a line consists of only two points) leads me to the conclusion that ‘smooth motion’ (assumed in scientific concepts) is a very derived motion indeed. But though smooth motion is a rationalization or approximation (my inability to perceive it except in a general way [‘the clouds are smoothly floating by’] seems to be evidence of this; for perfectly smooth motion requires ‘an infinitely rapid succession of infinitely small points’, and my experience, as I remarked the other day, is that I can only give steady [or smooth] attention to an object of some positive size), motion itself is not thereby denied. But motion then becomes fundamentally discontinuous (already discussed at some length), and the question arises ‘is this really what we mean by motion?’ And the answer is no. The solution (as I discussed some time ago) is in the superposition of senses (which is not quite the same as the Principle of Superposition of the Quantum Theory)—at least in so far as it is to be distinguished from change. But this is by no means the end of the story, and I also came to the conclusion that the phenomenon of motion is the exception rather than the rule (it is almost entirely confined to vision). I am not wanting to reopen the subject of motion, but merely to say that I do not consider that motion is a fundamental structure; and that this is the principle reason for my not having any constructive remarks on ‘conceptual acceleration’. For me, an approach to acceleration via Newtonian and relativistic mechanics is not helpful. And you yourself, I notice, conclude that it is all very unsatisfactory and absurd. Your conclusion, on the other hand, that acceleration is necessary in order to distinguish one thing from another, is most important (i.e. is important for me). I have told you my views on the acceleration of time in a general way. I now think that (i) unaccelerating time is pure subjectivity, i.e. nothing; (ii) pure subjectivity, unless we exclude certain parts of the existing world (for purposes of thinking), does not occur (since all that exists has already been existing: pure subjectivity is the limit from which each object started, but this is an infinite recession backwards); (iii) time, therefore, is always to some extent objective, and since to be objective is to possess a (relatively more) subjective background, time at any level is always accelerating (i.e.

151


[el. 77]

seeking the path

11.viii.58

there are two adjacent levels of time, one of which—the objective one—is accelerating more than the other—i.e., relatively speaking one time is accelerating with respect to the other); (iv) time, thus, is accelerating to the extent that it is objective, or appears, or is a phenomenon; (v) but every object or phenomenon is nåmar¨pa, therefore time, as it becomes objective, becomes nåmar¨pa; (vi) and this means to say that time, which, unaccelerating is nothing (pure subjectivity), becomes a thing as it acquires acceleration (as it becomes objective). Thus the fact of acceleration is the condition for a thing’s existence, and moreover the rate of acceleration (with which a thing’s nature will vary) determines its essence. This also disposes of the question ‘What happens to time at lower levels than the one we are concentrated upon?’ Though time is necessarily hierarchical, we only seem to experience one time, and this is because time, at lower levels, has become things. You may, perhaps, agree with this. To forestall probable resentment in the village I have had to stop the Salt Superintendent’s extra dånas. This is, in some ways, a pity—I am fond of chicken. However, the milk does not seem to have run dry this year and I get both milk and curd nearly every day. Too much, in fact. But also the Salt Superintendent has cleared an ancient site in the jungle about a mile from the saltern and wants to install a bhikkhu there; but the village claims that it belongs to them and they have brought their bhikkhu (from Tangalle) and installed him. So there is friction. I am not anxious to get involved. The Salt Superintendent brought to visit me the visiting Salt Commissioner (who is in charge of all the salt everywhere—he might be styled the Saline of Brine), a Hindu (Jaffna Tamil). Very amiable. He says two thousand families will be brought into the scheme, but assures me that I shall not be disturbed. This particular site for the ku†i seems to have been fortunately chosen. I may get some assistance in the matter of a water supply. The Hindu idea of Nirwana, I am assured, is the same as the Buddhist—it consists of something altogether without attributes and which cannot be spoken of. It is said to possess unstable equilibrium. A homogeneous materia, in fact. The Salt Superintendent, when he had only met me once, sent me a letter with the following phrase, ‘A Near-perfect being, such as you are’. Opinions vary. But I shall have to watch my step, or it will have been the appointment that preceded the disappointment. 14th Aug. Some further reflexions on acceleration of time. Your remark that nåma and r¨pa might be in a relation of acceleration can be expanded. We can define viññå~a (consciousness) as the presence of an object (‘object’ being equivalent to ‘nåmar¨pa’). But the presence of an object is simply

152


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

the infinite succession of its presents—which is time. If we appropriately isolate an experience, i.e. do not take into account the reduplication of prereflexion, this time is absolute, which is to say it is purely subjective and does not appear at all. But, as indicated above, one unit of this time consists of an infinity of appearances of the object (transcendence vers l’infinit) 1, or in other words one appearance of the object is an infinitesimal of one unit of consciousness (or unaccelerating time). But one appearance of the object itself is similarly split into one unit of nåma, consisting of an infinity of units of r¨pa, and thus one unit of r¨pa is an infinitesimal of one unit of nåma. (This agrees with Kummer and with the definition of the negative of a thing as its integral.) Thus time with no acceleration is viññå~a; with one degree of acceleration is nåma(r¨pa); and with two degrees of acceleration is r¨pa. When it has three degrees of acceleration it is the infinitesimal of r¨pa and vanishes (= is ‘without size’ or ‘not a fixed object of attention’) at that particular level in the hierarchy (i.e. if I let my attention pass downwards to the next more particular level everything loses one degree of acceleration and this infinitesimal of r¨pa becomes r¨pa). If we now remove the veto on pre-reflexion, consciousness appears as an immediate quasi-object (there is consciousness [of] consciousness, conscience [de] soi). That is to say that pure time acquires acceleration and becomes present as an immediate quasi-object, i.e. nåma(r¨pa). (Note that I bracket the r¨pa since it is the infinitesimal of the nåma.) But since all reflexion is a reduplication and not merely a shift of attention, the original nåma(r¨pa) does not become r¨pa (-infinitesimal-of-r¨pa) and we have conscience (de) soi de l’objet. Now allow reflexion as well as pre-reflexion, and the number of different levels of acceleration of time all given at once increases accordingly. And according to Kummer there is no limit to the number of layers of reflexion involved at any one level of the hierarchy, though all that is needed for ‘things’ to appear as permanent is pre-reflexion. So there. The weather, from having been cloudy and hot (rather unpleasant) and non-Augustish.2 [ EL. 78 ]

3-9 December 1958

I said in my last letter that I was of the opinion that Eddington has misunderstood Kummer. This is, of course, from the existential point of view; whether or not he has understood it from the scientific point of view—if one can speak of understanding in such a context—I cannot say. But it is to be noted that this method of arriving at the 16/16 EF operators by way

153


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

of the eight operators Sα, Sβ, Sγ, Sδ, Dα, Dβ, Dγ, Dδ, however convenient mathematically, is quite artificial and arbitrary when seen existentially. I thought it might interest you to see how the sixteen operators arise quite naturally from certain fundamental existential concepts. I shall, of course, leave out a great deal in the interests of simplicity. I may represent a given thing by a point (A); but unless I cheat by supposing that the existence of the actual point (written on the paper) is the same as the existence of the thing represented by the point, this point A will not represent an existing thing. To represent an existing thing I need a point and a line, so:— A B C

where we must imagine that A remains fixed while B and C change places. (This interchange of B and C must not be conceived as a movement taking place along the line BC, but as a switch. This is the simplest representation of the fundamental axiom ‘a thing is the invariant of a transformation’. Thus an existing thing is represented by a triangle. (This does not mean that A is the thing and BC its existence, but that ABC as a whole is an existing thing, i.e. it has an element of invariance and an element of transformation—†hitassa aññathatta. We can equally well (or better) take BC as invariant and A as associated first with B, then with C.) But if a thing is to exist, its existence must itself exist; and we find that we need not only a point-and-line but also a line-and-plane if we are to represent an existing thing whose existence exists. But by the mathematical principle of duality that a plane is defined by two (intersecting) lines and two (intersecting) lines define a point, we can, for convenience (in this account), regard the line-and-plane as a lineand-point; and thus we arrive at the following picture:— α

A

B

γ

β

C

which consists of the two triangles ABC and αβγ. Naturally, we cannot stop simply at the existence of the thing’s existence, but must go on, ad inf., to the existence of the existence… of the existence of the thing’s existence; but it turns out that we have gone far enough to define one level of generality, and if we go further we begin to take into account the more general object of which our given object is a part, and this is not necessary for our purpose.

154


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

So we have two triangles representing a thing. Since these two triangles are given together, certain relationships occur—the three points of one triangle can be associated with the three points of the other in the following six ways (and six only):—

β

A

α

4. γ

γ

B C

β

A

α

5. B

C

Aα Bβ Cγ

Aα Bγ Cβ

γ

Aγ Cα B β

B C

β

A

α

γ

β

C

α

γ

6. B

β

A

Aγ Cβ B α

B C



C

3. α

A



B



γ



α

Aβ B γ Cα



2. A



1.

Aβ B α Cγ

β

These may be regarded as the six ways in which the three points of one triangle can be interchanged with the three points of the other. In each case the intensity of each point remains unchanged while its identity is altered. But, if you will refer back, you will see that a thing is not represented simply by two triangles, but by a point-and-line and a line-and-point. That is to say, by the association of one particular point in one triangle with one particular point in the other (and by a similar association of lines). There is no question of interchanging these points. Now, in order to associate (say) A and α without interchanging them, and using only the six relationships above, I must interchange A and α and also interchange them back again at the same time. This can be done in three ways: (i) performing 1 twice, (ii) by performing 4 twice, and (iii) by performing 1 and 4 once each but together. It is clear that both (i) and (ii) simply bring me back to my starting point, and can be ignored; but (iii), which is the combination of A

α

A

γ

B C

α

γ

and

B

β

C

β

gives me the result:— A

α

γ

B C

β

155


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

Remembering that a line represents an interchange of points, this reduces to the following:— A

α

γ

B C

β

which you will see is simply our picture of the two triangles (inscribed for certain reasons on a conic). You will see at once from the following diagram that we have, in all, nine possibilities arising quite naturally from the association of the two triangles. α

A γ

16

B β

C

You will see that this is equivalent to the following:— α

A γ

16

C

156

B β

4

15

6

11

8

13

14

1

12


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

I have numbered these (together with the static picture, no. 16, where everything [or nothing] is happening all at once) to correspond with Eddington’s sixteen operators. You will see that numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 are missing. These are the ones with square -1 in Eddington’s description—the ‘time-like’ operators. Now, in the simplest case, a thing exists as an oscillation (this is so even in the quantum theory, where an electron is always oscillating) describable as follows. Let us take, arbitrarily, no. 6. No. 6 exists as two stationary points and two lines representing an interchange of points:—

But what happens when the points have interchanged? Answer: they interchange again, and so on. But that can also be visualized as a transition from figure 16 to figure 6, where, at the end of each transition 6 suddenly becomes 16, and the transition is repeated, so:— 16————6 16————6 16————6, etc. On each occasion, as the interchange or transition is beginning, all the other eight possibilities are in evidence, each staking a claim; but as the transition proceeds all except no. 6 vanish away—indeed the transition really consists in nothing else than the vanishing away of the other possibilities. In other words, the switch cannot take place until all possibilities but one have vanished. (Walking and breathing provide approximations to a simple oscillation. It is so unpleasant not to breath that one does not usually choose any alternative to breathing.) But when pre-reflexion is superimposed (as it always is, in infinite depth) upon this simple scheme, we get no. 16 going over into no. 6, and the whole of this, at the same time, going over to (say) no. 14. That is, we have 16-goingto-6 going to 16-going-to-14 (which, if we take 16-going-to-6 as the prereflexive 16, becomes the pre-reflexive object 16-going-to-8, or simply 8). And this means that we get (eventually) all nine possibilities superimposed on one another. The result is like this (let us take two examples):—

157


[el. 78]

seeking the path

+

3.-9.xii.58

=

which reduces to this:—

+

=

which reduces to this:—

(In this second case we do not reduce the two lines to the third, as we did in the first case, since we need two points and two lines to represent a thing.) You will see that the result in the second case is something new—namely, one of the six missing figures. And by this superimposition of the original nine on themselves we get the original nine plus six of this new type, making fifteen in all, or with no. 16, sixteen. Thus you see that without pre-reflexion (the ideal case) a thing consists of ten pairs (nine alternatives) and with prereflexion (as there always is) of sixteen parts (fifteen alternatives). Were it not for pre-reflexion a thing could be represented by a simple triangle (or tetrahedron) and would have only four parts (three alternatives). Further superimposition of these fifteen on each other do not produce anything beyond themselves—i.e. the fifteen (or sixteen) form a Group. (I have now – – more or less given up thinking in terms of ABCD and BADC and so on, and stick to Kummer, who, as I hope to have shown you, is much more perspicuous. I have not, so far, been able to produce a satisfactory formulation from first principles using Eddington’s four letters, though no doubt it could be done if necessary.) [Later note: some light is now appearing on this, but it requires us to turn Eddington’s scheme inside out.] Into this arrangement the quartet, attention, perception, intention, and feeling, fits very snugly, as well as the quartet of which (I think) it is the exact double, or square, namely earth, water, fire, and air. But I shall not discuss this here.

158


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

It is now time to tidy up our immediate predecessors’ idea of time. In L’Imaginaire Sartre describes Husserl’s theory of past-and-future. Husserl’s present, according to Sartre, had a retention directed to the (immediate) past and a protention directed to the (immediate) future. Sartre himself adopts this explanation in L’Imaginaire but rejects it in L’Être et le Néant saying that Husserl has artificially endowed the present with a retention and a protention, but has not thereby got out of the present. Envisaged as two arms reaching out from the present, one into the past and one into the future, Husserl’s theory is quite unacceptable; but if the explanation was intended, however inadequately, to express the necessity for the past and the future both to be present, then it cannot be dismissed as entirely mistaken. Since Sartre’s own explanation is an undoubted advance on Husserl’s we must allow Sartre some justification in his criticism of Husserl; but since Sartre, in fact, does not ultimately solve the problem he is not entirely justified. Sartre says that consciousness is the unity of past, present, and future, and adds that Husserl always suspected consciousness (or rather Descartes’ cogito) as a ‘piège aux alouettes’ (larktrap).This is an improvement on Husserl since it gives us one step in the hierarchy, and, as I pointed out in a recent letter, a hierarchy is the only solution—but it must be an infinite hierarchy. Unfortunately Sartre’s consciousness becomes a mystical entity by the fact that he has wished to avoid an infinite hierarchy by compressing it into the infinite ‘reflet-reflétant’ of the early pages of L’Être et le Néant. Sartre’s consciousness is thus both consciousness of its object and consciousness (of) itself. But consciousness (of) oneself, conceived as a simple couple, is a contradictory notion that he has to persuade us to accept. By no manner of means can a consciousness see itself, in the strict sense of the word, any more than an eye can see itself. That this entity is mystical becomes clearer in the course of the book. Consciousness is described as ‘self-determining’ and ‘pure spontaneity’. I was prepared to take the spontaneity on trust in the hope that it would justify itself as my understanding developed; but far from justifying itself it has shown itself as an inconceivable notion that must be firmly rejected. But, as I said above, Sartre’s achievement is not negligible, since by admitting consciousness he has opened the way to the hierarchy—c’est le premier pas qui coûte.1 Both Husserl and Sartre are right up to a point; but they both wanted to ‘get outside the present’ instead of seeing that this is an impossible aim and that the answer is to discover the structure of the present such that both past and future are contained within it. But without an infinite hierarchy there is no way of accounting for the fact that ‘past’ and ‘future’ have a definite meaning (the past = what was, is now finished, has ceased to be,

159


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

is no more, is just a [ghastly] memory, took place yesterday, thank God is over, can now be forgotten, etc., etc.); for it is always the past and future of the subjective consciousness, however reflexive, that endows the object with past and future, and since we can always perform yet another act of reflexion on our subjective consciousness, only an infinite series will do. But an infinite reflexive hierarchy depends upon an infinite pre-reflexive hierarchy, and this upon an infinite immediate hierarchy, and it is this last that we are really concerned with. (The immediate hierarchy is most easily seen in the fact that any given object is part of a more general object, and so on, indefinitely.) I find that the ‘passage of time’ corresponds to a kind of escalator movement in the hierarchy, whereby the present becomes past by dropping to a lower level in the hierarchy, and the future becomes present in the same way. Now whatever object I am concerned with is present; and I conclude that the future of that object exists now in the more general object (which is, in a sense, its telos), and the past of the present object exists now in the more particular object (forming part of that object) whose turn has come in the oscillation. Thus it is possible to point to the past and future of any given object within the total structure of the present—an object co-exists with its past and future. The escalator effect could be described as the continued sudden disappearance of present consciousness necessitating a continued replacement from above of superior consciousness: a superior consciousness descends one step each time it loses one degree of generality, until it becomes the immediate consciousness at the particular level under consideration. A ‘superior’ consciousness is simply more general than an ‘inferior’ consciousness, and with the repeated disappearance of immediate consciousness at a given level there is a tendency for consciousness at all levels to become more particular, and there is a kind of general past downwards. This, however, does not mean that the object (chair, say) moves downward and becomes less general, but simply that we are repeatedly bringing a fresh consciousness (from above) to bear (so to speak) on the chair. Thus, at each moment the chair is subject to a fresh pre-judgement (since the immediate hierarchy implies a pre-reflexive hierarchy), and is constantly in question; and this is why the future of an object, co-existing with it, is a matter of probability only. A thing’s future hangs over it as something that is certain only on a more general level—its possibilities are limited—, but its past is beneath it, quite fixed and certain, more certain even—were that possible—than the object itself. All this is not unconnected with the fact that our present consists of a perpetual re-orientation of ourselves in the world, that our body is our orientation, and that our orientation and therefore our body is the past.

160


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

Sartre is very sound on this and most helpful, and seems to be fairly close in some respects to what is said in certain Suttas. But enough. (But more, I am afraid, later in this letter.) A proposito di boum!, Stebbing has an awful style—all full stops. Quite unreadable. I have found, recently, in my reading of scraps of (English) newspapers, several references to the Establishment. This word seems to be enjoying a vogue at present; for I do not remember its being used much or at all in my day. Can you confirm this? It denotes the public school-university-club ambiente of conservative England—it is abbreviated to ‘E’, and seems to contain all those who are, or speak, ‘U’. Perhaps it is synonymous with the world of the Daily Telegraph. Sartre, no doubt, would say it is the collective noun embracing all salauds. This, really, by way of introduction to what follows. One of the articles referring to the Establishment was by Colin Wilson (The Outsider), who remarks that his intentions towards the Establishment are not very friendly. The article itself is of no interest at all, but it stimulated the thought in me that nobody could have rejected the Establishment more decisively than ourselves, in dropping it flat and becoming pabbajitas. Yet I find that we are now, as it were, the cornerstone of the Establishment, if not of England than at least of Ceylon. We are really incredibly respectable. We are almost the most respectable people in Ceylon, when you come to think of it (and you are even invited by an Ambassador and Professor to visit a foreign capital on his behalf). Our words, when we choose to utter them, are listened to with respect and sometimes awe, even if with incomprehension—and this particularly by those who are themselves accounted respectable. How has our rejection of respectability had this curious effect? For I have not in any way reverted to respectability, and I sometimes wonder what those Oh! so respectable people would think if they knew what I think. The answer seems to be in discussion of the concept of ara~a.2 For this discussion we shall need the following décor: (a) a door marked IN, (b) a door marked OUT, and (c) the Establishment. To arrive at ara~a we must go through four stages. In the first we are brought up as English gentlemen (or mutatis mutandis for other times and places) in the Establishment and by the Establishment. We are taught quite clearly that it is right and proper, nay our duty, to go in by the door marked IN, and out by the door marked OUT. And, obediently, we do so. But it sometimes happens that, as we grow up, we ask the question, Why is it my duty to go in by the door marked IN, and out by the door marked OUT? Of course nobody can give us a convincing answer, and the Establishment fobs us off with threats and browbeatings and attempts to get us married to some sensible girl. If, in spite

161


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

of this, we persist, we become Angry Young Men, which is the second stage. We make a point of going in by the door marked OUT and out by the door marked IN. This stage, however, has very unstable equilibrium, because as soon as we become Angry Young Men the Establishment gives us up as a bad job and stops interfering with us. In consequence we have nothing to be angry about, and we may marry that sensible girl and finish up as something eminently dull such as a Cabinet Minister, a Company Director, or a Communist Party Boss. We may, however, find there is money in being an Angry Young Men and we cultivate this professionally. This is hard work since we must always be in touch with current opinion in order to know what we are supposed to be angry with. But, persisted with, this way leads to a Nobel Prize for Literature (cf. Camus). Or, finally, Establishment or no Estabishment, we may conclude that we exist and that there is no reason for existence, and something has to be done about this. Here we have the third stage, which doesn’t care tuppence what other people (the Establishment, Public Opinion, etc.) think or say, but does care about its own state of mind. This is probably the peak of European wisdom, the Greek ataraxia 3, it is best exemplified by Socrates. And here you go in and out by whichever door is the nearer. But the danger here is that the Establishment is likely to take offence at being publicly ignored (it does not mind enmity—the Angry Young Men, etc.—but cannot stand indifference) and put you to death as it did Socrates. So finally we have what I think was taught by the Buddha and probably by nobody else—the fourth state, which is ara~a. Here we think: there are those two doors marked IN and OUT; it makes not the slightest difference to me which I use to go in and out by; but if it is noticed that I don’t seem to think it is a matter of any importance, those who do think it is a matter of importance will make trouble for me; but this would be a disturbance, and would hinder my work; so, then, other things being equal, I shall go in by the door marked IN, and out by the door marked OUT, and I shall pass unnoticed and untroubled. And so I think that the Buddha has so arranged matters in the Vinaya that the Saπgha is a highly respectable body of men who are losing or have lost all interest in respectability. It is at the beginning that the respectability of the Saπgha is irksome, and some who are still Angry Young Men do not join it on this account (which is a good thing), and prefer to breath fire and slaughter at the Establishment as Hindu ascetics and other odd things. But I find my present situation quite fascinating at times, and could almost wish to appear even more respectable than I do. I sometimes repeat to myself, with all the earnestness of which I am capable of, cela m’est tellement égal.4 Try it yourself. It is a potent phrase if uttered with enough esprit de sérieux.

162


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

To return to the question of past and future. The future, it seems, is marked by the character of indeterminacy. In the ‘structure of being’ indeterminacy occurs naturally (via Kummer), and it is precisely this feature of a thing (that it is not determined what it is, that it possesses a plurality of negative) that is its future. To the extent that a thing is what it is it is present—a determined thing is a present thing—; and to the extent that what it is at present it is an undetermined thing (i.e. the present determined thing is determined as determined)—it is what it is not—it belongs—as a determined determined thing—to the future. Futurity and indeterminacy are one and the same. Now I suggested that what is past is more determined even—were that possible—than the present. This is to be seen in the following way. A future thing is (at present) an indetermined thing. A present thing is (at present) a determined thing (‘A is A’). A past thing is (at present) an overdetermined thing. A present thing is determined ‘what it is’, but not ‘what it will be’ (the inverted commas are equivalent to the Pali iti implying equivalence: What a thing is What a thing is not What a thing will be

}

≡  its determination; ≡  its indetermination).

But when a thing is overdetermined it is determined ‘what it will be’. This means that its future ‘what it will be’ is present (is determined), and its present ‘what it is’ has no alternative but to be past. So we have a (present) thing is overdetermined ‘what it was’, determined ‘what it is’, and underdetermined or indetermineda ‘what it will be’. In brief, we can by no means get out of the present, but in the present we meet with three kinds of things, underdetermined, determined, and overdetermined; but it is only to the eye of sheer reflexion that this is apparent. To the pre-reflexive view all that appears are future things, present things, and past things. More fundamentally, any given thing has, to the eye of sheer reflexion, an underdeterminate, a determinate, and an overdeterminate aspect, or, to the pre-reflexive eye, a future, a present, and a past. In a word, it exists. (The distinction between a past, present, and future thing [sing.] and past, present, and future things [plur.] is the distinction between a thing’s past, present, and future, and a.  ‘Underdetermined’ is better than ‘indetermined’, since a thing is never totally indeterminate—if it were its future would be infinitely far off. It is now determined what a thing will be but it is not yet that, and since this determinacy might in the meantime change it is only an underdeterminacy.

163


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

my past, present, and future. The latter is infinitely more complex.) Of course, to sheer reflexion, the structure—underdeterminacy, determinacy, overdeterminacy—is only a pre-reflexive object, with a future and past, and to double sheer reflexion there appears the following structure:—(i) underdetermined u.-d.-o., (ii) determined u.-d.-o., (iii) overdetermined u.-d.-o.; or (i) under-underdeterminacy, under-determinacy, under-overdeterminacy, (ii) underdeterminacy, determinacy, overdeterminacy, (iii) over-underdeterminacy, over-determinacy, over-overdeterminacy—all in the Present. And this, without the sheer reflexion, simply appears as two degrees of future—future-future and future—, present, and two degrees of past—past and past-past. There is no end to this. I had last night (6th-7th) this dream. The (present) Ven. Nåyaka Thera brought ‘us’ (unspecified—? at the Hermitage) a copy of a Pali text that you had either edited or translated (hitherto unedited or untranslated) and said that the Ven. C. Thera had said that it was very good and so on and so forth, but that of course, somebody else would have to do it again ‘without all these absurdities’. Faintly indignant, I took the book (which was bound like Bhante’s Abhidhamma Guide) and opened it (at the notes). ‘Oh, you mean that there are some absurdities in the notes?’ I said, and the Ven. Nåyaka Thera seemed to assent. This sounds like your K.P. translation5, but I don’t know whether the dream has any Extra Sensory Perception value or is simply an expression of my (unsuspected) scepticism (symbolical of my jealousy) about your ability to provide a translation with sensible notes. (You made a reference to notes in a letter a short while ago, saying that the way to gain M.H.’s rapturous approval was to translate a text and give it plenty of learned notes.) The term Extra Sensory Perception, incidentally, is contradictory—it supposes that a visual hallucination (say) is not visual, whereas what is evidently intended is that it is not ‘real’ (i.e. cannot be accounted for by the laws of Science, even though it may on occasion be public and accepted at the time as ‘real’). The fact that it is necessary to use a contradictory name for such a phenomenon shows that there is a false assumption somewhere; for the reply that an Extra Sensory Perception phenomenon is a self-contradictory phenomenon will not hold water at all—no phenomenon whatsoever can possibly be self-contradictory, from the simple fact that it happens. (Selfcontradictory, after all, in the final analysis, means incompatible with itself, and therefore unable to happen.) The contradiction lies in the initial assumption that the objects of sensory perception exist on their own in a strictly logical world without any references to a possible individual percipient. This is also Sartre’s assumption with his En-soi pur, and leads him to as-

164


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

sert that an image has no sensory contact whatsoever and is a pure rien: his explanation of how it is that an image is capable of producing evident physical effects (vomiting, erection, etc.) is fantastic—we cannot confuse an image with a ‘perception’ he says (and with some reservation on his use of the word ‘perception’ we can agree though not because an image is nothing but néant), but we can confuse the memory of an image with the memory of a ‘perception’. (Please, dear Sartre, what do you mean by memory? has it a sensory content? if so, how does an image, which has no sensory content, become a memory, which has? if not, how does a memory, which has no sensory content, provoke vomiting, which has?) It has become clear, in the course of writing this letter, that there has been some confusion in my mind between reflexive and pre-reflexive hierarchies. This was due to my failure to see that the initial and most primitive hierarchy is not even pre-reflexive: it is what I now call the immediate hierarchy of generality, and consists of an infinite hierarchy of consciousnesses, each conscious of its own level of generality, or, if you prefer, of an infinite hierarchy of different levels of generality, each of which is immediately present. This does not mean that each level is equally present (i.e. present with the same degree of intensity), but simply that there is no position taken up visà-vis the object, there is no judgement or pre-judgement: in a word, there is no choice of object. The only choice here is the choice that there shall be an object (unspecified)—it is the choice of existence. For this reason there is no self here at all, either the reflexive soi or the pre-reflexive se (both of which are the choice of one soi or se as against another). Consciousness, here, will support any choice (one of three: A/not-A/both; naturally it will always choose A since it is asserting and not discriminating; but which of these three is A we cannot tell beforehand) that contingence (kammavipåka and so on) comes to dictate. The choice (or rather, assertion) is then challenged by pre-reflexion, which thereby asserts the first layer of pre-reflexive se in face of the word. (Pre-reflexion takes two adjacent levels of the immediate hierarchy at a time.) In doing this, however, it is simply choosing the existence of existence, the choice of which existence of existence being again left to contingence. And so the whole farce is repeated. There is then a second pre-reflexion challenging this choice, and so on. Pre-reflexion is purely negative: it can only choose positively by rejecting the world’s positive assertion. The world is purely positive. Thus we have the pre-reflexive hierarchy. But to return to the immediate hierarchy of generality. (Note that the pre-reflexive hierarchy just outlined occurs once for each level of the immediate hierarchy, and that there is thus a hierarchy of generality of pre-reflexive hierarchies parallel to the immediate hierarchy of generality.)

165


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

The object at each level in the immediate hierarchy of a generality is, though immediate, not simply r¨pa (or matter), it is nåmar¨pa, and this comes about in the following way. Suppose, to begin with, we just have, at any arbitrary level, subject and (material) object (which will be just ‘an object, given’). The next higher subject or consciousness will have the first pair as its object, but the (material) object was already at its maximum objectivity as object of the first subject (matter is obviously the limit of objectivity; nothing can be more objective than a material object) and will not appear to this fresh consciousness. But the first subject or consciousness will not appear as a material object to the fresh consciousness, it can only appear as subjectively objectified, i.e. as nåma—feeling, intention, perception, attention. Now we have a third, still higher, consciousness, to which the second consciousness appears, likewise, as nåma. But the nåma, undergoing a second objectivization, appears as r¨pa to this third consciousness. (Does this seem odd? Yet it must be so. R¨pa is objective to nåma and nåma is objective to viññå~a. R¨pa is pure object; viññå~a is pure subject; nåma is in between.) If we then take a fourth consciousness the third consciousness will appear as nåma, its corresponding nåma as r¨pa (naturally of a more general order than the r¨pa of the third consciousness), and its corresponding r¨pa will, as before, not appear. Thus both the third and fourth consciousnesses will have nåmar¨pa objective to them, and similarly with any further consciousnesses we like to add. But suppose we repeat the whole discussion starting two levels lower than we actually did: then our first two consciousnesses, to which we only allowed r¨pa and nåma respectively as objects, will be found each to have nåmar¨pa as objects. So, by this interlocking process, we have an infinite hierarchy, at each level of which we find viññå~a and nåmar¨pa. (Since all these co-exist superposed, a more general object will always receive a contribution from every more particular object.) Note that, since no definite choice what particular object is present (a chair, a table, etc.) has yet been made, viññå~a, nåma, and r¨pa are all structural. R¨pa, for example, is the structure of any object possessing maximum objectivity, and the question what matter really is is found to be bogus—how can matter have an ultimate structure when matter is structure? Pa†havi, åpo, tejo, and våyo, are thus to be understood as the fundamental characteristics of pure objectivity. Pure subjectivity, on the other hand, has no characteristics, obviously; but when objectivized, we find te åkåre tåni liπgåni tåni nimittåni te uddese yehi åkårehi yehi liπgehi yehi nimittehi yehi uddesehi nåmakåyassa paññatti hoti,6 namely, manasikåra, saññå, cetanå, and vedanå. (But what of phassa? I leave that out here as being not on the same level as the others—for example, though adhivacanasamphassa  7 is a condition for

166


3.-9.xii.58

early letters

[el. 78]

nåma, pa†ighasamphassa 8 appears to be a condition for r¨pa. I take phassa in the series vedanå saññå cetanå phasso manasikåro [defining nåma] as adhivacanasamphassa, leaving pa†ighasamphassa to go with pa†havi åpo tejo våyo. These five nåma characteristics becoming, under further objectivization, five r¨pa characteristics. But the four mahåbh¨tas are often found in a less technical sense, e.g. when classifying the parts of the body. The correspondence, I see as follows:— manasikåra saññå cetanå vedanå (attention) (perception) (intention) (feeling) pa†havi

åpo

tejo

våyo

adhivacanasamphassa (designation-contact) pa†ighasamphassa (resistance-contact)

But this needs further elucidation on some other occasion, perhaps. So much for the immediate and the pre-reflexive hierarchies. The first reflexive hierarchy is obtained taking together two adjacent levels of pre-reflexive hierarchy analogously to the obtaining of the pre-reflexive hierarchy. So we gradually build up the whole enormous complex structure of Everything. (Sartre, as I said before, has telescoped everything into his consciousness conscious [of] itself; and if we want to correct him we must take his consciousness and open it out like a telescope, or perhaps like one of those astonishing paper ladders people make out of a roll of newspaper. But it is not enough to open him out once: you must do it again and again in every conceived direction, until your whole world is full of paper ladders, and paper ladders within paper ladders.) Perhaps the simplest way (before I forget) of arriving at viññå~apaccayå nåmar¨pa is this. It is given in my experience that there is a SubjectObject duality. But if this is my experience then this subject-object duality must in some way be the object of a subject (otherwise ‘I’ should not experience this duality). But also, this object ‘subject-object’ appears as a duality; that is to say, there is a distinction between Subject and Object in this object. This means that there is present to the subject ‘I’ an object consisting of two parts, subject and object. Altogether, then, there is the subject (viññå~a), an objectivized subject (nåma), and an objectivized object (r¨pa). Q.E.D. Of course, as stated—in terms of ‘I’ and ‘my’ experience—this is a description of the pre-reflexive (or even reflexive) level and not of the immediate level (where the subject is not a denial of a thing—‘I am not this table’—but merely of its existence—‘[I am] not objective’);

167


[el. 78]

seeking the path

3.-9.xii.58

but nevertheless it is universally valid, and a sharp insight could see it at the immediate level. I made a note before saying that I think I see how to deal with Eddington’s sixteen operators based on ABCD by turning them inside out. I won’t bother you with this except to note that whereas before I had this arrangement of numbers:— 13 11 8 2

12 14 1 7

6 4 15 9

3 5 10 16

which, though a magic square (each line and column add up to 34) and therefore very mystical and all that, was not very easy to remember; now, after rearranging (which involves renumbering Kummer), I have the following, less romantic, but much more mnemonic square:— 1 2 3 4

5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12

13 14 15 16

I had better send this of before it gets any bigger, and hope that it won’t cross. Did you get my last letter, which was sent with the pen? [ EL. 79 ]

10 December 1958

Thank you for yours of the 5th and 7th, which arrived this evening—the evening of the morning on which I sent you my last, hoping it would not cross with yours. It has managed to cross with two of yours. Since you have sent me two, I suppose I shall have to return the compliment by writing this. Your attack upon Reason, inspired it seems by the Ven. Soma Thera’s booklet (which doesn’t seem to say anything at all), and including a delightful poem, appears to be slightly rhetorical—and very good, too. I sometimes feel eloquent myself about the Professional Rationalists’ unreasonable claim that Reason explains all—: for otherwise I should be a little puzzled by your assumption that Western thought has Deduction and Induction and Nothing Else. Surely it has Descartes? The cogito is the basis of the phenomenological reduction, and the phenomenological reduction makes structure appear. All

168


10.xii.58

early letters

[el. 79]

you then have to do is to describe it—no question of deduction or induction at all, it is all given at once (as you perfectly correctly say yourself). Admittedly Western Scientific or Rationalistic thought is deficient in the Principle of the Pattern of Constituency, which is perhaps what you meant. My views on this matter are stated as concisely as possible at the beginning of my article in the Bosat1. One reason why I insist so strongly in rejecting all interpretations of the pa†iccasamuppåda that have anything to do with succession in time (e.g. three successive lives) is that induction at once makes its appearance if they are accepted (I remember the Ven. Soma Thera upon one occasion insisting with considerable emphasis—a euphemism—that the pa†iccasamuppåda is based on induction). Russell, you will remember, devotes his book Human Knowledge to an examination of the validity of induction, and comes to the regretful conclusion that it is no more than probable. He says, in addition, ‘Unless something is known before science begins, then Science is moonshine’. For a logician such an admission must have been like having a tooth out. I am sorry about the unsympathy of the pen. Perhaps if you drop it on the floor several times it may become more docile. It has changed your handwriting, which I did not recognize on the envelopes—indeed for a moment I mistook it for my own, and wondered if I had been inadvertently writing letters to myself. My last letter was largely concerned with time, yours with space. This seems a fair division of labour. But I see that not only is the subject of space very tangled per se, but also our respective ideas about space do not tally very well at all. I shall try to sort out the matter a little, more with the intention of defining our differences than of reconciling them. In the first place, my short discussion of the superposition of visual spaces was designedly neither accurate nor exhaustive. My purpose was to give an impressionistic view of the complexity of visual objects, with the aim of suggesting rather than stating the reason why the Kummer Structure does not leap to the eye whenever we open one. The account should by no means be interpreted as a careful and painstaking description of the structure of space. (You say, for example, that you perhaps agree with my theory of the superposition of spaces—later amended to ‘phenomenal manifolds’—but that it needs clarifying. Certainly it does—but it was not intended to be clear in the first place.) I did not at all wish to suggest that apart from the spokes of a star nothing appears—there is always a blob of appreciable size in the middle (and when I said that a star is of no size I meant according to what we are told). Differently from you, however, the spokes do not appear as ‘inconstant, shifting, and vague’—they are sometimes hard to see, but they are

169


[el. 79]

seeking the path

10.xii.58

quite definite and fixed (and when a star twinkles the whole star, including the central blob, twinkles). But I have no idea why we should see stars differently. My reason for bringing them in at all was to illustrate my theory that extension is connected with movement (or rather, with oscillating displacements). It seems to me that stars (and, as you point out, small isolated sources of light generally), in appearing as (possibly) 15-spoked objects, do not have a complex organization of superposition of different ‘spaces’, and that this is due to their smallness, which either reduces or eliminates the element of extension in their internal organization (just as a taste, for example, has none), but that they appear as ‘in space’ (unspecified) because the eye, in fact, always has a multiplicity of different forms of oscillation (however small). A star, thus, is a paradoxical object, in that it owes its extension to the fact that different spaces, alien to it, are imposed upon it (just as a smell is ‘located’ in a certain area by the fact that our noses are part of a body capable of walking about [and thus producing its own space]—the smell in itself has nothing to do with space). All this, however, is either not understood by you or else disagreed with. You say that you do not require movement (of ‘head’ or ‘eye’ or ‘attention’) to apprehend the planar extendedness of a normal field. I say that a spatial oscillation, however small, is absolutely necessary. The trouble is that we are both right, in a sense. If you look for the oscillation you won’t find it; for the reason that in order to see it you must distinguish two places separated by an appreciable distance, and as soon as you can do this you can fix your attention upon one of them—and the oscillation ceases. What I am saying is that the smallest object we can fix our attention upon has a definite size, and that this requires an oscillation of attention at the next lower level. But as soon as you fix an object at the next lower level the oscillation at that level automatically ceases. Now, without going into any further detail either to explain or justify this view (for lack of energy and probably of paper) I shall simply assert: (i), that this oscillation, again however small, is both necessary and sufficient to bring into being an extended visual field, however large; and (ii), that there is a necessity for such an oscillation not merely in spatial extension but also in all senses whatsoever (colours, smells, sounds, etc.)—in other words, that the principle is quite general. The word ‘space’ has, as you suggest, a large number of different meanings. One particular source of confusion is that the physicists speak of ‘space-time’, a concept they derive entirely from visual experience: if they had worked from, say, the auditive experience, we should have hear only of ‘tone-time’ which, we should have been told, is the structure of the universe. My view—you may well disagree—is that space (that is, in the

170


10.xii.58

early letters

[el. 79]

sense of (experienced) extension—which is not the scientific ‘space’) is the strict correlative of bodily movement (or, more accurately, of displacement of bodily attention), and that where this is lacking (taste is perhaps the best example), space does not appear. (You already know that I consider vision to be a combination of extension and colour—two different senses.) From this you will perhaps understand why I spoke of ‘superposition of sensual spaces’ in speaking of vision—the eye is capable of being moved in several quite different ways (there is an unseen ‘field of vision’ behind my head simply because I am capable of turning round, and were this not a possibility the whole ‘visible world’ would be confined to my present view). The next point is this. Space (åkåsa) is undoubtedly used in the Suttas to mean ‘what/where the four mahåbh¨tas are not’, for example, the cavities in the body are called åkåsa (M.62—Vol. I, p. 423). This, clearly, is the everyday ‘space’ we all experience—roughly, ‘What I can move about in’, the empty part of the world. ‘What you can’t touch.’ It is the ‘space’ of what Miss Lounsberry has so happily described as ‘the visible world of our five senses’. I think you agree with this. And, of course, if this is the only meaning of the word that we are going to use, my ‘superposition of several spaces’ is disqualified. So let us say ‘superposition of several extendednesses’. But when all these extendednesses have been superposed, we get ‘space’—i.e. our normal space-containing visible world ‘of the five senses’. But now there is another point. Åkåsa is the negative of the four mahåbh¨tas, certainly, but of the four mahåbh¨tas understood in the same everyday sense—namely, solids (the solid parts of the body, hair, nails, teeth, etc.), liquids (urine, blood, etc.), heat and processes (digestion) and motion or wind (N.B. not ‘air’). These four, together with space, are the normal furniture of our visible world ‘of the five senses’, and it is undoubtedly thus that they are intended in many Suttas. But there is, for example, a Sutta (I am not sure where) in which the Ven. Såriputta Thera is said to be able to see a pile of logs successively as pa†havi, åpo, tejo, and våyo; and it is evident that we are not on the same level. On the everyday level a log of wood is solid and therefore pa†havi (like a bone), and certainly not åpo, tejo, or våyo. I said in my last letter that I think that, in this second sense—i.e. as present in, or constitutive of, any object (i.e. = r¨pa)—they are structural and strictly parallel to nåma and can be defined exactly in terms of the Kummer triangle. But on this fundamental level åkåsa has no place at all, at least in the sense of our normal everyday space. If, however, we take it as equivalent to extendedness then it would be a given arbitrary content—defining one sense out of many—of which the four mahåbh¨tas (in the fundamental sense) are the structure. In this sense (but only in this sense—and it is probably an illegitimate sense

171


[el. 79]

seeking the path

10.xii.58

of åkåsa) the four mahåbh¨tas are the structure of space (or spatial things). Quite legitimately, however, we can say that the four mahåbh¨tas are the structure of extended things—or of coloured things, or of smells, or of tastes, and so on. We can leave the scientists’ space (full of right angles and without reference to the things in it) to the scientists. ‘Space’ (= åkåsa) is the space or emptiness of the world we live in; and this, when analyzed, is found to depend on a complex superposition of different extendednesses (because all these extendednesses define the visible world ‘of the five senses’—which will include, notably, tangible objects—and this world ‘of the five senses’ is the four mahåbh¨tas [everyday space] and åkåsa). Your second letter seems to suggest that the space of the world we live in—the set of patterns (superimposed) in which ‘we’ are—is scientific space. This I quite disagree with—if you do suggest it—, since scientific space is a pure abstraction, never experienced by anybody, whereas the superimposed set of patterns is exactly what I experience—the set is different for each one of us—, but in all of these sets ‘space’ is infinite and undifferentiable, since it is, by definition, in each set, ‘what the four mahåbh¨tas are not’. Thank you for your kind suggestion and offer to type my opus. I am afraid, however, that it is getting a little antiquated, and is now no longer quite what I should want to say. In short, it would need rewriting—and who knows where that would end? There is such a lot of fresh material accumulated that it would be a major undertaking, and I am not at present inclined to begin. [ EL. 80 ]

11 December 1958

Three amendments to my last letter. 1. I may have seemed to be suggesting that oscillation is inherently unobservable (which would make it an illegitimate and mystical entity). What I intended to say was that it can be seen, but in our eagerness to see it clearly (at any given level) we tend to force it into over-objectivity, which interferes with it at that level and brings it to a halt. 2. I said, too hastily, that åkåsa is infinite and undifferentiable. Please add:—‘in the absence of what limits it, namely r¨pa and the four mahåbh¨tas’. You agree? But until r¨pa (in the everyday sense of solids, liquids, and so on) has first appeared (by complex superposition of fundamental patterns of extension and of other senses [e.g. colour, touch], we cannot speak of åkåsa. 3. The two senses of r¨pa and the four mahåbh¨tas is given in this passage:—Cattåri ca mahåbh¨tåni catunnañ ca mahåbh¨tånaµ upådåya

172


22.xii.58

early letters

[el. 81]

r¨paµ, idaµ vuccat’åvuso r¨paµ.1 In the everyday sense r¨pa is just the four mahåbh¨tas (also in the everyday sense)—i.e. solids, liquids, heats, motions (blowings). These are a mixture of content and structure. In the fundamental sense r¨pa (an objective object as opposed to nåma, an objective subject) has all four mahåbh¨tas (also in the fundamental sense, capable of exact definition) as its structure. Content is ‘in brackets’. This distinction is both useful and necessary—one must be able to speak of matter and material objects (sticks and stones) in the usual sense, and we cannot leave it at that (if we do leave it at that we have scientists trying to discover what matter really is). Between the two senses of the four mahåbh¨tas there is some analogy, but probably no essential connexion. We do not need to derive the one sense of the term from the other, but only to be clear which of the two senses we are using. This, you will observe, resolves the tiresome question whether viññå~apaccayå nåmar¨paµ applies to the åruppas, where there is no r¨pa. There is no every­ day r¨pa there, only ananto åkåsa 2 (to begin with) but there is no loss of objective objectivity. There is a similar distinction between the six åyatanas (fundamental) and the six indriyas (everyday), and no doubt elsewhere. [ EL. 81 ]

22 December 1958

Thank you for your letter of the 19th. The Saµyutta Sutta is, in fact, the one I was thinking of. Many thanks for both. The three saπkhatalakkha~as 1 I now understand as follows: appearance is evident; disappearance is evident; invariance under transformation is evident. The interest you expressed in one of your last letters about my statement that the four space-time dimensions (3+1) is a bogus concept has led me to review the question in some detail, and this has involved working out the Eddington EF-operators from the beginning. I have now discovered what exactly A, B, C, and D are: they are respectively operators 13, 14, 15, and 16, which do not in fact require the distinction of four different letters and can be expressed so:—13.; 14.; 15.; 16.. This is relevant to the first query you raise in your letter, namely, can A (of the triangle A C

B

)

be regarded as a line seen end-on, and can the line BC be regarded as a plane seen end-on? The answer is that by all means it can—the triangle ABC is simply the base of the tetrahedron ABCD. Now it turns out that

173


[el. 81]

seeking the path

22.xii.58

the ABCD of the EF-operators are, in fact, the four apices ABCD of the tetrahedron (or, dually, the four faces). If you put your eye at the point D—the stay-as-you-were operator (16.)—, the line DA will appear as a point and the plane DBC as a line. Away with mystic pentagons!—it is the tetrahedron that is the beginning of wisdom. (Incidentally, the reason why A appears fixed while BC is oscillating is that A is oscillating with D.) But I must issue a warning: it may be that because we both see significance in a certain structure that we have the same ideas about it, but it would be dangerous to assume it—it is much more likely that we have different interpretations of the structure and are largely at cross-purposes much of the time. In my interpretation this has nothing directly to do with the triadic relation of phassa (I mean I do not take A as cakkhu, ABC as r¨pe, and C as viññå~a—though D as cakkhu, ABC as r¨pa, and the objective presence of D in its relation to ABC as viññå~a, and the whole doubled to get Kummer is quite another matter, expandable, but not briefly, but this is perhaps not what you mean); and it has nothing at all to do with Ogden and Richards. As for the 3+1 space-time dimensions, though (with the help of Dirac) the situation is now clearer—perhaps clear—a rather longish account is necessary to do it justice, and I am not at the moment inclined to write it (tomorrow, perhaps, or in some other letter). In short, however, the 3+1 concept comes of not having a point-of-view (Kierkegaard’s ‘theocentric’ view—remembering that Kierkegaard holds that God ‘does not exist’ and therefore sees all at once from no point of view), and of not having a hierarchy. As always with the quantum and relativity theories there is an irritating amount of half-truth present. The truth is that we always have a present object here, and at the same time its negatives or absent objects (constituting the peripheral field) not-here. Now (i) the absent objects, at a distance from the present-object, are simultaneous with it, and this, at first glance, seems to give space without time, but, (ii) it takes time (unit time) for any one absent object to become present (i.e. for attention to switch to an absent object), and thus all (unit) distances are inseperable from (unit) time, and all operators are space-time (where Eddington has ten space-like and six time-like). There is certainly a structural reason for positive and negative operators ( and ) but this is connected with the stage at which the operator concerned first appears when you divide them from first principles. It is true that this has something to do with times—each fresh stage means a fresh layer of time superimposed on what has gone before—but when you look at the whole thing down from on top, as it were, all these times vanish to give the picture as per (i) above. As soon as you move (as in (ii) above)

174


22.xii.58

early letters

[el. 81]

all these superimposed times appear as time. The hierarchy is both spatial (I am speaking here, naturally, of extension, not åkåsa) and temporal—at least as regards the bodily sense of movement. Much of what I said in my last letter needs some adjustment, and, occasionally, correction. This is to be expected. I shall only refer to a few points. My theory of the star I have now changed slightly. This is of no significance at all, since nothing rests on it—I only make a fuss about seeing stars because they seem to give me sixteen parts, which nothing else does. I now think that a star is a combination both of colour and extension, whereas my earlier theory was that it had extension foisted on it ‘by oscillations (however small) of the eye’. It does not seem necessary to discuss it further. The question of oscillation, however, as you quite rightly point out, needs careful treatment. The oscillation (which is inherent in all our senses, as ‘extension’ of the particular quality in question—note the inverted commas to show that I do not mean spatial extension—, as, for example, the ‘distance’ defined by two slightly different tastes) is a switch, not of a point (or particle) but of attention. But in one sense by itself the situation after switch is just the same to all intents and purposes as it was before (if B and C are interchanged in the tetrahedron, and A and D, at the same time, the resulting tetrahedron has the same relative lettering as the original— A D and

A

B not

B to D and C

A

C

C ).

B

The only way in which an oscillation can be apprehended as an oscillation is when there is a second sense present to distinguish between the oscillations (e.g. when I walk up and down in the caπkamana I can only say which way I am going by the fact that the view is different—i.e. visually—; were it not for my vision my alternate walkings on the caπkamana would be as like as two electrons). In my description of pre-reflexion I omitted (inadvertently) all reference to feeling. Since the whole affair is based on feeling (why do we want being, which is dukkha?), the omission was unfortunate. But I shall not re-describe it now. When you say that nåma never ‘appears as r¨pa’, how do you know? If it does appear as r¨pa, then, if I may say so, it will look like r¨pa, not

175


[el. 81]

seeking the path

22.xii.58

like nåma, and you cannot possibly deny that it really is nåma appearing as r¨pa. The same argument applies to viññå~a. If viññå~a ever appears, it will not appear as viññå~a (which is why I said that viññå~a has no characteristics—did you note?). Nevertheless, if there is a hierarchy of consciousness (‘a first, a second, a third…’), this must be so, namely, that viññå~a ‘appears as’ nåma and nåma as r¨pa. You say (quoting M.38) that consciousness is only differentiable on the basis of that due to which it arises. Exactly. The world appears as an infinite hierarchy of different levels of generality, and each level requires a consciousness for it to appear. To the hierarchy of the objective world there corresponds a hierarchy of subjective consciousness. (Without such a hierarchy of consciousnesses the phenomenon of reflexion, which itself appears to reflexion, is a mystical affair as in Sartre [mystical = involving contradiction, ambiguous, regaining mauvaise foi, etc.].) Let me put it clearly: viññå~a never appears, and can never appear; it is nonsense to say that viññå~a ‘appears as’ nåma, or that nåma ‘appears as’ r¨pa (note the false ring of the ‘really’ in the third line of this paragraph); all that can be said is that nåma and r¨pa have a one-one correspondence between them, and it is convenient to describe this as the same object present to two different consciousnesses rather than as two different objects (with one-one correspondence) present to the same consciousness. The two descriptions are equivalent, except that the former reveals a structure that the latter conceals (since it does not account for the one-one correspondence). Assuming the second description, then by deductive logic (which is perfectly valid provided the premises are true) nåma is viññå~a seen by another consciousness. If this is not acceptable then the second description can be retained, and you get viññå~a together with nåmar¨pa (by your yoniso manasikåra), but you fail to get a structural reason for it (i.e. you fail to see viññå~a PACCAYÅ nåmar¨pa). If structure is to be considered at all the deductive logic is indispensible, since it is only by use of this that complete structure can be built up from the small bit that one can see. No deduction, no Kummer, no tetrahedron, because no mathematics. Assuming that investigation of the structure is necessary, then we must have deduction. And why not? The objection to deductive logic is that its premises, in Western thought, rest upon induction (not because they have to, but because science is inductive, and the West cannot abandon Science), which is invalid as a method of certainty. It is the couple induction/deduction that must be condemned. But if the premises are established by what you call yoniso manasikåra then they are certain, and you can proceed by deduction (which simply assumes

176


22.xii.58

early letters

[el. 81]

that your structure does not contain contradiction—indeed the process of building up structure is just the process of avoiding contradiction [once you have decided on the rule for governing your structure—which in my case is ‘superposition of negatives’ given that the basic negative is the relation between object and subject], i.e. of seeing what your observations entail—: such deduction will not, however, be syllogistic, i.e. using ‘all’). My use of the word ‘present’ contains a pun in so far as the present is present, and the presence of that present is also present, and so on ad inf. (hierarchically). I am not using it to refer to the division of no thickness between past and future, but to the unit time during which a given object is present, the unit time of one oscillation (or, which is the same, of one infinity of oscillation). It is the duration of the †hitassa aññathattaµ between the uppåda and the vaya. By suitable choice of object this can be as short as I please. This, in theory at least—structurally—is quite definite and not-at-all ambiguous. I have less taste than you for ambiguities as ultimate entities, and prefer to resolve them if possible. If I can’t resolve them then I maintain that I have not understood. (I noted in my commonplace book the following dictum: ‘You do not understand a thing unless you can write it down’; which shocked D. when he happened to read it one day.) I note that you say the past is probable: if you mean police court memory I agree, but not otherwise. The past that is structurally present—the overdetermined—is past by the very fact of being more certain than the present—but since the present is absolutely certain any additional certainty (which is certainty about the future) shoves it back into the past. My aversion to ambiguities as ultimate entities does not prevent me from enjoying them when they are on a more vohåra level. Doktor Wagner, for example… P.S. I see that Stebbing, following Wittgenstein, defines the world as ‘everything that is the case’. This, of course, avoids the horrid ‘everything that is’, with its emphasis on the last word. But ‘in the case’ applies only to prepositions, and not to things. For example, we can say ‘“elephants exist” is the case’, but not ‘an elephant is the case’—unless we are referring to the trunk, or have made a suitcase out of its hide. So Stebbing’s world contains nothing but propositions, since ‘everything that is the case’ means ‘all true propositions’. Truly a logician’s world! Russell must have been much nicer in the days when he said ‘Whatever A may be, it certainly is’.

177


[el. 82]

seeking the path

[ EL. 82 ]

23.xii.58

23 December 1958

About ambiguity. When I said yesterday that I dislike ambiguities as ultimate entities do not think I am denying that ambiguity is the essence of existence. I am not. What I mean is that I want to discover the structure of existence and therefore of ambiguity. Ambiguity can be defined as a violation of the principle of identity, A is A. Now in order to arrive at the Kummer group of sixteen ambiguity is involved (specifically in the reduction of

to

where each side of the first figure is involved in both diagonals, to resolve which, superposition of the two different things

and

is needed). Kummer structure is therefore a possible (and probably the) structure of ambiguity, and this existence. But, you may say, in my conceiving the Kummer Structure I am existing, and therefore ambiguity is involved in my conception. Certainly. But the point is this. I can resolve this second ambiguity by again resorting to Kummer on a different level, and so on indefinitely (thus building up hierarchy). Science cannot justify itself. Kummer can, and is thus absolute, as existence is. I am not content with ambiguity, but must ambiguously, understand ambiguity. If I rationalize ambiguity (deductively) I admit it in my reasoning, unlike a rationalist, who insists that his reasoning is rational. Is that reasonable? P.S. I am not by any means saying that all ambiguities have this structure, but simply that there is a fundamental ambiguity in existence (constituting the illusion of permanence) and that this appears to be its structure.

178


28.xii.58

[ EL. 83 ]

early letters

[el. 83]

28 December 1958

In your last letter you said that you did not see ‘how it can be shown that objectified viññå~a ‘becomes’ nåma, other perhaps than by deductive logic, which must be rejected.’ (C’est moi qui souligne.1) I do not wish, at the moment, to discuss the question of the objectivation of viññå~a, except perhaps to say that I do not mean that viññå~a changes into nåma, and that the world ‘becomes’ is therefore misleading—viññå~a remains viññå~a, but when seen by superior viññå~a (which always is: there is no question of succession in time, one viññå~a after another) ‘it appears to that superior viññå~a as nåma’. (Instead of the plurality of viññå~a/consciousness, which seems to be unacceptable to you, we can say that viññå~a/consciousness has a hierarchical structure, parallel to that of the world.) I am more interested at present in the question of deductive logic and the part it plays (if any) in the investigation of the structure of being. The answer I gave to this objection of yours suggesting that I had used deductive logic to arrive at my conclusion, which was therefore invalid, was that I had in fact used deductive logic, but with premisses that were certain and not obtained by inductive logic (and therefore only probable), and that deductive logic was acceptable provided that the premisses are not inductive. Now this will pass provided that there is such a thing as deduction from certain premisses. Stebbing, however, says that the propositions of a deductive system are established as true only by means of inductive verification. This means that deduction (though not necessarily syllogistic in form) is always from at least one general premiss – i.e. involving ‘all’ or ‘every’. And it also means that this general premises is concerned with matters of fact. For example—All swans are white: A is a swan: therefore A is white. This is a matter of fact, because one swan might be black. And the discovery of Australia has shown this matter of fact to be false. But suppose we take the proposition (Stebbing’s own example in another chapter), ‘All right angles are angles’, from which we get ‘A is a right angle: therefore A is an angle’. Is this deduction? The major premiss appears to be general, but is it only verifiable by induction? Do we have to go from one right angle to another checking whether they are all angles? Will perhaps the discovery of a new island in the Pacific reveal right angles that are not angles? It turns out that ‘All right angles are angles’ is an example of the Principle of Simplification (AB implies A), which is one of the fundamental Principles of Logic, ‘assumed to be true’ and therefore not eligible as a general premiss in a logical deduction. And so ‘A is a right angle: therefore A is an angle’ is not deduction.

179


[el. 83]

seeking the path

28.xii.58

Suppose, however, that we do not assume the Principles of Logic to be true, and regard them as matters of fact verifiable only by induction, and thus as the propositions of a deductive system. What happens? We find that we have to assume the truth of the the Principles of Logic in order to use these very same principles as only probably true premisses for deduction. But what we assume (to be true) is, when we translate from logical to existential language, unquestionable: we cannot assume a proposition and doubt it at the same time. So we have the state of affairs that if the Principles of Logic are probable (not, of course, in the sense of ‘likely’) they are certain: i.e. they are not matters of fact. (It is noteworthy that Stebbing is uncomfortable at this point: she says that these Principles ‘may be the expression of the thinking of rational beings’, but immediately denies that this would establish them as necessary. In other words, she regards thought as a kind of accidental and arbitrary characteristic of some beings, just as red hair is an accidental and arbitrary characteristic of some men: MAN + RED HAIR = RED HAIRED MAN—BEING + THINKING = THINKING [or RATIONAL] BEING. The structural or necessary character of cogito ergo sum [THINKING = BEING] is ignored.) Sartre points out that ‘la logique formelle s’est définie comme l’étude des conditions “de l’accord de l’esprit avec lui-même”.’ 2 Here then, we have a deductive system with certain and not simply probable propositions, that is, the deductive system with the Principles of Logic as its propositions. But there is a snag. Amongst the Principles of Logic are included two that are of a different kind from the others; they are the Principles of Deduction—if p implies q is true, then q is true—and the Principles of Substitution—any assertion true of all A is true of each (or any) A. The effect of these is, precisely, to confine deduction to matters of fact—only a general proposition on a mater of fact can be said to be true or false (whereas a structure is either necessary or not necessary), and the word all can only be used for matters of fact (it is meaningless to say all right angles are angles). Apart from these two Principles the Principles of Logic are formal principles, and are enough for the construction of deductive systems, but not enough for drawing conclusions—i.e. for actual deduction. From this I must conclude that deduction, in the accepted sense of the word, is not possible from premisses that are certain: all that one does with a system having certain premisses is to describe it (or some part of it). But now another point arises. Can there be more than one ‘deductive system with certain premisses’? Firstly, we must correct that description—since deduction is not possible in a ‘deductive system with certain premisses’ we

180


28.xii.58

early letters

[el. 83]

can hardly call it deductive: I shall call it a (or the) ‘formal logical system’. So, can there be more than one formal logical system? But this has already been answered above—cogito ergo sum. Since thinking necessitates being, is structurally identical with being (if we omit the two heterogeneous Principles of Deduction and Substitution), there can only be one formal logical system. If this is so, is Kummer the formal logical system? And the answer, I think, is yes. In working out Kummer from the simple proposition ‘to each positive a negative’, or ‘a thing implies its negative’, all the formal Logical Principles seem to come into being (starting with the three well-known ‘Laws of Thought’—(i) if p then p, (ii) either [at least] p or not-p, (iii) not both p and not-p—[p.___.not-p]—which together define the negative). This suggests that the three traditional Laws of Thought are, in fact, the only fundamental Principles—Stebbing disagrees, saying it is absurd. So, in stating that ‘viññå~a, as seen by another (layer of) viññå~a, is nåma’ I am using formal logical principles, and I am not using deduction. If my statement about viññå~a is wrong, then it is my description that is at fault (I may be guilty of allowing the unwarranted intrusion of deductive logic in rationalizing the images involved in conceiving the formal logical system), and not my deductive reasoning, which took no part in its genesis. (Note that the use of Kummer as an image to think with prevents excessive rationalization of images.) This discussion now makes it clear to me that Logic must be discriminated as follows:—(i) Formal Logical Principles, in spite of the Logicians, are founded on the very structure of being itself, and are thus necessary and absolute; (ii) Logical Deduction, consisting of (i) plus the two Principles of Deduction and Substitution is concerned with matters of fact and the drawing of conclusion from them; Given the matters of fact, the validity of the argument is certain—but the matters of fact are never given except probably, being based upon (iii) Logical Induction, about which we are, I think, agreed. (In parenthesis I must remark that your original statement, ‘I can’t see how it can be shown to do so [except perhaps by deductive logic, which must be rejected]’ amounts to ‘I can’t see how it can be demonstrated, except perhaps by demonstration, which must be rejected’, to which the correct reply is not [ as you might think] ‘None so blind as he who will not see’ but ‘Exactly; it can’t be shown; you must see for yourself’.) Poor Mill! He does, as you say, get it in the neck from Stebbing. Do you remember Charles Marks’s comment (quoted somewhere by Shaw), ‘the eminence of John Stuart Mill is due to the flatness of the surrounding countryside’?

181


[el. 83]

seeking the path

28.xii.58

Further to my postcard. (i) The reason why we need a double tetrahedron (i.e. with a common apex) and not just a single one is because a single tetrahedron is not ambiguous, whereas a double one is, and ambiguity is essential. (ii) The ambiguity of Kummer may also be seen in the superposition of different operators, so:— +

=

=

+

or

+

And similarly for the other possibilities. But the way illustrated in the postcard is more fundamental, and this is merely the consequence. (I can by no means agree with you that ambiguity distinguishes beings from things: things exist by being ambiguous—‘the invariant of a transformation’ is a pure ambiguity.) I see, from a scrap of newsletter, that somebody has accused somebody else of ‘fanning the cold war’. Does this cause it to burst into flame or make it still colder? I am threatened, I hear, by a visit from Francis Story who, so my source informs me, is well versed in the Dhamma. Not so very long ago he is reported to have said that ‘a stone, being impermanent, feels pain’. Deductive Logic, I fear, and sadly misapplied. I am not much excited at the prospect. Lots of elephants last night. (Lots? Well, several.) I shined a torch at them and (to judge by the noise and the mess on the ground) they fled. The ambiguity of the present, as you describe it, comes, of course, of treating it like a point (which has a corresponding ambiguity). Whitehead, so Stebbing informs me, has succeeded in defining a moment of time in the same way as he has a point, i.e. by extensive abstraction, thus turning both points and moments from simple ambiguities into complex non-ambiguities. This is on the right lines (as far as a logician can be on the right lines). Defining, however, is not enough—we must determine the structure of the present, which is nothing more nor less than Kummer. P.S. I feel that every time I mention Kummer you may be bringing to mind an image of the rather depressing pudding you once described to me in the E.B. This would be a mistake. You should think, instead, of the gay tangles of lines and conics I sent you some time ago. We are not concerned with Kummer’s actual surface, but with the structure of its generator.

182


1.i.59

early letters

[el. 83a ]

part vi: 1959 (el. 83a-109) [ EL. 83a ]

1 January 1959

Notes made by Ven. Ñå~amoli. When I speak of ambiguity, I do not mean ‘living (existing) as a reflexive muddle’, or vaguely and woolily (in the feminine style), or by mauvaise foi. What I want to refer to is the ambiguity that is perfectly clear doubleness (duplicity), which has to be unilaterally resolved by an act of choice (and belief) in order that existence may be. For instance:—

Which line is in front? (Muddle or vagueness here lies in forgetting the ambiguity; which is in front is quite ambiguous (objectively), and is, of course, part of an infinite hierarchy of ambiguities, an ambiguity of which hierarchy being whether it is infinite or has an horizon.) Again, . , is this a point en soi or a line pour moi? And so on. And the ambiguity of the ‘straight’ stick seeming ‘crooked’ in the water, which belief is normally withdrawn if [… several words illegible… ] and granted to touch in order that the stick should be straight. Then the ambiguity of words qua words: are they mere sounds or symbols for a meaning? And (worst of all) the ambiguous ambiguity of identity: is self-identity one or two? Then is the Derivative of the Calculus a different entity or the same? etc. etc. All this is not mauvaise foi, which would be refusal to investigate one’s suspicions about ambiguity and pretence that there was none (determinism, either scientific or of any kind), and at worst it is a sort of lunatic alternation between smug self-forgetting complacency and patches of hysterical shrieks and confusion: this is sammoha,1 isn’t it? (I think more people live and die like this than not, don’t they?) As to viññå~a ‘becoming’ nåmar¨pa, it all depends on what one means by ‘becoming’ (and to ‘mean’ is to be ambiguous, isn’t it?), and I don’t necessarily disagree with you here. (If I see where you keep your ambigu-

183


[el. 83a]

seeking the path

1.i.59

ity in this.) It all depends, too, on what one defines as the self-identity of viññå~a and nåmar¨pa, without which ‘constant under transformation’ nothing can either become or be, very well, can it? Isn’t viññå~a the ‘selfidentity’ of bhava? I am at present inclined to define phassa ‘strictly’ as a recul 2 (the recul). The recul from which there is always a new recul (in ‘memory’) is then ‘seen’ (with ambiguity and by identification) both (alternatively) as a line ______ and/or as an oscillation between points .     . , and so on. Hence the triadic relation here. The ramification is infinite, but beyond a limit these ‘memories’ lapse. Hence the horizon of appearances. If your oscillation theory is right, then, in that analysis, only one point is ‘seen’ with the eye, the other being ‘remembered’ with the mind. But the ambiguity enters, and the ‘seeing and remembering’ becomes ‘a line seen’. This is the complementary theory, without which everything would ultimately be fixable by description into a kind of descriptive determinism, and all descriptions would then be definitions, and so non-existent: the essence of a description is that it is, or can be, one of a set of complementary (and I think necessarily partly incompatible) descriptions that can be multiplied ad infinitum. Existence fuses these and appearance clamps down an horizon. [ EL. 84 ]

1 January 1959

I said in my last letter that the formal logical principles derive from the structure of being itself. This is true, but needs a qualification. The formal logical principles, as formulated by the mathematical logicians (e.g. Stebbing), are the result of describing the structure of being (i.e. Kummer) from no point of view. That is to say, existing things are all taken at once and seen to form an ‘irreducible multiple relation’ (Stebbing’s phrase), and this ‘irreducible multiple relation’ is the structure defined by the formal logical principles. But since no point of view is allowed to appear (the mathematical logicians being strictly scientific and objective), this structure or system is purely static. (The Principle of Deduction is then added to the Formal Principles, and this introduces some movement but quite arbitrary, of the wrong kind, and far too late.) This, then, is half the picture. The other half consists in having a point of view, but not allowing an ‘irreducible multiple relation’ to appear. This second half, I suspect, is what the metaphysical/idealist logicians are talking about (and they are strictly subjective). Kummer, however, has both aspects:—(i) the sixteen operators can be seen to constitute an ‘irreducible

184


1.i.59

early letters

[el. 84]

multiple relation’, and (ii) this system is ‘invariant under infinite bi-rational transformations’ (according to the E.B. article). I raise this point; first because it seems to suggest that official Western thinking is perhaps not confined to inductive and deductive logic, and that we have been neglecting the idealist philosophers (who, though admittedly just as one-sided as the mathematical logicians, are at least the other side) in our recent correspondence; and secondly because a passage in Stebbing throws light upon a certain incident about two years ago. The passage is from her preface, and states that the metaphysical logicians (Bradley and Bosanquet) were dissatisfied with traditional Logic in that it was ‘formal’ (i.e. static—see above) and severed from ‘reality’, that they were concerned with the relation between the knowing mind and what it knows, and that her (Stebbing’s) book has nothing in common with such views. She adds that none of this school of Idealist Logicians has ever made clear exactly what is meant by the principle of identityin-difference upon which their logic is based. (My underlining.) Surely the principle of identity-in-difference is nothing but the principle of invariance-under-transformation, is it not? And this latter is the dynamic aspect of Kummer. Naturally Stebbing has never been able to understand this—she is strictly objective, and this is subjectivity, which she will have no part of. Now the incident in question was this. The last time I met the Ven. Soma Thera was at the Hermitage (as you will remember) and on that occasion we all had a discussion in the dånasålå about (roughly) ‘being and logic’ in which sharp differences of view became apparent. I made a remark to the effect that if change is to be perceived it must be perceived by a percipient (or against a background) who, during the change, does not himself change (i.e. invariance-under-transformation). Immediately, the Ven. One, in a tone of great finality, said ‘Oh, that’s just Bradley!’, after which there was nothing more to be said. Though I once read Bradley’s Appearance and Reality I can remember nothing about it, and have (at least until reading this passage of Stebbing’s) no idea what views Bradley held. Now, however, the situation is clear—(i) the Ven. One would probably agree with practically everything Stebbing says, and (ii) I am just an idealist. It is noteworthy that Stebbing deliberately avoids discussion of quantum phenomena (she says as much, though without giving a reason), and that Dirac says that quantum theory reveals that the ‘things’ in the world are the invariants of transformations. Stebbing’s view—that of the mathematical logicians—is that there is no point of view and that all things are on an equal footing; both what is present and what is absent alike exist—sabbaµ atth⁄ti —; and ‘to exist’ be-

185


[el. 84]

seeking the path

1.i.59

comes synonymous with ‘to be real’, which is why this view is sometimes called Realism. Bradley’s view—that of the metaphysical logicians—is, presumably, that there is (what is at) the point of view and nothing else; what is present (i.e. perceived at, or by, the point of view) exists (esse est percipi 1), what is absent does not, and when a thing ceases to be present it ceases to exist—sabbaµ natth⁄ti; and here, since it is the subject—the point of view—that confers existence, the object is reduced to a mere ‘idea’—whence Idealism. This, no doubt, is obvious enough. But it now occurs to me that to affirm sabbaµ atth⁄ti—the absolutely real objective existence of things independent of any observer—is precisely to deny the existence of a subject or self, natthi attåti; and conversely, to deny objective existence to things, sabbaµ natth⁄ti, is, precisely, to affirm the existence of the subject or self, atthi attåti. There is, however, another point: an oriented world (which is the meaning of loka in the Suttas) is the correlative of a point of view (there is a Saµyutta Sutta 2 that specifically identifies the world with the eye, ear, nose, and so on), and consequently to deny self is to deny the world, and to assert self is to assert the world (so loko so attå). Thus we have the following scheme: — Sassatavåda Asserts a point of view; Asserts self—atthi attåti; Asserts the world; Denies the objective existence of things—sabbaµ natth⁄ti Is an Idealist (Bradley, Berkeley)

Ucchedavåda Denies a point of view; Denies self—natthi attåti; Denies the world; Asserts the objective existence of things—sabbaµ atth⁄ti Is a Realist (Stebbing, Russell)

If this analysis is correct it would explain why a scientist, though apparently asserting the permanence of the Universe, is, in fact, an ucchedavådin—the Universe he asserts is without a point of view, and is the negation of the world (= loka). I have never been quite happy with your statement that the scientist is a concealed sassatavådin, though at the same time I have always had to admit (even if not to you) that there is something in what you say. It seems to me that this resolves the paradox: the scientist is, actually, ucchedavådin, since he denies his own existence, but he thereby asserts the absolutely objective existence of things, and since this is equivalent to asserting the absolute objective existence of his own non-existence (which he is—the scientist is non-existent) he gives the impression of asserting his own permanence—his ucchedavåda is sassata. (The natural assumption that sabbaµ atth⁄ti = atthi attåti forgets that self, the subject, is the negative of

186


1.i.59

early letters

[el. 84]

the object, and that to assert the subject as a positive entity is to deny positive existence to the object. To assert the subject is to assert orientation, and consequently to deny there is any content to be oriented; and conversely, to assert the object is to assert the content, and consequently to deny that it has any orientation. But existence is a relation between orientation and content; and neither can be unilaterally asserted. The Idealist says there is choice but no thing to choose, and the Realist says there are things but no choice of them.) In L’Être et le Néant Sartre claims that he goes between Idealism and Realism, but it is clear that he is well on the side of Realism. His statement that I quoted to you the other day, to the effect that we always perceive more and other than we see, reveals his fundamentally Realist outlook; and it may be compared with the following from Stebbing: ‘What is normally presented to us is always less than what we correctly say we see.’ Allowing for a difference in usage, these statements are identical. It is true that Stebbing is making an excursion into ‘psychology’ (as she calls it), but the fact that both she and Sartre are in full agreement on such a point is very significant. You said the other day that Sartre suffered from concealed deduction, but it seems to me that if this is so it is only because he allows himself to use a measure of induction. I now think that the principle of identity has been totally misconceived by the Realists. In her discussion of it Stebbing is rather at a loss to know what to make of it, suggesting rather vaguely that it means ‘given p’. It now seems to me that the principle of identity, normally expressed as ‘A is A’, – , excluding both’, or ‘p implies p’, means nothing else than ‘either p or p or in other words ‘p is defined by its negative’. But this is equivalent to saying that you must have a point of view, which is strenuously denied by the Realists. In my last letter I said that the three Laws of Thought—the Principles of Identity, Excluded Middle, and Contradiction—define the negative; and I gave as illustration the following figure: —p . ___ . not-p. This needs correction and elaboration. We can simply have the Principle of . . Or we can start with the Identity ‘either p or –p, excluding both’: — ___ Principle of Excluded Middle, which is formulated thus: ‘either p or not-p, not excluding both’. This can be represented so: —

. . (either p or –p) ___ . ___ . (both p and –p)

and we then also have the Principle of Contradiction, which excludes ‘both p and p’ (without excluding neither). So we are again left with this: —

187


[el. 84]

seeking the path

1.i.59

. . , which as you will recognize is the basic triangle in the tetrahedron, and ___ therefore in Kummer. The second two Principles, as you will observe, define the first, which is the fundamental disjunction or negative—Kierkegaard’s – . (Further discussion later in this letter.) Either/Or—p/p Just as the Idealists were ousted by the Realists, so, in their turn, the Realists have apparently been ousted by what we might describe as the Philosophers of English (or in the case of Ducasse, American) Usage. And in reaction to all this there is Colin Wilson who, even as a pimple, has achieved eminence. The surrounding countryside must be very flat indeed. Before I change the subject or come to a stop, it occurs to me that the distinction between a Realist and an Idealist can be summed up thus: an Idealist has a point but no view (‘a point of view without a view’), and a Realist has a view but no point (‘a view without a point of view’). Viññå~a, however, requires a point and a view. This, for the moment, and also because I don’t know more about Bradley, seems to exhaust what I have to say about Logic. ‘And high time too!’ no doubt you are thinking. It is satisfactory, in a way, to be able to round it off and see that it is not of further interest, but I had long ago come to that conclusion, and I do not feel at all the sense of stimulation that I had upon reading Dirac and discovering (to my astonishment) that the Quantum Theory held no terrors for me (and also to a lesser extent with Sartre; but this was more gradual, since I was learning from him and being disillusioned about him at the same time). This rather final statement will not, of course, prevent me from finding something else to say about Logic in a few days’ time and writing it to you at great length. (Having been given some stamps of peculiarly repellent design I feel an urge to use them up as fast as possible.) I wonder if Bradley is available anywhere. Also McTaggart’s Nature of Existence might be of interest, in view of Prof. Broad’s statement that McTaggart held that he could demonstrate, from purely philosophical considerations, that conscious existence is beginningless and endless and requires a body. The fact that Stebbing refers to McTaggart only once, and then rather unfavourably, is in his favour. But I don’t know whether he was an Idealist or not. To return (I’m afraid) to discussion of the Laws of Thought. A further investigation of the relation between the three Laws (which may be stated – , either p or not-p clearly thus:—(i) [EXCLUSION or IDENTITY] p/p exclusively, i.e. excluding the possibility of both p and not-p [this Law, the Principle of Identity, I have restated—Stebbing gives it as: ‘if p, then p’; the other two Laws are as Stebbing gives them]; (ii) [ALTERNATION or EXCLUDED MIDDLE] p ∨ –p, either p or not-p, non-exclusively,

188


1.i.59

early letters

[el. 84]

or not excluding the possibility of both, and (iii) [DISJUNCTION or CONTRADICTION] (p ⋅ –p), not both p and not-p, non-exclusively, or not excluding the possibility of neither) clearly shows that the fundamental difference between p and not-p can be expressed as the difference between both and neither. That is, p is related to not-p as both is related to neither. But both what? And neither what? Answer:—both (both and neither); neither (both nor neither). You will see at once that this can be extended infinitely without ever requiring us to specify either both or neither except in terms of themselves. (BOTH = both and neither; NEITHER = neither and both.) This shows that difference or the negative is absolute. The exclusion either/or is simply (at each level) the mediation (shades of Hegel!) between both and neither: either/or is the invariant of the transformation consisting of the interchange of both and neither; and the reason for this is absurdly simple: —the negative of the exclusive ‘either p or not-p’ is ‘either not-p or p’, which (to be Idealist for the moment) is an admirable example of identity-in-difference. But what, you might ask, is p? The answer is that p is a relation. What relation? The relation between both and neither. And what is not-p? It is the relation that is not p—i.e. the relation between neither and both. But surely p is ‘both’ and not-p is ‘neither’? Correct, except that there is a difference in order of generality to be taken into account. (The Logicians are correct in defining p as a proposition, except that it is not a proposition—i.e. a relation but the proposition—i.e. the relation of relation.) What, then, is a ‘thing’? Answer: —a thing is ‘either-p-or-not-p’, which must be carefully distinguished from ‘either p, or not-p’—in other words, a thing is (= exists as) an exclusion between the positive and the negative, a thing is either/or (naturally we are speaking of a thing in so far as it is a thing, not in so far as it is this or that). A conjunction between a positive and a negative, which are themselves relations, is simply a relation between relations, or another, more general relation. If, now, I represent both and neither by vectors, so: — (both) (neither)

= BOTH. I can also represent the negative of this by vectors, so: — (neither) (both)

189


[el. 84]

seeking the path

1.i.59

= NEITHER. I can now conjoin these, by adding NEITHER to BOTH, and changing the direction of NEITHER’s arrows: —

giving me BOTH and NEITHER (which = BOTH I can also conjoin them in the other order, by adding BOTH to NEITHER (which = N E I T H E R (but I must reverse BOTH’s arrows) so: — (both) (neither)

(neither)

+

=

(both)

If I conjoin these two (and changing N E I T H E R’s arrowsa) I get the following:

(giving me B O T H). But if, instead, I exclude them (by not changing arrows) I get: =

a.  By changing the arrows an order of priority is given, and one diagonal qualifies the other yielding a relation.

190


1.i.59

early letters

[el. 84]

and from my earlier post card you will remember that this is equivalent toa,

or, to complete the picture,

to which is the invariant of the transformation or exclusion. It is simply E I T H E R / O R. In this way you will see (or will you?) that the three Laws of Thought in fact describe, when analysis of them is pushed far enough, the essential ambiguity of Kummer, and are thus very fundamental indeed and very unique. The Mathematical Logicians, however, have no suspicion that their famous Laws are actually a formulation of the Idealist identity-in-difference that they so much affect to fail to understand. (This analysis has been carried out during the course of writing this letter, and I am really quite satisfied with the result, which is rather unexpected.) Correction to the above. Upon referring again to Stebbing I see that she says that the traditional interpretation of the Laws of Identity is metaphysical, that it expresses a theory (sic) with regard to the nature of persistent individuality; it is ‘the persistence of something through change’ (apparently it has, traditionally, to do with substance-and-attribute [as you asked a few weeks ago], though not as I have analyzed it). But she adds that this could not properly be regarded as a fundamental principle of logical thinking, and so need not be further discussed. No wonder Bradley complained that formal logic is ‘severed from reality’! No wonder Stebbing is unable to tell us what ‘p implies P’ does mean! But now quite enough and to spare. P.S. Stebbing, quoting somebody, says that Idealist Logic ends in shipwreck. This sounds rather a recommendation. Perhaps I should find that dolce m’e il naufragio in questo mar.3 a.  By failing to change to arrows, neither diagonal has priority (neither qualifies the other) and they are thus excluded.

191


[el. 85]

[ EL. 85 ]

seeking the path

5.i.59

5 January 1959

Many thanks for your letter of New Year’s Day and calendar with Poyas 1 etc., which crossed with mine of New Year’s Day asking for Poyas etc. From the tone of your letter I think you may suspect me of suspecting that you hold that life is a muddle, in a wooly or vague sort of way. This is not at all the case; you have often before now written and spoken to me of quite definite ambiguities that you meet with in experience. These quite definite ambiguities I also meet with in my experience. But when I said, in a previous letter, that I have less taste for them than you as ultimate entities, I was expressing a difference in attitude between us towards these quite definite ambiguities. I gather from your various letters that you attach a certain importance or significance to certain particular ambiguous experiences (giddiness, for example, as well as the others you mention) that I do not attach to them. This does not necessarily mean that I think you are mistaken, but rather that I prefer a different approach. It may be that we are boring the same tunnel from opposite ends. Let me expand. Your approach, as it seems to me (you will no doubt correct me if I am wrong), might be expressed rather like this. ‘There are phenomena, and only phenomena; and any attempt to get beyond them is both futile and misleading, as the inferential arguments of logicians and scientists show only too clearly. Thus, I must investigate phenomena directly; and in so doing (since to be is to be phenomenal—i.e. to appear or to be capable of appearing) I shall be investigating being. Now, the most striking, and perhaps essential, characteristic of phenomena is ambiguity. But certain phenomena are more plainly ambiguous than others. These particular phenomena, then, are more important for the purpose of my investigation (since they are easier to investigate) than the remainder.’ My approach, on the other hand, might be expressed like this. ‘There are phenomena, and only phenomena; and any attempt to get beyond them is both futile and misleading, as the inferential arguments of logicians and scientists show only too clearly. Is there a reason for this? If there is, then it must be a structural reason and not a causal reason; for the notion of cause is inseparable from inductive inference, and therefore both futile and misleading. But if there is a structural reason, that structure must be, that is to say, it must be phenomenal; for otherwise it would be beyond phenomena and would be both futile and misleading. So I must seek a structure of phenomena that is itself phenomenal, i.e. that is its own structure. And this will lead to an infinite hierarchy.’ Now, it is clear enough that my approach cannot succeed without con-

192


5.i.59

early letters

[el. 85]

tinual reference to phenomena directly (and my interest in the phenomena of a star or small source of light shows that I do refer to phenomena directly; and since it seemed to show structure more plainly than other phenomena it was of particular interest—and I also have other pet phenomena). And you might be prepared to admit (if my exposé of your approach is correct) that at least some structural considerations are necessary; for otherwise the ambiguous nature of any given phenomenon is purely fortuitous, and the next phenomenon you turn your attention to might quite well not be ambiguous in the slightest degree. So far, so good. But it is evident that however clearly we may formulate our method of approach, in practice we may not always adhere to it. It may be, then, that you will suspect that my conclusions are arrived at, sometimes, by (concealed) inferential arguments, at least in part. And I cannot deny it. But what I do say is this: that not only are inferential arguments not necessary in my method of approach, but they are positively harmful; and to the extent that I have inadvertently made use of them my conclusions are mistaken. (Sartre is very good on the dangers of rationalizing one’s images when thinking.) And it also seems to me that there is a certain danger inherent in the approach that I have taken the liberty of fathering on you. It is this. There is a certain tendency, so it seems, when one thinks a particular experience is more important (even if merely because more convenient) than others, of assuming that it is therefore more significant than others; and this leads to the attempt to account for other, less significant, phenomena in terms of that particular, more significant, phenomenon. One obvious example of this is Freud. Having seen the outstanding importance of sex (important because of the attention paid to it) he concludes that it is more significant than other things, and proceeds to base his entire system of psychoanalysis on sex. And this leads, as Sartre notes, to interpretations that are ‘massive, pretentious, and absurd’. But Dr. Klar’s colours show that interpretation in terms of sex is, though no doubt possible, by no means essential. Dr. Klar, in his more megalomaniacal moments, may well think that colours are far more significant than sex or anything else and dream of a psychology where colour is the fundamental reality and all else secondary. It would be ridiculous to suggest that you are following Freud—he is an extreme case of this tendency chosen simply because of its convenience. But I have noticed, occasionally, a tendency in your letters to account for a given phenomenon in terms of certain special phenomenology and to regard this as final—the most obvious instance being your apparent unwillingness to understand the notion of swaying (‘what the Ven. M does’) except in terms of giddiness, and your description of standing upright as ‘controlled giddiness’. You may

193


[el. 85]

seeking the path

5.i.59

be right, but it does not seem to me that this procedure is useful—having described standing in terms of giddiness (or swaying or anything else) I am still no wiser: standing is no less familiar to me than giddiness or swaying, and not more in need of explanation.a I get the impression that, for you, giddiness is a kind of absolute or ultimate term (like Eliot’s candle), and that when you have reduced a given experience to terms of giddiness (or of a certain limited number of other similarly privileged ambiguities) you are satisfied, or at least consider that you can go no further. Why? Perhaps because you think that by going beyond such particular phenomena you would be going beyond all phenomena and into the realms of inference; but, as I think, you can go beyond particular phenomena to the phenomenon of the structure, and beyond this to the phenomenon of its structure, and so on, as far as you please, and this is ultimate because the phenomenon of structure is always the same however far you go. Now you may say, with justice, that this interpretation of your supposed attitude is mere speculation, and quite mistaken to boot. Very likely; but all I am trying to do is to convey the impression that I get from your letters, and to show that my earlier remark about dislike of ambiguities as ultimate entities does not come from any supposition of mine that your view of existence is that it is vague-and-wooly—though it may well come from a mistaken supposition about what is, in fact, your view. As you point out, the question of viññå~a ‘becoming’ nåmar¨pa (or rather nåma) depends on what is meant by ‘becoming’. The point is that viññå~a does not ‘become’ nåma in any sense at all, and the question of a self-identity does not arise (though if you like, viññå~a is the presence of nåma and nåma is the presence of r¨pa, and ‘presence’ is the self-identity common to both). The situation of two (or more) viññå~as, one of which is the object of (or ‘present to’) the other, while itself is the subject (or ‘presence’) of its object (which will include yet another viññå~a) is quite fundamental and must be grasped directly if it is grasped at all. There is no parallel in our ‘normal’ experience and no exact analogy is possible. And further, every attempt at description must deal first with viññå~a as it is in itself and second with the object of the superior viññå~a, whence we inevitably get the notion of ‘becoming’, i.e. as a kind of succession in time parallel to the succession in time of the description. But since it is all, in fact, given at once, there is no ‘becoming’ at all—all that is seen upon direct a.  If you prefer to say that standing is a function (in the mathematical sense) of giddiness rather than of swaying I shall not necessarily disagree. But the point is not what it is a function of (giddiness or swaying), but what is the nature of this function.

194


5.i.59

early letters

[el. 85]

inspection is a kind of transparency with separate layers, rather like looking down into a showcase with a glass top and a number of glass shelves. Each of these shelves represents one additional layer of presence. R¨pa is present, and the presence of r¨pa is nåma; nåma is present, and the presence of nåma (or the double presence of r¨pa) is viññå~a. But the presence of nåma is also present (otherwise there would be no presence of nåma), and this means another viññå~a, for which that nåma (being doubly present) ‘becomes’ r¨pa (r¨pa can be defined as ‘double presence’), and the presence of that nåma (being singly present)—i.e. the first viññå~a—‘becomes’ nåma. But it is clearly ridiculous to say that one glass shelf ‘becomes’ the one next layer down simply because it is looked at through an additional glass shelf at the top—yet how else can it be described? The ambiguity is in the description, not in the fact. This difficulty is more obviously seen with reflexive consciousness. (Can one be certain that reflexion sees the ‘same’ self as the self that is the subject of the contemporary immediate experience?” Answer—yes, because there can only be probability on the basis of a given [present] certainty; and this is that certainty, simply because there is nothing more fundamental to serve as a certain basis for it were it probability.) I cannot agree that in oscillation the point (or rather area) that is not ‘seen’ with the eye is ‘remembered’ with the mind. Both are seen, or present to eye-consciousness, but the one that is past is present within the later one (it turns out that to be within the present one—as the centre of what is central—is to be over-determined and therefore past—either it is seen as the central detail of the present, or it is seen as being the same size as the present, but past; this may be incomprehensible to you, but that is how I find it); and furthermore, since the whole of the past is present in this way, the question of remembering or forgetting does not arise. But I am speaking of the most fundamental level—pure immediacy—and your description, so I take it, is on a certain reflexive level, where, of course, remembering and forgetting (and horizons) have their natural habitation. But unless the whole of the past is somehow basically given it cannot be ‘there’ (as it were) ‘to be either forgotten or remembered’, it cannot be available. In my last letter I spoke enthusiastically about the three Laws of Thought—Either/Or (exclusively), Either/Or (alternatively—i.e. not excluding Both); and Either/Or (disjunctively—i.e. not Both, not excluding Neither)—together with a graphical description of the structure. Though the graphical description was, I fear, not at all clear, and would need thorough overhauling, the enthusiasm remains. The structure may be interpreted at different levels (starting from the most fundamental) as follows: —

195


[el. 85]

seeking the path

5.i.59

1. A exists: A is the invariant of a transformation from being to not-being. In other words, while A exists it is, as A, unchanged; but its existence is a certain running-down process. 2. A is present until supplanted by not-A. This is less fundamental than the first, since it involves other things than A. But 1 is not found without 2. 3. A’s existence is a transition from assertion of A to denial of A. This is much more reflexive, since we are now taking a certain view of A and asserting or denying its existence. 4. A must be given as idea or essence in order that it should be either asserted or denied. Both theist and atheist believe in God, either positively or negatively. This is the Existential ‘Essence precedes Existence’. 5. If assertion of A is given (or true), the denial of A is not given (or false). Here we have the subtle transformation of the logicians, who have so worded it that all question of the nature of A’s existence is left out. Note that here ‘If assertion of A is given’ means ‘If the proposition “there are A’s” is true’; in other words, A is to be taken as a class, not a thing. But Russell is eventually driven to asserting that a table (for example) is a class—the class of all its appearances. (Of course he maintains that the table is logically inferred from its appearances.) This, for a logician, is rather clever, and gets round many difficulties—thus ‘this table exists’, which is anathema to the logicians, becomes ‘there are appearances of “this table”’, which is quite acceptable. This can be expanded to ‘the property of being an appearance of “this table” belongs to something’. But whether this could be extended to the expansion of ‘I am’ into ‘the property of being an appearance of myself belongs to something’ I really don’t know—I wish I had a logician to try it on. In my last letter but one I discriminated unfairly against Kummer’s actual surface, saying that it was only the generator that is relevant. This is wrong. The six points in each conic are to the fifteen lines they define (by joining them) as the six conics through each point are to the fifteen surfaces they define: or, the sixteen points are to the hundred and twenty lines they define as the sixteen conics are to the hundred and twenty surfaces they define. No wonder the surface looks puddingy! I have just thought of an illustration of the remark I made earlier about the past being a detail of the present. Consider this set of squares: —

196


5.i.59

early letters

[el. 85]

This can be seen in either of two mutually exclusive ways: (i) as a set of progressively smaller squares each enclosed within a larger one, the whole being a flat figure; or (ii) as a receding ‘corridor’ of equal sized squares one behind the other, the whole being a solid figure. The relation of each smaller square to the larger one enclosing it is thus either ‘smaller, but equally here’ or ‘equal, but further away’. If you read present for here and past for further away you will perhaps get some idea of what I am trying to say.a This illustration, of course, does not prove anything; nor is it the basis of an ‘argument by analogy’, since I had already worked out the present-past structure before thinking of this illustration.b The illustration also serves (not accidentally) to represent Whitehead’s definition of a point by enclosure-volumes (or areas), or (or rather and) his definition of a moment by enclosure-durations. (I say and rather than or because the two are inseparable—the figure represents the structure of here-now.c [The exact representation is, of course, Kummer; but that cannot be drawn because the successive enclosures, starting with the smallest, are points (cones), planes (conics), four-dimensional ‘volumes’ (or ‘conics’), eight-dimensional ‘volumes’ (or ‘conics’), and so on.]) Unfortunately, what is apparently the easiest sort of object to ‘see’ the structure in, namely a visual object, is really, in some ways, the most difficult because of the superposition of many different structures (a previous letter refers).

a.  ‘Smaller but equally present’ is the reflexive view, whereas ‘Equal but past’ is the immediate view. These two views are always superposed. b.  Note, however, that an ambiguous illustration is needed to convey the structure of the ambiguous situation expressed in the words ‘the past is present’. The ambiguity is due to superposition (cf. glass showcase). c.  Each smaller area is more particularly here and more particularly now than the one that encloses it.

197


[el. 85a]

seeking the path

[ EL. 85a ]

11.i.59

11 January 1959

From the draft of a letter by Ven. Ñå~amoli. Your exposé of the logical incompatibility, or incompatible logicity, of the Realist’ and Idealists’ system is most excellent in your letter of 1 Jan. Also your description of the Laws of Thought in your letter of 5 Jan. On these, as with your other admirable and helpful expositions of structure I have no comment. You handle this elaborate and important subject with greater facility and competence than I do. Comment being therefore redundant, I offer simply applause. (Your elegant squares within squares have a third possible [interpretation1]: they are not a receding corridor but an advancing pyramid. Now which of the two is this:—

?) The tone of one’s letters, or anyone’s for the matter of that, is always rather imponderable, since a letter, by its nature, is a tonal vacuum, which, not being a total vacuum, demands imperatively to be filled. What sort of filling will this demand? I shall, maybe, tap it against stones (to test its stones), twang it with plectra (to elicit its tonal spectra), hang it for a spell in an aeolian zephyr (to hear what it harps upon forever), rub it with a fingertip (and so on, ad lib.); but I doubt the only result will be the same dry rustle of a whisper (of more than which I must depair). What does it mean? (You may tell, if you can.) ‘Correct me if I am wrong’ you say (in parenthesis) of your statement of My Approach as it seems to you and of Your Approach. I would not say you were wrong or right. Only perhaps: ‘that was your way of putting it…’. What follows will make no difference, though, to the extent that no difference makes a difference. That Esse est percipi I by no means deny, though I think it incomplete. What is lacking? Nothing. How? Because, given that statement on its merits it implies (in order that it may emerge at all) percipiens non est.2 (Non-esse est percipere 3—perceive is a recul from being.) (It is not of the same order as cogito ergo sum, which, in terms of it, would be cogito ergo percipimur,4 which seems a quaint non-sequitur.) That too I do not deny. Do you? But this is only a starting-point; for the self-identity of the percipiens quis perceptum est non esse 5 now enters, and with it ramifications that extend

198


11.i.59

early letters

[el. 85a ]

thence ad infinitum (hence, no doubt, Bishop Berkeley’s absurd solution of this ambiguity by introduction of God’s consciousness to contain the perceived while it is not being perceived). Now I suggest that phenomena must, qua phenomena, be distinguishable from what they are not, or they do not arise at all. If so, and it they can, as such, be distinguished, it is from being, and so if they can be said to have a distinctive phenomenal characteristic peculiar to them, it is that when a phenomenon appears it does so as hiding something else (the three saπkhatalakkha~as are not absent from my mind); but that when a search is made, on this invitation, for what ought to be beyond it, only further phenomena ever appear when it disappears. On these terms consciousness could be said to appear, as the phenomenon that hides nothing when it appears. Again, if being, which phenomena are not, has, as such, an ontological characteristic peculiar to it, it is that it has nothing beyond it. A phenomenon, then, while thus certain in its phenomenality, is ambiguous in its being. But if, as is always possible, the ambiguity in the being of the phenomenon is dialectically resolved, it reappears again in what being is not, i.e. in phenomena as their non-phenomenality. All this, in its repetitive pattern and infinite ramifications, vistas and hierarchies, levels, planes and ranges (which you so admirably masterfully deal with) is what the structure of being consists in. I say, here is the double ambiguity ‘whose naming (i.e. reasoning) kills and has it born elsewhere’ (if I may misquote myself), or, on a baser level, the hippo with the tight skin (but see what I say below on ambiguities as ultimate entities). Since Avijjåpaccayå… bhavo, I hold it not impossible that (the logical constant the copula ‘is’ being bhava on the verbal plane) the three Laws of Thought may well be, not so much the structure of being (since you say the structure of being is what they are founded on) as the structure of saddhå (you know, I believe, my views on the intimate connexion between saddhå and avijjå in the puthujjana and so I need not repeat them). But this must by no means be taken as a denigration or depreciation of the Laws but rather the opposite; for I fancy it is more important (given the aim of understanding how [things] are in order to elicit fully the futility of existence and so eliminate ta~hå) to have access to the structure also of avijjå than to possess the structure of ñå~a which last, in fact, could be defined as valuable in proportion to its having that access (Socrates and ignorance, for instance). I am far too inexpert in logic to comment on whether the proposition ‘AB implies A’ is or is not properly speaking a deductive proposition. I accept what the logicians tell me on this point. However this occurs to me: Although it may tell one nothing new (being a truism), still it may exhibit a

199


[el. 85a]

seeking the path

11.i.59

structure. Good. But any structure it is as a proposition, capable of exhibiting directly or indirectly, is necessarily dependent on the self-identity of A; for without that it just doesn’t convey. But the essence of self-identity is the ambiguity. But the essence of self-identity is the ambiguity of two-in-one: the self which is the same as its own self is no other than itself. (Incidentally, while cogito ergo sum is regardable rightly, I take it, as a description, how can the proposition ‘AB implies A’ be taken in any sense as a description? Is it not a statement proper to one of Eddington’s Super Mathematicians who never know what they are talking about? As such, it can scarcely be said to describe even nothing (though maybe that is precisely what it does), and is a description that does not describe describable as a description of nothing? I think perhaps it is. Perhaps this is what we want. Self-identity: Kierkegaard, you may remember, says this:— To abstract from existence is to remove the difficulty. To remain in existence is to understand one thing in one moment and another thing in another moment, is not to understand oneself. But to understand the greatest oppositions together, and to understand oneself existing in them, is very difficult. (CUP, p. 316) Kierkegaard again— The self is freedom. But freedom is the dialectical element in the terms of possibility and necessity. (Sickness Unto Death, p. 162) and Self is the conscious synthesis of infinitude and finitude which relates itself to itself, whose task is to become itself… But to become oneself is to become concrete. But to become concrete means neither to become finite nor infinite. For that which is to become concrete is a synthesis. Accordingly development consists in moving away from oneself infinitely by the process of infinitizing oneself, and the returning to oneself finitely by the process of finitizing. If on the contrary, the self does not become itself, it is in despair, whether it knows it or not. However, a self, every moment it exists, is in process of becoming; for the self kata dynamin (potentially) does not actually exists; it is only that which is to become. In so far as the self does not become itself, it is not its own self; but not to become oneself is despair. (p. 162)

200


11.i.59

early letters

[el. 85a ]

Also:— Personality is a synthesis of possibility and necessity. The condition of survival is therefore analogous to breathing (respiration), which is an in- and an ex-spiration. The self of the determinist cannot breathe; for it is impossible to breathe necessity also, which taken pure and simple suffocated the human self. (p. 73) So much for Kierkegaard on Self. One must, of course, in this questioning (or doubting) of self-identity in being be constantly aware of the risk, greatest at this point, of mauvaise foi creeping surreptitiously in. Si la mauvaise foi est possible, c’est qu’elle est la menace immediate et permanente de tout projet de l’être humain, e’est que la conscience recèle en son être un risque permanent de mauvaise foi. Et l’origine de ce risque, c’est que la conscience, a la fois et dans son être est ce qu’elle n’est pas a et n’est pas ce qu’elle est.b (L’Être et le Néant, p. 111) 8 This, however, need not stultify our efforts, and we need only keep on our guard. If we return to the positive proposition ‘AB implies A’, we can equally well assert the negative contrary ‘AB does not imply A’. That the first is ‘true’, and the second ‘false’ cannot be established by reference to what the statement describes, since it describes nothing: if called false because ‘self-contradictory’ that depends on the assumed non-ambiguity of the self-identity assumed of A (by the logical constant) which logic cannot question (assumption = upådåna, and upådånapaccayå bhavo). For every positive proposition a corresponding negative can be asserted, and decision in favour of one against the other can only be made by appeal to what is outside logic or by appeal to the assumed unquestionability of the logical constants assumed. Frequently, it would seem that if a logical statement is to be accepted unsupported for incorporation into the building of a structure, on its own merits alone, it must be brought in with its shadow, its contrary, whose exclusion cannot be justified. But Existentialism puts being into question, and the capula is, is being on the verbal level. My point here is simply that when a built-up stands, as a structure dialectically supported unilaterally against its contrary annihilating struca.  conscience d’autrui 6 b.  ma conscience 7

201


[el. 85a]

seeking the path

11.i.59

tures, if it rests at any level on a logical statement alone for the closing of the dialectic, such as ‘AB implies B’, then it rests upon an ambiguity. If that ambiguity is overlooked, trouble may arise. If recognized, it can be handled. That logic, within its limits and with awareness of its limitations, is a not only useful but necessary instrument for straightening one’s thoughts and building a structure, I would never deny. The constants of logic are certain precisely because they are unilaterally closed dialectics that are what form this valuable instrument, but a dialectic in being (existence) can only be (unilaterally) closed (resolved) by belief (saddhå) in one side or by ignorance (avijjå) of one side. This is outside logic. You say (in your letter of 28 Dec.) (rightly) ‘What we assume (to be true) is, when we translate it from logical to existential language unquestionable’. Agreed; for assuming we refrain from questioning (we close a dialectic unilaterally by the belief of ignorance, voluntarily or not, aware or not). But it is the essence of Existentialism to put Being into question and so how can I possibly make an exception of the logical copula is or the question of self-identity? Whether ‘we cannot assume a proposition and doubt it at the same time’ is doubtless correct on any one level; but what about on different levels? What about non-commutation? I think that Science, within its own limits, is a perfectly valid technique, producing a certain type of experiential results from causes in the probable world of things, precisely on account (a) of the scientists’ own blinkers which are their discipline, (b) owning to the nature of human existencein-the-world allowing that interpretation to be placed on it. If science and its professed aims to bring about events in the world of things are considered valuable, then scientific technique would seem unquestionably the best available (for those who have no magical powers) to produce the scientific results desired. But Science’s inherent incompleteness (its scientific strength) humiliates ambitious Scientists, and so they make distant claims. Hence the ‘futile and misleading inferential arguments of logicians and scientists’. Personally I am not at all interested in ‘causes’ beyond noting that the ‘caused’ world of actions (kammapatha), persons (puggala) and things (bh¨ta) is an appearance—that is, a mode in which phenomena can be apprehended. But Hume has said pretty well all that need be said about that, hasn’t he? That is ayoniso manasikåra in one of its forms. Also I am not at all interested in ‘Ultimate entities’ whether ‘ambiguities’ or not, and I do not regard the Mahåbh¨ta, for instance, or anything else, as ‘ultimate entities’, as the ‘foundation-stones on which the universe is built’, or any such curiosity. No phenomenon, surely, is any more ‘ultimate’ than any other qua phenomenon, though

202


11.i.59

early letters

[el. 85a ]

some arrangements, if made object of faith, mislead. I do not remember ever saying that I regarded giddiness as an (or the) ‘absolute term’ and certainly did not intend to convey that. Is angst an ‘ultimate entity’? I do not remember to have discussed giddiness in relation to motion, and the connexion remains unexplained as far as I am concerned, though that does not disturb me. I do not regard angst, or ta~hå even, as ‘absolute ultimate terms’ because I do not much like the phrase at all, much less giddiness. No doubt a system could be built on it, but I am not at all fond of systems, and I have always thought Freud’s weakest point was his system and its unilateralistic ‘absolute ultimate’ sex. A point arises here perhaps. It is impossible to exist without assuming-and-consuming (upådånapaccayå bhavo), so the proposal to ‘exist on the right lines’ is not to be taken in the sense of the opening, or the closing, of all dialectics (resolving of all ambiguities). As I see it, because I exist, certain dialectics are closed and I cannot open them like that in this life. But certain dialectics it remains open to me to close or open. The Dhamma, it seems to me, recognizing this, recommends opening bhava to question (one should be a [… 9] not only of the Tathågata but of existence; for the first leads to the second), and the deliberate unilateral pattern of closing of certain dialectics is indicated by the Eightfold Path. Do you agree? This is done by Faith (which is why it is said somewhere that one undertakes s⁄la by means of the saddhindriya primarily). The chosen aim of that choice is the ending of ta~hå, and any building of a structure must have this aim in view. This aim and this discipline convert existence to point to nirodha. I think your rendering of †hitassa aññathattaµ by ‘invariant of a transformation’ so good that it can scarcely be improved on, though it is not grammatically parallel to the Pali. The grammatical structure of the Pali is ‘transformation of an invariant’. Both contain a dialectic (ambiguity). It is this: either the invariant is itself undergoing transformation, is being transformed, or it is the untransformed invariant in the transformation, against which the transformation emerges, and vice versa. This brings me to the four pañhå: I at present favour the following renderings (or expressions): pañho = dialectic; ekaµsavyåkara~⁄ya = (dialectic) that can (should) be unilaterally closed, ambiguity that can be resolved with benefit (given one’s aim): e.g. puñña, not apuñña, the eight sammattåni of the Path, not the eight micchåttåni, etc.; vibhajjavyåkara~⁄ya = (dialectic) that should be displayed on both sides (but not necessarily closed), ambiguity that should be brought to light (but not necessarily resolved). This is the didactic communication of the dialectic (ambiguity); pa†ipucchavyåkara~⁄ya = the same as the last, but is the existential

203


[el. 85a]

seeking the path

11.i.59

communication of the dialectic (ambiguity) by the other is prompted to disclose it to himself for himself. (If communicated directly this communication destroys both and is no communication—see Kierkegaard in CUP). ˝hapan⁄ya 10 is simply any projet de mauvaise foi11, which must be left alone. How does this strike you? About the glass shelves (which I do not take to be presented as an argument by analogy) I think this excellent: I ask myself: what is in common between (a) the glass shelves, and (b) the conscience (de) soi des glass shelves? The answer I give myself is nothing—they have a what in common, and that is nothing (rien). Right? To return to the tone of this letter, what I am anxious to avoid is any note of depreciation of structure, which I claim to regard as every bit as important as you do. I merely put forward my views expressed above for that purpose and in order to explore the dialectic of logic, and its limits. What interests me in ambiguity, specially (as I suppose you in structure, specially) is the exploration and exploration of it as a means to exposing the futility of existence (the pleasantest of tastes, really) in order to dry up need (ta~hå) for bhava and vibhava. If it suits you personally to emphasize the structural mode, it suits me, perhaps, also to emphasize the ambiguity of self-identity. But I think we are talking about the same thing; for isn’t ambiguity the mechanism (or mortar) of construction, of which phenomena are the bricks? And your ‘superposition’ is, I fancy, a name for what my ‘ambiguity’ refers to. If not, how not?… [ EL 86 ]

16 January 1959

Thank you for your letter of the 12th. I have read it with some attention, and it seems that you are probably expressing your views with clearness and precision, perhaps more so than hitherto. I say probably because in spite of this impression there remains a certain failure to communicate, in the sense that I am not left with a definite and coherent picture of your point of view. This, however, is due I think to the fact that our views are fairly close, and not to your views being in fact incoherent. If your views were radically different from mine it would, no doubt, be much easier to form, a clear picture of them (and, of course, to denounce them). As it is I suspect there is much on which we agree but which I fail to recognize in your wording. In consequence, I note what you say, but hesitate before expressing definite disagreement in case I should find I am disagreeing with my own views, which would be most embarrassing.

204


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

In particular, I note that you say that phenomena, in order to emerge at all, must be distinguishable from what they are not. I agree. But you go on to say that it is from being that they are distinguished. I am not sure whether I should disagree. Without doing so, I shall state that I find that what phenomena are not is other phenomena. My view of being is this: the present single directly perceived phenomenon (whatever it may be) appears against a background of other phenomena that it is not, and these other phenomena are peripherally perceived, not directly perceived. They are absent not present; possible, not certain. But this background itself appears as directly perceived relative to a further background, which further background is thus doubly peripheral, doubly absent; with regard to the original single phenomenon. And this further background has itself got another, still further, background against which it appears, and so on ad infinitum. This is the hierarchy (or one aspect of it). To illustrate this, the picture of squares within squares will serve, and you may now regard it, as you suggest, as an advancing pyramid with diminishing sections. Each section is standing out as a single phenomenon against the background of the next larger section, which represents all the (limited) immediate possibilities of, or alternatives to, the smaller section within it. The relation is essentially part-to-whole, repeated indefinitely. Now, Berkeley’s esse est percipi takes account of the single immediately present phenomenon that you happen to have started with (i.e. by ignoring the fact that this given phenomenon is itself a background to a still more present phenomenon). That is to say, if I am actually looking at the tree in the quad, it exists (according to Berkeley); but it is assumed that when I stop looking at it, it ceases to be perceived and therefore to exist (if we forget God). This, I maintain, is a mistake. The tree, though no longer directly perceived, no longer present, is still a possibility; that is to say, it is one of the absent phenomena in one of the ‘receding’ backgrounds. It is never totally absent, for each order of absence is present against (or relative to) a still more absent background. This means that there is not just existence or non-existence of a given object, but an infinite hierarchy of possibilities of existence, ranging from immediate presence (or full existence), through immediate absence or possibility, to ever more remote possibilities. Berkeley, on the one hand, maintains that only the present object exists; the Realists, on the other hand, maintain that all things, present or absent, exist equally. These are the two extreme views, and the truth (I hold) lies in between (as I have described). I notice that you have queried the words underlined in my statement ‘to be is to be phenomenal—i.e. to appear or to be capable of appearing’. Perhaps what I have just said will make this clear: if I had restricted myself to equating

205


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

existence (or phenomenality) with direct appearance only (and had ignored the possibility of being present) I should have erred with Berkeley. (In the sense that absent phenomena—‘images’—also are perceived, we can agree with esse est percipi; but that is not how it is usually understood—Berkeley would hardy allow that the tree can be perceived as absent or as possible or rather that, if not present, it always is so perceived.) Now, in Stebbing, the question of the existence of the unicorn that I am now thinking of is raised. Prof. Moore’s intentionally bogus statement is quoted, namely that ‘in one sense of the words there certainly are no unicorns… yet there must be some other sense in which there are such things, since if not, we could not think of them’. This statement is intended to ridicule the view (i.e. that unicorns must exist if they can be thought of) it apparently puts forward. But the point is, how can it be said that there certainly are no unicorns? How can this be known? The most that can be said is that it is highly improbable that any unicorn can be found in any corner of the globe. But what has that to do with the question of existence? This is an excellent example of the wallowing in common sense that is such a marked, and indeed essential, feature of rationalistic and scientific thinking. The fact is that if I am thinking of a unicorn, then a unicorn exists as a possibility, and if I am thinking of a horse then a horse exists as a possibility. If I see a unicorn (or a horse) then that unicorn (or horse) exists as a certainty. (Naturally, if I think of a unicorn there will also be other, reflexive, determinations playing their part, and I shall regard the unicorn I am thinking of as less probable than the horse I am thinking of. But this is irrelevant.) Stebbing then says that it is meaningless to assert the existence of an individual (‘this lion exists’), but not meaningless to assert the existence of a class (‘lions exist’). But as I think, ‘this lion exists’ means ‘this lion is certain’ and ‘lions exist’ means ‘this lion is possible’. Some confirmation of this second is given, unwittingly, by Russell’s statement ‘“lions exist” means “X is a lion” is sometimes true’—the logical, point-of-viewless expression ‘is sometimes true’, becomes, existentially, ‘is possible’. And if this is so, then the proposition ‘lions exist’ means ‘I am thinking of a lion’. Unhappy logicians! But to proceed. Let me restate the three Laws of Thought. 1. Either p or not-p, excluding the possibility of both. (p / pˉ) 2. Either p or not-p, not excluding the possibility of neither. (p ∨ pˉ) 3. Not both p and not-p, not excluding the possibility of neither. (p ⋅ –p) N.B. It must be remembered that p is a proposition in this formulation. Now it will not have escaped your notice (or will it?) that the tetrad hoti tathågato parammara~a, namely:

206


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

}

(i) The Tathågata exists (after death) =1 (ii) The Tathågata does not exist… (iii) The Tathågata both exists and does not exist… = 2 (iv) The Tathågata neither exists nor does not exist… = 3 exemplifies these Laws of Thought. No doubt this tetrad was a logical form that was much squabbled about and not much understood. But let us see if we can make sense of it. In (i) the Tathågata is asserted. Note that in saying ‘A exists’ I am asserting A, and I am not asserting A’s existence: to assert A’s existence I must say ‘A’s existence exists’. Or we can put it this way: ‘A exists’ is equivalent to ‘there is A’, and ‘A’s existence exists’ is equivalent to ‘there is A’s existence’. But in asserting A I am saying, in effect, ‘A is the invariant of a transformation known as existence’; that is to say in asserting A I am defining existence. In (ii) the Tathågata is denied. But this, coming after (i), is the second part of a transformation of which (i) was the first part. In other words, when (i) and (ii) are together asserted—(iii) ‘both’—the relation between them, i.e. the transformation, is asserted. That is to say, (iii) asserts the Tathågata’s existence—‘The Tathågata’s existence exists’. Note, however, that existence is taken here in the Berkeleyan sense: (i) = ‘The Tathågata is present’ (either—by himself ‘I am a Tathågata’ or to another—‘this is a Tathågata’); (ii) = ‘The Tathågata is absent’; (iii) = ‘The Tathågata’s presence is present’. And in (iv) ‘neither’ the Tathågata’s existence is denied—‘The Tathågata’s existence does not exist’, or ‘The Tathågata’s presence is absent’. But it is evident that we could go on to assert (iii) and (iv) together, which would be asserting the existence of the Tathågata’s existence—‘The existence of the Tathågata’s existence exists’. And we could then deny (iii) and (iv), and then assert both assertion and denial of (iii) and (iv), and so on indefinitely. But in doing this we shall be generating the hierarchy in terms of existence, just as I described earlier with the squares within the squares. Whether we use the Laws of Thought or the ancient Indian logical tetrad, we find we can arrive at the structure of being. Now Stebbing uses the Laws of Thought to define the negative, so: given p and q, if (a) either p or q is true, not excluding both, and (b) not both p and q are true, not excluding neither, then we have ‘either p or q, exclusive of both’; in this case, q is not-p. As far as it goes, this is well done; but this is as far as it goes. In their mania for common-sense interpretations the modern logicians have destroyed whatever structural value the traditional formal logic possessed. Stebbing for example, wants to give the proposition p any everyday value—e.g. ‘the time is four o’clock’ (to take a random example). But this makes nonsense of ‘either p or not-p, not excluding the possibility of both’; for we get ‘either the time is four o’clock or the time is

207


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

not four o’clock, and perhaps it is both four o’clock and not four o’clock’. This being unsatisfactory, I was wondering what sort of proposition could be used for p that would avoid absurdity.a Looking through Stebbing’s book I eventually came across (p. 59) the following diagram (called the ‘square of opposition’):— contraries

A

E

a c

b

b

c

a I

subcontraries

O

a. contradictories b. subimplicant c. superimplicant

What immediately struck me about this trapezium (as I hope it will already have struck you) was that it was remarkably like the little picture I have been sending you to illustrate the structure of ambiguity, namely;

And, if you remember, I said that it was this very figure that was defined by the three Laws of Thought. So it occurred to me that the four propositions placed (by the traditional logicians) at the four corners might be what I was looking for. They are:— A. E. I. O.

All x is y. All x is not-y (i.e. no x is y). Some x is y. Some x is not-y.

And, in fact, if we take p as A (‘All x is y’) then the trapezium represents the a.  It is clear that p must have a particular structure for the Laws of Thought to apply to it, namely, the structure of a Thought (whatever that may be). What, in other words, is the nature of a proposition? It turns out that p must be an assertion of a thing, A: ‘A exists’. This, as we shall see, can be formally represented by the proposition ‘All x is y’.

208


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

structure of the first Law of Thought (p/pˉ) as dependent upon the second and third. And these Laws are now intelligible. Thus the second becomes ‘Either some x is y or some x is not-y, and perhaps both some x is y and some x is not-y’, where the ‘both’ clearly expresses a possibility; and the third becomes ‘Not both all x is y and no x is y, and perhaps neither all x is y nor no x is y’, where the ‘neither’ is intelligible (since if some x is y and some x is not-y then certainly neither all x is y nor no x is y). It is tempting to try and represent these four propositions by the following scheme:— XY = A XY¯ = E YX = I Y¯ X = O

(all x is y) (all x is not-y) (not: all x is y = some x is y) (not: all x is not-y = some x is not-y)

But there is a snag. To arrive at O from A in the scheme, you must go via ¯ ). Y¯X is E (XY → XY¯→ Y¯X) and not via I (which gives XY → YX → YX ¯ ‘some x is not-y’; but YX is ‘not: some x is y’, which must be turned round as ‘all y is not-x’. And these two statements are by no means equivalent. This being so, the trapezium cannot be completed and remains thus:— A

E

I

O

which expresses a contradiction (you cannot get to O via I and get to O via E), but not an ambiguity (which requires a ‘both’). In order to arrive at a scheme that will faithfully represent the relation between A, E, I, and O, ¯) we have to use four letters (V, W, X, Y say) and turn them upside down, (X in pairs. If, instead of V W X Y we use A B C D you will see that we arrive at Eddington’s EF-operators. Let us take a random conic from Kummer (No. 6, say) and mark in the appropriate EF-operators:— CDAB - BADC -CDAB

- ABCD CDAB - DCBA

209


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

This gives us the following trapezium:— - BADC

CDAB

-CDAB

- DCBA

whose sides are as follows: -DCBA - ABCD

-BADC BADC

¯ C¯ BA, we get the following equivalent figure:— By operating on all with D If we label these so:— ABCD - ABCD

DCBA DCBÅ

ABCD—A ¯ CD ¯ —E AB DCBA— I ¯ CB ¯ A—O D you will see that we have a scheme corresponding to that given on p. 2911 (with XY = A etc.), but with the difference that you can get to O from A indifferently via E or I. And we get the following figure:— A E

I O

210


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

But since there is a duality between points and lines—two points define a line •————• and two lines define a point

—it is indifferent whether the letters AEIO are represented by the sides or the angles of the trapezium (or square of opposition). Thus it turns out that the traditional logical AEIO propositions as treated by the traditional logicians have the same structure as Kummer or the EF-operators. In other words, they are capable of representing the structure of the existence of a thing. From my earlier discussion of different orders of existence—Presence, Absence, Double Absence, and so on—the reason for this can be seen quite easily in the following table of corresponding propositions:— All x is y All x is not-y Some x is y Some x is not-y

A is (fully) Present A is Doubly Absent relative to Present A is Singly Present relative to Doubly Absent A is Singly Absent relative to Present.

There is, as far as I can see, no particular significance in this parallel structure, it simply happens that ‘some’ can be interpreted as halfway between ‘all’ and ‘none’, so that some + some = all. It may be, however, that to understand ‘some’ and ‘all’ additively in terms of being is the only existentially valid interpretation. (Thus we can validly say A exists more than B, when A is present and B is absent—indeed the principle of superposition is purely additive of being—, but to speak of more men, or all men, is not valid, being an enumeration or generalization without a point of view. To say that A is present and B is absent is, precisely, to say that A is my point of view.) That the laws of Thought (or the Indian tetrad) should represent the structure of being is, however, not accidental; for there is no existence without the negative, and they define the negative—the Laws of Thought are Laws of Existence precisely because Thought is Existence (cogito ergo sum). Any statement in terms of the Laws of Thought or of the Indian tetrad is a statement about existence and any statement about existence can be expressed in such terms. Since existence has no application to a Tathågata, none of the four statements of the Indian tetrad is valid—they cannot be denied, since denial of one simply asserts another, and they cannot be asserted. They are †hapan⁄ya. (Your analysis of the four questions is most ingenious, and may be correct—I must think about it.)

211


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

It is perhaps noteworthy that the modern logicians do not interpret ‘all’ and ‘some’ additionally (and much less additionally-in-terms-of-being). They maintain that ‘all’ does not imply existence (in their sense), whereas ‘some’ does. ‘All men are mortal’ is held to be assertable whether there are men or not, whereas ‘some men are philosophers’ is held to mean that at least one man is a philosopher. On this argument ‘some dodos are female’, if asserted, asserts that dodos exist, whereas ‘all dodos are large-beaked’, if asserted, does not assert that dodos exist. This seems to be rubbish. More common sense, I fear. You might think, after this lengthy discussion in the realm of logic, that I am now going to discuss something else. You would be wrong. I have finished with the connexion between the Laws of Thought and the structure of Being (at least for the moment), but not with Stebbing and Logic. You say in your letter that you are too inexpert to say whether ‘AB implies A’ is a deductive proposition or not, and that you are prepared to accept what the logicians tell you on this point, even if they change their minds. Unhappily Stebbing does change her mind on this point, to the extent of two flatly contradictory statements on opposite pages. You ask, most pertinently, whether the truth of the proposition ‘AB implies A’ arises. The whole point is that it does not arise, and consequently it is not deductive. Stebbing, however, has an axe to grind, and falls between two stools (though why one should need two stools in order to grind an axe, I don’t know). Let me expand and expound. Owing, no doubt, to the rationalist faith that all things are rational, if they are not emotional, Stebbing wishes to maintain that mathematics is a science—a pure science, as opposed to empirical science (do you not already smell a rat?)—, and states that mathematics differs from the other sciences because the facts it deals with are not empirical facts. And since it deals with facts it is deductive, though since these facts are not empirical, it is not also inductive as the empirical sciences are. Mathematics is a purely deductive science. That is more or less how she puts the matter in one rather chatty chapter. My heart bleeds for Stebbing—what else can she say? If mathematics (and therefore Logic) is not a science, it might—oh horror!— be a religion. Now Stebbing says, later on, that a sharp distinction must be made between propositions with regard to matters of fact (which include all the propositions asserted by the natural sciences, and are reached by inductive reasoning) and propositions with regard to abstract concepts such as those of mathematics (I underline). In other words, we must distinguish between facts that are matters of fact, and facts that are the concepts of mathematics, the latter facts being, presumably, not matters of fact. (By now the rat has

212


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

become so smelly that the cat is out of the bag—mathematics does not deal with facts. However, we anticipate.) Propositions concerning matters of fact may be denied without contradiction: the propositions of mathematics, not being matters of fact, cannot be denied without contradiction, because ‘they are true no matter what the constitution of the actual world may be’. To assert the truth of such propositions is to assert that they follow from the initial concepts and axioms. To assert the truth of propositions regarding matters of fact ‘is to assert that they express facts with regard to what exists’. So Stebbing now admits that there is a difference between asserting the truth of a mathematical proposition and asserting the truth of a proposition regarding matters of fact. Several pages later Stebbing goes further (I quote in full):— There is a fundamental difference between inference by logical principles from asserted matters of fact, and inference by logical principles from purely logical propositions.a The latter cannot be asserted in the same sense as a proposition concerning a matter of fact can be asserted. Thus we may say that we do not assert the truth of mathematics; we assert the validity of the logical structure exhibited by the system of mathematical propositions. (MIL, p. 489) And finally, there is a footnote to this passage:— It is for this reason that mathematics cannot be regarded as a system of true propositions; it is a structure. (MIL, p. 489, footnote 1) But when we turn back to her statement of the Principles of Deduction we find this:— What is implied by a true proposition is true. This is called the principle of deduction since it is in virtue of this principle alone that we can deduce a conclusion. […] It might equally well be called the principle of assertion… (MIL, p. 192) What could be clearer? Mathematics has nothing to do with true propositions, and there is deduction only from true propositions. (And if mathe­matics is a structure how can it be a science?) So she is obliged, on p. 192, to say that: a.  Stebbing has just defined mathematics as ‘the science concerned with ‘deduction by logical priniciples from logical princples’.’

213


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

The formal principles stated above in terms of implication suffice for the construction of deductive systems, but they do not suffice for the drawing of conclusions. And on page 193 to say that: The principle of deduction and principle of substitutiona are involved in all demonstrative reasoning. Without these two principles it would be impossible to construct a deductive system.b And she adds:— The development of the primitive propositions stated in Principia Mathematica takes place in virtue of the repeated use of these two principles. Nonsense! At this point I venture to disagree with you. You say that for every positive statement or proposition a corresponding negative can be asserted, and a decision in favour of one against the other can only be made by appeal to what is outside logic… Consequently it would seem that if a logical statement is to be admitted on its own merits alone and unsupported for incorporation into the building of a structure, it must be admitted along with its contradictory opposite, whose exclusion in these conditions cannot be justified. Certainly, for every positive statement or proposition a corresponding negative can be asserted, provided it is clear that the positive statement or proposition has been asserted. If it has not been asserted, how can its negative be asserted? With Stebbing’s argument, much of which is taken from Hume, I agree. It is only propositions regarding matters of fact that can be either asserted or denied, and it is also only propositions regarding matters of fact that can be used ‘for incorporation into the building of a structure’; and provided your statement concerns only propositions regarding matters of fact I entirely agree with you. But your statement is made in connexion with the proposition ‘AB implies A’, which we both agree is not a proposia.  Which are excluded from the formal principles of implication. b.  I underline.

214


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

tion regarding matters of fact. What I am getting at is this. A logician such as Russell, may imagine that in writing his Principia Mathematica he is employing deductive reasoning. It flatters him to think that he has ‘abandoned the appeal to intuition’ and ‘made all his assumptions explicit’. That is why Stebbing insists that mathematics (and logic) is a ‘deductive science’, while at the same time clearly showing that it is nothing of the sort. What, however, is really happening (apart from incidental short cuts in descriptions) is this. The mathematician or logician, when determining the valid principles of mathematics or logic, is performing an act of reflexion bringing into view the structure of existence, and describing whatever parts of that structure he is interested in. Thus he does not incorporate a proposition such as ‘AB implies A’ into the building of structure; he sees a certain structural characteristic that he proceeds to describe as ‘AB implies A’. Sartre has (correctly) pointed out that the data of reflexion are certain, and apart from errors of description no mistake can be made. If reflexion reveals ambiguities, then these ambiguities are certain and not ambiguous. If reflexion reveals a structure describable as ‘AB implies A’, then there can be no doubt about the matter. Or rather there can be doubt about it, and this doubt about what is certain constitutes mauvaise foi. The most obvious example is the rationalist who, though he is certain that he exists (in virtue of the cogito), refuses to admit the certainty of his existence and takes refuge (as Kierkegaard points out) in (rational) thought, which is the subtlest way of not existing (this is the situation of A in Either/Or). What is deceptive is the insistence of the logicians that ‘AB implies A’ is a deductive proposition, with the subsequent confusion of a formal logical principle, with a deductive logical conclusion. The former is certain and can only be doubted by mauvaise foi; the latter is probable, and can only not be doubted by mauvaise foi. Quantum Mechanics, as Dirac shows, rest upon assumptions contrary to logical principles; it thus incorporates mauvaise foi into its equations. Quantum phenomena threaten the scientific observer with existence, and the measures that he takes not to exist are known as the Principles of Quantum Mechanics. They stop the infection from spreading above the subatomic level. The expression ‘a logical statement’ (with its partner ‘a logical argument’) is most unfortunate, since it entirely fails to distinguish between logical principles and logical conclusions. The latter are either asserted or denied as true or false: the former can be neither asserted nor denied, they are neither true or nor false, but simply there if we look reflexively. Another source of confusion is the fact that in order to express these certain logical principles use has to be made of the verb ‘to be’, with the result that these logical principles when expressed look grammatically like logical

215


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

conclusions. The copula ‘is’ looks the same in ‘every right angle is an angle’ as it does in ‘every swan is white’, but in the second proposition ‘is’ represents an assertion, whereas in the first it does not (except by analogy—see later). So long as you consider that ‘AB implies A’ is an assertion (and from your letter I gather that you do—you describe it, for example, as ‘a logical unilateral statement’), we shall not agree. Yet, as I noted above, you query whether the truth of ‘AB implies A’ arises: but this is to doubt whether, in fact, ‘AB implies A’ is an assertion. And how can a statement whose truth does not arise be unilateral? You will, perhaps, gather that I regard this question as being of fundamental importance, and I, for my part, gather that you regard it so, too. It may be that our differences here are the source of any others that we may have. Let me state my view clearly. It may be mauvaise foi not to doubt a statement that is only possible, that is a proposition regarding a matter of fact, that is a logical conclusion, that is, in brief, an assertion; but it is quite certainly mauvaise foi, the dangerous rationalist mauvaise foi, to doubt a statement that is certain, that is a reflexive description of structure, that is a logical principle, that is in brief, not an assertion. And it is because logicians do doubt such statements that we are led to believe that all ‘logical statements’ are logical conclusions; and since any verbal statement is a ‘logical statement’, we conclude that no utterance can ever express certainty. An utterance can express certainty, but it is then not an assertion—and I do not mean in the sense of Kierkegaard’s existential communication, unless that is understood to mean that we can only communicate certainties by means of analogy (perhaps it does mean that). A communication by analogy resembles an assertion in that the statement of the analogy is an assertion (e.g. ‘viññå~a ‘becomes’ nåma’), but the assertion is not assertion of the certainty (thus, far from stressing ‘become’ in that communication, I say regretfully that I am obliged to use the word in order to communicate, but would do without it if I could). Thus, in ‘AB implies A’ we have communication of a certainty by means of an analogy—‘AB implies A’, on the surface is an assertion such as ‘fire is hot and will heat you if you go close’, i.e. ‘AB causes A’. ‘A is A’ communicates by means of analogy—it is ostensibly the assertion that ‘A has the property of being A’: heat, for example, has the property of being hot, as you can demonstrate by applying a thermometer to what feels hot. It can, of course, be taken at its face value, and this is done by regarding it as an assertion, and in this way there is no harm done. But rationalists have the attitude that it must be taken at its face value, that a statement cannot not be an assertion. The most usual form of communication by analogy (which is never argument by analogy) is the parable, but it is not generally understood that the pa-

216


16.i.59

early letters

[el. 86]

rabola is also a form of such communication. (Thus the conics in Kummer communicate certain major aspects of the structure of being, in the form of analogy. Kummer asserts things about points and lines and conics, but communicates fundamental structure of being.) I realize that in this way of looking at things, any communication by analogy is, in a sense, a logical principle. But though there is no boundary between formal logic and mathematics, there does seem to be a boundary between mathematics and, for example, Joyce’s Ulysses, which is also unmistakably a communication by analogy. The difference is that mathematics is a structure whose description begins at the most fundamental point (the Laws of Thought defining the negative), whereas literary works begin anywhere in experience and do not pretend to communicate the whole structure. Thus, though perhaps ‘logical principles’ can be conveniently confined to a few of the simpler and more obvious levels of mathematical communication by analogy, there is no reason other than convenience for stopping short of the whole of mathematics. But, also, there is no good reason for extending the term beyond mathematics into literary or other similar forms of communication by analogy. We may note that the Suttas provide both forms, sometimes in the same sentence. Another way of distinguishing between an assertion (or denial) and a non-assertion is the fact that a non-assertion always begs the question—which is why it is a non-assertion. Now any statement can be regarded either as begging the question or not (a psycho-analyst regards all his patient’s statements as begged questions), though normally it is clear which is intended. The proof a that any statement can be regarded either as an assertion (not begging the question) or as a non-assertion (begging the question) runs as follows (by statement we mean proposition):—From the earlier part of this letter it is clear that a proposition p in its simplest form is an assertion ‘A exists’; and we showed that this asserts A and, in doing so, defines existence. If we change our attitude, putting ‘A’ in brackets, we shift the emphasis and get ‘[A] exists’. This is simply ‘“A exists” defines “existence”’ which is of the form ‘AB implies A’, which begs the question (is a non-assertion). But you will see without this that ‘A exists’ is not an assertion of a matter of fact. Thus ‘The Tathågata exists’ or ‘The Tathågata’s existence exists’ clearly does not beg the question (the second of these is less clear than the first, since it could well be taken in the sense ‘The Tathå­ gata’s [or anyone else’s] existence exists’), whereas ‘Existence exists’ clearly does. For this reason a communication by analogy appears to a rationalist as a fallacious argument. a.  This is a communication by analogy, so do not take ‘proof’ at its face value.

217


[el. 86]

seeking the path

16.i.59

The other night, at about half-past twelve, I was woken by a curious flapping noise over my head. I got up and investigated, and discovered on the bed under the mat under my pillow a smallish but extremely venomouslooking snake devouring a gecko. (Do I hear you wondering how a snake can look venomous? The answer is that any snake that you find on your bed at midnight looks incredibly venomous. This one was shiny brown with rather indeterminate yellow rings.) Fortunately, having its mouth full of no doubt delicious gecko it allowed itself to be caught and removed without giving any trouble. I can’t help feeling that that wretched gecko must have had an appointment with the snake, if the snake took all the trouble to come in and look under my pillow. The next morning was spent in taking away the gaps I found under my ku†i door and the caπkamana gate. We have just had some unexpected heavy rain. This is most welcome in providing me with bath water for the next three or four months. Unfortunately my cistern has not yet been treated to stop its leaking, and I did not bother to collect any rainwater. What is needed is half a bag of cement. This has been on its way since the middle of November, but still remains a project. I am not inclined, however, to curse at Ceylonese inefficiency, since it is undoubtedly one of the reasons why one can live here in peace and unmolested. Preserve me from a country where the people are united and efficient! A few scraps of ‘Daily Telegraph’ describing the French crisis. Extra­ ordinarily stuffy and panicky about the affair. The Algiers instigators were described as ‘idealists and adventurers’. Surely Churchill (is he still alive?) is, or was, an idealist and adventurer? This is the same sort of panic as inspired the Suez débâcle. If England can’t adapt herself better than this to changing conditions she won’t last long. Why didn’t she support Nasser against America? This is simply trying to keep the tide out with a mop instead of harnessing it to generate power. However, it is none of my business. The ‘Journal de Charleroi’, my usual provincial Belgian paper (my provincial English paper is the ‘Liverpool Echo’, most dreary), tells me, with an air of disapproval, that the Swedes are noted for their erotic films, usually shown only in low-class cinemas. This is a little unexpected somehow—perhaps the Swedes are now so bored that they are sinking into debauchery, or were they always debauched? Why does a Rotterdam paper give great apace to the account of an English Country Cricket Match (next to an article on Gide—who, surely, did not play the game)?…

218


1.ii.59

early letters

[ EL. 86a ]

[el. 86a]

1 February 1959

From the draft of a letter by Ven. Ñå~amoli. Thanks for your letter of 16 January. […] I related your experience of snake eating gecko in bed to Ven. Ñå~åloka 1, who was greatly scandalized and disturbed. He said such things oughtn’t to happen and he would write to you (I don’t know what about). Did it enter through your door or window or ceiling? Obviously you must allow crowds of geckos so that all visiting snakes’ mouths may at once be filled and kept constantly so. Sputnikski seems to be failing to go into the orbit expected (though not by me). He Just lives on where he is (in the ågantuka ku†i  2) with the gardening tools he bought himself and doesn’t seem to use, and the learned books he bought and doesn’t seem to learn. His inarticulate English is fearfully and wonderfully made, and Ven. Ñå~ad. has described him as Polish Volks­deutsch (how right Dostoievsky is about Poles!). What is in his mind I cannot guess, though I suppose (by deduction) that he has one and (by further deduction) that there must be something in it. He once asked me a question beginning ‘Vat ist anattå?’, but I couldn’t understand it, and my attempts to express a reply in the simplest elementary child’s English failed apparently to communicate anything. He has no converse with either Ven. Ñå~ad. or Ven. Ñå~am. and never comes to the dånaså¬å of evenings (mercifully). On another occasion (this is a sample of communication) he happened to be standing on the tennis ground—poking holes in the ground with a sharp stick as is his habit (alternating with buffooning with the dog; and I always know when he has been there by the line of little holes left by his proddings), and occasionally waving an arm or slapping a thigh or scratching an ear: all to himself (he suggests a mixture of shop-inspector and clown).—I said to him, pointing to the ironwood tree in new leaf and straining to be simple: ‘Do they have trees like that in Venezuela?’— Sputnikski (dramatically): ‘Ha? Naw! But dey ist menna menna otchads in Venezuellah!’—I: ‘What kind of orchards?’—S: ‘What a kind? Ha? Dey grow onna da trees!’—I: ‘So the orchards grow on trees in Venezuela?’—S: ‘Sure!’—I: ‘What kind of fruits?’—S: ‘Fruits? Ha? Ah dunno. Dey ist a vat you call a flowers, plantee valuable, in da joongle onna da trees dey grows, plantee valuable!’—I: ‘Oh.’ (By this time it had dawned on me that the ‘otchads’ were in fact not ‘orchards’ but ‘orchids’, and at this point the conversation, my last with him and some time ago now, died.) … God, they say, made man in his own image, so man is then an inexhaustible storehouse of the attributes of God, about whom we must surely be able to learn much by studying man.

219


[el. 86a]

seeking the  path

1.ii.59

About phenomena and being: I by no means disagree with your statement that what phenomena are not is other phenomena. That description describes phenomena in terms of themselves, which is, of course, perfectly correct, since there is nothing else in terms of which to describe them. Phenomena are being, being is phenomenal: and here we have the mirage in one of its forms, namely that phenomena and being are identical: while the one is two, the two are one. But while phenomena are, thus, identical with being (or better, they are identical with themselves—they are what they are—they just are), at the same time we can’t do away with the use of one of the words and use only the other, by which fact the duality of their identity re-emerges, which is most ambiguous. I underlined the words in ‘to be is to be phenomenal—i.e. to appear or to be capable of appearing’ (attributed by you to me as ‘my view’) because this raised the old difficulty of Whately Carrington’s ‘cognita and cognizables’. But that which is ‘capable of appearing’ already appears as ‘capable of appearing’ and so is not ‘capable of appearing’ since it has already appeared—i.e. it is only its presence which is absent, not the phenomenon, which is present-as-absent, so ‘phenomena capable of appearing’ is a bogus category in this sense, it seems. The phenomenon, qua phenomenon, always appears, whether appearing as ‘appearing’ or as ‘capable-of-appearing’. So the ‘capability’ must reside either ontologically in a mode of l’être du phénomène (i.e. phénomène de l’être being simply ‘essence’—see below), or epistemologically or phenomenologically is the manner of consciousness of it, which constitutes its mode (as present, past, future, elsewhere, etc.). It is these considerations that make me not entirely satisfied with this saving-clause I underlined. (The Realist/Idealist opposition misses and bypasses this point.) How right you are about the bogusness (I should like to use the word ‘fraudulent’) of Prof. Moore’s statement about unicorns! Alain on images is another who deceives himself as others with their ‘no black swans’ and ‘no unicorns’: these are mere claims to be able to control, and predict and prophecy about, fields to which the systems of knowledge employed cannot inherently decide owing to their terms of reference. To say ‘there are no unicorns in my field of vision’ might pass, but that is no good for some logician who wants to crack the ‘All’-whip. But to say ‘unicorns do not exist’ is to claim to be able to prove a negative, where a statement of this sort invites and requires verification. And there are no means of verifying a negative claim of this sort. So Prof. Moore is a fraud. Yet it is a statement flattering to the scope of one’s system of knowledge and also likely to draw support from those who forget to examine it and their re-

220


1.ii.59

early letters

[el. 86a]

spect for one’s power. (‘He must be a great man: he knows that unicorns don’t exist!’) Religious statements about God’s nature, etc., are analogously bogus because this type of statement is one that assumes the form of the ‘Scientific method’, which is that of abstract theory cum experimental-testin-the-empirical-world-of-existing-things: but this Religious Counterfeit of that method, while inviting ‘experimental test’ has no ‘empirical world’ where such a test could be made. This is the fraud here (‘lend me some money on the gold ingot in my safe; it always vanishes when you open the safe door, but it is always there again when the door is shut; and I’ll give you a mortgage deed on the ingot, such a magnificent one it is too!’). The scientists cheat in the same way in a different field: they say ‘Look what we have done, what we have found out about, and can do with, the objective world. Give us a little more time (and give us a lot more money and faith) to experiment with, and we shall soon be able to find out all about subjectivity’ (but glossing over the fact that their technique, their terms of reference, preclude them from examining anything subjective or private). In this sense Religion (of this sort) and Science (of this sort) are equally fraudulent. Logicians again (who as a tribe serve equally either Religion or Science), while of the greatest value in their own field (the tidy ordering of assumptions, and drawing of conclusions from assumptions, by means of other assumptions), are also given to cheating, too, and in their own special way, which is this; ‘Given certain postulates, certain First Principles, Basic assumptions, our Laws of Thought will if the assumptions are correct, give you a certain and absolutely correct answer. Now here are our basic assumptions, they are this and this and this. We all agree, don’t we, that they must be made? For otherwise we can’t talk or get anywhere, can we? Agreed, then, these are the Unquestionables, all laid out on the table, no secrets, no mysticism. And so, since we are all agreed on this, and since the Laws of Thought being necessity itself, cannot err (if they are rightly stated), logic must always be right and can always give the certain answer; for if logic has no answer to your question, it is your question that merely needs restating and so there are no problems at all. And since nothing outside the field of logic matters, logic is all-valid. Hence logic is the first word, the Middle Word, and the LAST WORD.’ The cheating here consists in maintaining and cherishing forgetfulness of the possibility of questioning, on any level at all, the certainly basic assumptions, and in stressing the dangers (which are as wide as that of being) of disregarding logic in its own field. Irrationality is no alternative to logic, but only a (futile) defiance of it in its own field and it falls quite within logic’s own domain. Neither logic nor irrationality-as-anti-logic are niyyånika.3

221


[el. 86a]

seeking the  path

1.ii.59

Change of Subject: A witticism (or, if you like, a wittischism) occurred to me yesterday about ‘necessity’): While the proverb speaks of ‘making a virtue of necessity’, Kant speaks (with his Categorical Imperative) of ‘making a virtue of necessity’. This raises a point about descriptions: Kant (and others since) claimed that human personality has a ‘moral eye’ which ‘sees’ intuitively, as the eye sees visually visible forms, what ought to (must) be done. This I hold to be a gross example of misuse of argument by analogy resulting in erroneous and fictitious description. I find no such faculty in myself; only a certain sense of expediency, which comes under judgement. This kind of description I regard as potentially dangerous. Your interpretation of the four Tathågata-positions is ingenious; but I must think it over further. A proposito: ‘essence’ now is a fearful pun (a mediaeval logician’s concept initiated by Aristotle, I believe). ‘Essence’ (from ‘esse’, ‘to be’) is used by logicians for the ‘characteristic’ (particular individual phenomenon) held to be peculiar to a class or a thing, in virtue of which the class, or thing, is recognized to be itself. (The distinguishing ‘attribute’ as opposed to other attributes, called ‘qualities’.) The term is thus thoroughly ambivalent and utraquistic, so most useful for verbal presti(digitazion)e, (remove what is in brackets and see what remains). While the referent of ‘essence’ is thus made to be a ‘thing’s’ distinguishing characteristic phenomenon, the word ‘essence’ is a metaphorical use of ‘being’. But this phenomenon called ‘essence’, is that of something (whether of a Kantian ‘ding an sich’ 4 or of an Abhidhamma constellation of subjective—objective dhammas with no self-substance makes little difference,) it is that by which I recognize what this is and believe it to be what it is; but this ‘essence’ is not the thing’s ‘being’ in the sense of its ‘existence’, which somehow, in turn, becomes another excreted and concreted attribute, a category now predictable of a logical subject, namely the thing’s quality-of-existing. The fraud is now complete, for the logical copula is we agreed on as one of the basic assumptions that logic cannot investigate or handle. But by playing on the ambivalence of the word ‘essence’ in this metaphorical use (which play is possible in virtue of the existential ambivalent identity-relation between consciousness and being and phenomena) we have split being into two, and now pretend that the copula is is not really being at all (although it is still being on the verbal plane; and if it were not, words would not correspond at all to life) and so is exempt from need for examination when we are questioning and investigating being and its structure. And if we can now persuade ourselves as well that the copula is does not count and that being is really a quality, then with this subtle chosisme 5 logic has usurped supremacy over being and we now believe that it can answer every

222


1.ii.59

early letters

[el. 86a]

existential problem (whereas logic is always by the assumptions subordinate to being). But then we find that a ‘thing’, now recognizable by its ‘essence’ (Sartre’s phénomène de l’être), curiously both exists (is) and has existence (has being). It is this diversion of attention from Logic’s Constants that logicians ancient and modern, European and Indian are desperate to maintain and to conceal from themselves and from others the uncertainty in this necessary assumption. But every attempt to insulate the copula is from being must fail, for if maintained then logic has no connexion with being (existence) whatever and so cannot be applied to existence except by delusion. At the same time logical statements may be called on, in spite of what logicians may say, and certainly without their consent, to exhibit as a witness in the witness-box (but not as judge or jury) their patterns as evidence of certain important structures of thought—or so I take it. What do you think? As to the statement ‘AB implies A’:— (1). By ‘assertion’ I mean a ‘positive statement’ (e.g. ‘AB implies A’) as opposed to the corresponding negative ‘denial’ (e.g. ‘AB does not imply A’). Concise Oxford Dictionary says simply ‘to assert’ is ‘to declare’. (2). Truth: There seems to be the following kinds (i) legal-truth, (ii) correspondence-truth, (iii) consistency-truth, (iv) beauty-truth, v) necessitytruth (and maybe there are others, too, but no matter). (3). Is ‘AB implies A’ taken to represent the cogito? From your handling of ‘AB implies A’ and the word ‘description’, I am rather led to suppose that you regard ‘AB implies A’ as a formal statement (as a Principle) of the formula cogito ergo sum, in a depersonalized paraphrase form, namely something like this: ‘If I exist(s) (= a) cogitating (B), then I exist(s) (A)’: Is this so? If so then I disagree for the following reasons:— (4). Is ‘AB implies A’ a description or not? While you say you agree with me that the truth of the statement ‘AB implies A’ does not arise (at all) unless it is mistaken for a proposition, yet you say as follows:— The Mathematician or logician, when determining the valid a principles of mathematics is performing an act of reflexion bringing into view the structure he is interested in. He sees a certain structural characteristic that he proceeds to describe as ‘AB implies A’. Sartre (correctly) pointed out that apart from errors of description b no mistake can be made. c a.  My italics: and, I wonder, why the appeal to value here? b.  My italics. c.  Incidentally, as a description of reflexion I find this oversimplified: maybe there

223


[el. 86a]

seeking the  path

1.ii.59

Now. First, with this you make the statement ‘AB implies A’, a description. Well and good. But then the question of its truth does arise: namely the correspondence-truth of description with described or conversely, if ‘AB implies A’ raises no question of truth at all, then it cannot be claimed to describe anything whatever, not even itself: it is purely abstract. (5). If a description is it free from errors? If the statement ‘AB implies A’ is a mathematician’s description of what he sees on reflexion (would he not more likely call this ‘introspection’ with a grimace?) then either it, or the set of descriptions to which it belongs, must, if ‘errors of description’ are to be avoided, describe in some way, direct or indirect, the personal viewpoint (‘I’ or 1st person singular verb), otherwise it is deficient and falls into the No-view Realist fallacy. Now ‘AB implies A’, entirely quelconque: 6 general, depersonalized and independent of the particular natures of the members, shows me nothing of the personal viewpoint directly or indirectly, and where in the set of logical Principles or Laws of Thought does the ‘I’ viewpoint come in? It does not. (It is relegated to grammar.) And if intended to describe reflexion existentially as the cogito ‘AB implies A’ exhibits a serious error of description. Cogito ergo sum & ‘if cogitatio is, then esse’. While it may well work within the field of bhava and be indispensable there, it is not niyyånika in any way that I can see. It cannot replace the cogito since it only distorts that by depersonalization (see (3) above). 6). The form of the statement: I believe it is legitimate to say that ‘AB implies A’ and ‘if AB, then A’ are equivalent. If that is correct, then, in this second form ‘AB implies A’ looks superficially similar in form to imasmiµ sati idaµ hoti expressed in the form of ‘If this, then that’ or the cogito expressed in the form ‘If I think, then I am’. There are, it seems to me, important differences: (i) in ‘AB implies A’ (or ‘If AB, then A’) the natures of A and B are completely unimportant so long as they are merely different and suitably combinable. In the cogito and imasmiµ sati idaµ hoti the natures of the concepts employed are of primary importance; for the cogito is nothing if not that it employs the unique first person (‘I’) and the two unsubstitutable concepts of consciousness and being; and likewise imasmiµ sati idaµ hoti is not expandable just anyhow as a logical universal, but only by the pa†iccasamuppåda formula, the choice of the concepts in which are of absolutely first importance, and includes the constituents necessary for are minds such that reflexion is like opening a cupboard door, switching on a torch, and describing the shelves’ structure seen there: but I find my mind much more like a roam whose walls, ceiling and floor are looking glasses facing each other, and that is very hard to describe. But this aside.

224


1.ii.59

early letters

[el. 86a]

asmimåna (= ‘I’ first person, consciousness and being. So while ‘AB implies A’ is, in its form, quite quelconque and quite impersonal and thus unexistential both the cogito and imasmiµ sati idaµ hoti legitimately expanded are personal and existential. Infinity: While the recourse to infinity gives nescience freedom of movement in proportion to the number of factors of a situation realized to infinity and consequently made indefinite, yet this infinity, owing to its indefiniteness, renders what is infinitized existentially absolutely ineffectual. Grammar, though so greatly despised, is sometimes instructive: And here we find the verb has the infinite mood, in which it is depersonalized, relegated to a position not even admitting potentiality, and consequently quite neutralized as regards any effective (verbal) action. It is one of the weaknesses of Berkeley’s formula ‘esse est percipi’ that it is expressed in the grammatical infinitive, and so is depersonalized and quite abstracted from existence; if he had, like Descartes, worked in the finite form of the Indicative, he would perhaps has seen its weakness (‘I am, therefore I am perceived does not claim the unquestioned immediate recognition that ‘cogito ergo sum’ does; this is simply the mood of être vu 7; which invites completion, owing to its one-sided passivity, by inventing God by Whom I am perceived. Infinity enters at once with double reflexion, and I rather think that conscious reflexion is never reducible below double reflexion, but ‘esse est percipi’ forgets the percipiens 8 in my definite finity.) ‘AB implies A’ if considered in this light can only belong to (side with) the infinite type of expression and never to the finite. (7). Identification: the ontological act-of-self-identifying is quite differently treated in the cogito and the Statement. The cogito implies that ‘when I think then I am self-identifying (making be)’ while the Statement implies (in this direction) that ‘when A and B are combined, A remains unchanged and self-identical with A on return to, or repetition of, A’. The cogito shows that my self-identity of being is contingent upon consciousness but the Statement only declares that self-identity does not change on a return to self (A). I certainly agree with you that it is ‘dangerous rationalist mauvaise foi’ to doubt what is certain (just as it is dangerous religious mauvaise foi to believe what is uncertain), and I think we agree in regarding the cogito as a true description and as unquestionably certain, and in the same way, the pa†iccasamuppåda formula. Buy I do not, for the reasons stated, accept ‘AB implies A’ on this footing at all. That I, cognizing, identity, I do not doubt; but that an identification made cannot be doubted I do not admit. (8). Certainty: I do not know how far we agree on this matter. I am certain that I am, but not certain what it is that I am. Whether I am myself or

225


[el. 86a]

seeking the  path

1.ii.59

not is open to doubt even in ordinary usage, since I can be ‘quite myself’ on one day, ‘not quite myself’ on another, and ‘beside myself’ on another. I am certain, when I see, that I see; but though I identify what I see (recognize it) I am not certain what it is that I see; hence the constant question (always possible to renew after suspended by a ‘satisfactory’ answer). ‘What is this that I see?’ I am certain that ‘I am doing’, but my identification of what I am doing is uncertain. True, it (and the other cases too) is, or seems, in pure immediacy, certain what I am doing, but pure immediacy is only part of an infinite hierarchy and what I am doing now, namely writing-this-letter, is part of spending-a-day-at-Polgasduwa, which is part-of-living-at-the-Hermitage, and so on, but ad infinitum. But, N.B., the ‘infinite’ here is ‘indefinite’, so while I am unquestionably certain that I am doing, I am quite uncertain what it is that I am doing, since that always recedes into the indefinite. (9). I have doubtless completely misapprehended your intended communication regarding the statement ‘AB implies A’ and so the whole of clauses (1) to (8) will have been a ‘wrong identification’ which shows great uncertainty and many other things besides. To change the subject: does your present view of past’s, present’s, and future’s, being included in the Present agree with Sartre’s views on these three modes of temporality set forth in L’Être et le Néant? If you diverge, in what respect is that? The Bhaddekaratta Sutta is admirable in this respect. I find I am now inclined to use, for myself only, the following English equivalents for the pa†iccasamuppåda formula:— 1. avijjå = nescience (of the four saccåni) 2. saπkhårå = determinations 3. viññå~a = consciousness (pure subjectivity) 4. nåmar¨pa = name-and-form (recognition and pure objectivity) 5. sa¬åyatana = the sixfold Individual Facticity (of self and world) 6. phassa = presence 7. vedanå = feeling (affective experience) 8. ta~hå = need (for feeling) 9. upådåna = consumption (on physical level) and assumption (on verbal and other levels) 10. bhava = being (existence) —etc. Also: uppåda = arising (appearance, phenomenality) anurodha = construction (favouring) pa†inirodha = obstruction (opposing) ta~hå’s two modes in uppåda nirodha = destruct(urat)ion Any comments or criticisms, especially of nos. 5 and 6?

226


6.ii.59

early letters

[el. 86a]

Further, the following vague idea about the pa†iccasamuppåda in general crossed my mind: the full form, starting with avijjå, describes the state of the puthujjana (and nirodha that of the arahat); but in the form used by the Buddha in the Saµyutta 9 to describe his ‘discovery of the ancient way’ as the Bodhisatta on the point of gaining enlightenment, he proceeds backwards from jaråmara~a as far as viññå~a and then ‘turns back’ to nåmar¨pa, the point of interest here might be the replacement (in the formula used for this purpose i.e. to describe the attaining of enlightenment) of avijjå and saπkhårå by an infinite regression, namely the infinite alternation of viññå~a-nåmar¨pa. Avijjå is inappropriate to the description of the actual process of attaining enlightenment (and saπkhårå as actions are not performed by an arahat, qua arahat. One other point: I have been seeking three convenient terms for classifying the three distinguishable blocks in the pa†iccasamuppåda, which are on different levels namely (a) 1-2, (b) 3-9 or 10, and (c) 11-12. At present I tentatively use the following three: (c) the historical temporal (past-andfuture, simultaneously mentally incompatible), (b) the personal (and simultaneously mentally indispensable), (a) the impersonal (and simultaneously compatible). I am not altogether satisfied with (a), or for that matter with any.

*** —the cogito says ‘I am conscious whenever I am my self-identity’ but the Statement says ‘Self-identity is valid’, which is something very different indeed. —‘AB implies A’ assumes that A remains unchanged in the repetition, the return to it by identification; but how can we be sure it has not changed meanwhile? And if it has, then ‘AB does not imply A’ is appropriate. [ EL. 87 ]

6 February 1959

Thought:—If Oxford is the home of Lost Causes, then Cambridge is doubtless the home of Lost Effects—remember the poem beginning ‘Remote and Ineffectual Don’, which must certainly be referring to a Lost Effect, resident at Cambridge, of one of the Oxford Lost Causes. I still occasionally find fresh things in Stebbing to disagree with, but she is now fast becoming of no further interest. I managed to disentangle the definitions she gives of ‘all’ and ‘some’ propositions, which was a bit of a business. I won’t bore you with the result, which is really of not very much

227


[el. 87]

seeking the path

6.ii.59

interest to anybody, except to say that the principal confusion is due to Russell’s definition of existence, where ‘dodos exist’ is true if there are some dodos (unspecified). This is a complete fantasy. The only way that dodos, or anything else, can exist is by being specified, i.e. by having a determined place in the network of negatives that constitutes existence. If a thing, or things, are unspecified they are undetermined, or in other words, they are not things. You can legitimately say either ‘75% of dodos are female’, which is a purely statistical statement; equivalent to ‘of every 100 dodos that I have met 75 have been female’ (which specifies certain female dodos as ‘havingbeen-met-by-me’), or ‘there are some female dodos in the London Zoo’ (which specifies certain female dodos as being in the London Zoo). But Stebbing’s definition of ‘Some dodos are female’ as some (unspecified) things are both dodos and female falls hopelessly between the two, and means (if it means anything) that the concept of a female dodo is not self-contradictory, that you can think of female dodos, without mauvaise foi (but even here ‘female dodos’ is specified as ‘thinkable-of-by-you-without-mauvaise foi’). The attempt to have unspecified existence of female dodos is (once again) the attempt to ignore the subject. Another thing, of rather more interest, is in connexion with Russell’s theory of types. This (as you know) can be pictured as, at the lowest level, an assortment of things; and then, at the next level, as an assortment of the classes of those things; and then, at a still higher level, as an assortment of the classes of those classes of things; and so on, with the pattern becoming more general at each higher level. You can imagine these patterns as drawn on shelves, with the particular things at the bottom of the cupboard, and the more general classes and classes of classes and so on as drawn on the various shelves in ascending order (note that Russell himself tends to regard things as themselves being classes [of appearance], and thus suggests that the cupboard might possibly extend downwards indefinitely [horrid thought!]—but I don’t know if he would admit that an appearance is itself a class of appearances). Now it seems, according to Stebbing, that though the Theory of Types has been found necessary in deriving mathematics from formal logical principles, certain difficulties have arisen; and to deal with these difficulties Russell has postulated the Axiom of Reducibility. This Axiom is to the effect that to any property of a higher order there is an equivalent property of lower order. At first sight this does not convey very much, but on thinking about it a bit it suddenly occurred to me that what this axiom says is simply that all the shelves of the cupboard are made of glass (i.e. are transparent). In this way, on looking down from on top you will see all the various patterns at different levels superimposed upon the

228


6.ii.59

early letters

[el. 87]

patterns at the lowest level. But what else do we have here but my simile of the glass show-case? (It is true, of course, that my glass show-case is a more elaborate affair than this, since it has to deal with different levels of viññå~a and nåma as well as of r¨pa, but if we confine ourselves to r¨pa the parallel is almost exact.) Russell sometimes has some bright ideas, but they are all vitiated by his hopeless fundamental outlook. It is noteworthy that his brother (and sister) logicians have rejected the Axiom of Reducibility as not self-evident, and have tried to do without it (they claim to have succeeded). But I arrived at my glass show-case by considering what is structurally necessary, i.e. what is self-evident, what must be so; and I conclude that Russell, here, is right (though doubtless for the wrong reasons) as against his fellow logicians. You will see, no doubt, that the Principle of Superposition of the quantum theory is dependent upon this axiom, though the quantum physicists have gone to the other extreme to the logicians in postulating that the whole affair is so transparent that there are no shelves—in other words, that there is only one level, namely, that of the electron (and its fellow particles). In my last letter I may have given the impression that mathematics, generally, is self-evident—i.e. derived from (or implied by) formal logical principles beginning with the three Laws of Thought (which themselves give the structure of the Negative). This needs qualification. It is possible to introduce arbitrary, self-contradictory, assumptions as primitive concepts (of mauvaise foi) and then to proceed by normal mathematical methods. The result is quantum mechanics, or Riemann’s geometry, or Lobachevsky’s geometry 1, and so on, all of which incorporate mauvaise foi in their equations of self-contradictory multiplication (Russell and Whitehead have shown—it took an entire volume it seems—that m x n = n x m follows from self-evident principles, whence m x n ≠ n x m is necessarily self-contradictory). Now I do not suggest that Riemann was convinced that parallel lines come together, nor that Lobatschewsky was convinced that they go further apart—I have no doubt that both mathematicians travelled by railway without any hesitation at all. But the diehard rationalist logicians (such as Stebbing) insist that Euclid’s axiom that parallel lines stay the same distance apart is no more self-evident than that they come together or get further apart. The fact that Stebbing certainly travels by train shows that she does not believe her own statement, and that she can only maintain her position by an act of mauvaise foi. That Euclid’s axiom is self-evident is clear from the fact that when one starts geometry at school there is not the slightest difficulty in understanding the axiom, whereas Riemann, for example, would be incomprehensible. Stebbing would seem to be maintain-

229


[el. 87]

seeking the path

6.ii.59

ing that schoolboys would find Riemann’s geometry as simple as Euclid’s, which is clearly nonsense. (Why is Riemann advanced geometry?) On the question of self-evidence Stebbing contradicts herself, saying in one place ‘Self-evidence is a relative notion. What we are able to doubt depends on our previous knowledge and our mental capacity’, and in another, that the fundamental logical principles ‘are all psychologically self-evident’; which suggests that from some other, non-psychological point of view they may not be self-evident. To what is psychology relative? The quantum mechanics’ self-contradicting assumption, as you will remember, is that there are quantities that are not numbers. The point I am making is this. You are quite right in saying, as you did in your last letter, that even though an assumption is, existentially speaking, unquestionable, yet, ultimately, that too can be questioned—provided that by assumption is meant what one chooses to assume for the occasion as opposed to what one cannot help assuming on every occasion. By this I mean that we can choose, or choose not, to assume that parallel lines meet (i.e. that lines that I can see for myself remain equidistant are really not so, that A is really not-A); but we have choice but to assume that these parallel lines are parallel (i.e. that a thing is as it appears, that A is A) before we choose to assume that parallel lines do, or do not, meet. The question is, do lines that remain equidistant meet? (The example is perhaps not the best since it is difficult—and for me not possible—to show that ‘parallel lines remain equidistant’ is as self-consistent as ‘1 + 2 = 2 + 1’, which would have been a better example. By this I mean that ‘1 + 2 = 2 + 1’ can more easily be reduced to terms of Kummer Structure. But you will, no doubt, see what I mean without that’s being necessary.) I must pre-assume that parallel lines remain (are) equidistant before I can question, ‘do lines that are equidistant meet?’ If I choose to assume that they do meet, then I am mauvaise foi, since I pre-assume ‘A [is A]’ (this pre-assumption is not an assertion as the assumption is, or rather it is assertion of A, but not that A is A) and assume ‘A is not-A’. (Alternatively I can assume } , not in mauvaise foi, that ‘A is A’. The result is Euclid.) I assert understand the saying ‘man is a question’ not as my asking ‘Is A really A? Is it not perhaps not-A?’, but as my asking ‘Is there something beyond A? Is there also not-A?’ The drawings of Kummer I sent you are all accurate, except that the conics joining the points are freehand. I have now been trying to draw Kummer showing point 16, which hitherto has been at infinity (or at your eye, which, is the same). But it is a hopeless task, since the positions of the points must now be found by trial and error, and there are now 16 instead of 10 conics to deal with. (With point 16 at infinity six of the conics were

230


6.ii.59

early letters

[el. 87]

seen as straight lines, and their intersection, given one conic, fixed all the points.) But though I have not succeeded it has been good practice trying to see how exactly the various conics are oriented as a solid figure. The approach to Kummer via Eddington is rather unfortunate, since he lays much stress on operators (points/conics) with square -1 and anticommuting operators. These, when Kummer is grasped existentially, are really quite unimportant. This can be understood when it is seen that the speed of light is a fiction introduced in order to keep space purely objective— Newtonian space was purely objective, and light had ‘infinite velocity’. But since space is not purely objective Newton was only approximate. There were two ways of correcting him: (i) by leaving light with ‘infinite velocity’ and introducing a subject or point of view, which, however, is useless for science, and (ii) by leaving ‘space’ purely objective and giving light an absolute but not infinite velocity. Eddington’s interpretation of Kummer is based on (ii), whereas mine, in so far as it applies to physicist’s ‘space’ (if at all) is based on (i). Consequently the ‘four dimensions at right angles, three spatial and one temporal’ do not appear at all; and instead we have the 16-fold Kummer pattern on each glass shelf, each higher one more general than the last. The anticommuting operators express certain relations between different parts of different shelves, but since the whole thing is transparent (by the Axiom of Reducibility) these relations are of little interest in themselves (since everything is projected onto the bottom shelf). What is of great interest is the relation of the sixteen elements on each shelf one with another (of which I sent you the outline a few weeks ago). Any two elements on a given shelf define one element on the shelf above, and since there are 256 relations between sixteen elements you have 256 elements on the shelf above—but this is simply sixteen elements repeated sixteen times, i.e. at each level there are sixteen ways of having a general past, and these sixteen are the sixteen elements of the shelf above (or rather, you have fifteen ways of having a general past, and one way of not having it: 15 + 1 = 16). I have just caught the 50th tarantula; they are, fortunately, much less frequent than at the beginning—the first twenty-five took only about six months. I now no longer live at the end of the road. The culverts were completed in November last, and the road is used by vans and lorries transporting the fishermen’s catch. This is a slight disturbance, but since there are usually not more than six vehicles, and they pass mostly in the morning, which is my least disturbable period they are not much of a nuisance—less than the trains at Dodanduwa, which never worried me very much. The fishermen,

231


[el. 87]

seeking the path

6.ii.59

fortunately, are nearly inaudible. The Salt Superintendent tells me that he is collecting live coral, apparently to see if it can be used for cementing the boulders of the breakwaters of the harbour they will be making. It has never been tried before, so it seems, but it sounds quite promising. If it works it has the advantage over cement that the structure gets stronger and stronger as time goes by and the coral grows… A few evenings ago a bearded young man turned up and, without so much as ‘by your leave’, proceeded to strip off a layer of clothing, which he hung up on a tree. Then, comfortably clad in a sarong, he stuck some incense sticks in a pile of sand and lit them. Underneath he inscribed with his finger the letters [   ] (? mano, manu). This done, he proceeded to inspect the place (from outside, since I was walking on the caπkamana). Then my dåyaka arrived with gilampasa, and the young man told him what he wanted for breakfast. This, I thought, was the right moment to intervene (one must never be too hasty in these matters, or one may make a fool of oneself), so I asked him why he had come, leaving my dåyaka, to cope with the torrent of words (very high-pitched) that I got in reply. I then firmly told him that he could not spend the night here, and this was echoed by my dåyaka. So, surprised but quite tame, he asked for a drink of water and said he would go. And, having drunk, he went (after putting on his clothes again)… Crime? Religion? Lunacy? Or simply mendicancy? I would bring to your attention (If it is not already there) the expression sometimes to be met with in the Suttas, viññå~aµ vuddhiµ vir¨¬hiµ vepullaµ (åpajjeyya).2 Growth of consciousness (i.e. of a negative) seems odd at first sight; but when it is understood that consciousness is defined by what it is the negative of, the matter becomes clearer. Growth of the object of consciousness naturally entails growth of what it is not—for, after all, growth in an object (unless we understand that object simply gets bigger, like a balloon or a boy growing into a man, which, however, is more properly change) is increase of its intensity or presence, and consciousness is simply the presence of the object. And this growth of consciousness generally, i.e. when not simply applying to increase of consciousness of A at the expense of consciousness of B, is sharpening of bhava ta~hå. But since it applies to all things, pleasant, painful, or neither, it is not very easily apprehended item. (The difficulty of seeing it is rather analogous to that of seeing one’s own character. For example: I am aware that I have a certain manner that is capable on some occasions—perhaps not very frequently—of provoking a very marked dislike, and even hatred, for me. This even took the form once, of a vindictive, though quite trivial action

232


8.ii.59

early letters

[el. 87]

to spite me.a Now this is totally incomprehensible to me, and whenever I do find somebody who hates my guts, I am completely at a loss to know why.b Perhaps you can tell me what it is; I can’t see it for myself. And so it seems to be with bhava ta~hå—other people are in a better position to note an increase or decrease in this than one is oneself. Have I changed in the last ten years? The question to me is meaningless—I, as always, am the invariant of whatever transformation is taking place. The world has changed, certainly; and no doubt it is in this change of the world that I must look for any loss [or gain] of bhava ta~hå. Do you think?)… 8th Feb. Many thanks for your letter of the 5th, which has in some miraculous way managed not to cross this one, due for posting tonight. You can assure Ven. Ñå~åloka that I have now sealed off the snakes’ way of entry (under the door), and nothing larger than an earthworm can get into the room at night, by door, window, or ceiling. Ven. Ñå~åloka’s excitements are quite inexplicable. He himself has a most cavalier attitude towards snakes. You say you by no means disagree with my statement that ‘what phenomena are is other phenomena.’ I am glad to hear it. Unfortunately, what I thought I said (and what I intended to say) was that what phenomena are not is other phenomena. Do you also by no means disagree with that? (Perhaps the two statements, in a certain way, are not contradictory.) By ‘to be capable of appearing’—perhaps, as you point out, an unfortunate phrase—I mean precisely, as you also point out, ‘to be present as an absence’. I did not at all intend to suggest Carrington’s ‘cognizables’. I must point out, however, that there is a Sutta (S.XXXV, x,2) with the expression Ye te manoviññeyyå dhammå aviññåtå aviññåtapubbå na ca vijånåsi na ca te hoti, vijåneyyanti…4 that—if you forget Carrington—legitimates the usage. Whether it is bogus or not depends on how you understand it. As I understand it—I think you agree—it is not bogus. Kant’s moral eye won’t do, of course; but Sartre points out that things appear accompanied by commands—‘do this with me’—which a.  I do not mean because of any views I hold or even in my manner of expressing myself, which no doubt can be irritating enough sometimes (what makes it irritating, I think, is the fact that I am not concerned if it is—though I never set out to be irritating, which also is irritating); but purely in my appearance, or tone of voice, or gesture, or way of walking, or something of that nature. b.  Perhaps it is—this is rather subtle—because they somehow sense that I am incapable—like Stavrogin 3—of hating them; which is probably—I don’t know—a dreadful insult.

233


[el. 87]

seeking the path

8.ii.59

is precisely their significance. Remember the bottle in Alice with the label ‘drink me’ on it. So, a cup of tea commands ‘put sugar in me, stir, and drink’. But these are in no sense moral (unless you ‘have a moral outlook’, when, of course, everything, has a moral significance and asserts moral injunctions). About AB implies A. You suggest that I equate the statement AB implies A in its formal aspect with the form of cogito ergo sum. I only took AB implies A as an example of a formal logical principle, not by any means as a particularly important one, and I might have chosen some other one (such as ‘[A or B] implies [B or A]’ or. ‘Not not-A implies A’). But now that you mention the fact I note that cogito ergo sum, if understood as ‘“I am thinking” implies “I am”’, has the form, if A = I am, B = thinking, AB = I am thinking, of ‘AB implies A’. AB implies A is a description of, amongst other things, the structure of the reflexive datum described as cogito ergo sum. It is a true description of the structure of this datum. This, however, is not at all the same as saying that it is true that AB implies A. The truth of AB implies A no more arises than the truth of cogito ergo sum. Note, however, that the words ‘cogito ergo sum’ are also a description, and the question whether they are a true description arises. It is apparently an assertion, and Russell makes a fool of himself by treating it as one. But, as I remarked, any communication (and therefore description) cannot help but appear as an assertion. There is no other way of describing. But there are two ways of taking it—(i) as an assertion: in which case we have ‘It is true (as a matter of fact) that “AB implies A”, and “AB implies is a true description”—this is equivalent to “AB causes A”’; (ii) not as an assertion: in which case we simply have ‘AB implies A’ is a true description. To put it differently, in (i) the A that is implied in AB is a later or different A from that appearing in AB, and this is a probable statement (e.g. ‘a rain-cloud implies rain’, which can be understood as ‘this is a rain-cloud, therefore it will [probably] rain’), whereas in (ii) the A implied by AB is the same A as that appearing in AB, and this is a certain statement (‘“I am thinking” implies “I am”’ must be understood as ‘I cannot be thinking unless I exist’, or ‘[My] thinking is a mode of [my] existence’). [The word valid, as you note, is redundant and should be omitted.] When I say that cogito ergo sum has the form AB implies A I do not at all mean that AB implies A means cogito ergo sum. AB implies A refers to all reflexive data having the same form, such as ‘“this pen exits” implies “existence”’, or ‘“this pen exits” implies “this pen”’, or ‘“I am thinking” implies “thinking”’ or ‘nåmar¨pa implies (paccayå)… vedanå’. When you

234


8.ii.59

early letters

[el. 87]

say that AB implies A is quite general and quelconque and requires only that the entities A and B are suitably combinable, it seems to me that you are missing the distinction between (i) and (ii) above. Only entities that satisfy (ii) are admissible and these entities are all such as appear in combination to reflexion only. Thus ‘A right angle implies an angle’, which comes under (ii) (as opposed, for example, to ‘a rain cloud implies rain’, which comes under (i)), is a reflexive description only, and, as such, is concerned with the structure of being. Upon examining reflexively the structure of the object ‘right-angle’, I find that its negatives, in one direction, are an ‘acute-angle’, an ‘obtuse-angle’, a ‘reflex-angle’ and so on. In other words ‘angle’ is the invariant of certain transformations, right-angle → reflex-angle, obtuseangle → acute-angle, etc. ‘Angle’ is, as it were, the medium in which I travel to pass from ‘right-angle’ to ‘acute-angle’, and this is a structural feature. What perhaps misleads is this. The invariant of a transformation is always the subject, I, and consequently AB implies A, where A is the invariant, necessarily involves the personal view-point (which you deny). But owing, to the fact that different layers of consciousness are involved, the subject I ‘becomes’ (as discussed before, viññå~a → nåma → r¨pa) the background (general) object A, against which B is the foreground (particular) object (or the centre of attention). (This involves also the Axiom of Reducibility.) This is why the question ‘What is not the object X?’ has two answers: (i) ‘I am not the object X’; (ii) ‘the object Y is not the object X’, which is not the same statement as ‘the object X is not the object Y’—in one X is present and Y is absent, in the other, the other way round: there is always a point of view. But these two answers are structurally related, and a reflexive statement about X and Y is inevitably also indirectly a statement about the subject I. (This, of course, is not understood by the logicians.) If you do not see this point there is not much more that I can say at the moment. ‘AB Implies A’ in sense (ii) for me, is subjectively acceptable. My view of past, present, and future, as all in the Present does not contradict Sartre’s view,a but, also, is not on the same level. I claim that my concept describes the underlying structure of Sartre’s concept, in the sense that, with the aid of Kummer, I can give an exact description of his reflexive experience of time in terms of his fundamental concepts—figé en en-soi 5 and such like. He describes time as he sees it; I describe it as it must be from the nature of negation. I expand many of his expressions in terms of Kummer (so I like to think). a.  This is not quite true: Sartre has only one layer of consciousness of presen(t)-ce, whereas I have an infinite hierarchy. After a certain point this difference becomes crucial.

235


[el. 87]

seeking the path

8.ii.59

Pa†iccasamuppåda Comments 5. Sixfold Facticity—sounds promising. I must chew it a bit. 6. Presence—for me this conveys only the consciousness aspect of phassa. Phassa includes presence, but also two other items. 8. Need—I prefer ‘want’, but there is not much in it. 9. Consumption —I still prefer ‘holding’ (which, incidentally, gives Assumption ‘holding views’ for di††hupådåna). This is not the same as clinging to (views, etc.). I think you will find that the pa†iccasamuppåda formula with viññå~a paccayå nåma-r¨pa and nåma-r¨pa paccayå viññå~a occurs in another Sutta (a little later than the one you quote?) in a different context—a dialogue between the Ven. Såriputta Thera and someone else.6 For quite other reasons, however, I do not agree with your idea (nor with your classification of the pa†iccasamuppåda under the three headings). Dhamma = nature, essence, quiddity of a thing. The thingness of a thing is saπkhåra. Phenomenon combines both these, with emphasis on the second. Idea is closer to dhamma. Dhamma, unlike phenomenon, tends to be a reflexive object only. But my views here are not rigid.

}

P.S. I note you take Berkeley’s esse est percipi out of the infinitive ‘to be is to be perceived’ into the indicative ‘I am, therefore I am perceived’, and you add that this does not command unquestioning recognition as the cogito does. I remark (i) that the indicative of ‘to be is to be perceived’ is primarily ‘this is, therefore this is perceived’, which is the counterpart of ‘I perceive, therefore I am’, which is another form of the cogito. The form ‘I am, therefore I am perceived’ is a description of reflexion—i.e. obtained by double reflexion— whereas ‘I perceive (or I think) therefore I am’ (which should be only ‘I perceive [I think], therefore I’—see next paragraph) is not a description of reflexion but of pre-reflexion—i.e. obtained by single reflexion; (ii) that thus analyzed, all these descriptions alike command unquestioning recognition. I get the impression sometimes, perhaps wrongly, that you confine being to the subject and refuse it to the object, i.e. that you do not allow ‘this is’. It is true that the object’s being is the subject, but (in spite of Sartre) this is not the subject’s being. In order that the subject should be it must be the object of a further subject, whence ‘I am, therefore I am perceived’. The cogito, strictly (i.e. taking ‘I think’ in Descartes’ sense of the word, which is also how Sartre takes it, that is to say as ‘I cognize’, vijånåmi) should be cogito ergo hoc est—‘I cognize, therefore this is’, or, in the Berkeleyan form, ‘This is, therefore this is cognized [by me]’. This gives us the subject I or me, but it does not give my existence. (It could also read cogito

236


11.ii.59

early letters

[el. 88]

ergo ego or hoc est ergo ego.) If we take ‘I think’ (cogito) as ‘I reflect’, ‘I am reflexive’), we can than say ‘I reflect, therefore I am’, which can be put in the Berkeleyan form, ‘I am, therefore I am perceived [by me]’. ‘I cognize, therefore I am’ is, of course, a correct description; but it describes a lot more than either Descartes or Sartre suppose,a since it is equivalent to ‘I cognize, therefore I reflect’ or ‘I am pre-reflexive } therefore I am.’ The conscious Berkeleyan form beginning with the object) is always simpler (because the subject is always defined by the object). [ EL. 88 ]

11 February 1959

Here are some further observations prompted by your last letter, and which can perhaps be given at not too tedious length (I hope). The main point seems to be that we have, perhaps, different ideas on the nature and scope of reflexion. This is brought out by the distinction(s) you make between such statements as cogito ergo sum and the formal logical principles (such as ‘AB implies A’, ‘A is A’, and so on). Now, one distinction that you make is that in ‘AB implies A’ the natures of A and B are unimportant, provided only that they are different and suitably combinable, whereas in the cogito the concept’s particular natures are of fundamental importance. It is clear, however, that whatever A and B may be, they are necessarily things—i.e. determined individuals—, and this particular nature of A and B is no less fundamentally important than with the cogito. In other words, this distinction between the cogito and ‘AB implies A’ is simply that the cogito deals with the nature of the subject, whereas ‘AB implies A’ deals with the nature of a thing, A (which, in the case of the reflecting Logician will be an object). There is, however, another distinction that you make, namely, that ‘AB implies A’ is quelconque, general, depersonalized, and without a personal view-point (‘I’ or 1st-person-sing. verb, as you say), whereas the cogito is not. And this leads you to state that cogito ergo sum ≡/ ‘if cogitatis is, then esse’. I understand you to mean that ‘I cognize therefore I am’ is not identical with ‘cognition implies the existence of a cognizer (or subject)’—correct me if I am wrong. This distinction, since it is a matter of a personal (‘I’) statement as against an impersonal statement, does not seem to be the same as a.  Sartre confuses the whole issue by supposing that ‘I’ and ‘my being’ are the same. This follows from Il est dans mon être question de mon être. 7 He telescopes the hierarchy of ‘I’s (i.e. of consciousnesses) into one (ambiguous) ‘I’.

237


[el. 88]

seeking the path

11.ii.59

the previous distinction, which is a matter of a statement about the subject as against a statement about the (or an) object. Now I assume that by réflexion you understand Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, or ‘putting the world in brackets’. Sartre gives a précis of Husserl’s statement of this, in L’Imagination. I quote the following passage. Mais il ne faut pas confondre réflexion avec introspection. L’intro­ spection est un mode special de réflexion qui cherche à saisir et à fixer les faits empiriques. Pour convertir ses résultats en lois scientifiques il faut ensuite un passage inductif au général. Cu al est un autre tyne de reflexion, celle dont use la phénoménologue: celle-là cherhe à saisir les essences. C’est-a-dire qu’elle débute en se placant d’emblée sur le tarrain de l’universel. Certes, elle opère bien sur des exemples.1 And Sartre goes on to quote Husserl’s saying that Phenomenology as well as the other eidetic sciences (‘sciences d’essence’—i.e. mathematics) seek knowledge of eternal verities. I quote this passage because I fully agree with it, and because it seems possible that you may not agree with it. I shall assume, however, that you do agree with it; but if I am wrong in assuming this, please tell me so that we can avoid misunderstanding in the future. You give a comparison between the method of deriving English Common Law by abstraction from cases and the process of deriving AB implies A (and other ‘Laws of Thought’) by abstraction from (some description or descriptions not recorded), and say that, in contrast, the cogito is a ‘valid description free from errors’. You do not, however, say what the cogito is a valid description of, but I assume you mean of direct reflexive experience. All consciousness, however, is consciousness of an object, and in order to obtain the cogito it is necessary to be conscious of something, and then to use this experience as the basis of reflexive experience. But of what must I be conscious in order to obtain, by reflexion, the cogito? The answer is, quite clearly, that it doesn’t matter—any object will do. In other words, whenever I perform an act of reflexion on my direct experience I can obtain the cogito. The cogito, then is universal, in agreement with the passage quoted above—it applies to an infinity of different cases. I may be conscious of A, or of B, or of C, it makes no difference. That is to say that the cogito can be regarded as abstracted from (some case or cases not recorded). But now suppose that what I am conscious of is the statement ‘cogito ergo sum’. If I perform an act of reflexion on this experience I can immediately obtain, as

238


11.ii.59

early letters

[el. 88]

before, the cogito. This will be a description of the subject in this experience. But if I describe the object in this experience, I get ‘AB implies A’. There are no grounds for regarding one as similar to legal abstraction and not the other. Either both are, or neither is. Both cogito ergo sum and ‘AB implies A’ are universal ‘truths’, eternal verities. But, as you pointed out, the cogito is the first person, whereas ‘AB implies A’ is not. Now, the statement ‘AB implies A’ cannot be in the first person, since it describes the object, not the subject; the best we can do is to say ‘“this brown cow” implies “cow”’, which obviously describes one particular experience, and is not applicable to other experiences. It is not, therefore, a phenomenological description of an essence. But what of the cogito? In English, we have ‘I cognize, therefore I am’. I cognize what? If I say ‘I cognize A, therefore I am’ I am making a bastard statement, since ‘A’ means ‘any object (unspecified)’, whereas ‘I am’ means ‘I am, here, this very minute’—in other words there is an illegitimate mixture of the particular and the general. Either I must say ‘I cognize this brown cow, therefore I am’, or I must say ‘cognition of A implies the existence of a cognizer (or subject)’. You are, in fact, quite correct in saying that the two statements are not identical. But, according to Husserl’s description of reflexion, the first statement, being the description only of a particular instance, is not a phenomenological description of an essence—just as ‘“this brown cow” implies “cow”’ is not. In other words, the cogito, in the first person, is not a reflexive description of an essence, which must be universal (unless you disagree with Husserl, Sartre, and myself.a) This is all I have to say on the second distinction you made, i.e. between a personal and an impersonal statement. On the matter of the first distinction, i.e., between a statement about the subject in a reflexive experience and a statement about the object in the same experience, the question is: does a statement about the object count as a reflexive experience? Does not the ‘putting of the world into brackets’ neutralize the object? The answer is that by reflexion all that one does is to neutralize the object in a particular quid or nature, as a cow or a lamp or a book, and to present it as a thing, ‘This’, in relation to other things, ‘Not this’. In other words the particular objects in reflexion are all relations or a.  In my opinion it is only necessary to describe in the first person when one is not describing reflexive experience. In describing reflexive experience one is necessarily describing from a point of view—when one is reflexive the Realist No-view fallacy cannot arise. (The assertive words ‘all’ and ‘some’ cannot be used, because—as Husserl notes—we are no longer dealing with ‘matters of fact’.) But I cannot justify this opinion in a few words.

239


[el. 88]

seeking the path

11.ii.59

negatives, and these are universal, since they are valid no matter what the particular non-reflexive objects are—a cow is determined by things that are not-cows (of various kinds), a lamp by things that are not-lamps, and so on. And a universal reflexive description will be ‘A is determined by things that are not-A’, or ‘Either A or not-A’ (which is a Law of Thought). Husserl speaks of two kinds of phenomenological description; the first he calls description of the ‘noétic’ or ‘experiencing’ and it contains of description of the subject, and the second he calls description of the ‘noematic’ or ‘experienced’, and this is description of the object—all in transcendental consciousness. Both are valid, and both are reflexive. (This is given in the E.B. article, which I still have.) Though I do not disagree with Husserl here, I find he is inadequate, since he assumes the subject is simple (as Sartre assumes the subject is simple but ambiguous—‘la seule façon d’exister pour une conscience c’est d’avoir conscience qu’elle existe’ 2), whereas I find the subject is an infinite hierarchy—whence it follows that no deliberate act of reflexion can ever grasp the whole subject, there is always more subjectivity out of the picture, namely that doing the reflecting. A reflecting logician, naturally, is concerned only with describing the object—i.e. the relations or negatives between things. Nevertheless, in describing these relations he is certainly reflexive, and he can only fail if he is bad at description. Cf. Sartre:— C’est bien en considérant le caractère, réflexif du raisonement classique que la logique formelle s’est définie comme l’étude des conditions ‘de l’accord de l’esprit avec lui-même’.3 It is really the simplest form of reflexion to grasp the (present) object of consciousness as determined by, related to, or not, one or more other (absent) objects of consciousness. By careful elaboration of this one can arrive at Kummer. Once again you are right in making a distinction between the cogito and statements of the type ‘AB implies A’, but this distinction does not (unless, of course, you disagree with Husserl, Sartre, and myself) disqualify the latter as reflexive descriptions—e.g. ‘AB implies A’ describes ‘I am cognizing, therefore I am’—, but may, and normally do, directly describe the structure of reflexive experience—e.g. ‘AB implies A’ describes the structure of the experience that is also describable as ‘this brown cow is brown’). As to certainty. You interpret ‘AB implies A’, so I see, as ‘A remains unchanged and self-identical upon return to, or repetition of, A’, and you go on to say that this can be doubted. Of course it can. But ‘this brown

240


11.ii.59

early letters

[el. 88]

cow is brown’ does not mean ‘this brown cow will still be brown when you next see it’. It is not an assertion, but a statement of self-evidence. The Noble Duke of York, you will remember, marched some men to the top of a hill and marched them down again. ‘And when they were up they were up, and when they were down they were down.’ What is certain, what cannot be doubted, is this last statement; but the whole point of it is to emphasize the futility of the Noble Duke’s evolutions by making a fine statement that asserts nothing whatever. You say you are not certain what it is that you cognize when you cognize. Nor am I. And what science is for is to find out and let us know. I am not certain that ‘this is a cow’; for it might be a bhikkhu—or the other way round, as happened at Ŭavi 4. But what I am certain is that ‘this cow is a cow’—not ‘this cow will continue to be cow’—or, if you prefer, ‘if this is a cow, then it is a cow’. The Law of Thought, or Formal Logical Principle, ‘A is A’ is certain in the sense I have tried to convey, and it is in this sense that it is a reflexive description. Note that if ‘this’ is an ambiguous object (it might be a cow or it might be a bhikkhu), then I have ‘This ambiguous object is an ambiguous object’. If you find you can doubt these statements then I do not see that there is anything useful I can add. ‘A is A’ as a formal logical principle, a reflexive description, is not ‘cake yesterday, therefore cake today’, which is simple induction. It so happens that the Kummer structure accounts for the persistence of the identity of objects under transformation, but it does not guarantee that a present object will continue to be present. In other words, a present object can ‘become’ absent—indeed, it must ‘become’ absent when it ceases to be present, there is no alternative. But the formal logical principles have nothing whatever to do with this—they do not in any way describe the dynamics of the negative. (In parenthesis, Sartre defines the en-soi as ‘Il est ce qu’il est’ 5 as opposed to the pour-soi, which is ‘Je suis ce que je ne suis pas’ 6. The first is an example of ‘A is A’, and the second appears to be an example of ‘A is not A’; but, as I have remarked before, Sartre’s pour-soi is a telescoping of the entire hierarchy of consciousness, which gives the impression that the two A’s (or ‘je’’s) are the same and yet not the same. The fact is that they are not the same at all—of any two A’s (or ‘je’’s) here, one is related to the other as object to subject. It is odd that Sartre does not see that the subjective hierarchy—or as he describes it, the subjective ambiguity—has its exact counterpart in the object. If he insists on describing the subject as ‘Je suis ce que je ne suis pas’ he ought to describe the object as ‘Il est ce qu’il n’est pas’ 7. Sartre says Bergson never looked at his images; but it is clear that Sartre himself never looked at what he saw.)

241


[el. 88]

seeking the path

11.ii.59

For analogous reasons to those above, I cannot accept your description of viññå~apaccayå nåmar¨pa/nåmar¨papaccayå viññå~a as an ‘infinite reflexive regression’. Infinite regressions of this structure are certainly to be found (in Kummer), and are of fundamental importance. But this, as the rest of the pa†iccasamuppåda, is non-assertive, both are given at once—though, naturally, both cannot be thought at once. This beginning (or ending) to the pa†iccasamuppåda is also found in the Mahå Nidåna Suttanta (though without the ‘turning back’ phrase). The point seems to be this. One must start with a given duality (subject-object), on the basis of which one can discover (as implied) an infinite reflexive regression. But one cannot start by positing the given duality as itself the infinite reflexive regression, for the reason that it would then become apparent that one would have to assume a still more fundamental given duality on which to base this regression. In other words, an infinite regression is a structure composed of negatives—it is obtained by repeated denials of all that has gone before. But unless the negative ‘not’ is given in the first place no regression at all is possible. But since the negative entails an infinite regression it is not possible to find the negative apart from that infinitive regression. To discover the given negative we must describe the infinite regression, which description will show that the irreducible element in the regression is the negative (which, however, will not itself be an infinite regression—at least, not relatively to the infinite regression in question, which presupposes the negative). I consider that nåmar¨paµ saha viññå~ena (to use the Mahå Nidåna Suttanta expression) in the description of any one level (or cross-section) of the infinite regression. It is the form in which the negative exists. It is not irreducible, provided we are prepared (conceptually) to ‘go behind the negative’s existence’. By this I mean that what is given in the fundamental duality, or negative, is simply ‘not’ (which is also ‘existence’), but we are not also given the existence of ‘not’ (or the existence of ‘existence’). The fundamental negative seems to combine the ultimate concepts of acceleration (i.e. the relation between one and infinity) and presence (i.e. the relation between object and subject). Acceleration and Presence may be the same. It has, of course, a hierarchical structure; it is an infinite regression; but it is an infinite regression within, i.e. presupposed by the infinite regression (of Kummer) that I have been referring to. The Kummer regression is absolute, and is the evident hierarchy of the world, whereas the fundamental negative is not an absolute (i.e. closed) structure. It cannot, therefore, be isolated. If we wish to contemplate the negative at our leisure it must continue unchanged, i.e. it must exist, and this is the simplest form in which it does

242


11.ii.59

early letters

[el. 88]

so. (This, also, can be seen from Kummer, which can be described as the ‘structure of duality’. In terms of Kummer, r¨pa can be taken structurally as a point, nåma as a line, and viññå~a as a plane, and we have ‘a point and a line imply a plane’ or ‘a plane [viññå~a] implies [paccayå] a line [nåma] and a point [r¨pa]’. This is an infinite regression of Kummer, but at any one level, this is the fundamental structure. Kummer at any one level is absolute—Ross Ashby refers—, and it does not point outside itself. Thus the point-line-plane plane-line-point relationship ‘turns back upon itself’—i.e. is non-assertive, or, if you prefer, is tautologous, like ‘A is A’.) To return to Husserl. He is not always very easy to follow in his Teutonic English of the E.B., but something can be gathered. He speaks of two disciplines, ‘Phenomenological Psychology’ and ‘Transcendental Phenomenology’. The first seems to be simply the retreat from immediacy to the apprehension of the relation holding between an object and other objects, but this relation appears in its particularity—i.e. as an object appears as part of a greater object or situation, and that situation is specified. Thus ‘this window’ is no longer simply enjoyed or experienced for itself, but is grasped as being ‘part of this room’, and the relation between any two such parts—the window and the door, for example—is ‘this room’. The nature of the particular relation becomes evident. But in Transcendental Phenomenology, the ‘nature of the relation’ also is put in brackets, and we arrive at the relation of relation—i.e. the negative. Thus we are no longer concerned with the window and door as together defining ‘this room’, but rather as defining ‘relationship’. The window is not the door; the door is not the fireplace, and so on. It is evident that ‘window’ and ‘door’ can now be replaced by ‘A’ and ‘B’. Transcendental Phenomenology, according to Husserl, is ‘entirely unworldly’—‘the universe is carried to a further stage’ than in the Phenomenological Psychology. It is clear that both the cogito (when restated not in the first person) and the formal logical principles (leading to mathematics) belong to the Transcendental Phenomenology. (Husserl remarks that Descartes’ ‘Doubting’ first disclosed ‘transcendental subjectivity’ and his ‘Ego cogito’ was its first conceptual handling.) I note that Husserl makes the distinction between description of the Subject in these two disciplines as follows: ‘What I saw under the psychological reflexion as “my” objectification I see under the transcendental reflexion as Self-objectifying [or self objectification]’. This suggests that the first person singular is in place in the first but not the second. Two things might be added. The first is, as I remarked in my last letter, that a description of the object involves the subject, owing to the complex structure of reduction in the sense viññå~a → nåma → r¨pa and also in

243


[el. 88]

seeking the path

11.ii.59

the sense of general to particular (as in the axiom of reducibility). Thus, the relation between two things A and not-A is the subject, but this subject is projected as a more general object upon the original object A, providing it with a background (which consists of not-As). The second is that an act of reflexion is really not a doing of what one has never done before (like learning to swim), since we are always and at all levels to some degree reflexive even in our most immediate moments. To perform an act of reflexion is simply to turn one’s attention to certain parts of our normal experience that have always been there and to disregard the parts we normally pay attention to. Naturally, this needs practice to do it effectively, but it is a less formidable feat than the theoretical descriptions of Husserl and Sartre would have us believe. I write all this (which is longer than I expected) to try and make clear to you my ideas about reflexion. It seemed to me that it may be because we have different ideas on this point that we disagree on others. If you do not agree with me about reflexion this may enable you to see where precisely you disagree. I think I forgot to tell you that, last pavåra~å, I went to the Ven. B.’s at Tangalle. He is the elderly, though solid, thera who came to Tangalla and also came here for the first time for the ka†hina. His monastery at Tangalle is in the town on the main road. It occupies an area about the size of Vajiråråma forward of the library. Into this smallish space have been packed: 1. bath and privies; 2. a dånasålå; 3. a three-storeyed s⁄må with corrugated iron roof; 4. an åvåsa; 5. a red cement lotus pond; 6. th¨pa (with light on top); 7. in front of the th¨pa a Sanchi-type gateway; 8. below the th¨pa four vihåras, one with model Bodhi tree with lights; 9. a Bodhi tree with place for flowers; 10. a large dhammasålå; 11. a bell tower; 12. flower beds. There is also, if you are easy to satisfy in this respect, room to walk between these various items. How on earth anyone can live there I cannot make out. But from my experience this is more or less typical—no selfrespecting bhikkhu could feel himself properly at home unless surrounded by these and other such essential supports of the bhikkhu-life… And, of course, being on the main road in the town is a valuable asset. I tend to suffocate at Vajiråråma, but here, even for a couple of hours, I was almost unable to draw a breath. I say nothing against the Venerable Thera, who is very amiable—but his monastery does seem to raise one’s eyebrows in some kind of interrogation…

244


26.ii.59

[ EL. 89 ]

early letters

[el. 89]

26 February 1959

Many thanks for your letter. Your joke about the government’s ceiling on its land and the consequent lack of rain for my leaky cistern is in the worst of bad taste. Yesterday morning the cement (at last) arrived, and, it being cool, I decided to do the lining of the cistern at once. Of course, in the afternoon we had buckets of rain (or should I say buckets of pentagons?), which stopped, and threatened to ruin, my work (I had to finish it by lamplight at eleven o’clock when the rain stopped). This was doubly unfortunate; for not only did it interfere with my work on the cistern but it also came a day or so too soon—the cistern wasn’t ready. However, I now have a tar barrel, and I managed to catch about forty gallons in that, which is better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. And it has given me a change of bath water in the field. As regards the word ‘Law’ in ‘Law of Thought’, I quite agree with you— but I didn’t invent the term, and do not insist that ‘A is A’, for example, is a Law (whatever else it may be). Is and ought and must. The equivocation(s) involved here (I feel there are several) have all somehow got packed into the simple word ‘duty’, which means ‘what other people want one to do’, but which clothes this rather too naked idea in the robes of Authority (the Law, the universal—cf. Judge William—; God; the People; etc. etc.). ‘Duty’, I feel, ‘is’. The pentagons are fascinating—I think that henceforth I shall always prefer liquid to either solids or gases. Liquids consist entirely of misfits. Is there something ontological in this? I now discover that I have been doing some double-think—thinking two different things in contradiction. It fails, however, to be mauvaise foi, since they were in two separate departments of my thinking, and the contradiction became clear when these departments were brought together (mauvaise foi requires both terms of the contradiction to be intentionally thought at once—one must think a contradiction). The discovery of this has already changed my point of view quite considerably, and may do so even more when all the repercussions have become manifest. In the Sketch I said: ‘What I call my “self” is precisely the something that on every occasion of change remains unchanged.’ This was the first time I said it. The last time I said it was in my last letter to you, where I wrote that ‘I am always the invariant of whatever transformation is taking place’. But I have also been trying to work out things from first principles via Kummer, and in doing so I decided (independently) that the structure of the ‘self’ is something quite different. Now it is quite true to say that the subject (or consciousness) is the invariant of

245


[el. 89]

seeking the path

26.ii.59

each transformation, but—as I had unwittingly assumed—the subject is not the self (or ‘I’). There is, in fact, one transformation in which the ‘self’, and not the subject, is the invariant, and that is death (indeed it was in thinking about death that I was led to the discovery of my contradiction): in death the gratuitous element of experience (the five indriyas) changes, whereas the necessary element (‘I’ or self) is invariant, but since the difference between gratuity and necessity is absolute or ultimate this transformation is the exception and not the rule. (The Sketch no longer proves rebirth, though it is still on the right lines.) In any other change there are both a gratuitous and a necessary element in both what changes and what is invariant—in other words the subject-object distinction is at right angles to the gratuity-necessity distinction. This is to say that it is wrong to understand the subject-object distinction as equivalent to I-this, where ‘I’ is necessity, and ‘this’ is gratuity: the proper distinction (in the non-arahat) is I-Mine, where the necessary is represented on both sides. (I should, perhaps, make it clear that by ‘necessity’ I mean ‘what must be’, but seen in the immediacy of one’s experience as being that which is opposed to the gratuitous or absurd—the self is important, it is what matters, there simply could not not be my self, I cannot possibly conceive my own non-existence [whereas the characteristic of the gratuitous is precisely that it might just as well not be as be—I can well conceive that this lamp, apart from its being ‘mine’, might not exist. And also I might quite well be (doing) something else.]) Now, on my (erroneous) assumption that subject = self, I had come to the conclusion that since the arahat has put an end to self he has put an end to subject; but, since subject and object are inseparable, to put an end to subject is to put an end to object, and where there is neither subject nor object there is, of course, no being; and this, I thought, is why (or how) an arahat puts an end to being. But, from the Suttas, it is clear that an arahat continues to walk and talk and think and so on, and how this is possible when there is no more subject or object I could not imagine. And it was for this reason that I had been holding that an arahat (or rather any Sutta describing one) is incomprehensible and contradictory. Such Suttas are only to be understood—so I was forced to conclude—by ‘one who is himself an arahat’. But now all this is changed. The arahat has not put an end to subject, he has put an end to necessity (which is ‘I’ in the subject and ‘mine’ in the object): an arahat is pure gratuity—in a manner of speaking he is just the five indriyas (cf. the Itivuttaka Sutta on sa- and an-upådisesa parinibbåna)—, but gratuity is present in both subject and object. Now what is required in order to walk and talk and think and, in general, to be conscious, is the Kummer hierarchy (which is the structure of the negative), and Kummer depends on subject-and-object, and not on

246


26.ii.59

early letters

[el. 89]

necessity-and-gratuity. If you have the Kummer hierarchy with necessity and gratuity you have the non-arahat; and if you have it with gratuity alone you have arahat. (I now see that Kummer allows self but doesn’t require or imply it.) And, since the arahat has put an end to necessity, there is no invariant, when he dies, to require that a fresh gratuity (or five indriyas) come into being. So you see—if you have followed me—that all these Suttas describing arahats at once become intelligible. This, as you may well imagine, is a great step forward for me. (It might be said that there is no difficulty about such Suttas, and that they are perfectly intelligible. I shall not deny this; but this is not the point. My difficulty in the matter was that these Suttas were unintelligible on ontological or philosophical grounds, and not simply because I was unable ‘to imagine an arahat’. I now seem to understand why these Suttas are intelligible, that is to say, I now seem to see why an arahat is possible, and not impossible—and I can give some structural reasons.) Immediately, of course, the question of the pa†iccasamuppåda arises—to what extent does the pa†iccasamuppåda apply to an arahat? The answer is rather odd—a purely gratuitous pa†iccasamuppåda, which needs some thinking about. The key to the situation is åyu (see the Mahåvedalla Sutta): åyu is purely gratuitous, for the very good reason that na te va åyusaπkhårå te vedan⁄yå dhammå.1 One can, if one wishes, regard åyu as dependent upon avijjå—but an avijjå that is strictly non-phenomenal, and when this ‘non-phenomenal avijjå’ ceases so does åyu, and if there is no phenomenal avijjå still in existence, that is the end. In other words the whole of the pa†iccasamuppåda applies to the arahat with the proviso that some of the terms are non-phenomenal. In practice, of course, this simply means that not all the terms of the pa†iccasamuppåda apply to the arahat; but I put it that way to show the structure of gratuity. (Some care is needed to decide which terms apply, and which do not, because some terms apply in one way but not in another). All this raises the question of the proper definition of being. Either all that is phenomenal—i.e. both pure gratuity and necessity-gratuity—exist (in which case the arahat clearly exists) or only what depends upon (phenomenal) avijjå—necessity (-gratuity) but not gratuity alone—exists (in which case the arahat clearly does not exist): both definitions are possible, but we must be clear, in some contexts, which meaning we intend. (The distinction être pour-soi and être en-soi is quite invalid.) P.S. The fine nånaka∂a you sent me last year did not survive the cementing of the cistern. With the consent of the residents, and supposing one is available, could you send me a surplus aπdana from the store to serve as a bathing cloth?

247


[el. 90]

[ EL. 90 ]

seeking the path

28.ii.59

28 February 1959

A few revisions and developments of my last letter. I said that, except at death, self is the invariant of every transformation (as I had formerly thought), and I also said that the subject is the invariant. This needs some qualification. I find that there are, in every situation, three independent dualities, namely, (i) Subject-Object (viññå~a-nåmar¨pa or saπkhårå), (ii) Necessity-Gratuity (which, I now note, seem to correspond to the commentarial notion of kammabhava and uppattibhava—but more of this anon), and (iii) Generality-Particularity (invariance-transformation, †hitattå-aññathattå). [To visualize how these are related, you may imagine a cube divided in three ways, so:—

.] My earlier (mistaken) assumption was that (i) and (ii) were the same. I corrected this last time by saying that (i) is the same as (iii) (and not (ii)). But this also is wrong. The Subject is not the invariant and the Object what is transformed, for Subject and Object are exact counterparts. As indicated above, (i), (ii), and (iii), are independent of one another. The Subject, of course (be it Necessity or Gratuity) is an Invariant of a Transformation, but what transforms is not the object but a more particular subject. And similarly with the object. And in the same way, Necessity or Self (whether subject—‘I’—or object—‘mine’) is the Invariant of the Transformation of a more particular Necessity or Self. And gratuity (whether subject—‘present’ [or now]—or object—‘this’—[note that as ‘mine’ belongs to ‘I’, so ‘this’ belongs to ‘present’]) is the Invariant of the Transformation of a more particular gratuity. The Kummer hierarchy is a hierarchy of GeneralityParticularity (iii), and it requires Subject-Object (i) in the Gratuitous mode as its internal structure. It allows, but does not require, Subject-Object in the Necessary mode. The division (ii) Necessity-Gratuity should really be Necessity-cum-Gratuity and Gratuity alone; for whereas there is no Necessity without Gratuity, there can be (i.e. as arahat) gratuity without necessity. With these various qualifications my statement in the Sketch that my ‘self’ is what is invariant in every transformation is valid. It is not all that is invariant, since it involves invariance of gratuity also; and it is not true of the arahat, since in him gratuity alone is the invariant. And if it is invariant, then what transforms is a more particular ‘self’. Furthermore,

248


28.ii.59

early letters

[el. 90]

it may be either subject or object. (Necessity or self, as I conceive it, is not a ‘different kind’ of gratuity, but simply a certain organization of gratuity—which is why gratuity is required by necessity [you can’t have organization if you have nothing to organize], and why gratuity does not require necessity [this particular organization is, in a sense, imposed upon gratuity—this—, thus making it mine—or in the case of the subject turning present into I]). None of these revisions (which are more or less a tidying-up of what I said before) affects the main issue, which is that, given the incomprehensible åyu, the arahat becomes comprehensible (and from the Mahåvedalla Sutta åyu is, and must remain, incomprehensible [or gratuitous]). Two lines of thought have developed from these changes, the first being the nature of death, and the second the interpretation of the pa†iccasamuppåda. I said that the Sketch no longer proves rebirth. This is true. But the argument there certainly proves something. It proves that this life has neither beginning nor end. It does not prove rebirth, for the good reason that it does not show that we can die or be born. The point is that since åyusaπkhårå are not vedaniyå dhammå this life is gratuitous, and its ending (death) is gratuitous. Given this life, the Sketch shows that it is without beginning or end. Death is the end of this life, that is to say, of what is given—it is the end of gratuity. But Necessity must have gratuity (to organize), and ‘seizes’ a fresh gratuity (or life), and this is birth. This, however, is in the realm of gratuity, and cannot be proved. It is possible, with the use of Kummer, to give an exact structural description of this life, and it is also possible to give an exact description of the ending of this life—but this very description shows that the ending of this life is not implied by this life. If we turn our attention to our entry into this life (i.e. birth), we fare a little better. From the argument in the Sketch it is clear that, if we have not always been living this life, then we come into it when it had already been going on beginninglessly in the past. But then what were we doing all this time? The suggestion is (but it is no more than a suggestion) that we were living another life (or lives) of which this life was a possible alternative—that this life was always going on, in the absent mode, parallel to the life we were actually living. This is on the analogy of the structure of negatives and absent possibilities in this life; but since åyusaπkhårå are totally out of reach of reflexion we can get no further than this. We can say that the argument of the Sketch shows that the idea of rebirth is—on the analogy of the structure of this life—conceivable or thinkable, that is to say, that it does not involve contradiction. This, in itself, is not negligible, since Scientific Opinion would deny it. But it

249


[el. 90]

seeking the path

28.ii.59

does not seem possible to show that the structure of this life necessarily prohibits either annihilation (where the ending of gratuity at death would take necessity with it into a common destruction) or eternal continuation (where, even in the absence of necessity, the ending of gratuity at death would be automatically followed by the appearance of another gratuity). All that can be said is that, since this life is beginningless, either we have always been living it, or, if we have been living other lives parallel to it, then those lives did not end in annihilation. (This, it is true, is perhaps not all that can be said about annihilation and continuation, but it is all that the Sketch has to say.) When one ‘meets’, as one does here, ‘the existence of a non-phenomenal structure’—åyusaπkhårå—, one has to confess that there are certain limits to what one can obtain by reflexion. At this point one simply has to trust (saddhå) that the Buddha has informed us correctly. In no case, however—except as a temporary measure (‘perhaps this will become clear later’)—is faith in what is self-contradictory needed. We have to distinguish carefully between what is incomprehensible and what is impossible (or inconceivable). About the pa†iccasamuppåda. As noted above, the distinction between Necessity and Gratuity seems to correspond to that of the Commentary between Kamma and Uppatti. This, together with the differences in kind between death/birth and any other change, seems to bring me back closer to the traditional pa†iccasamuppåda interpretation. This is to be welcomed, since I do not disagree with the Commentary simply for the sake of disagreeing with it but because it seems to be mistaken. But this apparent return to the fold is deceptive—now, no more than before, do I allow that the three-life interpretation is valid, but it is now easier to see how it has arisen. The point is this. In the non-arahat there is both necessity and gratuity, or, as the commentary says, both kammabhava and uppattibhava. Now certain terms in the pa†iccasamuppåda do not have different names according as they ‘contain’ necessity (i.e. are associated with kamma) or not. It has, accordingly, no doubt as a welcome, though quite unjustified, simplification, been decided that they are uppatti or gratuitous, and are simply the result of kamma in the past. The first one is viññå~a: the viññå~a of the three-life scheme is uppatti, and is therefore quite the same whether found in the puthujjana or arahat. But this is not so. In the puthujjana consciousness grows (as the Suttas tell us), whereas in the arahat it stands—tad apati††hitam viññå~aµ avir¨¬ham anabhisaπkhacca vimuttaµ; vimuttattå †hitaµ…1 (Khandha Saµy. vi,2). Another is vedanå, and the discrepancy is even more evident here—the feeling accompanying råga (for example) can by no means be described as simply the result of

250


28.ii.59

early letters

[el. 90]

past kamma. It was, in fact, owing to the contradictions that I encountered in trying to reconcile the three-life interpretation with the Suttas that I abandoned it. What this interpretation fails to see is that necessity (attå, ta~hå, avijjå, etc.) alters these things. (It is just like Sartre’s mistake, that though we perceive more and other than we see, yet this ‘more’ and ‘other’ consists wholly of néants which don’t really affect the object at all—and at the end of 700 pages of L’Être et le Néant, tucked away in his metaphysical postscript, he suddenly informs us that the question of action, i.e. how we actually do change the world by our intentions, remains intact. Of course it does if you deny the possibility of its solution to begin with. N.B. I am not identifying intentional change of the world with avijjå, since the arahat also can change the world. I am only concerned here to point out that Sartre’s mistake is similar to [but not the same as] the Commentator’s.) The opposite one-sided interpretation we find in saπkhårå, which is labelled kamma. The Sutta definition of saπkhårå as it appears in the pa†iccasamuppåda is kåya-, vac⁄-, and citta-saπkhåro, which, from the C¨¬avedalla Sutta (and elsewhere) we know to be assåsapassåså, vitakkavicårå, and saññå and vedanå, respectively (presumably the minimum actions). It is evident that it will depend entirely upon the individual concerned (puthujjana or arahat) whether these things are kamma or uppatti. (The arahat still breathes, though he no longer acts.) In the puthujjana you have puññåbhisaπkhårå, apuññåbhisaπkhårå, and aneñjåbhisaπkhårå; whereas in the arahat you have (clearly uppatti or gratuitous):— Na me hoti Ahosin ti. Bhavissan ti na hoti me; Saπkhårå vibhavissanti: tattha kå paridevanå. Suddhaµ dhammasamuppådaµ suddhaµ saπkhårasantatiµ Passantassa yathåbh¨taµ na bhayaµ hoti gåma~i. (Adhimutta Theragåthå 715-6) 2 But in spite of this, saπkhårå, in the three-life scheme, are kamma and not uppatti in order that they will go with avijjå into the first life. It now seems clear that the pa†iccasamuppåda, since it refers to the nonarahat (it has no need to refer to the arahat) is kamma from end to end. But—as I mentioned before—you can’t get kamma (necessity) without uppatti (gratuity), since the former is a certain organizing of the latter. Thus it is also uppatti from end to end. If you want to find out how the pa†iccasamuppåda does apply to the arahat you must remove the kamma or necessity from each term, something like this:—

251


[el. 90]

seeking the path

avijjå saπkhårå viññå~a nåmar¨pa sa¬åyatana phassa vedanå ta~hå upådåna

→  (vijjå) →  saπkhårå [minea → this] →  viññå~a [I → Present] →  nåmar¨pa [mine → this] →  sa¬åyatana [Change of Orientation] →  phassa [Avijjåsamphassa → Vijjåsamphassa] →  vedanå [sa-råga-dosa-moha → v⁄ta-råga-dosa-moha] → —[Comy. has somewhere the expression vipåka cetanå, which may serve us here.] → (upådåna) [One Sutta in A.VIII or IX tells the arahat to do vipassanå on the pañcupådånakkhandhå, for sukha­vihåra. Upådåna in the sense of holding or stability, purely gratuitous, of an object (but not kåma, di††hi, etc.)]

bhava:   kamma   →   uppatti   jåti →  jaråmara~a → 

}

28ii.59

bhava uppatti (jåti) (jaråmara~a)

N.B. These last two I take as the two ends of the present life. In a puthujjana they will be the two ends of a kamma-associated life; whereas in the arahat they will be the two ends of a purely gratuitous life. In changing from puthujjana to arahat one does not retain the puthujjana beginning and get the arahat ending, one exchanges lines. But I am less insistent upon this particular interpretation, which I may modify. If jåti is taken as the birth one is bound to have if one dies with avijjå, then of course the arahat has no jåti. From the difficulty of being intelligible in this exercise one may gather that it is not an exercise that one is required to perform. Two or three days ago, on my way to take a bath in the field, I very nearly trod on a medium sized (about three foot) tic polonga. It was lying on, or at the edge of, the path, and I didn’t see it until it moved, when I was then about one yard away. It moved, in a rather tired way, about four feet away, and coiled up at the foot of a small bush. It was still there when I returned. a.  My breathing/my thinking/my feeling and perceiving. Note that to intend or to act (cetanåhaµ kammaµ vadåmi) is to keep an object in being; thus a given intention and a given object are the same; in this case the intention and the object are ‘breathing’, ‘thinking’, and ‘feeling-and-perceiving’. (Russell says a table is an inference: Husserl says a table is an intention.)

252


1.iii.59

early letters

[el. 91]

The sandy space opposite the ku†i has a rather peculiar property of magnifying everything that goes on it when seen from the ku†i. Squirrels look like mongooses, mongooses like foxes, dogs and jackals like wolves or calves, the small local cows like prize English bulls, and buffaloes one would almost mistake for elephants. Probably this is due to its being seen through the trees, which makes it seem further away than it really is—it is actually twenty yards away. Perhaps you might wonder—as I used to—what an elephant would look like on it. I can tell you: it looks like a huge grey battleship sailing out of the jungle. It appeared at 5 p.m. the day before yesterday (the day after the polonga); I had some warning of its approach with the noise in the jungle of breaking branches, and, no doubt, I ought to have scared it away before it appeared, but there was some curiosity mixed with my apprehension, and I delayed. As soon as I let off a cracker it turned around (it had started coming up the path towards the ku†i, which it had not yet seen) and sailed back into the jungle. No doubt one gets blasé about such things in the course of time, but not the first time. I had seen elephants at Yangalla, but at a greater distance, and from on top of the rock. Then, though large, they did not look so positively vast as the one that appeared on the magnifying sand patch. When they come at night, as they sometimes do, one has a double advantage—one can’t see them, and one can reach them with a torch, which they dislike. I am much braver by night. For the last week there have been elephants all around and much trumpeting by night. Also a few days ago a young man from the village came and read (or chanted) some Sinhalese verses which he said were about me and had recently appeared in the Silumina. So I suppose that one of my visitors has been a kavi 3 (I have had two or three rather ceremonious visitors recently, so it’s probably one of them). I could not follow what the verses said about me, but I was assured that they contained only good things. I hope this doesn’t bring flocks of people here. P.S. Thank you for the Ven. Nyanaponika on Belly Bhåvanå. This controversy has an extraordinary vitality. [ EL. 91 ]

1 March 1959

I have to confess that I realized when I wrote that I was being irrelevant about your ‘ought’ problem. The fact was that I had no ideas at all on what you were getting at, but the ambiguity of ‘duty’, and the fact that duty is quite

253


[el. 91]

seeking the path

1.iii.59

as certain as Scientific Truths—that is to say, not certain at all—did cross my mind. So that is what I wrote about. Now that you expand the matter with examples and illustrations it seems to me that this use of ought = must = is is the essence of the scientific inductive mauvaise foi. It is equivalent whether I say ‘he ought to be there by now’ or ‘he will be there by now’, and this appearance of the future tense gives the show away. The scientist works from present certainties to future probabilities: ‘If this litmus paper is dipped in this acid it (probably) will turn red’. The scientist does not doubt that this is litmus paper and that this is acid (it says so on the bottle; it comes from a respectable firm; we have just shown it by experiment; etc. etc.), but in theory at least, he doubts the future, that this will turn red. But the scientist’s mauvaise foi is that he doesn’t doubt the future in practice, and his way of slipping from doubt about the future (‘this ought to turn red if the past is anything to go by’) to certainty about the future is to assume tactictly that ought to ≡ must (‘this must turn red unless we are to throw doubts on the whole of Science, which of course is unthinkable’) ≡ will certainly (‘this will certainly turn red—how could it do otherwise?’). All that is then needed is to assume that an absent or future event (‘he will be there by now’ = ‘if we ring up we shall find that he is there now’; or ‘this acid will turn this litmus red’) is a present event (‘he is there now’; ‘[this] acid turns [this] litmus red’) and the trick is done. So long as we are thinking of induction this ambiguity is inherent; but if we agree with Husserl and Sartre that there exists un type d’expérience privilégiée qui nous mette immédiatement en contact avec la loi,1 which is not ‘une science inductive’, then it may be mauvaise foi to deny that ‘ought to be’ = ‘is’. Sartre again:— Mais il importe peu que le fait individuel qui sert de support à l’essence soit réel ou imaginaire. La donnée ‘exemplaire’ serait-elle une pure fiction? Du fait même qu’elle a pu être imaginée, il a bien fallu qu’elle réalise en elle l’essence cherchée car l’essence est la condition même de sa possibilité.2 For this reason I cannot share your mistrust of logical principles. For my part I cannot see that you can escape from induction (as you suggested could be done by yoniso manasikåra) unless you allow that Sartre and Husserl are right in this matter. (The great mistake is to suppose that ‘All swans are white’

254


1.iii.59

early letters

[el. 91]

and ‘All determinations are impermanent’ are similar statements. The first is purely inductive, and can be thought even though not all swans are white; whereas the second is reflexive and cannot be thought unless all determinations are impermanent, for the good reason that were not all determinations impermanent there could be no such thing as thinking, and a fortiori no possibility of thinking either ‘all determinations are impermanent’ or ‘not all determinations are permanent’.) Perhaps I go too far in suggesting that you don’t allow Sartre and Husserl are right; but I get the impression that though you (quite correctly) deny absolute validity to inductive argument you have a lurking suspicion that every perfectly respectable eidetic or structural statement has a disreputable dash of inductive blood in its ancestry. I do not quite know whether you would openly proclaim this, admit it only to your best friend, admit it only to yourself when alone, refuse to admit it at all, or hotly deny it and denounce it publicly as a piece of propaganda emanating from the Vatican or Kremlin. On the matter of induction, whether there is any way of getting universally valid propositions, the discussion in the note of pp. 213-4 of your Visuddhimagga translation is of interest as overlooking a statement by the Buddha (M.90):— Natthi so sama~o vå bråhma~o vå yo såkideva sabbaññassati sabbaµ dakkh⁄ti, n’etaµ †hånaµ vijjat⁄ti.3 In the note the Pm says:— So, although it [i.e. the Blessed One’s knowledge] occurs with all dhammas as its object, it nevertheless does so making these dhammas quite clearly defined, as though it had a single dhamma as its object. [Paramattha-mañj¨så, 190-1] This gives me the impression that it is trying to say that reflexive knowledge has as its object a single essence or law (if you will excuse the word—I notice Sartre has used it in a quotation above), which nevertheless is applicable to all dhammas. The note, I note, says that the meaning of inferential (anumånika) knowledge is that it is doubtful: if this can be taken as saying that one can legitimately doubt inductive knowledge (the case in question is clearly inductive)—i.e. that it is only probable—then Husserl has been anticipated by several centuries. Had you noticed this? Does anumånika include deduction? Or is no distinction between inductive and deductive inference made? Or is it made in a different way?

255


[el. 91]

seeking the path

1.iii.59

Your thoughts on parallel lines are, I fear, just faintly specious. ‘A straight line’ you say ‘repeated, in its simplest mode, makes two parallel lines.’ Why? In Line Geometry, which puts things as simply as possible, a point repeated defines a line

and a line repeated defines a point

i.e. a repeated line intersects the original line. It is an additional complexity to require that the point of intersection should be at infinity. (We can go further and say that two lines intersecting in a point define a plane, and two planes define a line—their line of intersection—and so on.) And thus it seems to me (reading, perhaps, between the lines) that you have assumed that Riemann maintains that parallel lines meet at infinity (have you not?); but the point is that Euclid maintains that parallel lines meet at infinity— Riemann maintains that they meet in finity (and Lobatschewsky maintains that they diverge in finity). If parallel lines are defined (as I think Euclid does define them) as ‘straight lines meeting at infinity’, then Riemann is clearly guilty of doublethink in saying that ‘straight lines meeting at infinity (i.e. not meeting in finity) meet in finity’. Euclid got there first, and made his definition. He might have said ‘parallel lines are straight lines that meet in finity’, and in so saying he would have decreed that these lines

are to be called ‘parallel’. It would then have been necessary to find a name for these lines

, which clearly meet at infinity (i.e. do not meet in finity). What Riemann maintains is that the second pair of lines do meet in finity. I am not aware that either Riemann or Lobatschewsky has said what parallel lines

256


1.iii.59

early letters

[el. 91]

do at infinity. They probably do not use the notion of infinity. But if Euclid had not existed Riemann and Lobatschewsky would have had to invent him, since their raison d’être is simply to deny Euclid’s axiom. (And I suspect that Lobatschewsky has simply denied Riemann’s axiom.) Euclid said ‘A’ (‘straight lines that do not meet in finity shall be called parallel’); Riemann said ‘A is not-A’ (‘straight lines that do not meet in finity do meet in finity’); and Lobatschewsky said ‘A is neither not-A nor A’ (‘straight lines that do not meet in finity neither meet in finity nor meet in not-finity’). Lobatschewsky seems to have managed to treble-think, since he denies (what Riemann does not) that two straight lines meet anywhere. I have been visited in quick succession by two elderly red-faced and rather gloomy Englishmen. The first came with the Matara Bank manager and said nothing. The Bank manager (who came about the usual affair 4) is interested in meditation, and both in Rosicrucianism (about which I know nothing). The conversation turned to the belly bhåvanå, whereupon I employed my well-tried expedient of saying that, never having practised it (which already damns it a little) I can say nothing about it, but that it seems to be suspect on account of the claims of quick results that are put out by its advocates. This line is far more effective than the volumes of words and quotations and counter-quotations that are normally hurled to and fro. The second Englishman, who recently came in contact with Buddhism through F. Allen, says he (my visitor, not F. Allen) is a failure in life because he has tried Christianly to love his fellow men, and the only reaction he gets is resentment. A kind of Albert Schweitzer gone wrong. I told him to ignore his fellow men, and he seemed much relieved at my advice. Earnest and rather gushing. I fear I am unable to maintain such conversations at the emotional level that seems to be expected. Not unintelligent (he remarked that the West has lost its faith in its religion and that it is a fearful thing to be born in such conditions—rather Dostoievskyan) but why do people take life so seriously? I should be interested eventually to read your Netti and Pe†akopadesa translations5—perhaps you might send your written manuscript (if legible) when you have typed them (or even a carbon copy, if you are making one). The authorship of the Pe†akopadesa is no doubt a matter of dispute amongst scholars: may I suggest that you write a learned note to the effect that to judge from the form of the present editions Laurence Sterne seems to have had a hand in it? Still infested with elephants by night, large, medium, and small. P.S. I find there is an orchard growing on the palm tree behind the ku†i. How did that get there?

257


[el. 92]

[ EL. 92 ]

seeking the path

13.iii.59

13 March 1959

Perhaps there will be more to be said about my latest change of orientation at some later date, but for the present I shall limit myself to this. In my recent letters I said that the subject and the object are divided into a gratuitous and (in the non-arahat) a necessary part, and that the necessary part of the subject is ‘I’, whereas in the object it is ‘mine’; but this must be corrected—it is ‘my—’ in both. In other words, the object is ‘my book (or whatever it is)’, and the subject is ‘consciousness (or presence) of my book’. This means that ‘I’ is to be found neither in subject nor in object. With this (further) correction I now see my change of orientation as an abandonment of one of the four di††his: viññå~aµ attato samanupassati,1 and so on. If this is so, then it is a more important change than it seemed at first sight (and therefore the more welcome). I think I had largely inherited this di††hi (I am not sure which of the four) from Sartre, in whom the soi (or moi) is always in some way associated with consciousness, rather than with the object. For Sartre, I think, ‘Je suis’ expresses the conscience (de) soi, the conscience non thétique (d’)elle-même 2; and he says (in L’Imaginaire) that a conscience is itself an object in reflexion, and, from L’Être et le Néant I gather that this object is the soi. But I am not concerned to analyze Sartre’s di††his in this letter. One result of my change of orientation is that I have had to revise (yet once again—are you surprised?) my interpretation of the M¨lapariyåya tetrad. I had based my interpretation (or attempted to) on the Kummer structure, but now that I find that Kummer is valid for the arahat no less than for the non-arahat, this won’t do. (I mean that though Kummer shows that maññanå is possible—since maññanå is a form of choice—he [or it] does not show that it is necessary. Kummer does not show why there is maññanå.) I am by no means dissatisfied with my new interpretation (which does, in fact, have certain features in common with its predecessors). But prepare yourself for a shock—the tetrad is not a tetrad at all, it is a triad. The first three (pa†haviµ maññati, pa†haviyå maññati, and pa†havito maññati) tell us what we conceive, and the last (pa†haviµ me ti maññati) tells us how we conceive it. The first three refer, as I now think, to r¨pa, nåma, and viññå~a respectively, which are the three layers in all experience. In the objective layer (pa†haviµ maññati) we conceive the material object itself as mine (my book); then in the intermediate layer (pa†haviyå maññati) we have the description (nåma, adhivacana) of my book; and finally in the subjective layer (pa†havito maññati) we have presence/consciousness/existence of my book. Nowhere at all do we find ‘I’; yet all this ‘my’ keeps on pointing to an ‘I’, but in vain—there is no ‘I’ to be found.

258


13.iii.59

early letters

[el. 92]

Now this interpretation of the M¨lapariyåya fits in nicely with several other Suttas, as I hope to show you. The M¨lapariyåya starts with pa†haviµ pa†havito sañjånåti… pa†haviµ maññati. What other Sutta speaks of saññå and maññanå together? There is this one, which I must quote from memory: yena loke lokasaññ⁄ lokamån⁄, ayaµ vuccati ariyavinaye loko… cakkhunå loke lokasaññ⁄ lokamån⁄, sotena…3 etc. This brings out the point (correctly made, as far as it goes—by Sartre) that the senses (or body) are to be found either dans le monde—i.e. (negatively) as what is implicated by the orientation of the world,—or, au milieu du monde—i.e. as material things in the world, perceived by other senses: in no case can a sense appear to itself. Thus, in this Sutta, cakkhunå loke is the eye as a material thing in the world, and cakkhunå… lokamån⁄ is the material eye as the reason for there being a conceiver of the world; lokasaññ⁄ is the material eye as the reason for there being a perceiver of the world. From this I am led to think that cakkhuñca pa†icca r¨pe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññå~aµ 4 must be regarded as a description of the contact of what I can, with another eye, another sense, see as an eye (in the world) with what I can see as a coloured thing (in the world). By this I mean that since this is the only way in which a sense (an eye) can directly appear as an object, this description must be regarded as a scene witnessed (or imagined) by another similar sense. (There is a Majjhima ? Sutta5 which I can’t locate, that seems to confirm this. Hitherto this Sutta has been rather a stumbling block to me, but not now.) And there is also another reason for this. The eye, reflexively described, is what is pointed to or indicated by perception, i.e. as presupposed by perception; but the bahiddhå åyatanas are all given as already perceived (colours, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, ideas) before the contact has taken place—‘the eye meets colours’, as it were. But if the eye is presupposed by perception, the description should be ‘the eye meets matter, as a result of which contact there are colours’. So I think the eye and its object, in this description, are seen (or imagined) as if from an outside point of view. Now r¨pe/colours is a båhiråyatana, whereas the eye is ajjhattika. But I have tried to point out that the eye subjectively does not appear at all (which is why the description of phassa must be made as if from an outside point of view). In consequence of this, the opposition ajjhattika-båhira is not the same as the opposition subject-object that we have between viññå~a and nåmar¨pa. Here, viññå~a is the presence or existence of the descriptable (nåma) material object (r¨pa). [Viññå~a can be the object of reflexion (though it is not soi), whereas the eye or the body cannot.] Ajjhattika/båhira (of the åyatanas) is self/world, whereas viññå~a/nåmar¨pa is Subject/Object, but Self and Subject, as I now see, are quite different, as also are world and object. [The ajjhatta/bahiddhå of

259


[el. 92]

seeking the path

13.iii.59

the Satipa††håna Sutta simply is, I think, mine/others.] For this reason the relationship between the body and viññå~a is given in the Suttas by the simile of a jewel on a thread—i.e. purely as juxtaposed (the point being that viññå~a, to be described, must be seen reflexively, whereas the body, to be described, must be seen non-reflexively as a material object, and the two cannot be brought together at the same level). This brings me to the Sutta (again quoted from memory): Iti kåyo, bahiddhå ca nåmar¨pam: iccetaµ dvayaµ.6 You will notice that kåyo is not called ajjhattiko in relation to nåmar¨pa’s bahiddhå—for the reason that kåyo is itself a material object in the world with the peculiarity that it coincides with what is indicated by the conception, orientation, or organization of that nåmar¨pa; and neither of these is subjective (i.e. viññå~a). Similarly in this passage from M.109: Evaµ kho, bhikkhu, jånato evaµ passato imasmiñ ca saviññå~ake kåye bahiddhå ca sabbanimittesu ahaµkåramamaµkåramånånusayå na hont⁄ ti.7 Here the body is saviññå~aka (as before it was coupled with nåmar¨pa)—i.e. is accompanied by but is not itself, viññå~a or subjectivity, and the word ajjhattike is again notably absent. But there is a further point. The body (or senses) in its mode as a material object perceived (or imagined) by other senses, is in the world. This is important; for it is the correlative to the description of the material body (or senses) as the reason, or instrument, whereby there is a perceiver and a conceiver of the world. (Reflexively described the eye is, in fact, the perceiver and conceiver of the world—the attå—: but neither reflexive eye nor attå is to be found.) As soon as conception of the world (lokamaññanå) ceases, so, of course, does the world—and at one blow the body (or senses) ceases both as what is indicated by the conception of the world (i.e. the phantom perceiver and conceiver) and as a thing in the world. (Remember that attå and loka are correlatives—attå is what is indicated by loka.) Now we come to Båhiya. I have never been able to make good sense of this Sutta (Udåna i,10); but it all seems now to fall into place beautifully. Yato te Båhiya di††he di††hamattam bhavissati… viññåte viññåtamattaµ bhavissati,—from your ceasing to conceive when you perceive (i.e. what is seen is merely seen, and not seen as mine)—tato tvaµ Båhiya na tena—there will no longer be a reason or instrument (whereby there is a perceiver and a conceiver of the world)—yato tvaµ Båhiya na tena, tato tvaµ Båhiya na tattha—from the ceasing of the instrument there will no longer be a body there (in the world)—yato tvaµ Båhiya na tattha, tato tvaµ Båhiya nev’idha na huraµ na ubhayamantarena, es’ev’anto dukkhassåti  8—from the ceasing of the body there (in the world) there will no longer be the ajjhattikåyatanåni upon which depends phassa, upon which depends nåma (cf. M.109), upon

260


14.iii.59

early letters

[el. 92]

which depends nåmar¨pa saha viññå~ena (note that the triad:—here [idha] / beyond [huraµ] / in between [ubhayamantarena], corresponds in different order to the M¨lapariyåya triad:—accusative [here] / locative [in between] / ablative [beyond]), and cessation of (conception of) viññå~a, nåma, and r¨pa, is the end of suffering. It is an incidental matter of satisfaction that these two Suttas (M¨lapariyåya and Båhiya), both of which employ grammatical cases (accusative, locative, and ablative in the first, and instrumentive in the second) to convey their meaning, should have come clear together. Perhaps next week they will become unclear again together (but I hope not). Note that in a Målu~kyaputta Sutta in the Sa¬åyatana Saµyutta, the wording of Båhiya is repeated, and in the expansion it is made clear that the six senses are what is referred to. Some revisions of what I said in my last letter about the pa†iccasamuppåda I now think the non-arahat has the whole thing, whereas the arahat has from avijjå to vedanå with the maññanå removed (which of course turns avijjå into vijjå), and none of the terms beyond (alternatively, he has none). This means (i) that bhava must be understood as ceasing with the attainment of saupådisesanibbånadhåtu, and (ii) jåti and the remainder must be understood as what the non-arahat is liable for at any moment. In a sense this gives me a two-fold interpretation of the pa†iccasamuppåda—avijjå to bhava, and jåti to the end…9 14th. Thank you for your letter from Vajiråråma. No doubt the ola leaf Pe†akopadesa contains the same confusion as the printed texts—I imagine it is a rather venerable muddle, and even if you sort it out and restore sense to the text (and render to the D⁄gha Commentary what is the D⁄gha Commentary’s), nobody will accept it, and you will be regarded as a tamperer with the Tradition. Ven. Ñå~åloka seems to be spreading his wings a bit; he is collecting quite a crowd of pupils; is the twelve-year-old såma~era going to live at the Hermitage? I am glad to hear the belly battle is in full-swing—it sounds rather Falstaffian to me. So Mr. M. has discovered The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, has he? He made no mention of it to me, but I rather imagine it is just his cup of tea. You are quite right: Alaµ (as our Venerable Teacher called him) and the Heart are infallible signs. I preferred my mute Rosicrucian… I don’t know what it is about Vajiråråma, but it is extraordinarily difficult to think there at all—one’s head feels stuffed with cotton wool.

261


[el. 93]

[ EL. 93 ]

seeking the path

24.iii.59

24 March 1959

Many thanks for your letter and for the Netti. … I have only just glanced at the Netti, but it seems quite promising. The translation of sutta by ‘thread’ is to be encouraged—no doubt you are aware of the passage in the First Påråjika of the Sutta Vibhaπga about this. The elephants which are apparently terrorizing us are a herd of about fifty. In sheer bulk this is rather formidable—what does one elephant weigh? I have been suffering from this elephantiasis (surely the correct usage of the word—infestation by elephants?) on and off for the last month. Though they go away when they see a light or hear a cracker, they still come to within twenty or thirty yards of the ku†i—the light, or a torch, is hidden by the trees beyond that distance, and the cracker has to be fairly close to them to be effective. The other morning (4 a.m.) they were in the jungle about fifty yards beyond the privy, where I had an appointment. So I went out duly armed with hurricane lamp, torch, and crackers. They seemed to be getting closer as I was squatting there, and I was obliged to interrupt proceedings to let off two crackers and shine the torch, before they would go away. If they had come any closer I think perhaps I should have had an even quicker and more complete motion than I did in fact have. On the subject of elephants:—I note that in your Visuddhimagga translation you describe the elephant created by the Ven. Thera (suffering from some vipassanå upakilesas) as putting its trunk into its mouth and trumpeting; but does an elephant put its trunk into its mouth to trumpet? I don’t know; but it seems possible that what the text might actually mean is that the elephant used its trunk in place of its mouth, i.e. by uttering a sound with it. What do you think? I realize that kamma- and uppatti-bhava are pre-commentarial—if I said they were commentarial, that was a slip. I should not now at all equate these two with pour-soi and en-soi. Your comment that, grammatically, the word ‘I’ is the subject of a verb is pertinent. Actually, I was in doubt whether it would, in fact, be better to call attå (which is identical, as I see it, with ‘I’—attå, ‘self’, is sometimes more of a rationalization than ‘I’) the ‘subject’ (and the ajjhattikåyatanåni ‘subjective’) and loka the ‘object’ (and the båhirå­yatanåni ‘objective’), rather than viññå~a and nåmar¨pa. I was going to ask you your opinion in this matter. But if attå is the subject, then viññå~a is not. But how, then, to distinguish (in English) between consciousness and its åramma~a 1, name-and-matter/form? Internal and external, perhaps? But even this is not satisfactory, since consciousness is the thing’s presence or existence, which can hardly be called internal (internal to what?). The confusion comes about from our normally translating ‘there is

262


24.iii.59

early letters

[el. 93]

consciousness (of) my book’ into ‘I am conscious (of the) book’, and this tends to pull consciousness out of the picture towards ‘I’. I have thought of a simple simile to illustrate my earlier mistake of (partly) identifying ‘I’ with consciousness. If it is not pressed too far, I think the simile may be found useful. Here it is. Suppose that I take a photograph of someone who is talking to me. When the photograph is developed and printed I have a picture of only one person—the person who is talking. But (especially if the person happens also to be pointing with his finger to me while talking) the picture indicates another person, namely, the person who is being talked to (and pointed at), that is, myself. In other words, ‘I’ am the significance of the picture, and ‘I’ am its significance by my absence from it. In other words again, ‘I’ appear in the picture negatively. Now Sartre has said that consciousness is the negative of the thing. And this, in a sense, is correct. But what I have been assuming is that (in the simile) the picture of the person talking to me is the positive and I-who-am-being-talked-to-by-the-person is the negative—and therefore ‘I’ am consciousness. But any photographer will point out my mistake—the negative of the picture is not the photographer but the same picture, with light for dark and dark for light (and ‘I’—the photographer—am just as much absent from the photograph’s negative as from the print or positive). You see how it goes? Nåmar¨pa is the positive picture; but it has a negative in two senses—the photographic negative, which is viññå~a, and the photographer (the perceiver and conceiver of the world), which is ‘I’ or myself, attå. (If you point out, correctly, that nåmar¨pa has a [teleological] significance for arahat as well as for puthujjana, then I must admit that the simile is inadequate—the particular ‘I’ or ‘my’ significance of the non-arahat’s nåmar¨pa is additional to its teleological significance. And this, incidentally, is where Sartre goes wrong—he confuses the teleological significance of things [POUR] with the additional pa†haviµ-me-ti significance [MOI/SOI].) In view of all this, I shall probably abandon all attempts to find a pair of words to replace subject-object as a description of viññå~a and nåmar¨pa—I now think the expression bahiddhå nåmar¨paµ refers to nåmar¨pa as loka or as corresponding to the båhiråyatanåni, and not as ‘object’ of consciousness. M.28 is the Sutta I was thinking of—thank you. In view of my reorientation I no longer equate ta~hå with Sartre’s manque (see above on his confusion of the teleological and the personal), but perhaps would still translate it as ‘want’… P.S. If attå (‘self’ or ‘I’) is as much absent from the positive (nåmar¨pa) as from the negative (viññå~a), is it not then proper to say that viññå~a is as

263


[el. 93]

seeking the path

24.iii.59

much bahiddhå as nåmar¨pa (considered as loka)? Not quite; for the reason that just as nåmar¨pa is the åramma~a of viññå~a, so attå or ‘self’ is the åramma~a of self-consciousness [attå is a kind of ajjhattika nåmar¨pa]. Thus the åramma~a ‘nåmar¨pa or loka’ is bahiddhå to the åramma~a ‘attå or self’, whereas viññå~a [i.e. the consciousness (of) nåmar¨pa] is bahiddhå to self-consciousness. Viññå~a is not therefore directly bahiddhå to attå. Self-consciousness is, of course, no more to be found than self. [EL. 94 ]

undated

Unsigned, in Ven. Ñå~av⁄ra’s handwriting. No letter, having nothing to say (except that Mr. M. has written to say that he is now practising meditation under the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera who, in his opinion, is ‘very sound’—your diagnosis is confirmed). comments on netti translation

Para. 10, note 2—‘…the term adhivacana-samphassa (“designation-contact”) is employed to refer to the application of the name to the named in the field of ideas, and is distinguished from the corresponding pa†igha-samphassa (“resistance-contact”) of the five sense-faculties with their respective objects…’ This statement seems to allot nåma to manañca dhamme ca and r¨pa to cakkhuñca r¨pe ca and the other four. But it is quite clear from M.28 that all five upådånakkhandhas arise with contact in the case of each of the six åyatanas, and there are no grounds for supposing that only r¨pa (and viññå~a) arises from cakkhu-sota-ghåna-jivhå-kåya-samphassa, and that vedanå saññå and saπkhårå (and viññå~a) arise from manosamphassa. This is perhaps even more specifically stated in M.9: Chayime åvuso vedanåkåyå, cakkhusamphassajå vedanå… manosamphassajå vedanå 1 (see also D.15). The source of the confusion is perhaps the fact that mano is used in the Suttas with rather different meanings: sometimes it is opposed to kåya (and vac⁄), and sometimes apparently even equated to viññå~a (yadidaµ vuccati cittaµ itipi mano itipi viññå~am itipi  2—Nidåna/Abhisamaya Saµyutta vii(?xii),1) [but see later comment on Para. 293]. But, as an åyatana, mano is neither the same as viññå~a, since manañca pa†icca dhamme ca uppajjati manoviññå~am, nor opposed to kåya as something non-material opposed to something material (this distinction is the famous and misleading mind-body paradox which all the scientists in the

264


Undated

early letters

[el. 94]

world have failed to solve), since not only are cakkhu, sota, ghåna, jivhå, and kåya ‘that in the world by which there is a perceiver and conceiver of the world’ but also mano is ‘that in the world by which…’ (this is a latish Sa¬åyatana Saµyutta Sutta, whose exact reference I have not3), and anything in the world must be of the world, i.e. it must be material (whatever else it is besides). It is tempting, but I think quite mistaken, to identify dhammå with what Sartre calls ‘images’, and the other five båhiråyatanas with what Sartre calls ‘perceptions’. Dhammå are simply the other five in combination. (In fact, all åyatanas are nåmar¨pa, since the world is nåmar¨pa.) How, then, is D.15 (Nidåna Suttanta) to be understood? Clearly it is saying that r¨pa cannot arise independent of nåma, or nåma of r¨pa. By this I understand that in any experience, involving no matter which sense (note that I am not denying that whenever there is cakkhuviññå~a [say] there is also manoviññå~a, but simply asserting that this fact is irrelevant in the present context), what appears is (i) describable: it is saññå (which is nåma), or distinguishable as colour(-and-shape), sound, smell, taste, touch, or idea—and note that of saññå the Buddha says (I quote from memory): Saññatvå, evaµ saññ⁄ ahosinti hoti 4 (A.VI,vi,8), which shows why saññå, being the basis of description, is nåma or adhivacana—; and it is (ii) possessed of a certain resistance that is independent of the particular quality or percept that manifests it (though it cannot be manifest except in the form of some percept or other—rather as different instruments can be devised to detect or ‘perceive’ electromagnetic waves), and this resistance (pa†igha) is r¨pa (and just as the programme that is received by the wireless set can only be heard when the set is on, yet is independent of the set in that the set is not responsible for the programme, which thus possesses its own inertia or resistance vis-à-vis the set, so the ‘programme’ of r¨pa that we perceive when this or that sense is on is dependent upon perception in order to appear, but is independent of, or resistant to, perception in that we do not perceive whatever we wish to perceive but what is arbitrarily forced upon us—which, of course, is distorted by our maññanå, rather [though not exactly] as a defective wireless set distorts the programme [but with ‘defective’ perception, i.e. maññanå, it is useless trying to discover the ‘undistorted programme’ that was ‘actually broadcast by the BBC’ before our ‘defective’ perception distorted it]). The division of phassa into pa†igha and adhivacana samphassa does not, as I understand it, correspond to a distinction between the five senses and the mind, but rather to the twofold necessity of all experience, in that it consists of a certain independent, arbitrary, resistant, datum (RÁPA) which, however, is obliged, in order to appear, to be descriptible as seen or heard or smelt and so on

265


[el. 94]

seeking the path

Undated

(as well as pleasant, unpleasant, etc.), i.e. to appear as a particular percept (NÅMA). This D.15 passage describes phassa from the inside—i.e. reflexively and without reference to the twelve åyatanas (which are seen from the outside as in M.28). [Beyond this, I think it is possible to specify the basic structure of r¨pa or pa†igha, in terms of pa†havi, åpo, tejo, and våyo, not so much, however, as solid, liquid, ripening/fiery, and motile/windy (which are derived notions, themselves requiring analysis), but rather as isolation, cohesion, combination, distension, or some such terms (which can be given exact definition with the aid of Kummer, since they simply describe the relation of the present object with its immediate negative, the surrounding absent objects). Distension (våyo) is the measure of a thing’s inertia—it cannot vanish until distension (or ‘potential’ if you prefer) has dropped to zero. The arbitrary ‘pattern’ of r¨pa—its given teleological significance—to some extent justifies its translation as ‘form’; but this must not be identified with the shape of an object as opposed to its other qualities (such as colour, texture, sound, and so on)—all the qualities of an object, not excluding the particular quality of shape, manifest form (indeed, strictly, each quality is itself an object [in the field of the particular sense concerned, and the qualities combine in virtue of mind which combines the individual fields of the sensual senses], and each object has an arbitrary, resistant, foundation). On the more everyday level, however, there is no harm in (con)fusing ‘form’ with ‘shape’ since we most easily apprehend matter in the shape of objects, their most obviously resistant feature; and it is thus possible partly to justify ‘form’ for r¨pa also on this level. Thus the four mahåbh¨tas both (as solid, liquid, fiery, and windy) are ‘form’ (everyday level) and (as isolation, cohesion, combination, distension) are that upon which ‘form’ depends (fundamental level)—cattåri ca mahåbh¨tåni catunnañca mahåbh¨tånaµ upådåya r¨paµ: ayam vuccat’åvuso r¨paµ.5 But all this in the square bracket is beyond the scope of your note.] Para. 79, note 3—Is there an authority for extending ‘misapprehension of virtue and duty’ beyond what you say in this note (which is obviously correct [as far as it goes]), to cover also the mistaken view that enlightenment or extinction is to be obtained through the practice of s⁄la alone (i.e. without samådhi and paññå)? It seems to me to be unduly restricted to limit it to ‘ox-virtue’ etc. There is a school of opinion in Ceylon that Vinaya by itself is enough. Para. 138—I dislike ‘zeal’ for chanda. ‘Desire’ seems to suit all contexts much better. ‘Zeal’ is quaint. Para. 144—In M.62 (i,424) there is upekkhaµ hi te Råhula bhåvanaµ bhåvayato yo pa†igho so pah⁄yissati. 6

266


Undated

early letters

[el. 94]

Para. 161—There seem to be no good grounds for the Netti’s saying that the sixth åyatana is not material—see my remarks to para. 10, note 2. Nevertheless, since it is not distinguishable as a material sense separate from the first five (being the combination of them) it is not necessary to say that it is the footing for ‘lust for form’ in addition to the first five. Why the Netti here speaks of the five faculties and then switches to the sixth facticity-base, I don’t know—there is Sutta authority (Indriya Saµyutta, I think) for calling the mind a faculty as well as the five (N.B. In para. 255 all six are ‘faculties’). Were the sixth indriya or åyatana not material it would have no existence whatsoever (since reflexively it does not appear). Para. 164, note 5—‘Eye-as-vision’ is an odd translation of the pair of facticity-bases,a cakkhuñca r¨pe ca. Perhaps you have a reason? From Sa¬åyatana Saµyutta x,2 it is clear that “vision (seeing)” = “eye-consciousness”. What, then, is “eye-as-eye-consciousness”? Also, the word corresponding to mind is viññå~a (or ñå~a in the verses), which is “cognitionb (knowing)” and not ‘mentation’ (what is the Pali for this?). Cf. also di††ha-suta-muta-viññåta.7 —do—note 9—Though holding no brief for ‘clinging’, I do not much favour your ‘assuming’. I translate ‘holding’. Para. 165, note 1—How charmingly innocent is this use of bhavaπga! I am all in favour. The Abhidhammikas have put their foot in it. Para. 173—Where are the notes? The second note is given under para. 172, and the first note is missing altogether. Perhaps you will find this quotation in the Rådha Saµyutta. Para. 174—Perhaps you will find this quotation (which is untraced presumably because of the initial Tasmåtiha) in the Satipa††håna Saµyutta. Para. 46, note 2—(Turn back, I’m afraid.) The translation of yoniso manasikåra as ‘reasoned mind-work’, though certainly correct from the etymological point of view, seems to overshoot the mark. In the first place, it is terribly stiff and un-English (like the horrible ‘making-become’ for bhåvanå [I see (para 46, note 1) you translate bhåvanå as ‘maintaining in being’: why not simply ‘keeping in being’, which is shorter? But both of these seem to miss the idea of development which I think is essentially what is meant—to cause to be what already is = to develop, to increase in being—what about ‘growth in being’, if you insist on preserving the a.  Without disagreeing with this translation of åyatana, recent thoughts on the matter lead me to prefer ‘occasion’ (which, incidentally, also fits other uses of åyatana, e.g. Sati sati åyatane—‘whenever there is occasion’). b.  N.B. I may change from ‘consciousness’ to ‘cognition’ for viññå~a, since ‘to cognize’ is shorter than ‘to conscious of’ for vijånåti; but the point is not important.

267


[el. 94]

seeking the path

Undated

ontological aspect? To grow is also causative in English.]) In the second place, ‘mind-work’ inevitably suggests thinking—and indeed you say that it is the mental activity inseparable from all cognition—; but in the higher jhånas (see M.111—vol. 3, p. 28) there is still manasikåra, and the emphasis there is certainly not on mental activity (after all, vitakkavicåra have been left behind after the first jhåna). I cannot help feeling that ‘attention’ is not only more natural English, but also more accurately and less misleadingly conveys what is intended by manasikåra. Manasikåra, in itself, is purely direction—it is not ‘work in the mind’ but ‘making to the mind’—, and the part played by manasikåra in a train of thought is simply the direction of the mind to each idea; but the succession of ideas is not manasikåra—it is the manner of its employment (yoniso or ayoniso). As regards ‘reasoned’ there is less to say. ‘Reasoned attention’ is perhaps unobjectionable, though still a little starchy. For my part, even in face of your arguments, I would translate ‘proper attention’ and ‘improper attention’, where ‘proper’ can be taken in the sense of ‘straight’ or ‘upright’, and ‘improper’ as ‘crooked’. ‘Reasoned’ also has a faintly logical air about it—Rationalism, one feels, is somewhere in the background (‘A feast of Pure Ration’, as one might say). ‘Wise’ and ‘unwise’ are not very satisfactory. Para. 152, note 1—Even admitting that natthi kiñc⁄ti is a play on the two words kiñci (pron.) and kiñcana, I find that ‘nothingness’ is to be preferred as a translation. Obviously, if there is nothing, then there is no obstruction or owning; but the translation ‘no owning’ seems liable to confusion with n’etaµ mama, which, after all, is quite a different department of the Dhamma. Alternatively, you might compromise between ‘no owning’ and ‘nothing’ with ‘no property’ (i.e. ‘nothing owned’); but even this does not quite avoid confusion with n’etaµ mama (though it is perhaps better). The point seems to be this. Except in an arahat (and the ar¨pa jhånas do not specifically concern arahats) everything is maññita, everything is ‘mine’, everything is owned. In consequence, there is only no owning or property when there is nothing at all. But if you say ‘no owning’ there might, logically, still be things that are not owned, and if you say ‘no property’ there might still be things that are not property, whereas if you say ‘nothing’ this mistake cannot arise (though you lose the significant point that the only way a non-arahat can delude himself that he is free from owning is by abolishing everything—I say ‘delude himself’, because the M¨lapariyåya tells us that will still conceive åkiñcaññåyatanam-me ti: ‘“no owning”, “no property”, “nothing” is mine’, which is a pleasing example of the treachery of the Theory of Types). Or you might translate åkiñcaññåyatana as ‘the base (or as I should say, “occasion”) of dispossession’ and in the same

268


Undated

early letters

[el. 94]

sentence translate natthi kiñc⁄ti as ‘there is nothing at all’; this would give you the benefit (in those contexts where both expressions occur) of both senses, and all you would lose is the similarity of the words in the Pali (kiñci-kiñcana). Paras. 194-7—I note that you translate ajjhattika as ‘in oneself’ and båhira as ‘external’. That would be perfectly unobjectionable, except that in combination with these you use the word ‘object’, which inevitably points to a ‘subject’. Does the pain ‘in oneself/external’ correspond to ‘subject/object’ or not? If it does, why do you distinguish? The difficulty is, of course, that the body, which is ajjhattika relative to the båhiråyatanas, is itself a båhiråyatana when we come to consider how we perceive our own body. I suggest this complication can be avoided if you use the word ‘thing’ instead of ‘object’. If you stick to ‘in oneself/external’ for ajjhattika/båhira, you will then have no occasion at all to use the words ‘subject/object’ (except, of course, in other senses: ‘What is the object of your journey?’ ‘What is the subject of your lecture?’ etc.). [Hitherto I have been following Sartre in speaking of the ‘object’ of consciousness, but this won’t do unless consciousness is the ‘subject’, which I have now decided it is not—I shall use ‘subject(-ive)/object(-ive)’ for ajjhattika-båhira. Since åyatana is ‘occasion’, the word ‘base’ is available for åramma~a, and it will be convenient and correct to speak of nåmar¨pa as the ‘base (of consciousness)’. A ‘thing’ will then be a ‘base (of consciousness)’ if it is considered in relation to its existence or presence, and it will be an ‘object’ (where I speak of objects you will speak of externals) if it is regarded in relation to my self (‘subject’), and ‘objective’ if it is regarded in relation to a (bodily) sense (‘subjective’). My body can be a base (of consciousness), an object, objective, or subjective, depending on how it is regarded. It can never be the subject (self).] Para. 202—You here use the words ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’. How are these related to ‘in oneself’ and ‘external’? See previous note. Para. 212—The word ‘singularity’ is rather singular. Para. 239—There might be something to say about this if I knew what the Pali was. Is ‘concomitant of cognizance’ cittasaπkhåra or not? If so, I disagree with the translation. Cittasaπkhåra is mental determination or intention (= mental action), not a (or the) concomitant of citta/mentality. I must also register an objection to translation of citta as ‘cognizance’, for the reason that the word ‘cognizance’ is more or less equivalent to ‘consciousness’ or viññå~a, whereas citta is something on a different level. Confusion of citta and viññå~a leads to difficulties. ‘Heart’ for citta is much better, though perhaps not ideal. Provisionally I use ‘mentality’, which also is not

269


[el. 94]

seeking the path

Undated

ideal. Perhaps, however, ‘concomitant of cognizance’ is cetasika? If so, I object only (as above) to the word ‘cognizance’, but fail to understand this para. of the Netti. Citta is a less determinate or technical word than mano (as åyatana) on the one hand, and viññå~a on the other hand, and corresponds to ‘mind’ in such expressions as ‘I’ve got a good mind to…’, ‘bloody-minded’, ‘he’s got a dirty mind’, ‘make up your mind’, and so on. Cittasaπkhåra and manosaπkhåra (I think both terms occur and are used synonymously) are both ‘mental determinations’, and though this is not on the same level as manokamma (which is much coarser), nevertheless mano is used and in the same sense—i.e. non-åyatana and as opposed to vac⁄ and kåya—in both; but as far as I know, though mano is sometimes, as here, the same as citta, citta is never used as an equivalent to the manåyatana or manindriya. And I know of no passage where citta and viññå~a are at all interchangeable. Citta (mano) is no more nor less than the everyday notion of ‘mind’, and as such defies any precise definition—‘what is mind?’ It is tempting to identify it with nåma, as such translations of nåmar¨pa as ‘mentality-materiality’ go to show; but actually nåma is on quite a different level, being a precise technical term on the same level as viññå~a and manåyatana (from which it is clearly distinct). There is a similar difference of level between the kåya of kåyakamma and kåyasaπkhåra on the one hand and the kåyåyatana and kåyindriya on the other hand. In my view it is a fundamental mistake to seek connexions between different levels—citta, for example, can by no means be defined in terms of pañcakkhandhå or sa¬åyatana. Even the apparently exact correspondence between kåya-, vac⁄-, citta-saπkhåra and kåya-, vac⁄-, mano-kamma is deceptive: an unspoken covetous or deluded thought (vitakka) is vac⁄saπkhåra but manokamma, and verbal expression, particularly by gestures, seems to be kåyasaπkhåra but vac⁄kamma. Para. 260, note 1—You now have no excuse for translating åramma~a as ‘object’. Paras. 293-4—! (N.B. Could you send me the whole of the relevant passage (not the whole Sutta) in S.ii,94-5 [which I imagine is the same as the Nidåna/Abhisamaya Saµyutta vii (?xii),1], so that I can decide whether it is necessary to understand it as asserting that citta, mano, and viññå~a are synonymous? If you asked the average Englishman whether mind and consciousness are the same or different, what would he say? I imagine he would say that they are the same, opposing both to matter. I think this Sutta probably means no more than that. I cannot help feeling that the Netti is wrongly attributed to the Venerable Mahå-Kaccåna Thera—it is much more likely to have been composed by Procrustes 8.)

270


Undated

early letters

[el. 94]

Para. 428, note 1—This note is missing. Para. 424, note 1—How do you distinguish between a ‘component’ and a ‘category’? What, exactly, do you mean by a component of existence? This is not quite clear. I do not consider the five categories and the twelve facticity-bases quite as ‘alternative’, i.e. mutually exclusive, or equivalent. They are, rather, ‘complementary’ or related, as can be seen from their occurrence in the pa†iccasamuppåda viññå~a-nåmar¨pa-sa¬åyatana. This note has rather an air of oversimplification. Para. 453, note 1—‘the only authentic Pi†aka reference’, though correct, suggests Buddhavacana, yet you say at the end ‘to repeat, the word never seems to have been used at all by the Buddha’. Why ‘to repeat…’? This takes too much for granted from your reader, who may have his own opinions about the Ps., or may consider that all, or alternatively none, of the Pi†aka is Buddhavacana. Para. 453, note 2—If you put milk into a pot and leave it, does it become curd? Doesn’t it just go sour? Or is that the same thing? And is the transition gradual or abrupt? The translation ‘milk, when put into a pot, is curd’ rather suggests that it becomes curd merely in virtue of its being transferred to a pot (‘curd is potted milk’), which is hardly what is intended: would not ‘milk, being left in a pot, is curd’ be better, if you want to avoid the word ‘becomes’? The arbitrariness of the decision at what moment the milk becomes curd is largely a rational affair: if the transition is gradual we are perplexed only because we presuppose that it must be either milk or curd (if we do not presuppose ‘is this milk?’ ‘is this curd?’ doubt does not arise—it is what it is) and if the transition is abrupt we have no reason for perplexity. The less rational our attitude, the more evident becomes the moment when a thing ceases to be what it was. Para. 470—Is the second ‘concentration’ right? Para. 472—Is the second ‘heart-deliverance’ right? Para. 508—See comment on para. 260, note 1. Para. 510—Note number 1 missing in text. Para. 521, note 1—‘Unmaterialistic’ sounds a little odd combined with ‘noble’—Anticommunism? Para. 524—‘Universal-wholeness’ is rather a teutonic compound—is there nothing simpler? Para. 535, note 1—This note is missing. Para. 541, note 1—Ditto. Para. 553, notes 1 and 2—Perhaps ar¨pa beings are intended—not having a kåya they will not have a sak-kåya9? But see åneñjasakkåya. Para. 559—Why D.2 for the sixty-two di††his? Surely D.1 (Brahmajåla)?

271


[el. 94]

seeking the path

Undated

Paras. 561-2—Are you right in expanding ‘the way that leads anywhere’ into ‘the way that leads [from] anywhere [to extinction]’? Does it not simply refer to those who are not committed either to hellish or to heavenly rebirth—i.e. those who might go [to] anywhere? That, at least, is how I understand para. 567. Para. 577, note 1—For ‘blunt’ read ‘light’. Para. 580, note 2—Should not ‘attainment percipient of nonentity’ be ‘attainment of nonentity of perception’ (= asaññåsattåyatanaµ)? For Para. 645, note 1—read para. 644, note 1. Para. 662—See comment to para. 559 above. Para. 674, sub-para. 3—I think that you go against the Netti’s intention by giving the four ‘assumptions’ as you do—it is clear from para. 678 that the Netti’s four (in this context) are sensual-desire, being, views, self-doctrine. Better check with the Pali that you have got para. 257 correctly. How inconvenient and tiresome must the Suttas be to the exegetists! Both the Netti and Bhante prefer bhavupådåna though perhaps for different reasons. (The Ven. Bu. Thera at least does not alter the texts or suggest they are mistaken.) From para. 675 sub-para. 4 I see that the Bond of Views corresponds to the Tie of Misapprehension of Virtue and Duty. This would tend to make di††hupådåna and s⁄labbatupådåna coalesce, no doubt making room for bhavupådåna. All this part of the Netti is pure Procrustes. Para. 689, note 1—Why do you say that any soul-concept must fall into the name-body? What about r¨paµ attato samanupassati and so on, and viññå~am attato samanupassati and so on? Para. 757, note 2—Note number missing in text. Para. 760, note 3—Note number missing from text. Para. 794 et. seq.—You would probably find all these untraced quotations in the Vimåna Vatthu. Para. 827—The whole of this quotation is from the Båhiya Sutta in the Udåna (i,10), and not as you have divided it. Para. 850—Read D.1 for D.2. The note here is given in the notes as belonging to para. 851. Para. 823, note 2—Full marks for the ‘teleological suspension of the ethical’—that will fox everybody. Para. 904-5—This passage seems to suggest that the first beginning is not evident to såvakas but is evident to the Buddhas. This is a strange confusion. Para. 931—Would not ‘How has my passing of the nights and days been?’ be better?

272


Undated

early letters

[el. 94]

general remarks 1. The foregoing comments do not pretend to be exhaustive. I have rather skimmed through the translation, and these were the most striking points. I have also made no attempt at all to correct the numerous misprints. 2. As regards the Netti itself, it is indeed a cosy little desert as you describe it. While it is neat, methodical, and systematic, it is also entirely superfluous where it is not positively misleading. It is a combination of glimpses of the obvious (particularly the last part) and Procrustean drillserjeant methods. I found it wholly useless. It is like being absorbed in a slow and difficult chess problem and having a well-meaning bystander come up and offer to show how one can get along much faster and more easily. And show one he does—by treating all the pieces as draughtsmen. A game of draughts played with chessmen, that’s what it is. (Long ago I heard the Ven. Soma Thera speak of the Netti Method, which I rather gathered was the art of transferring any one set of things in the Dhamma (the four jhånas, say) into any other set (the seven bojjhaπgas, say). While it is not exactly that (though, also, it is not exactly not that), it may have set a fashion that the other commentators have been only too eager to follow and develop (draughts is easier than chess). 3. As regards your translation, something may be said about (i) choice of words, and (ii) quantity of words. (i) Choice of words. Naturally I do not always agree with you in this matter, and for different reasons. But since it is always, ultimately, a matter of difference of personal views there is no point in insisting. In addition to what I have noted above, I would register disapproval of ‘relishing’ for nandi, which, though perfectly correct, is rather quaint (like the word ‘zeal’, which, however, I do not regard as correct for chanda). Only a canibal chief ‘expects his dear relatives with relish’, and though, no doubt, we do devour each other, the word seems a little gross in most contexts. Also ‘choice’ for cetanå and ‘intention’ for sa~kappa: but my objection to these is on philosophical grounds, which it is impossible to discuss at all briefly. (ii) Quantity of words. Far too many. This seems to be due to two things. The first is your attempt to be accurate and consistent. This in itself is admirable, and without consistency at least this translation could not have been done (though whether it deserves your efforts is another matter). But your insistence upon maintaining being in being, and upon sticking to ‘idea’ for dhamma through thick and thin sometimes produces some verbal monstrosities. (Your original intention, now mercifully abandoned, to translate yathåbh¨ta as ‘according as it actually comes to be’ and ‘inseparable from the

273


[el. 94]

seeking the path

Undated

idea of [vanishing]’ for [vaya]dhamma are examples.) Note that ‘ideas’ for dhamme in manañca dhamme ca may lead (by taking ‘ideas’ as equivalent to ‘images’ rather than to ‘essences’ or ‘natures’) to identification of manåyatana with citta, which is a confusion of levels with serious consequences. Dhamme, here, is ‘things(-as-essence)’—but note that I do not say you should so translate it, I only point out the danger of translating it as ‘ideas’. Since the Netti itself makes this mistake, perhaps in these circumstances you would be wrong not to translate as ‘ideas’? You would be guilty of betraying the trust reposed in you by the author of the Netti—Procrustes—when he appointed you his translator. The gain in accuracy and significance that you make in this way is sometimes entirely negatived by loss of intelligibility. It cost me quite an effort to decipher ‘for one who is virtuous there is no choice to make thus “How shall non-remorse be born in me?” since it is essential to the idea of the virtuous man that non-remorse is born in him’ as ‘one who is virtuous does not have to think “How shall I become non-remorseful?” since a virtuous man naturally becomes non-remorseful’. Mark you, I do not say you ought to have translated it in this way. I only point out that by being accurate and consistent you may become unreadable (I offer no solution). Also, in aiming at accuracy you sometimes produce some little monsters by adhering to etymology—‘in-shutting hindrance’ for n⁄vara~a, for example [I suggest ‘constraint’, which carries the idea both of restriction and coercion (hedges constrain traffic to keep you to the road]—, and overreliance on etymology sometimes makes you, in my opinion, overshoot the mark (I have already discussed ‘mind-making’ for manasikåra, but think of the strange result of a strict etymological paraphrase of ‘mind the step!’, which contains an almost exact rendering of manasikaroti!). ‘Universalwholeness’ is another example. The second source of excess words is your way of interpolating words in square brackets in order to complete the sense of elliptical statements. This device is certainly unavoidable in many places, but it is sometimes overdone. For example (para. 511): ‘For in the fourth meditation cognizance possessed of eight factors is maintained in being: [it is then] quite purified, quite bright, unblemished…’. Why not simply ‘… cognizance of eight factors is maintained in being, quite purified, quite bright, unblemished…’? A desire to be explicit sometimes results in an oversimplification of the sense and even in mistakes. Particularly in Suttas it is important not to put there what is not in the Pali unless it is impossible even to make sense in English without. A good example is found in your Visuddhimagga translation—(p. 603) ‘Now this body [with its six internal bases] and externally [the six bases due to] mentality-materiality make a duality’. The Pali gives simply ‘Now this body and externally mentality-

274


31.iii.59

early letters

[el. 95]

materiality make (are) a duality’, and this is perfectly good grammatical English giving an exact rendering of the Pali. By adding the brackets you both add words and run the risk of misinterpreting the text. In this case I think your interpretation is on the right lines, except that it oversimplifies the situation by apparently smoothing out the difficulties in an otherwise obscure text. But in fact the obscurities remain, though now concealed in your artful gloss—what exactly are we to understand by ‘this body with its six internal bases’ and ‘the six bases due to materiality-mentality’? And besides, the Pali tells us that mentality-materiality is external, whereas you tell us that the six bases are external, which is not quite the same thing. If the text is obscure it is purposely obscure, and should be left so in translation. It is a little ironical that in translating a work by the Ven. Buddhaghosa Thera you should gratuitously have given an interpretation to this Sutta passage quoted by him that is quite different from his own interpretation (see the Saµyutta Commentary, where ‘externally mentality-materiality’ is glossed as ‘other people’): had you refrained from interpolating you would have saved words, remained faithful to the text, and not laid yourself open to adverse comment either by me or by the Ven. Buddhaghosa Thera supposing he were still alive. This example, however, I admit is past history; nevertheless I still sense the same tendency in the present translation. Verse translation presents additional difficulties, of course, metri causa. It is obvious that if I am to comment on your translation I shall mention principally what I disagree with, or find is wrong, and not what I agree with and approve. If, then, the foregoing reads like a dozen pages of carping criticism, purely destructive bourgeois negative thinking, you have really only yourself to thank, since you said that any comments would be joyfully received, and, taking you at your word, I have produced twelve pages of them in the confident expectation that they will seem like purest nectar. Needless to say, what I have left unsaid in the way of praise and admiration for your really rather remarkable achievement would fill an entire [… one word indecipherable] 10. As for your learned notes, I find I have some relish for them—perhaps rather in the sense of Mark Twain’s remark ‘I love work; I can watch it for hours’. [ EL. 95 ]

31 March 1959

About citta. I suggested ‘heart’ (which I think you sometimes use) or ‘mentality’ (which I have been using) as a better, though not entirely satisfactory, alternative to the entirely unsatisfactory ‘cognizance’. But now I think I

275


[el. 95]

seeking the path

31.iii.59

have found the answer. Citta and cetanå (though not on the same level) are related, and cetanå (for me) is ‘intention’—i.e. the act or process or phenomenon of intending, which I understand as the having of a purpose (the essence of teleology). Thus we have yañca ceteti yañca pakappeti, ‘what one intends, what one plans… ’, where ceteti and pakappeti are almost synonymous (they are not, however, simply teleological—as in the arahat—, since the meaning is intending or planning as mine, pour-mien). Citta is not so much the process of intending (‘intention’), as what is intended (cf. ‘it is my mind to do so-and-so’), and this can be expressed by the word ‘intent’, which henceforward shall be my translation of citta. But for you, so long as you have ‘choice’ for cetanå and ‘intention’ for saπkappa, this solution won’t do. (N.B. ‘Choice’ is ambiguous—it can be the act of choosing, what is chosen, or what there is to choose between [or amongst]: none of these is my cetanå, though the last is closest.) I suggest, then, the word ‘purpose’ (sarågañ cittaµ, ‘lustful purpose’; cittavisuddhi, ‘purification of purpose’; cetosamatha, ‘quieting of purpose’; cittasaπkhårå, ‘purpose-determinations’; etc.). [I might use ‘purpose’ for saπkappa.] [ EL. 96 ]

3 April 1959

Many thanks for your letter and for the Netti introduction. I enclose a few comments on same. In my comments to the main body of the Netti, which you should have by now received, I have been rather disparaging about it, which might seem to contrast with your description of it as an ‘admirable work’. But I am concerned only to comment on it as a help to the understanding of the Suttas, and I have to confess that I find it an anti-help. If you ignore this aspect, which is the only serious aspect, and regard the Netti in itself as a method applicable to scriptures in general (with the exception of the Suttas, which is the only set of scriptures it claims to deal with) then the work may indeed be described as admirable (draughts is an admirable game, but not if you are trying to play chess). It is neat, precise, methodical, uncontradictory, readable, etc. etc. etc. But—it is essentially, in Kierkegaard’s terms, comic. (Remember the praise Kierkegaard gives Hegel as a comic writer; and the reproach, the main reproach, that Hegel being a comic writer, claims to be a serious writer.) The Netti is also, of course, of immense value to the Pali scholar, showing the source of much of the Commentarial machinery. When I expressed doubts whether the Netti deserved the efforts you have expended on it, I was thinking rather in terms of comedy and seriousness—

276


3.iv.59

early letters

[el. 96]

as a work of vast interest in its own particular, comic, field, it is, indeed, a work of first importance. Upon receipt of the necessary stamps (which I think you vaguely promised) I shall return the Netti and Introduction. It came for 75 cents. You object to my definition of ‘self’ as a kind of ajjhattika nåmar¨pa on the grounds that nåmar¨pa is ‘findable’ whereas ‘self’ is not, and (presumably) that one cannot define what is not findable in terms of what is. You go on to say that for you ‘self’ can be workably defined as ‘contradiction’. Now without saying that I understand this in quite the same way as you do, I do not disagree with this definition. But the point is this. Is a contradiction ‘findable’ or not? In other words, are there such things as contradictions? Quite obviously the answer is yes (otherwise one should never talk about them at all). But if there are contradictions then they are necessarily nåmar¨pa (saha viññå~ena), since all that is is nåmar¨pa (and its presence or existence, ‘is-ness’, is viññå~a). And this being so, the contradiction (whether all contradiction or one particular contradiction) that is attå is also nåmar¨pa. But how can a contradiction be nåmar¨pa—or rather, how can nåmar¨pa be a contradiction? Answer: by not being findable. And that, precisely, is what ajjhattika nåmar¨pa is. All nåmar¨pa without exception is bahiddhå, but being so is not contradictory (the arahat is not contradictory). It becomes contradictory by appearing as mine, and thus pointing to something else (which must also be nåmar¨pa, since there is nothing else for it to be) that does not appear, namely, I or attå, which is thus non-findable or ajjhattika nåmar¨pa. Self-identification consists in identifying this with some objective phenomenon (nåmar¨pa) or its existence (viññå~a). I say all this, not because you will necessarily agree with it, but rather to show that what I said was at least consistent. I presume you admit that nåmar¨pa void of I or mine—i.e. the arahat—is not contradictory: which is perhaps why it is wrong to say, in one sense, that an arahat exists. Unfindable nåmar¨pa is clearly the åramma~a of unfindable self-consciousness. Note that I do not define attå as the åramma~a of viññå~a (i.e. as = nåmar¨pa), but of ‘ajjhattika viññå~a’ (which = ‘ajjhattika nåmar¨pa’). (Incidentally, you object—by italicizing—to my statement that I identify attå with ‘I’. But this was said simply to answer to your question in your previous letter, ‘Do you state that ‘I’ [and ‘me’] and ‘self’ are identical or different?’. I was only answering your question in your terms, and not by any means denying the profound contradictions in the process of identification. Nor do I define ‘attå’ as ‘I’, which you seem to be assuming. Nor do I say that attå is identical with ‘I’ rather than ‘me’. Perhaps you forgot you asked this question in the first place?)…

277


[el. 96]

seeking the path

3.iv.59

comments on introduction P. ii—M.99 is a Subha Sutta, though not perhaps the one intended. Note 5—Both Pa†isambhidå and Niddesa are attributed to the Ven. Såriputta Thera, I believe. If so, insert ‘both’ in your note. P. iv—The second sentence of the second para. is a little ambiguous with the word ‘different (differences)’ used twice. Next sentence: ‘The purpose for which the modes are intended’—does one intend a thing for a purpose? And what is this purpose?—The sentence seems to need a little revision. Next para.—‘and all that goes with them’—what is this? The commentaries? If so, the Netti does not itself claim to be applicable to the Commentaries. P. vii—For ‘viz. ‘hardness of earth’’ read ‘e.g. ‘hardness of earth’’. P. xii, para. 2—You seem to use the word ‘tipi†aka’ a synonymous with Sutta (and Vinaya), but if you do not, then the Abhidhamma Pi†aka needs special comment. N.B. Is there any reference to the Abhidhamma Pi†aka in the Netti? (P. xviii—I see there is.) P. xii—Is there no alternative to ‘songs’, which suggest singing (forbidden by the Vinaya), and even hymn-singing? P. xix—The word ‘rewrite’ is rather unpleasant. Won’t ‘paraphrase’, or some other word do? P. xxi—‘the indiscriminate use of the word khandha—(the five or the three)’: I don’t understand. There is Sutta usage of khandha for s⁄la, samådhi, paññå (M.i, 301). Note 36—Are you sure that the Ven. Kaccåyanagotta was not the same as the Ven. Kaccåyana (Kaccåna, Mahåkaccåna)? The Buddha calls Vacchagotta ‘Vaccha’, and he calls the Ven. Kaccåyanagotta ‘Kaccåyana’ (S.II,ii,5). P. xxxiii—End of second para.—You have a fused participle here. P. xxxiv—Also from the Sutta it is clear he lived in Avanti (Udåna v,6). ‘As expounder of the Buddha’s utterances, he presumably had a method for doing so… ’ This seems to imply that he applied a rule of thumb to the Suttas in order to expand them, that the process of expansion was to some degree mechanical. But it is by no means necessary to have a formal method in order to expand a statement: if one has a full and profound knowledge of a subject (as the Ven. Thera had of the Dhamma), then one can expand a brief statement without any application of a method; it is simply a matter of recognizing what is being talked about and then of describing the same thing in greater detail and perhaps different words. A formal method is

278


3.iv.59

early letters

[el. 96a ]

used, like mathematics or scientific formulae, when one does not wish to think. While, however, very much averse to the suggestion that the Ven. Thera had a method that might have been discussed at the First Council, I find it most probable that as soon as a Method was invented it should have been fathered on him. The introduction of a method reduces the Dhamma to the status of a natural science: it is not a natural science (which is a collection of facts gradually accumulated by successive research workers and stored in books), but ñå~adassana, or knowledge, by seeing for oneself, of the nature of facts. The word ‘maybe’ has an odd flavour—American? I should have preferred ‘perhaps’ in this context. Might not the ‘quotation’ in the Pe. from the Sumaπgalavilåsin⁄ be taken as evidence that it was composed after the Ven. Buddhaghosa Thera’s time? There is no knowing to what lengths rival authorities will go in order to disprove one another. P. xxxvi—I didn’t know you had a purpose—do you keep it in the lake? And feed it with Surveys, which apparently satisfy it? [ EL. 96a ]

3 April 1959

The draft of a letter by Ven. Ñå~amoli. Your (approx.) 2x6-1/2 pages of bludgeoning ‘joyfully’ received (incidentally, the choice of the penultimate word was, by its exaggerated banality, intended, when used earlier, to convey ‘you can comment if you feel obliged’). The points you make are noted. But I now suspect there has been an outstanding failure to communicate in my writing recently words to the effect that the Netti was ‘better than I had previously thought’ and so on. They were intended to apply within the limitations of a conception of the Netti as no more than what it is, namely a mere ‘commentator’s grammar’. It did not at all enter my mind (lack of foresight) that they might be taken to express a hailing of the Netti as the infallible newly discovered dispenser of short-cut solutions to all philosophical problems (yours or mine). And this, as I now gather, is how I have been taken and you taken in. Correct? No wonder you are disappointed, no wonder the bludgeonings; and so I fully apologize for whatever should be apologized for in this inadvertent and lamented miscommunication. Though when you say ‘It is like being absorbed in a slow and difficult chess problem and having a bystander come up and offer to show how one can get along much faster

279


[el. 96a]

seeking the path

3.iv.59

and more easily’, the charmingly naïve didactic reason for my sending it to you there implied was actually quite absent from my mind: it was sent simply because you asked for it to be sent (though I did wonder a bit why you should do so, but supposed you knew what you were about and why you wanted to read a translation of a commentator’s grammar. But when you quote Mark Twain about ‘work’ it is nice to think that you enjoyed at least that, though you thereby attribute to me far more esprit de sérieux than I can honestly lay claim to. Here are some stamps. Send it back if you like, or, if you like, bury both in the sand and I shall not be disturbed. Sorry you’ve been troubled. Here are two extracts from the current ‘Maha Bodhi’ for you: (1) ‘Once a sotåpanna, his way is certain: he will never more become Micchådi††hi (a holder of wrong views) until he attains Nibbåna’ (Ven. Shanti Bhadra, now in Berlin), and (2) ‘Walk up and down very slowly. Keep the remainder of the body still. The only movement is in the legs and feet’ (Anoma Mahinda—now wearing Mahåyåna robes in Penang with the R. Stuart Clifton who waves razors over his pupils’ heads). The best way to practise the latter way to the former goal might be to dress the body in a strait-jacket and hang it by the neck from a rafter by a rope—this would effectively keep it still while allowing the legs freedom to walk slowly up and down—ever more slowly—up and—down. P.S. Mr. M. (who seems determined to ‘stamp’ himself on one’s memory—he sent me some more stamps the other day, with a two-page letter all about them) may be ‘not unintelligent’ as you said earlier, but I wonder. One need go no further than the English dailies in order to pick up the now fashionable themes ‘the West has lost its faith’ and ‘it is a fearful thing to be born in such conditions’ (the latter a rather flat combination of Hamlet and St. Paul)—no need to go prowling after Dostoievsky. What might have shown a little intelligence, perhaps, would have been something to the effect that it is a fearful thing to be born at all in any condition (stated, however, I believe by Mme. du Leopardi and U Nu), but… Mr. M., in the emotional tenseness of his tone, rather recalled Dennis1 (BBC), a reminder I can well dispense with. Mercifully he decided to spend the rest of his holiday in Kandy and not here, as he proposed doing. The mosquitos frightened him away. I am greatly indebted to the mosquitos. I must never forget how much I owe to mosquitos.

280


7.iv.59

[ EL. 97 ]

early letters

[el. 97]

7 April 1959

Here are two more criticisms of the Introduction to The Guide. The first is about style, and is a minor point. I note that you use the word ‘then’ quite frequently as a conjunction to introduce fresh subject matter (e.g. p. i—‘Then the work has a commentary… ’): used in this way the word has a rather colloquial flavour—it is rather as if what follows is really an afterthought, having no particular connexion with what has gone before, and when you have series of them (pp. xx-xxi there are three in four sentences) the result reads rather like an auctioneer’s catalogue and gives the general impression that what you have written has just been thrown together haphazard and not carefully thought out. This may be all very well in a serious talk on the Home Service, where it is necessary to conceal the fact (discreditable to the average Home Service Englishman) that you have been thinking; but on the Third Programme you are expected to think, and your translation is Third Programme or nothing. The second point concerns pages xxiv and xxv. You say (on p. xxv) that the fact that the mistakes in the Pe†akopadesa appear in all editions ‘clamours for comment’. You then offer the simple explanation that all the present editions no doubt have a common ancestor containing all the mistakes. This is far too dramatic. If you build up keen expectation of a really astounding solution (‘I think I am the first… etc. etc.’) with the word ‘clamours for comment’ (which, anyway, are unpleasantly reminiscent of Muddled Man’s ‘Everyone is crying out of the Dhamma’), then you have no business at all to disappoint your audience with a solution that will already have occured to the least of them (everyone who reads the translation will be perfectly familiar with the phenomenon of reduplication of errors in ancient scriptures that have been handed down by copying—Europeans, because they will be only scholars who will read it, and Orientals because they are acquainted with ola leaves). I suggest you cut out the words ‘a fact that clamours for comment’, and continue, ‘The explanation is no doubt simple. It may be assumed that… ’, and omit ‘This is indeed not at all improbable’ (since it is obvious). On the other hand, you much too modestly pass over (on p. xxiv) a fact that really does ‘clamour for comment’ (though I prefer some other expression), namely the intrusion of the section of Sumaπgalavilåsin⁄ without anyone’s noticing it hitherto. I suggest that perhaps a sub-acid comment would be entirely in place, rather on these lines. That such an intrusion should have passed unnoticed is an extraordinary piece of professional incompetence on the part of the European scholar who edited the work (who did?), and a miserable failure of the much vaunted ‘critical approach’ of European scholarship. It is perhaps understandable, however, inasmuch

281


[el. 97]

seeking the path

7.iv.59

as the European Scholar is not ‘infinitely interested’ in the contents of the work (he is not a Buddhist) but is merely concerned to produce as accurate a transcription of the text as possible. The Burmese editors, insofar as they are scholars, come in for the same criticism, but it might also have been expected that they (presumably being Buddhists) should have been familiar with the text of the Sumaπgalavilåsin⁄, or at least able to recognize a slice of commentary when they saw it (the European scholar has more excuses). But the really dumbfounding and numbing thing is that a Commentator should have succeeded in expounding the meaning of the work in detail without noticing that the text contained a well-defined lump of extraneous matter. (Perhaps he simply applied the Netti method without bothering to think—a purely automatic application of a rule-of-thumb. The Ven. Nårada Thera had, I believe, a reputation for some degree of attainment, if I am thinking of the same person; but if the Pe. commentary is as inadequate as you suggest—I suppose you did check that he failed to spot the intruder—he can hardly be allowed an equal reputation as an expounder of texts.) Scholastic ability is not an indispensable requirement in a Venerable Thera, but a capacity to discern what is nonsense in a Buddhist text most certainly is, particularly if he sets out to be a Commentator (I suppose that the intruding passage from the Sumaπgalavilåsin⁄ does not happen, by some freak of chance, to make good sense when read together with the surrounding Pe. text?) Many thanks for yours of the 3rd, just received, with stamps. Actually you did not miscommunicate. I asked for the Netti because I was curious to know what was in it, and not at all because you had given me to understand (which you had not) that it was a marvellous new short-cut to wisdom. My curiosity is now satisfied, and I enjoyed both reading your translation and bludgeoning it—even if you had inadvertently omitted your invitation to comment on it, I should hardly have denied myself the pleasure. But I did not set out to review the translation (you didn’t ask me to), or even to say what I approved in it: I bludgeoned because it is a pleasure to do so, and also in case you wanted to make use of any of my bludgeoning to alter anything before it is printed (if it is printed). It is I who have been guilty of miscommunication, if anything—you are not the bystander who offers to help me in my chess problem (by sending me your translation); the Netti is the bystander and the Suttas are the chess problem (I have never at any time really suspected anything else, and I asked for the Netti—amongst other reasons—just to make sure). Your apology ‘sorry you’ve been troubled’, is quite out of place: if you have taken my bludgeoning as an expression of displeasure and disappointment, then it is for me to apologize—I experienced neither displeasure nor disappointment, on the contrary I had the profound

282


18.iv.59

early letters

[el. 98]

satisfaction of proving myself right and the pleasure of being a little didactic about it in my comments. Thank you for sending it—I shall not say no to a complimentary copy if ever it sees the light of day in print (not so much to be instructed by it as to be reminded of what I am now beginning to suspect, namely, that the Buddha deliberately taught the Dhamma in such a way that it is impossible to apply any method to it, thereby turning it into a System—a System can be accepted or rejected at will, but not the Dhamma). The Mahåbodhi extracts are most pleasing. If you were to raise the rear wheel clear of the ground would not a bicycle almost answer Mahinda’s purpose? I have to admit that a more lengthy acquaintance (by exchange of letters) with Mr. M. forces me to admit I was wrong. Mr. M. is not intelligent—he is an emotional nuisance. He has now left for England and does not expect ever to return. We must be grateful for small mercies. You must, however, make allowances for me: the only person I usually get to talk to here is Mr. Perera, and anyone who succeeds in completing his sentences in conversation with me necessarily appears, by comparison, to be above the average in intelligence. Scientists insist upon objectivity, and they identify this with no-pointof-view. To have a point of view is, for a scientist, to be subjective, to take himself as the reference point. This, I now see, is a mistake. When you have entirely got rid of asmimåna you have not got rid of a point of view. The arahat ‘has’ (or ‘is’) a point of view since there still remain the five indriyas (eye, etc.). I have for long been confusing attå with ‘point of view’. Attå, certainly, is the point of view from which the world (loka) is seen; but removal of this duality does not entail removal of things, at least not all at once. [ EL. 98 ]

18 April 1959

Thank you for your (undated—postmark 15th?) letter. You got the Netti translation back, I suppose? It is quite true that Hegel is so immensely comic because of the ridiculous presumption of what he sets out to do, and that Duroiselle 1 is hardly comic at all as a professed grammarian—indeed I should say that since Duroiselle precisely achieves his aim he is not at all comic. It may be said that insofar as the author of the Netti desired to formulate a grammar for methodical treatment of a body of obscure texts he was quite within his rights and not at all comic. But as soon as one understands what precisely that body of obscure texts was—namely, the necessary instructions for putting an end

283


[el. 98]

seeking the path

18.iv.59

to the entire universe (what Hegel fondly imagined he was describing in his System)—the Netti becomes prodigiously comic (or, perhaps, in view of the huge rigid commentarial edifice of half-truths, so terribly misleading, to which it has given rise, prodigiously tragic—the only tragedy is to miss—or misunderstand—the Dhamma.) The author of the Netti no doubt did not understand what the texts were that he was dealing with, and he has not, therefore, Hegel’s presumption. But the comedy of the Netti is in the disproportion between the author’s modest pretentions—a mere commentator’s grammar—and the size of the task he set himself. (Like a man wanting to steal a yard of wire for some trivial purpose, who climbs a pylon, wire-cutters in hand, and proposes to remove three feet of high-tension cable). If the Netti is a failure it is not comic, but if the author thought he had succeeded, then it is very comic indeed (though, as I say, the author was unfortunate in happening to choose the tipi†aka, whereas Hegel was just presumptuous). And any reader of the Netti who regards it as successful at once becomes a comic reader. (There are, no doubt, those who regard it—or rather, ‘who will regard it’, since hardly anyone seems to have read it yet—as neither a failure nor a success, but rather as an interesting early experiment in textual criticism; but such people can hardly be said to exist at all—perhaps they are the true comedians.) Unlike Duroiselle, who deals only with the language of the texts, the Netti tries to formulate a rule for dealing with the interpretation, which is quite another kettle of fish. You say rather quaintly that you have a rule that in the early stages of introduction-writing ‘all opinion must must be expressed only as praise’. I do not say that it is impossible (since some people are remarkably adroit in this matter), but surely there must be great difficulties in the way of expressing adverse opinion (‘This is a real horror’) only as praise (perhaps ‘This admirable object-lesson in distorted thinking and muddle-headedness… ’ would do?)? But perhaps this is not quite what you meant? The rule itself sounds quite sound, since it is so much harder to praise than to condemn, and in the exhilaration of condemnation—bashing and hammering—(particularly of something to which one has devoted hours of patient labour) the praise may be forgotten. I am not at all grateful to you for sending me the ‘theme and variations’ from Huxley’s ‘Centuries’ (N.B. What is this? A new book? A novel? An anthology? Or what? Tell me more.), since it will probably echo around my empty head for days just as another bit of nonsense does (which I think you introduced me to):—A. Hairily Toteson, A Mayorally Toteson (A. MaryLee Toteson), A Kiddlry Tripotes, (what a fine pseudonym 2 one of these would make!).

284


18.iv.59

early letters

[el. 98]

I offer you a translation of bhåvanå that is both shorter and even more literal than ‘maintaining in being’. We are inclined to translate causatives into English by ‘make’ (‘making become’) or ‘cause to… ’, both of which are awkward. But we forget there is a simpler way with the word ‘have’ (‘have him go to the post-office’), which gives ‘having be’ for bhåvanå. In the Suttas I think the word is never used absolutely (i.e. without the object stated), so it will always be of the form ‘to have [it] be’. In the Commentary you do seem to get it absolutely, ‘to have be’, but this is really no odder than ‘to maintain in being’, and elegance counts far less in Commentary translations. And ‘having be’ has the advantage, which should commend it to you, of throwing the emphasis on the word ‘be’, whereas the emphasis in ‘maintaining in being’ is indeterminate. I project (as an occupation perhaps ‘for a rainy day’—of which we seem to be getting about half-a-dozen a year) a short treatise on Viññå~a-CittaMano-Nåma (Consciousness/Cognition-Intent-Mind-Name), for which the accepted (dictionary) definitions would be useful. Would you, then, send me what the Concise Oxford Dictionary has to say on each of these words? (Plus ‘purpose’, ‘thinking’, and imagination’?) Mr. Perera has built (has had built) another cistern. This is of stone, with capacity about eighty gallons, and leaks as the other used to. Quite heavy rains came, as before, one day too soon to catch it in the cistern. If you want it to rain at Hambantota, build a cistern, but keep something else handy to catch the rain in. There seems to be a tendency for ‘educated’ (University Degree) Sinhalese Buddhists to interpret the Dhamma in terms of Forces. Dr. O. (who is clearly a better physician than physicist) asked me ‘but surely kamma is a force?’, and today some civil servant from Hambantota came and told me that attå is a force and thoughts are forces. Furthermore, by meditation one brings the attå to such a pitch that it explodes and that is the end of being. ‘But what’ I asked ‘do you mean by a force?’ ‘Something like electricity’ he replied. This sort of thing is far more stultifying than all Mr. Perera’s forgetfulness and simplicity. How pernicious a little scientific learning can be! I also met (while bathing in the field) two Englishmen who have been in Ceylon doing underwater photography and writing books about it. (Seeing me, they stopped their car and got out.) One of them is interested in space-travel, but since he is now getting too old for travelling in space (but I thought it made you younger) he has turned to underwater photography (what is the connexion?). Apart from the Ven. C. Thera, he is the first such enthusiast I have met, but is doubtless typical of millions of others in the world today.

285


[el. 98]

seeking the path

18.iv.59

I was asked what the Buddha had to say about space-travel, and I managed to remember Rohitassa Devaputta (in A. IV and elsewhere) who spacetravelled for a hundred years without coming to the end of the world. The Buddha told him that it is not by going that one comes to the end of the world, as doubtless you will remember. This rather fascinated them; but I fear that the Buddha’s ‘end of the world’ remained a mystery. The would-bespace-traveller is also, it seems, a bit of a philosopher—he has even written a book of philosophical essays, now in the press. What is his philosophy? Answer: we only have to wait another hundred thousand years before we shall have met (through space-travel) beings far, far more intelligent than any we know of, who will tell us all the answers. What faith in Science! What hopes for the future! What confidence that by going the end of the world will be reached! After the encounter I felt rather as if I had read all the scientific articles in fifty London Observers.3 Weather is dampish and Aprilish. Not very unpleasant, but unpleasant. We could do with a little more honest rain. How are your mangoes this year? We have no palu fruit at all, which means no noisy palu-fruit-gathering parties (either of village boys or monkeys), which is a relief. [ EL. 99 ]

21 April 1959

Many thanks for your letter and for the Concise Oxford Dictionary extracts. As I thought, the words are so imprecisely used in English that one can make them mean very much what one pleases without violating usage; and I suspect that the situation was much the same, mutatis mutandis, in the Buddha’s day. At the same time, there seem to be certain parallels between English usage and the Sutta usage: for example, CONSCIOUSNESS, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, can mean ‘the totality of a person’s thoughts and feelings’, and it can also mean ‘perception (of, that)’. The second meaning, with due allowance for looseness in the meaning of the English word ‘perception’, approximates to what I understand by viññå~a, and the first meaning is quite close to citta (which I translate as ‘intent’). The Sutta connexion between these two is nåmar¨papaccayå viññå~a and nåmar¨pasamudayå cittassa samudayo. ‘Mind’ is delightfully Protean—as ‘seat of consciousness’ it is manåyatana, as ‘soul, opp. to body’ it is mano in manokamma. The comic element in the Netti has now, I think, given us all the laughs it was capable of; and we can now say, in a phrase of my schooldays, ‘Joke over’. Perhaps needless to say, the charge of being comic is no more directed at you than is the charge (if I were to make such a charge in a

286


21.iv.59

early letters

[el. 99]

general way: ‘Those who… ’) of being a champion, even quasi-crypto, of the Commentaries. I am quite well aware that you are quite well aware of the deficiencies (not to put the matter too strongly) both of the Netti and of the Commentaries, and that you are not deceived by them. (Upon occasion I give more credit to the Commentary than you do—notably in the Cittavisuddhi section of the Visuddhimagga, and also, perhaps, in its analysis of the four mahåbh¨tåni. Apart from its usefulness as a dictionary, it also contains, however muddleheadedly, certain earlier interpretations that are of value.) What, then, is the origin of the suspicion, suspected by you, that I, and perhaps the Ven. Kheminda Thera1 too (though whether he would be so anti-commentarial were the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera not so pro-commentarial I don’t know) may or may not entertain, of the propriety of your relations with the Commentary? Perhaps a remark of the Ven. Soma Thera’s, that you once told me of, throws some light on the matter. It seems that, upon reading a disparaging passage in an early draft of your Visuddhimagga Introduction (‘an opinion expressed’, apparently, ‘only as dispraise’), he exclaimed ‘But if that is your opinion of the Visuddhimagga I can’t think why you bother to translate it’. It is true that this does not take into account the fact that you translated it in order to find out what it was about, and not at all in order to propagate it as the Eternal Truth (which you might have done had you been an admirer of the work); but even when this is taken into account there seems to remain a vague unaccounted-for residue, perhaps expressible as ‘But is it necessary, in order to find out what it is about, to translate it quite so thoroughly?’ That, to other people, there is an air, a faint aura, of ambiguity about your relations with the Commentary, you will probably admit, since you seem to be aware of it yourself; but I, for one, should not attribute it to a secret admiration (though to what, exactly, it might be attributed is not altogether easy to say). Perhaps it is really, after all, nothing more mysterious than a slight self-indulgence in the pleasure of (18th century) scholarship. (I should certainly not suspect you, except to be perverse, of the seriousness of Scholarship in its present-day meaning—indeed, of the three of us, the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, yourself, and myself, you are the least serious, though not, therefore, the most comic.) It seems very probable that the existence of the Commentaries have preserved the Text of the Vinaya and Suttas, which would long since have fallen into neglect and oblivion after the decision that practice was less important than preservation2. But the question arises, for whose benefit have they been preserved? The new cistern is directly in front of the room, so placed that water from

287


[el. 99]

seeking the path

21.iv.59

the guttering can be caught in it. It is sunken, two feet below ground and one foot above (though it would be wrong to think of it as a tripod), and is thus inconspicuous and does not exclude the gaze from the ultimate horizon. The earlier one is under the trees to your right as you stand at the entrance to the caπkamana facing outwards. Since neither is empty, there are no voices singing out of them, but by the end of September there will be, no doubt. This letter is partly to uncross the situation, since my last letter to you crossed yours to me. P.S. An alternative translation of yathåbhataµ nikkhitto evaµ niraye is ‘he is as if set-down like a burden in hell’ (i.e. ‘he is in hell as if set down [there] like a burden’). This takes evaµ as referring to the whole of yathåbhataµ nikkhitto, instead of as just the complement of yathå (yathåbhataµ nikkhitto evaµ [nikkhitto] niraye), which gives (as I suggested) ‘as if carried, so he is placed in hell’, placed being here a pun in the two senses of ‘to be placed (put down) like a burden’ and ‘to be placed (located) in hell’. Of these two renderings I prefer the second (‘as if carried…’) being a verbal ambiguity, whereas the first is a rhythmical ambiguity. [ EL. 100 ]

24 April 1959

It occurs to me that my remarks about your translation of the Netti, coming as they did mixed up with my onslaught on the Netti, may have appeared as rather unsympathetic. This, however, was not at all my intention: I had thought, rather, that a more or less outspoken comment on how your translation reads (quite apart from what it is a translation of) would be of value to you, and possibly something that you would not obtain elsewhere. You will have noted that I say explicitly that though I criticize certain things I cannot offer anything better in many cases. I am fully in agreement with you in your insistence upon not losing ontologically (and otherwise) significant words or roots, such as bhava and dhamma, and inevitably certain phrases are going to look a little odd in English. All that one can do in such cases is to suggest (if we can think of one) a more satisfactory and less cumbersome way of putting the translation, and also (though rather rarely) to suggest that an altogether different basic word would be more suitable. It so happens that I do now suggest a change of basic word, but I shall discuss this later. There comes, however, a point where one meets a phrase that is purely idiomatic, or seems to be, and it is then perhaps better to abandon any attempt at literal translation (which may be totally incomprehensible)

288


24.iv.59

early letters

[el. 100]

and to use a short simple corresponding English ‘idiotismo’. Do you, for example, translate di††he va dhamme aññå as ‘comprehension inseparable from the idea of being seen’ or as ‘comprehension immediately/here and now’? If your rule (of preserving the word dhamma) obliges you to use the former translation, then I suggest that this is a point where the rule must be abandoned. I say this rather reluctantly; but if one is going to translate for anyone’s benefit beyond one’s own, then some allowance has to be made for the reader (and it may be necessary to abandon the rule at an earlier point than this—but it is a matter of opinion). Quite apart, however, from cumbersomeness forced upon you by this rule, I complained, as you will remember, of surplusage in a more general way. You do not, I implied, run enough on your muscles. I find a tendency in your translations to be more explicit than the original text. There must, I admit, be enough in the finished translation to make grammatical sense; but you sometimes go some way beyond this, and close certain dialectics that, in particular, the Suttas leave open. For example, in the Netti translation you point out (very usefully) that the proper meaning of the phrase yathåbhataµ nikkhito evaµ niraye is to be found in the 20th Sutta of the Itivuttaka, but your actual translation of the passage is most uneconomical and says more than the original. Literally this passage is ‘burdenwise placed, thus, in hell’, which requires in translation no more than ‘as if carried so he is placed in hell’. (The evaµ, I take it, is either the counterpart of yathå or else refers to what precedes; and this translation will do in either case.) This particular instance is, no doubt, trivial; but what puzzled me rather is why you did not think of a shorter translation yourself. It now occurs to me that it may be a matter of temperament. Let me explain. I have noticed that masters of prose writing in English are very often very indifferent poets—Joyce is an outstanding example; his few poems, except for the title (Pomes Pennyeach) are very ordinary—and vice versa that good poets frequently write a most undistinguished prose (Eliot is rather like this, and Edith Sitwell is another). I am speaking here principally of rhythm (which involves, notably, the question of verbal economy); and in this matter I follow and agree with Fowler, that the test of rhythm is to read the passage aloud or aloud-to-oneself. If the passage can be read at sight, not only correctly, but easily and with pleasure, then it has rhythm; but if it is sticky and lifeless then it has none, though the grammar may be impeccable. Two words from chemistry seem to convey the distinction: rhythmic prose is crystalline, non-rhythmic prose is amorphous (‘an amorphous grey powder’). I have actually read-aloud-tomyself three or more chapters of Gibbon and never stumbled once or felt at all fatigued, and I found the same thing, though to a lesser extent, in C.E.

289


[el. 100]

seeking the path

24.iv.59

Montagne’s ‘Disenchanment’. (Ross Ashby has rhythm, Grey Walter has not; John Donne is at home in prose and verse—rather an exception, I think.) It seems to me that perhaps people generally, and not merely professional writers, fall into two classes, those who would express themselves in verse (if they were to write) and those who would express themselves in prose; and that when they are called upon to use the other medium they are not properly at home in it and find it a labour. For my part, though I flatter myself that when I take the trouble to polish it, which, however, is only if it is intended for publication, I can write a prose that is not altogether dead (I can reread some of my past prose with a certain degree of pleasure, even though I may now disagree with what is said), yet I cannot put together two lines of the meanest doggerel and am lost in admiration of those who can (let alone of those who can write poetry). Now I find that in reading what you write, if it is verse I can ‘express my opinion only as praise’ (where do you get the inspiration from to call the Netti a ‘comic hermeneutic grammar’?), whereas if it is prose I sometimes get a certain feeling of flatness, hard to analyze, but rather as if it had been written from a sense of duty, not with pleasure, and purely to convey information, not for its own sake (this doesn’t at all apply to your letters, only to your formal prose). In the Visuddhimagga, for example, almost every bit of verse (and there is a lot of it) rings the bell as a masterpiece of economy and style, but the prose—even allowing for the fact that the original is commentarial Pali—occasionally seems unnecessarily wordy. That this difference between us (if I have not simply imagined it) is temperamental and not a matter of difference in education—the mathematician tends to neglect his grammar—is to be seen in the fact that it was you who had to polish my translation of Evola 1 to make it presentable: yet as a result of a very small deliberate effort to write rhythmical English (since Ordination) I find I can (so I think) write rhythmical English quite naturally if I exert myself and with a certain degree of pleasure—and I also find that I am totally incapable of writing (rhythmical) verse. On the whole, you come out of this better than I do; for whereas I should be quite satisfied if my prose were as good as your verse, you have no reason to alarm and despond yourself with the thought that your prose is no better than my verse. What the moral of all this is, I don’t quite know, except perhaps that I am wrong to criticize you for using too many words in your prose when it may be that for you, in some way I do not altogether understand, they are not too many. ‘It is the nature of prose to have so many words; but verse, ah! that is different.’ Is this nonsense? What do you think? You asked me in a recent letter what I understood by the word dhammå—whether, for example, I equated it with ‘phenomena’. I gave you a

290


24.iv.59

early letters

[el. 100]

rather indeterminate reply; but since then the matter has been receiving attention, particularly as a result of reading the Netti translation (whatever I may think of the Netti, to read your translation was by no means a waste of time), and I now have rather more to say about it—more, in fact, than I can say in this letter, though I can say something. But before doing so, let me, to avoid confusion and misunderstandings (I hope), say what I gather (from the Netti translation) are your views on this matter (please correct me if I am wrong). Taking the phrase manañca pa†icca dhamme ca as the basis, I think that you consider dhammå to be ‘ideas’ in the sense of concepts (your translation of vayadhammo as ‘inseparable of the idea of dissolution’ seems to indicate this) or images as opposed to the other five external åyatanas which are what Sartre would call ‘perceptions’ (note here that in L’Imaginaire Sartre allows concepts without words or images, but he corrects this—rightly—in L’Être et le Néant [p. 601]). It may be (I don’t know) that you even take dhammå, in this passage, as more or less equivalent to ‘thoughts’. In any case, it seems that you make the following distinction: the first five external åyatanas are r¨pa, and the sixth, dhammå, is nåma. I presume (it is a guess) that your argument runs like this: ‘In the åruppas there is no r¨pa, only nåma; also (see Mahåvedalla Sutta) the five indriyas (cakkhu… kåyo) have been abandoned, and there is only mano, and externally a neyyaµ dhammaµ; thus dhammå are necessarily nåma’, and that you consider in addition to this that the function of naming things (this is A, that is B) is essentially a mental function, that first we perceive sensible objects with our five senses and then we set about identifying them (by naming them) with our mind (this may be the reason for your note in the Netti translation that attå, which you say—not unjustly—is identification—though I should not agree that it is all identification—, only arises in connexion with nåma—I forget your exact wording). If this is your view (or approximately your view) and you are confident enough about it not to consider changing it, then what I have to say may not be of interest to you. In the first place, I can by no means allow the distinction between the objects of the first five senses as r¨pa and that of mind as nåma, because it is in contradiction with a number of Suttas (e.g. Mahå Hatthipadopama) where all five khandhas arise with each of the six kinds of contact (cakkhusamphassa etc.), and thus nåma is not confined to the sixth åyatana nor r¨pa to the first five. In addition the åruppa argument (which I have fathered on you above), though logically valid, is a misapplication of logic; and I cannot accept nåma, which is clearly defined in the Suttas as vedanå… manasikåra, as at all on the same level as naming in the sense of deciding what things are (What is this? It is a bhikkhu. Is it really a bhikkhu? No,

291


[el. 100]

seeking the path

24.iv.59

it is really a cow, but it looks like a bhikkhu. Are you certain? Not really.). In the second place I do not allow that dhammå are equivalent to thoughts, for the good reason that thoughts do not continue beyond first jhåna, whereas dhammå do. In the third place I do not even allow that dhammå are equivalent to concepts or images, though the reasons for this cannot be set out briefly.a (Wherefore my projected treatise on mind.) [A neyyaµ dhammaµ, though possibly translatable as an ‘inferred dhamma’ is probably better as an ‘abstract dhamma’, since ‘inference’ is too close to logic, which implies thought.] Certainly, thoughts, concepts, and images, are all dhammas, but none of them gives the meaning of dhamma. Up to recently I advocated the use of the word ‘idea’ as a translation of dhamma, and this for the two reasons, first that the object of the mind is clearly an idea (= concept or image), and second that dhamma is the essence or nature or whatness of a thing as opposed to saπkhåra which is its determinateness (and adequately translated as ‘determination’), and the Platonic Idea was precisely the essence of a thing (though conceived as possessing a separate kind of existence in another world). So long as these two reasons reinforced each other, the word ‘idea’ seemed to be the ideal translation of dhamma; but now that I find that to translate manañca dhamme ca as ‘mind and ideas’ is a mistake, if by ‘idea’ we understand ‘concept’ (which of course we do), this translation has to go, provided anything better can be found. What is needed is a word that conveys essence (though ‘essence’ won’t do, being far too esoteric), does not convey concept to the exclusion of anything else (as ‘idea’ does), and is sufficiently general and versatile to be used in widely different contexts. I think there is such a word, though it is rather unexpected: MATTER. Provided that all ‘matter’ in the sense of substance or what Dr. Johnson picked is ‘form’ (r¨pa) the word can be used exclusively in its other sense of ‘what is the matter?’, ‘the matter in hand’, ‘it is a matter of six-pence’, ‘material (= relevant or essential) evidence’. Let us try a few examples. Manasikårasamudayå dhammånaµ samudayo ‘with the origination of attention matters originate’ (cf. ‘I shall give the matter my attention’ which brings the matter into being); manañca pa†icca dhamme ca ‘dependent upon mind and upon matters… ’; yaµ kiñci samudayadhammaµ sabbaµ taµ nirodhadhammanti ‘all/everything whatsoever that is an originating matter is a ceasing matter’ or, not so good, ‘everything/all whatsoever that is a matter of origination is a matter of cessation’; Buddha dhamma saπgha ‘the Enlightened One, the Matter (the True Matter), the Commua.  One reason, though not the principal, is that there is no Sutta passage where dhamma requires this interpretation.

292


24.iv.59

early letters

[el. 100]

nity’; dhammånupassanå ‘contemplation of matters’; catunnaµ bhikkhave dhammånaµ natthi koci på†ibhogo ‘in four matters, monks, there is no surety’; di††he va dhamme aññå ‘comprehension as an immediate matter’; di††hasutamutaviññåtabbesu dhammesu ‘in matters to be seen, heard, sensed and/or cognized… ’; and so on—all of them passable, and some of them good (note in particular ‘an originating matter’ as opposed to ‘inseparable from the idea of origination’). ‘Matter’ has the advantage, amongst others, over ‘things’ that ‘thing’ will really do for either saπkhåra or dhamma (‘all things are impermanent; all things are not-self’) and will therefore not do for either, whereas ‘matter’ lays much more stress upon content than upon structure (‘all determinations are impermanent; all matters are not-self’). Another point is this. In manañca dhamme ca, dhammå are, precisely, ‘phenomena’ of any kind at all. But a phenomenon is made up of three parts, viññå~a (its presence), nåma (its quality or descriptiona—blue, pleasant, etc.) and r¨pa (its resistance or independence), and these cannot properly be called phenomena, since they are pre-phenomenal (they are negatives within phenomena). They are, however, called dhammå (cf. Mahåvedalla Sutta), and it is clear that dhamma has an even wider meaning than that in manañca dhamme ca, namely anything at all that is different from (though not necessarily separable from) anything else (viññå~a is not separable from vedanå and saññå, though it is different from them). The word ‘matter’ can cope: consciousness (cognition) can perfectly intelligibly be called a matter even though it is not a complete object or phenomenon. I offer you the word both as an improvement in sense over ‘idea’ (though you may not agree)—‘matter’ closes fewer dialectics than ‘idea’, which is only a disadvantage if you are certain that ‘idea’ is exactly right; it does not deny that dhamma may mean ‘idea’, but only that it must do so—and as a handier word in translation (which I think can hardly be denied). A party visited the other day with a woman who asked if it was true that my mother died of sorrow. This, I suppose, is the Ven. Nårada Thera’s doing. It is either false—I was told she died of a heart attack—, or else a ridiculous understatement—I am prepared to believe she died of despair, perhaps not unmixed with fury. But to say that she died of sorrow is to throw the whole affair into an absurdly artificial and romantic light. The Ven. Thera has his own ideas about women, which he would not have altered even if he had met my mother, which he did not. a.  Which precedes any question of identification (i.e. what it really is), just as conception (maññanå—‘mine’) precedes self-identification (‘it is my self’, ‘it belongs to my self’).

293


[el. 100]

seeking the path

24.iv.59

The new cistern has stopped leaking, I am glad to say. No doubt it has sealed itself with the impurities suspended in the escaping water. The weather is bright but rather damp (no decent rain however). The SW wind started punctually on the 19th (my notes on the Ceylon weather says it starts about the 20th) and has been blowing ever since. As I was removing one of my two large måpilas—‘large’ in the sense of ‘fat’, not ‘long’, since they are no longer than the thin ones—the brown one—I met the Vedamahatthaya 2, who said it was a någa-måpila and very poisonous indeed. This incident is remarkable only for the fact that it is the first time I have heard any Sinhala admit that a måpila does anything else than drink your blood. The Vedamahatthaya, however, is a bit of an impressionist, he likes a broad canvas with bold general effects, and the details don’t matter very much. There is a cock junglefowl who will now come up and eat in my presence, about three or four yards away. I think it is a bird who has known me since its chickhood as a source of food. It looks just like a farmyard rooster, though perhaps a little less smug. First year about a dozen frogs in the roof; last year fifty; this year so far none at all, but perhaps they will come later. About identification. Perhaps I should make it clear that I regard attå as identification in the sense that I cannot entertain the idea of my self without at the same time identifying it in some way with some object (or matter in the sense of dhamma). But I do not at all regard the question of an object’s identity (or self-identity if you prefer) as involving attå in the Sutta sense. If I say ‘that bhikkhu is really a cow’ I am simply making an inference to the future: ‘When we get closer we shall see that what now appears to be a bhikkhu will appear to be a cow’. This sort of identification need have nothing to do with ta~hå at all, and can perfectly well be made by an arahat, and indeed must be, in all his practical teleological dealings (such as obtaining food). Any interpretation of a sign as indicating something else is an identification, and can be expressed in terms of the word ‘self’—a thing’s self being what it really is, i.e. what it is a sign of, what it indicates—though there is no need to do so. And such an interpretation or identification can well be mistaken, even if made by an arahat. The attå of attavåda is something quite different. The ‘self’ of an object is the identity of what is given in the first place—first there is this (‘this is’), then we decide what this is. But the attå of attavåda is the identity of what is not given in the first place—first we must conceive ‘I am’ and only then can we decide what I am, and the result is eso me attåti. The root of the trouble is not in the identification but in the conception. For the puthujjana there is ‘this is’ and there is ‘I am’; for the arahat there is only ‘this is’: the puthujjana identifies both ‘this’ and ‘I’; the arahat identifies only ‘this’. Do I make myself clear? And do you agree or not?

294


28.v.59

early letters

[ EL. 101, a postcard ]

[el. 102]

5 May 1959

Haunt cod please. Ñå~av⁄ra [ EL. 102 ]

28 May 1959

Many thanks for your letter of the 25th. The weather here for the past month has been rather unpleasant, though nothing to what you seem to have been having. You understood my postcard perfectly—just what I wanted, many thanks. I had originally asked for something else (as you gathered) but then remembered the answer; so I was left with a useless half-written post card. The brevity of the message that I did send was hardly style or wit, but perhaps reflected my desire to get rid of the postcard as soon as I found some excuse for doing so. I really wanted to know whether ‘haunt’ would do for pa†isara~a, which occurs in the Suttas in three passages (to my knowledge). The first (which I can’t trace) is where a certain tree is described as the pa†isara~a of some birds; the second is bhagavaµ-m¨lakå/pa†isara~å/nettikå no dhammå; and the third is where mano is described as the pa†isara~a of the five indriyas (Mahåvedalla Sutta). As I have told you, I now think that mano in this context (i.e. indriyas or åyatanas), is no more than the other five in association, and is not related to them as intellect (or thought) is related to the senses (as in nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit prius in sensu 1—note the ‘prius’). As a textual support for this you may refer to the description of the eighteen manopavicårå in the Salåyatanavibhaπga Sutta (of the Majjhima), where mano is used in two senses, one as åyatana, and the other as approximately ‘intellect’, ‘what one thinks with’ (manopavicåra). You will see that manopavicåra occurs based upon each of the six, not five, båhiråyatanåni, and dhammå is on the same level, relative to manopavicåra, as the other five. Now, how to translate pa†isara~a? The usual translation ‘refuge’ won’t do. In the first place, is a tree the refuge of birds? From a storm, perhaps, but not from a huntsman, where they take to their wings for refuge. In the second place ‘refuge’ makes poor sense in the second passage (bhagavaµpa†isara~o) and no sense at all in the third. ‘Haunt’ will do well for the first (a tree is certainly the haunt of birds), but not—so the cod informs me—for the other two. A word that might fit all three is ‘seat’, though it is a little odd to think of a tree as the (country) seat of some birds. I eventually decided to ignore the first passage and to concentrate on getting an adequate rendering for the last two. The word ‘authority’ seems to fit quite snugly: it reflects the etymological

295


[el. 102]

seeking the path

28.v.59

meaning of pa†isara~a—a flowing back, a referring to a source—; and in its sense of a collection of departments—an Urban District Council consists of a Water Department, an Electricity Department, a Health Department, and so on—it well represents mano as a collection or association of senseindriyas. Kant replied to Hume as follows: Il se peut que sur le terrain de l’expérience on ne puisse découvrir d’autre lien entre la cause et l’effet que la consécution empirique. Mais pour qu’une expérience soit possible il faut que des principes a priori la constituent.2 —which, as Sartre remarks, is correct. Now if you will substitute ‘entre un sens et un autre que l’association empirique’ 3 in this passage you will see what I mean by mano—it is the ‘principe a priori’ without which an experience of the senses combined (my pen is both visible and tangible) would be impossible; it is the faculty or capacity that the senses have of combining. (Strictly, mano is not so much the faculty that the senses have of combining or associating as the senses themselves in combination or association or superposition.) In this way my visible-and-tangible(-and-audible, it has a squeaky nib) pen is a dhamma, a ‘matter’ and not an ‘idea’ (‘ideas’ are on the level of manopavicåra). Incidentally, your objection to ‘matter’ for dhamma, that it is haunted in the definite singular by the scientists’ and materialists’ ‘matter’ is not, I think, valid, since the definite singular is not ‘matter’ (which is certainly open to this objection) but ‘the matter’. Thus we have ‘matters’ in the plural, and ‘a matter’ or ‘the matter’ in the singular; and I do not go to ‘Matter’ for refuge but to ‘the Matter’ (the Enlightened One, the Matter or the True Matter, the Community; and dhammånussati is ‘Recollection of the [True] Matter’). I am glad that, in general, it does not entirely meet with your disapproval. It was not, in fact, my intention to suggest that you describe, Visuddhimagga fashion (the worst chapter in the Visuddhimagga), the six pairs of åyatanas in terms of nåmar¨pa. What I did intend (however badly I expressed it) was to disagree with your note in the Netti translation where you make the first five pairs of phassåyatanåni responsible for pa†ighasamphassa and the sixth pair for adhivacanasamphassa (I forget exactly how you worded it). This division of labour seems to imply that the five båhiråyatanåni are r¨pa and the sixth (dhammå) is nåma. Perhaps it does not imply this; but even so I do not agree with this division—cakkhusamphassa, I find, is both pa†igha and adhivacana, and so too is manosamphassa. Do you, in fact, still endorse the view you state in that note?

296


28.v.59

early letters

[el. 102]

My earlier suspicion, namely that sekha is not restricted to sotåpanna and above (excluding arahattaphala) receives confirmation. It is clear from M.i,477-79 that sekhå are kåyasakkh⁄, di††hippatto, saddhåvimutto, dhammånusår⁄ and saddhånusår⁄, and it is clear from this same Sutta, and also from M.i,141-2 (and also from other Suttas) that the last two are not yet attained to sotåpatti. These passages are quite unmistakable, and the Commentarial definition, in consequence, is unmistakably wrong. About style etc. You are quite right in castigating rhythm as blankverse-written-as-prose with your admirable example (a catch in the voice is needed to declaim it effectively), and prose that is soporific by that very fact fails to be rhythmical (though it might be metrical). Perhaps the Ultimate Criterion is this: rhythmical prose is prose that entirely conceals itself. If it fails to conceal itself, as an orchestra playing badly fails to conceal itself behind the music, then it is unrhythmical. You point out that my prose tends to harden into formalism and sometimes uses stiff grammatical formulae. This is true. It is the near enemy of my style of writing as råga is the near enemy of mettå. To write good (rhythmical) prose one must cast one’s sentences whole (even though one may alter them later), and this means that one must, before writing, re-think what one wants to say in rhythmical sentences. This is all very well when one has a clear idea of what is to be said, but when the thoughts are meagre or incomplete the result tends to be an artificial bony framework. Part of Gibbon’s secret is that he always makes sure that he has got enough to say in each sentence—nowhere does one find a sentence written for the sake of the style. But it would be a mistake to use Gibbon’s style unless one were writing Gibbon’s History. The style must be appropriate to the subject-matter, and this really is a matter of trial and error (Gibbon tells us that he wrote the opening chapter three times before he was satisfied that he had found the proper style). Here is a matter in which I should like Ven. Ñå~åloka’s ruling. Next July you will be entering your tenth Vas 4 (so shall I, of course). At what point should I start addressing you (on letters) as Thera? The Ven. Thera has, at different times, made different rulings, as is his way, and I really don’t know which to follow. The possibilities seem to be these. You become a Thera (i) at the beginning of your tenth Vas residence; (ii) at the end (påvara~å) of your tenth Vas residence; (iii) when you have been upasampanna for ten calendar years (July 22, 1960); (iv) for ten lunar years (I don’t know how that works out); (v) when you are formally declared a Thera by the Saπgha in a S⁄må. Would you please ask Ven. Ñå~åloka about this? If N.Q. Dias has discovered noia 5 that is the beginning of the end for him; though it may take some time before he gathers momentum on the

297


[el. 102]

seeking the path

28.v.59

downward slope. The Brahmacariya is the only cure for this disease. He should cultivate his boredom diligently (and take good care to be bored with America). Now that the wind has changed we say farewell to: — Elephants (none about for several weeks) Curd (still a week or two of this perhaps) Rain Baths (except for a month or two with the buffaloes) Mosquitos Visitors from England (who come in the winter) Grass and green undergrowth (begins now to dry up) Fishermen Awicchas 6 And we welcome:— Frogs (two or three have arrived, whose two or three hashes will probably be settled by two or three måpilas) Cicadas (in inverse ratio to the frogs; many, I think, this year) Venison (always more plentiful in the off-season, when deer are easier to kill) Saltern atmosphere (only a suspicion so far) Tarantulas (no. 54 the other morning) Colitis (common here in the dry season) Wood-apples Pilgrims returning from Kataragama. I learn from Mr. Perera that the days round the full and new moons are regarded as ‘heavy’ days, on which rain may be expected (which we had already discovered) and on which pregnant women are liable to give birth (which we had not). And also people avoid having operations on these days (I don’t quite see why). Mothers, it seems, avoid taking baths on Fridays, since it is bad for the children. P.S. The advantage of ‘nescience’ for avijjå is that it enables vijjå to be ‘science’. [ EL. 103 ]

31 May 1959

I forgot to ask you in my last letter: would you mind, if you have the time and energy, copying out and sending me the longish paragraph (I think it is only one) from L’Être et le Néant, in the chapter on ‘Le Corps’, where

298


6.vi.59

early letters

[el. 104]

Sartre attacks the current psychological invention of ‘sensation’? The passage can be identified by the last(?) sentence in it: La sensation est dans la boite. Sensation—‘I perceive a sensation of blue’—comes into being as a bogus entity when one conceives the eye as an organ of vision in an already visible world. If the world is already visible there is no need of an organ of vision in addition, and if one insists upon having one then one is bound to invent a ‘sensation of the world’ as the end-result of ‘seeing’ the already visible world with the organ of vision. For this reason it is a complete mistake to regard cakkhu as an organ of vision since r¨på are already visible. (Visuddhimagga’s pasåda r¨pa is nonsense.) Could you also send the short passage on p. 601, where S. denies the existence of concepts that are not images? [ EL. 104 ]

6 June 1959

Thank you for your letter. Your analysis of Dhammånusår⁄ and Saddhånusår⁄ is most useful and, I think, quite correct. I withdraw my statement about the commentaries’ definition, which seems to be in order. I find I was confused about what exactly the commentarial definition is,a and also I was making the unjustified assumption that all eight ariyapuggalå are avinipåtadhammå 1 (‘matters of not [being in danger of] hell’—this sounds a little odd, but it should be taken in the same way as ‘a new broom is a matter of sweeping clean’—i.e. ‘to be a new broom is to sweep clean’, ‘to be a sotåpanna is not to be in danger of hell’). Certainly the Dhammånusår⁄ and Saddhånusår⁄ are Ariyapuggalå, not puthujjana, though it now seems that the moment of transition from puthujjana to ariya is less clearly defined than I had thought it was—the word matters is indefinite. I also agree with you on the matter of Thera, and my enquiries were more or less intended to find out the local opinion and to avoid treading on anybody’s toes. (I don’t mind treading on people’s toes if the matter seems to be of importance, but this one does not.) I imagine that such things are taken more seriously at Vajiråråma, where custom is often elevated almost to the status of Vinaya, at least sometimes. I shall leave it to my pen to decide whether or not, and when, to alter my present mode of addressing you on letters. a.  Because the Commentary only allows one ‘moment’ for the Sotåpatti Path the effect, in practice, is that every sekha you can meet with and talk to must be at least a Sotåpanna. With this I do not agree.

299


[el. 104]

seeking the path

6.vi.59

Mr. Perera has lent me a copy of the Vesak ‘Buddhist’. An article by Gotama Wijesiri (have you seen it?) attempts to equate Husserl’s ‘phenomenological reduction’ with jhåna. This, of course, is hopeless (are we to suppose that Sartre, who certainly practised the reduction to write his books, is a jhånalåbh⁄?), but he gets a good mark for seeing that Husserl is relevant. Wijesiri, I see, approves your translating citta as ‘cognizance’, which emphasizes the noetic aspect as against the noematic (was this your reason for choosing ‘cognizance’?), but since he also approves of The Heart of Buddhist Meditation it does not seem to be much of a recommendation. ‘Feelings are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral, just as in the modern physiological science… ’ is not a very happy statement. The rest of the ‘Buddhist’ is mostly the usual nonsense (E. of Tangalle tells us that Cromwell beheaded King John of England), but I noted the following rather curious instruction: ‘When a person gets up in the morning let him contemplate on the position in which he is lying. Let him be aware that he is lying down.’ This is certainly an exercise in double-think; but how is it to be done? Another article, oddly enough, gives the answer: ‘On awakening in the morning he must sit up in a grave posture and repeat a verse…’. Nature Notes. Did you know: 1. that (some) snakes eat spiders? 2. that geckos eat scorpions? 3. that crabs have long thin tongues with which they can lick their eyes? I rather fancy that Kant’s a priori is a temporal expression only by analogy. In the refutation of Hume the a priori principle concerned is what we commonly call ‘memory’—we cannot say that A is the cause of B unless we remember A when B is occurring. This, of course, in no way interferes with Hume’s contention that when we say that A is the cause of B we are saying no more than that A invariably precedes B in time. Memory is a priori in the sense that it is fundamental, that there is no experience without memory. But I don’t think Kant intended to suggest that memory temporally precedes an experience. And even if Kant regarded time as purely subjective, the metaphorical sense of the expression does not seem to be altered—everyone’s experience of time is the same, whatever views he may hold about it, and the metaphor derives from the experience and not the view. Generally speaking, the simple precedes or is a priori to the complex merely in the sense that to understand the complex we must first understand the simple. And a principle so simple that it cannot be understood without begging the question is absolutely a priori. So, at least, I understand the term, which seems useful and harmless. I rather get the impression from Stebbing (quoting J.M. Keynes) that it is regarded as the first duty of a philosopher these scientific days to find an

300


6.vi.59

early letters

[el. 104]

answer to Hume, to show that induction is certain, in other words, and thus to vindicate the scientists’ belief that all is for the best in the best of all possible (scientific) worlds. Philosophy, having failed to come up to expectations, has fallen into disrepute. A friend of Mr. W. brought a Young Catholic yesterday who wanted to ask questions about the First Cause. I found my reading of Kierkegaard most useful, and I managed to make it clear that what the Christian believes is an absurdity. This has the advantage of being double-edged. The Christian may reply, ‘Yes, and I believe it because it is an absurdity’; but this so easily becomes, ‘Oh, so then what I believe is an absurdity. How absurd!’ Of course, one must insist that it is only a philosophical absurdity, and that the Christian is bound to believe it: but this, too, is double-edged, since he is only bound to believe the absurdity because he cannot know it, whereas the Christian may well react by saying (or thinking), ‘I do not admit that I am bound to believe it—I believe it because I choose to’—and once he realizes that it is a matter of choice whether he believes or not what is absurd, he is already undermined. I also remembered Strachey’s ‘Cardinal Manning’ 2, where it is said that it is a Catholic Article of Faith that a true knowledge of God is possible without Faith. This is a particularly absurd absurdity, and it seemed to register a direct hit. But he had been told that Buddhism was the doctrine of cause and effect, which is a particularly misleading statement—it is really not much advantage to give up Catholicism in order to embrace Rationalism. I find these distractions unwelcome and exhausting, however adequately the questions seem to have been answered (it is doubly exhausting to discover, a month or two later, that in fact the questions were answered wrongly—a kind of esprit d’escalier 3). Fortunately, the remoteness of this place discourages too many visitors. There was another, very enigmatic, person present during the discussion. Dressed in white, with the head completely shaven and wearing an Indian style forage cap (like Nehru), he looked typically Indian with a round face and sleepy eyes. But he behaved exactly like a Sinhalese Buddhist, and also spoke Sinhalese (he told the village children who had come to make less noise). The odd thing was, however, that he was rather noticeably not introduced—perhaps deliberately—and said not a word in the entire discussion, though it was evident that he understood what was being said. Most odd. I have now lived in this ku†i for more than two years (since it was built) without missing a single night.

301


[el. 105]

[ EL. 105 ]

seeking the path

19.vi.59

19 June 1959

Thank you for yours of yesterday. Thank you also for sending the extracts from Sartre. Though you actually copied out more than I really intended, it is none the less most welcome—the whole passage is of capital importance and so admirably lucid, and I have been glad to re-read it. My treatise on mind is not. As usual the ramifications grew and grew until I was intimidated by the vastness of the project, and I have been content merely to imagine it. One thing becomes more and more clear, however, and that is that in the Suttas the same word—mano, for example, or r¨pa—has different meanings, sometimes within a single sentence; and these meanings correspond to different levels of understanding. This is the secondary reason why a method of interpretation—which, as a rationalization, depends upon logical argumentation, and thus upon each word’s having one meaning and one only—cannot be applied to the Suttas. The only way to find out what a Teaching in the Suttas means is to refer to one’s own experience. (The primary reason why method will not work is, of course, that all method depends upon the pa†iccasamuppåda—it is phassapaccayå—and cannot therefore be applied to the pa†iccasamuppåda, just as chemistry cannot deal with nuclear physics, upon which it depends.) Koestler 1, as far as literature goes, is obviously right; and he demonstrates his own thesis by being himself thoroughly engaged—the article reeks of engagement. (It is incredibly parochial. Nobody in the West can think of anything worse—or anything else—than the Hydrogen Bomb. Why? Because it might destroy their precious civilization.) It provokes the reflexion that if all literature is engaged, then the Suttas are not literature, except superficially. Nibbåna, after all, is cessation of engagement, is it not? (I rather suspect he mistakes the Middle Way for the Way of Moderation—in other words, Sweet Reasonableness, or, as I read the other day, Reasonable Sweetness.) As regards the Pali Text Society’s 2 Aπguttara—I have none of the five volumes here (except no. two in translation, which I can hardly bear to read), and should welcome any or all of them, the more the better. My reading is now more or less confined to the Suttas and I am glad of any addition to my library… P.S. Koestler assumes that both the Buddha’s Teaching and the Existentialist Philosophy are works of art, and that implicit in them are various assumptions about the nature of existence. Koestler is himself an artist, and cannot imagine anything beyond—indeed, it is probably true to say that the assumption that there is nothing beyond art is precisely the assumption about

302


26.vi.59

early letters

[el. 105a]

the nature of existence that is inherent in Koestler’s own writing. Koestler is engaged according to his own definition—but he is engaged because he assumes the idea of engagement itself. And this dates him. He is a man of the XXth Century, obsessed with the idea of objectivity; for artistic objectivity—the refusal to preach your engagement, and merely to describe it as one amongst an infinity of possible engagements—is the brother of scientific objectivity—which is the refusal to admit your point of view, and merely to dismiss it as one amongst an infinity of possible points of view—, and it comes of a fear of being (in Kierkegaard’s words) infinitely interested. When you are infinitely interested either you keep quiet (as the Buddha was inclined to do immediately after Enlightenment) or you preach (as the Buddha did after persuasion or invitation by Brahmå Sahampati). Of course the Existentialists are (or were?) enragés and not simply engagés, they never pretended to be anything else. Koestler may not be hostile to the Buddha’s Teaching or to Existentialism, but this is because he has understood neither. Had he understood he would either be a Buddhist (or Existentialist) or else positively hostile. As it is he has neutralized both—or so he hopes—in the modern artistic no-point-of-view, which is ‘engagement’ as he understands it. Do you agree? [EL. 105a]

26 June 1959

A single undated unsigned page in Ven. Ñå~amoli’s writing. The trouble about discussing mind, I find (I here refer to discussions on this subject fra me e me1) is that (a) they always ramify fantastically and (b) one always finds that one has not been talking about mind (either mano or viññå~a) but only about nåmar¨pa. The Committe called Buddhaghosa Thera make (Fowler allows a pl. vb. with a collective n.) a parallel most grave and fundamental error in their Visuddhi Magga’s 14th Chapter when they set out to describe the viññå~akkhandha second, and next to the r¨pakkhandha and before vedanå, saññå and saπkhårå—that is why the description of the last two are so thin there, because it is these two that Buddhaghosa Thera describes under viññå~a, and so there is nothing intelligible left to say about them beyond mere repetition. This is quite contrary to the Suttas, which never change the order for the vital reason that it is only after you have exhausted everything positive by the first four that viññå~a remains (M.140) (simply, perhaps, because one finds that when everything has been exhausted something seems still to remain and nothing can be

303


[el. 105a]

seeking the path

26.vi.59

found) and that is indescribable except on the basis of that due to which it arises (M.38) or on the basis of nåmar¨pa (M.109) which it is-not (in the mode of not-being-what-it-is-and-being-what-it-is-not), and, unlike the other four, it is the only infiniteness (ånañca2—see the four åruppas) among them and so phenomenologically it is the pure negative (the four åruppas are four Absolute Negations). From this you may safely infer that I quite agree with your earlier ‘glass-shelves’ theory with the reservation that an infinite hierarchy of infinitely extensive (or an infinite series or hierarchy of infinitely extensive) glass shelve(s) is (are) indistinguishable from nothing except dialectically (what, by the way, does ∞2 signify mathematically, if anything?). This latter I regard as important. If the pañcakkhandhå are assumed (upådi~~å) and if they are absolutely not assumed there is no talking and no talked-about—then the assumption (consumption on the physical-mathematical level) must, by its nature, be a dialectic assumption. But since fundamentally, dialectic (which = indecision = anxiety = fear = pain) is unpleasant, one side of the basic dialectics has to be closed, more compulsively so in proportion to their existential importance (the consumption of food being one of the basic aspects) and is closed unilaterally by ta~hå and avijjå. The other side, being left open, then becomes the object of faith, which, when pure, believes absolutely it is not open to dialectic. Here a further train of thought is, I find, waiting at the station with steam up ready to depart. Whereto? Let us see. You know my view of the necessary organic relation of faith-ignorance (saddhå-avijjå) in the puthujjana, when faith supplements, in action, the deficiency in knowledge (ñå~a) truncated by ignorance and so makes action (kamma) not only possible but inescapable: well, my train now seems to be heading in the following direction: given faith’s intimacy with ignorance (take this in the worst sense, if you like), faith only functions well (as bonne foi) when ignored (what the mythico-psychological term for this would be ‘in the Unconscious’, which, otherwise translated, would mean ‘in overlooked behaviour patterns as regards the Other’—but subjectively it means ‘in pure unreflective action’, I think). But in proportion as faith is brought up by reflexion into full ignorance-governed cognizance (I.e. knowledge of the limited, I-positional, kind that always must accompany the basically still unbrokenup faith-ignorance ménage) it either dies and turns into honest doubt or lives on as mauvaise foi. I say ‘it dies and becomes doubt’ because it is an easily verifiable fact that if one knows (in this way) that one is acting on faith alone one becomes inhibited (simultaneous knowledge of this type is destructive of faith) and the action collapses (e.g. miracles, or Ogden and Richards’ ‘Centipede’ or stage-fright or ordinary straight-forward doubt,

304


23.vii.59

early letters

[el. 107]

as, for example, one’s first real attempt at swimming, etc.) This, I take it, is because action is only an aspect—or a function—of faith-ignorance. (When action is analyzed into pa†iccasamuppåda-nirodha and saddhå vanishes and avijjå ceases). The first three paths are necessarily paradoxical and represent the opening of fundamental dialectics, of which two recognizably basic ones are consciousness/unconsciousness and being/non-being). It is these that indicate nirodha, I take it. The sotåpanna’s aveccapasåda as ‘confidence due to undergoing’ (adhigama-saddhå) is thus properly faith which is no more faith (M.9/i,47) and, owing to loss of a measure of ignorance, his knowledge (ñå~a) is no more knowledge as the simple opposite of ignorance. Confidence and understanding (paññå) are now both one and two until the arahat’s resolution terminates the absurdity (see also M.95). The train of thought has now stopped. Where are we now? Where are the station name-boards? What does it mean? I think you are quite right to bring out the fact that the Buddha while giving definitions, never gives a single definition as absolute, and all really basic ideas, like the saccåni are the most balanced, too, in the matter of negation. If any single definition were absolutely valid determinism must result, and then no brahmacariya is possible for the ending of suffering. [ 27.vi.1959 ]1 [ EL. 106 ]

2 July 1959

Thank you for your letter. If there is the Aπguttara to follow there is no need to send me the other Pali Text Society volumes immediately. I am slowly reading the Majjhima at present and this will last for a bit. I should, nevertheless, be grateful for these other volumes as well as the Aπguttara if it is no great inconvenience to you to do without them, but all can come at once at your leisure. I have now entered one of my non-letter-writing moods, and so I shall not reply in detail at present to your rather meaty letter. [ EL. 107 ]

23 July 1959

Many thanks for the books, which have arrived safely. Also for your postcard. Boswell is of no interest at all, thank you all the same. Nothing needed

305


[el. 107]

seeking the path

23.vii.59

at the moment. Weather has been exceptionally cloudy, which no doubt corresponds to your continuous rain since Vesak. Not unpleasant. Mrs. G. has sent me a new drug (Pathilon) which much reduces my stomach acid and improves my digestion, and there is a corresponding and most welcome improvement in my bodily comfort. Having worked up a certain momentum I am anxious to let it take me as far as it will and am avoiding distractions, so I shall continue not to write at length. Visited by occasional elephants (one walked past the ku†i at 6:15 p.m.—I thought it was monkeys until I saw the top of its back just below the ku†i), and also at 2 a.m. by a large scaly anteater (at least I suppose it was that). [ EL. 108 ]

5 October 1959

I imagine that the irrational outburst of popular anger against the Saπgha 1 is symptomatic of a fairly widespread unpopularity of the bhikkhus in Ceylon on account of their unseemly and worldly behaviour (which cannot be denied). But if the laity continue to use the Saπgha as a rubbish bin for their unwanted offspring can they expect it not to smell a little? (There is in this village one particular small boy who is extraordinarily badly behaved and quite beyond his parents’ control, and I suspect that an attempt is being made to get rid of him by having me ordain him. Needless to say, this will not be successful; but it is typical of the current attitude.) Mr. Perera tells me that some local bhikkhus are going without dåna, but I have in no way been affected, and I am glad to hear that you have not. But no bhikkhu who still has the use of his legs has any ground for complaint that dåna is not brought to his monastery. I suspect that hardly any bhikkhu would be short of food if he took the trouble to go pi~∂apåta for it. As for bhikkhus being shouted at in the street, that is a very salutary experience for them, and I almost say that it should be encouraged. But the whole affair will be forgotten in a week. My Vas (thank you for asking) has been intestinally disturbed by the local colitis that is common in the dry weather. It answers quickly enough to Entero-Vioform, but since it resembles an aggravation of my usual intestinal state I was slow to recognize it and delayed treatment. And once the guts get disturbed they take long to settle down again, and I am still not quite back to my normal state of ill-health. If you have the leisure, I should be glad of a précis translation of M.47 (V⁄mamsaka Sutta), which is beyond the range of both the Ven. Buddhadatta’s Dictionary and my Pali.

306


11.i.60

[ EL. 109 ]

early letters

[el. 111]

21 October 1959

Your disease, which I have not (yet) encountered, sounds unpleasant, and alarming with its irregular pounding heartbeats. If I get it I shall now know that it is not (necessarily) fatal. You are probably right in anticipating a lot of foolishness if attempts are made to reform the Saπgha. One should, I think, in the first place keep one’s head down to avoid being hit by whatever is being thrown about, and in the second refuse to be browbeaten or stampeded into consenting to what is contrary to Dhammavinaya. Ceylon, however, like other Oriental countries (until they become Communist) is enormously inefficient, and the threatened widespread storm may turn out to be no more than a few scattered showers. Anyway, I hope so. Thank you for your description of the S⁄må bandhana—this is a function in which I have never taken part. Mr. Perera wanted to make a S⁄må here, but was discouraged. The Eddington does not interest me, thank you all the same—I have already read it, and besides there is a copy at Vajiråråma. I have never read Wittgenstein, so can give no opinion. He is, I think, approved of by Russell, which is rather a doubtful recommendation, though also by A. Huxley (in Those Barren Leaves) so he may be elegant.

part vii: 1960 (el. 110-111) [ EL. 110 ]

6 January 1960

Thank you for your letter and enclosures (just arrived). I am on my way to Colombo to be treated for what seems to be filariasis—I have been swelling up in various places. Shall perhaps call in on the Hermitage. I am not anxious to make this journey, but there seems to be no alternative. [ EL. 111 ]

11 January 1960

I am now in Durdans 1 undergoing various tests and taking various treatments. I have 1. Possibly filariasis, though first blood test negative; 2. The sound of white ants in my ears; 3. A great deal of wind in my belly. Though, on account of 1. and 3., I am swollen and am in the maternity ward, I am not expected to bring forth. I have been X-rayed and punctured (both to

307


[el. 111]

seeking the path

11.i.60

put in and to withdraw fluid), and have had to swallow pills, and have been listened to, and have had to listen to, and have had vast accumulations of wax taken from the ears, and have much more of this (as well as some inhalations) yet to come before I leave here. As soon as I can I shall return to Bundala, but when that will be I can’t say. Now, Mr. Perera is anxious to invite you to stay in the empty ku†i while I am away, and I myself shall be only too glad if you like to do it (I say this, not just because you would perform the useful service of keeping the elephants at bay, but also because you might like the change). If, however, I am to return in a week or ten days you may, perhaps, not think it worthwhile. If, on the other hand, I am to be away for three weeks or a month, the idea might appeal to you. (Of course, if you really want to stay there for a longer period to take advantage of the silence and solitude, I press you to do so with all the pressure I am capable of. This is not just polite—I mean it.) Unfortunately, as you may have gathered, the present situation is untidy and uncertain, and may continue to be so for some days longer, and I can’t say how long the ku†i will be empty for. But if you like to go off immediately to Bundala (without waiting for Mr. Perera’s invitation—which is not necessary, first because the ku†i belongs to the Saπgha and not to him and secondly because he is itching to have you anyway) you will get a week there at least, and possibly more… Vajiråråma is fearfully depressing—the same old things (some older, if possible) go on in the same old way, and I am really happier in this rather pleasant room in the hospital. It is an end room, and opens on to an old grass tennis court where I walk about at night. It is an unhappy sign of the present state of affairs that although everybody in Vajiråråma knows quite well that all I do (indeed, all that there is to do) at Bundala is bhåvanå only one person (the ageing Ven. C.) asked me how it was proceeding (and even he dropped the subject immediately). Nobody has any interest in the matter of bhåvanå at all. Sad. The wretched D. appeared while I was there and questioned me on the subject of amœbiasis, which he apparently has got. I told him directly not to hope to get cured in this lifetime, but that if he takes care of his diet he may expect some improvement in a few years’ time. He was apparently thinking (as I used to) in terms of a cure in a month or six weeks. I think he was duly depressed by what I told him, but if he will accept it he will avoid much mental distress and futile seekings for remedies in the time ahead. I also told him that it is not an insuperable obstacle in the way of progress in the Dhamma (which it is not), but he is probably not inclined to believe that at present…

308


2

Letters to Perera Family

[ EL. 112 ]

6 August 1956

Dear Mr. Perera, You ask me whether it is all right to trade in opium and ganja. This is what the Buddha says: — There are, monks, these five trades that should not be carried on by an upåsaka. Which five? Trading in weapons, trading in living creatures, trading in flesh, trading in intoxicants, trading in poisons. These, monks, are the five trades that should not be carried on by an upåsaka. (Aπguttaranikåya V,xviii,7) You also ask me if your repeated failure in your business undertakings is due to bad kamma in the past. I think that it very probably is so. Here is another Sutta: — (The Venerable Såriputta speaks to the Buddha:) ‘What, Bhante, is the reason why the trade that one man undertakes is a complete failure, and why the trade that another man undertakes does not come up to expectation, and why the trade that yet another man undertakes does come up to expectation, and why the trade that still another man undertakes exceeds expectation?’ (The Buddha replies:) ‘Here, Såriputta, someone goes up to an ascetic or a monk and invites him saying, ‘Tell me what you need, Bhante’. Then he does not give what is expected of what he promised. If this man, when he dies, is reborn again in this world, then whatever trade he undertakes does not come up to this level of failure.1 Or again, Såriputta, someone goes up to an ascetic or monk and invites him saying, ‘Tell me what you need, Bhante’. Then he gives less than

309


[el. 112]

seeking the path

6.viii.56

was expected of what he had promised. If this man, when he dies, is reborn again in this world, then whatever trade he undertakes comes to less than expectation. Or here, Såriputta, someone goes up to an ascetic or monk and invites him saying, ‘Tell me what you need, Bhante’. Then he gives as much as was expected of what he had promised. If this man, when he dies, is reborn again in this world, then whatever trade he undertakes does come up expectation. Or here, Såriputta, someone goes up to an ascetic or monk and invites him saying, ‘Tell me what you need, Bhante’. Then he gives more than was expected of what he had promised. If this man, when he dies, is reborn again in this world, then whatever trade he undertakes exceeds expectation. This then, Såriputta, is the reason why the trade that one man undertakes is a complete failure, and why the trade that another man undertakes does not come up to expectation, and why the trade that yet another man undertakes does come up to expectation, and why the trade that still another man undertakes exceeds expectation.’ (Aπguttaranikåya IV,viii,9) So it seems that if your business undertakings do not prosper, that may be because in a past life you were in the habit of making big promises and then not keeping them. The right thing to do is to promise little and then give more than you promised. Do not make promises that you do not think you can fulfil. Certainly2 it is difficult to live a good life, and the benefits may not be apparent here and now; but if we believe what the Buddha has told us then it is very well worth the effort that it costs even if it kills us. Not for the sake of life will a Sotåpanna break the five precepts. The depressing effects of bad kamma done in the past may last for many lives, not just for one; but do not forget that good kamma also has its effect for a long time—sometimes for longer than bad kamma. And this is important:—if we do good kamma now we shall be reborn in a position to go on doing good kamma, for a man who is rich because of past good kamma has the opportunity of doing more good kamma now than a poor man who has not done good kamma in the past. And remember also that, although your past kamma is not good enough to make you rich and successful now, it is none the less very good kamma indeed, for you have been born a human being during the time of a Buddha’s Såsana. The next time you see a sick dog or a cow dying of thirst, think, ‘I might have been born as that; and if I do wrong

310


10.x.58

early letters

[el. 113]

now it is probable that I shall be born as that’. It is always better to bear up when misfortune assails us, but there is nothing else we can do: we inherit our past deeds. [ EL. 113 ]

10 October 1958

Dear Mr. Perera,1 I have just received your letter of the 8th. The shortest answer to your question why I think solitude is essential for mettå and why other people are a positive hindrance is simply this. The Buddha has said that noise is a thorn to first jhåna; mettå practice is first and foremost to obtain jhåna; and other people are noisy. But this needs some expansion and qualification. It may be said, perhaps, that mettå is recommended by the Buddha for getting rid of anger, and that anger normally arises in our dealings with other people; and that it is therefore in our dealings with other people that mettå is best practised. It is most certainly true that we have need of mettå in our dealings with other people, and the Ven. Thera’s advice to you is excellent and there is nothing to be said against it. But the trouble is this: before we can be in a position to have mettå in our dealings with other people we have to first know what mettå is, and secondly to have it at our command. Now, just as it is possible to practise ånåpånasati in the presence of other people when one has already become skilled in it by oneself, so it is possible to practise mettå in the presence of others only when one has practised it a great deal when alone. And just as the worst conditions for practising ånåpånasati are the noise and bustle of other people, so it is with mettå. Until you are able to practise either ånåpånasati or mettå in solitude you will never succeed in company—the obstacles are far too great. For example, suppose there is someone you dislike, and in whose presence you become angry: unless you are already able to prevent anger from arising when you think of him in his absence (which needs much practice), you will have no chance at all of getting rid of the anger that arises when you actually meet him. Once anger takes possession of you there is very little you can do except to stop it from finding expression in words or deeds, and to allow it to subside; it is far too late to start practising mettå. But if you thouroughly practise mettå before you meet such a person, then it is possible that anger will not arise when you do meet him. Having mettå in your dealings with other people consists in having mettå before you deal with them, that is, in solitude—once you start dealing with them you will have little opportunity of attending to mettå (or if you do attend to mettå

311


[el. 113]

seeking the path

10.x.58

it will interfere in your dealings just as attending to your in and out breaths takes your mind away from the matter in hand). You might, however, be thinking that, whereas ånåpånasati concerns only myself since it is a matter of watching my own breaths and not somebody else’s, mettå on the contrary concerns other people since it is a question of my relationship with other people and my attitude towards them. And you might think that it follows from this that the presence of other people is either an advantage or even absolutely necessary for the practice of mettå. In a certain sense this is true: you cannot practise mettå towards other people unless they are in some way present—but the presence of other people does not imply that their bodies must be present. I do not mean that their ‘spirit’ is present while their body is absent (which is a mystical confusion of thought), but simply that ‘other people’ is a fundamental structure of our conscious constitution. Let me give an illustration. It happens to all of us that upon some occasion when we are doing something perhaps rather shameful (it might be simply when we are urinating or excreting, or it might be when we are peeping through a keyhole or something like that) and we believe we are alone and unobserved, we suddenly hear a slight sound behind us and we immediately have the unpleasant idea ‘I am being watched’. We turn round and look and find nobody there at all. It was only our own guilty conscience. Now this is an indication that in order to have a relationship with other people we do not need other people’s bodies: we are conscious of other people (at least implicitly) all the time, and it is this consciousness that we have to attend to when we practise mettå. (Another illustration, from my own experience. Upon two separate occasions in my life I have fallen in love with a character in a book—badly enough to take away my appetite for a few days. That is to say, I was in love with people not only that I had never seen but that did not even exist. [Remarkably painful experiences!] The presence of a body was in no way necessary.) When we practise mettå we are developing and gradually changing our attitude towards other people; and we always have an attitude towards other people whether their bodies are present or not. The only thing a (living) body does when we meet one is to be the occasion for the consciousness ‘this is another person’. And if we have already been practising mettå and have acquired an un-angry attitude towards other people, then when we actually meet another person our attitude towards him will be correct right at the beginning, and no anger will arise. It is only when we are already disposed to anger that we get angry when we meet someone; and if we are disposed to mettå (through long practice in solitude, on our consciousness of other people whose actual bodies are absent) we have mettå in our dealings with

312


10.x.58

early letters

[el. 113]

them. But other people’s bodies are noisy and disturbing and interfere with our developing mettå towards these other people—it is not other people that are a hindrance to the practice of mettå, but their bodies. I hope this is reasonably clear and not too philosophical. There are two difficulties involved in writing this account: the first is that I am not quite sure why you are of the opinion that it is best to be with other people when practising mettå (though I have tried to guess); and the second is that I have never practised mettå bhåvanå (I am not much inclined to anger and have preferred another subject of meditation), and consequently I cannot speak directly from experience. You must make whatever deductions you think necessary from what I have said, in view of this. There are some people who seem to think that mettå practice consists of walking around with a sickly smile on their face or in showing in some other way their benevolence towards mankind. These people, of course, find the presence of other people indispensable; for otherwise nobody would appreciate their benevolence, which would be a waste. I take it you are not referring to them.) P.S. 1. There are not two ways of practising mettå, one for jhåna and one for one’s dealings with others; there is just the one method, practised in solitude, which will lead to jhåna if persisted with, and which will ensure that when we do happen to deal with other people we do so with mettå. It is noteworthy that in the Sutta for protection against snakes one first develops thoughts of mettå to all beings, legless, two-legged, four-legged, and many-legged, and one then says pa†ikkamantu bh¨tåni,2 ‘let beings keep away’. Mettå is best at a distance from its object. 2. The unsuccessful attempt to practise mettå in company with other people may lead to the unwitting substitution of some other practice (such as cåga or generosity) in the belief that it is mettå. In extreme cases one may appoint oneself unofficial Welfare Officer to Humanity, or simply develop into a meddlesome busybody. 3. Mettå must be sharply distinguished from Socialism or Communism. A Socialist or Communist (when he is sincerely convinced, which is quite frequent) loves Humanity as a whole. But Humanity as a whole (‘the People’, ‘the Masses’) is an abstraction that can neither be loved nor hated. The attempt to love Humanity or Mankind as a whole normally results in hate for each individual person. Each individual person, in the eyes of a Socialist or a Communist, is an enemy of the People. Thus the more extreme Communists are cheerfully willing to kill any amount of persons for the sake of the People. The practice of mettå, on the other hand, consists in loving all individual beings, starting with oneself.

313


3

Letter to Unknown Recipient

[EL. 114]

1956

Island Hermitage Dear 1 Thank you for the copy of ‘Bilt’. I am afraid that publicity given to such foolish goings-on only serve to bring the Dhamma into disrepute and to turn away intelligent people who might otherwise be interested. People here, as you know very well, are just as foolish; but at least their foolishness is not attributed to their being Buddhist. In Europe, however, it may well come to be thought so, and that would be a pity. For your possible interest here is a revised (though I can never say final) copy of the article on rebirth 2. You will see that I have got myself involved (rather to my surprise) in sub-atomic physics; unfortunally I know little about these things and cannot say whether the resemblance between my descriptions of experience and the physicists’ description of their ultimate particles is sufficiently close to be of significance. Perhaps you know more about this than I do. The picture of things that emerges seems at first most improbable, namely, that all my more than infinitely infinite possibilities at all levels of generality are existing already in various degrees of absence, and that their existence is one with my choosing among them, on the basis of feeling, which shall be present. But after all precognition is really no less improbable, yet this is a well-established fact. And on the present view of things (and particularly after the discussions in the last appendix) it seems that we may now be able to describe the possibility of precognition as a regular structure of experience. Two of its features in particular seem much clearer: first, that we can never tell whether a given experience is precognitive until its fulfilment takes place; and second, that by timely voluntary action we can prevent such fulfilment, once it has started, from completing itself. There was also an interesting case I read recently of a precognition within a precognition: an experiment in precognitive clairvoyance with cards, where the pack was made up at least a week after the guesses were recorded, showed

315


[el. 114]

seeking the path

1956

forward displacement of the guesses, which as a whole were significant. Given the hierarchical structure of things, present or absent, this does not seem so very mysterious. But these things are incidental, the important thing being whether or not there is any advance in our understanding of the Buddha’s Teaching, and that is not a easy question. I apologize for only sending the carbon copy, but the top copy is to go to Miss Horner of the Pali Text Society, who has said she will try to get Luzac & Co. to publish it. I am afraid it has been much corrected in parts but hope you can read it. The likelihood of having a German translation 3 made at present seems remote. But in any case I do not think it would be very popular. Here is a passage quoted by Sartre (from Flournoy, whoever he may be) that pleased me, and might perhaps please you with your taste for colours: Un monsieur de 40 ans qui éprouve des couleurs très précises pour a, o et u, n’en a pas pour i ; il comprend toutefois qu’à la rigueur on puisse voir ce son blanc ou jaune, mais il estime que « pour le trouver rouge il faudrait avoir l’esprit mal fait et l’imagination perverse. »4 At least, it seems, I shall be able to go to Hambantota in a few days’ time. I shall have to supervise the building of a mud hut, which will take several days, and then I shall be able to live there. It will be a relief to get away from books and typewriter and to try and practice what I am now preaching. Perhaps I shall decide that I have been writing nonsense!

316


4

Letter to Family

[ EL. 115 ]

19 September (1951?)1

Dear Auntie, Thank you very much for your kindly letter telling me of my mother’s death. It is good to know that she died peacefully and, as I imagine, without too much pain: may she find herself now in a happy abode. We can none of us escape death and very few, illness. I am glad to hear of your recovery and hope you will long be spared death. I have got over my typhoid successfully and I have just had treatment for some amœbic intestinal trouble, which also promises well—the tropics are not kind to one’s insides. I imagine that my actions in doing what I have done probably appear, to say the least, incomprehensible. It is unfortunate that it should be so, but alas! inevitable—not in a month of Sundays could I persuade anyone (other than my fellows) of the reasonableness of my behaviour—so I won’t attempt it. In case there should be any doubt in the matter, I have no claim whatsoever on anything—money or property—that my mother may have left. If there is anything the disposal of which is not covered by her will, please have Uncle Willy dispose of it as he thinks fit. I am glad of your love—you have mine and my best wishes always, so too does the family. With love, Harold

317


[el. 115]

318

seeking the path

19.ix.51?

Profile for Path Press

Early Letters (Seeking the Path - Ñāṇavīra Thera)  

Seeking the Path consists of Ñāṇavīra's extensive correspondence with Ñaṇamoli Thera from 1954-1959. These letters shed considerable light o...

Early Letters (Seeking the Path - Ñāṇavīra Thera)  

Seeking the Path consists of Ñāṇavīra's extensive correspondence with Ñaṇamoli Thera from 1954-1959. These letters shed considerable light o...

Profile for pathpress
Advertisement