Category Archives: R
Ramanuja developed the system of Visistadvaita or qualified monism.
For Ramanuja the Brahman is real and beyond pain and suffering but individual souls (jivas) emerging from and ultimately resting within the Brahman are also real.
As a result, the jiva experiences the pleasure and pain of earthly life.
Liberation from samsara, the round of rebirth due to karma, is gained through individual effort as well as the grace of God (as Vishnu).
As a consequence of his religious and philosophical innovation, Ramanuja was persecuted by a rival Hindu who happened to be a Saivite ruler.
Gilbert Ryle (1900-76) was an English philosopher who taught at Oxford from 1945-68 and edited the journal Mind from 1947-71.
Ryle advanced the idea that philosophy could and should be expressed in ordinary language. If an argument cannot be expressed in a universally understandable manner, he argued, it’s probably not clearly understood by the person advancing it.
Indeed, some philosophers seem to get so caught up in their special language that they develop blind spots to the ambiguities, limitations and sometimes absurdity of their claims. And some view simpler language as not really counting, when arguably this is more accurate, given the vast amount of uncertainty and mystery inherent to human existence.
One potential problem with Ryle’s sort of democratic approach to philosophy is that life is perhaps never so simple as one person living in a kind of charmed isolation, trying to figure out the riddles of existence. And rarely do we find the much promulgated ideal of a consciencious group of scholars happily working together in a conflict-free environment.
As Michel Foucault argues, it seems scholars always operate within some kind of social and political system, one often characterized not just by collaboration but also struggle. And certain language styles (and all the connotations that go with them) may be an important factor in getting one’s ideas across, being effective, advancing one’s career, and so on.
In short, anyone who says that small-p politics doesn’t play a significant role in the quest for knowledge is probably a scam artist or possibly a naive person in need of a reality check.
Ryle published a well-known work in 1949, The Concept of Mind, challenging Descartes mind-body dualism. Ryle said that Descartes describes the mind as a metaphysical ghost in a material machine, hence the enduring phrase, “ghost in the machine.”
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a Welsh philosopher and mathematician.
Russell lectured at Cambridge in 1895, published Principles of Mathematics (1903) and, with A. N. Whitehead, authored Principia Mathematica (1910-13).
He was dismissed in 1916 because of his advocacy of pacifism during World War I. Jailed in 1918 for six months, Russell finally revoked his support for pacifism with the rise of Fascism.
Soonafter his fellowship was restored.
In the 1920′s he began to lecture and write widely. In 1927 he founded an experimental school with his second wife. And he toured the Soviet Union and lectured in China and America.
His main publications are The Problems of Philosophy (1912), On Education (1926), An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940), History of Western Philosophy (1945), and Human Knowledge (1948). He also wrote probing essays on a variety of topics, such as Why I am not a Christian (1927).
After World War II Russell advocated a ban on nuclear weapons and corresponded frequently with leading politicians around the world. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 and produced a three-volume Autobiography (1967-9).
In Oceanic myth Rona is a fierce female cannibal who eats her beautiful daughter’s lover.
In another Oceanic myth Rona is a god who fights the moon to rescue his abducted wife.
According to this story, as the moon tires from the battle, it wanes. When the moon begins to regain its strength, it waxes.
This is an excellent example of what we might call alternative logic. The depth psychologist C. G. Jung noted that archaic myths are just as logical and meaningful to primitives as scientific explanations are to moderns.
Jung says he treated so called primitive peoples with respect and, when interviewing local elders and tribesmen, didn’t challenge their beliefs or try to convert them to a modern scientific perspective.
This probably was a wise move on Jung’s part. Imagine if advanced extraterrestrials came to Earth who could see beyond our commonly held understanding of directional time and the apparent solidity of physical matter, these beliefs so important to the psychological security and workings of 21st century mankind. If the ETs showed us too much too fast they’d likely “blow our minds” (or at least most of our minds), as David Bowie put it in the song “Starman.”
And Jung would have likely disrupted archaic people’s psychological wellness had he tried to convince them that, for instance, the sun’s rising wasn’t dependent upon contemplation and sacrifice¹ but, rather, a natural process due to the Earth’s rotation.
This whole issue raises important questions concerning the assumptions we tend to have about our current cosmologies and their relation to the idea of progress.
¹ Jung actually interviewed an elder who held these beliefs.
In Scandinavian myth, Ragnarok is a terrible final battle in which gods, mankind and all creation perish.
According to the story, Ragnarok will be preceded by a period of lawless anarchy and followed by the descendents of Lif and Lifthrasir, the only two survivors of the catastrophic war.
The tale is found in two main sources. The Poetic Edda was written in the 13th century, being a compilation of existing poetry. Also in the 13th century the noted historian, writer and statesman Snorri Sturluson wrote a Prose Edda, which makes frequent reference to the Poetic Edda.
The story is by no means a dead one, locked in the past. It’s been influential to contemporary video games, film and Marvel comics has repeatedly adapted the Ragnarok cycle in The Mighty Thor¹ and subsequent Thor comics.
For Radhakrishnan, different religions represent different aspects of one Source. And he believes that all religions may be unified through a universal interpretation of Vedanta.
Radhakrishnan’s work is widely respected in India and beyond. This should not be surprising as popular Hinduism tends to homogenize different world religions within its own understanding of the godhead, overlooking or perhaps in some instances trivializing important doctrinal differences.
A good example of this is found in the Hindu view of Christianity. For most Hindus Jesus Christ is just a wise messenger – some might say another avatar – among many and not the only incarnation of God as most Christians, themselves, believe (John 3:16).
One could say that this approach, even if well-intentioned, contributes to the potentially divisive “we know better than them” attitude that is prevalent among most world religions.
When individuals rigidly believe, at bottom, that their particular religious views represent absolute or the best available truth, there’s arguably little room left for meaningful dialogue, even though this may appear to be the case.
It seems the agenda to convert is often present in most world religions even if masked with the agreeable persona of merely trying to understand. Whether or not this represents an unethical deception or a wise kind of “fishing for souls” remains open to debate.
The term ‘rosary’ refers to any planned prayer recited on a string of beads. Rosaries in this general sense have been prayed all over the world in various religious traditions for centuries.
Before the introduction of beads, prayers were counted on pebbles or fingers.
Some believe that the Catholic Holy Rosary was adapted from earlier Muslim prayer beads, introduced through the Crusades. Others say the Holy Rosary existed prior to the Crusades.
In actual fact no one really knows just how or when the Catholic rosary came into being.
According to Catholic legend, the Blessed Virgin Mary mystically appeared to St. Dominic in 1214. And many devotional Catholics believe she gave him the Holy Rosary and said “One day through the Rosary and the Scapular I will save the world.”¹
Apparently many other Catholic saints have had subsequent visions, from the Middle Ages to modern times, concerning the urgency of spreading devotion through the Rosary.
And in October 2002 Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the usual Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. All of the Catholic mysteries are based on key moments in the life, death and afterlife of both Jesus and Mary as found in the New Testament.
¹ The History of the Rosary http://www.prayrosary.com/rosaryscapular/history.php3
Runes were the characters of the Anglo-Saxon language dating from the 8th-century CE, although some claim they are of early Gothic origin and others date them to the 1st century.
The characters gradually took on divinatory and mystical significance as they spread from southern Europe to Britain and Scandinavia.
Not unlike modern interpretations of the I Ching, which adapt ancient Chinese commentaries, today’s Runes are said to be based on runic inscriptions as found on swords, stones and bronze pendants.
Also like the I Ching, Tarot and other divinatory systems, the runes have been commercialized on a grand scale.
While some may think this invalidates their divinatory and mystical significance, others don’t make such a sharp distinction between God and commercialism.
In fact, some believe that God can work through any vehicle, be it one traditionally construed as “sacred” or another branded as a “sellout.”
This issue touches on the unresolved idea of making cosmological and ethical distinctions between the sacred and profane, discussed by Mircea Eliade and others.
The Rosetta Stone is a large gray stone naturally tinted blue and pink measuring almost four feet high, over two feet wide and almost a foot thick. It was discovered in 1799 by a captain of Napoleon’s army near Alexandria in the proximity of Rosetta (Rashid).
The striking feature of the stone is its text. Inscribed on one side of the stone are three different languages: Greek, hieroglyphic and demotic Egyptian.
The three sets of text enabled linguists to deduce the meanings of hieroglyphics which until that time had been virtually undecipherable.
English scientist, physician and Egyptologist Thomas Young – famous for his double slit experiment – helped to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
Today it rests in the British Museum.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) was a French political writer and educator born in Geneva, Switzerland.
After taking various odd jobs this self-taught intellectual moved to Paris in 1741, meeting up with Denis Diderot and the Encyclopedists.
A kind of romantic naturalism pervades much of his work, best illustrated by the idea of the “noble savage” where stultifying conventions and religious promises of an afterlife are dismissed in favor of spontaneous desires and worldly affections.
In 1754 he wrote Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Amongst Men, outlining the apparently innate goodness of human beings in contrast to the corrupting powers of institutions.
In Luxembourg from 1757-1762 he wrote The Social Contract, which had a significant bearing on the French revolution, as exemplified by Rousseau’s cry for ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.’
That same work produced the famous line, “man is born free, but everywhere is in chains.”
In 1762 he published the novel, Emile. Its critique of the monarchy and government bureaucracy compelled him to retreat to Switzerland, ultimately to end up in England with the support of the philosopher David Hume.
Rousseau later wrote his Confessions and returned to Paris in 1767, where he continued to write but apparently became delusional, believing that Hume was conspiring against him. » Enlightenment