1. "Anselm’s Favorite Beverage; Or, Yoohoo Chocolate Drink Exists, God Must Too." By The Satirical Rogue.
2. "All This Nonsense over a Little Gold Man," by Aaron Thomas
3. "Does Intention Entail Belief or Does it Consist of Belief?" by Brandon Paradise
4. "The Oedipus Instinct," by the Rhetorical Ronin
5. "The Necessary Co-presence of Pain and Pleasure in Ban-Yatra Pilgrimage" by Anne Eva Doer
6. "Circumcision" by Alan Nicholl
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"Anselm’s Favorite Beverage; Or, Yoohoo Chocolate Drink Exists, God Must Too." By The Satirical Rogue.
A Brief History Lesson:
In a world of scientific inquiry, atheism, and the assassination of God, we are often neglectful of our Glorious God’s existence. With new theories of neuropsychology, quantum physics, gene therapy, evolution, and psychobiology, we are constantly forced to edge God out of our lives, to be replaced with cold, empty scientific thought. What, with meme theory, genetic predisposition, evolutionary spontaneous generation, dark matter, super string theory, multi-layered universes, and the neurological reasons behind consciousness, we are becoming more and more distant from the reality that is God.
This is disappointing. This is painful. And thankfully, this is avoidable. We must look no further than Saint Anselm and his Ontological Argument of 1077 B.C., and we are again reminded of the irrefutability of the Lord’s existence, and His awe-inspiring plan for us all.
Saint Anselm of Canterbury is not only the theologian responsible for one of the most potent arguments against atheism, but he is also the archbishop responsible for interpreting the Holy Bible in support of the Holy Crusades for Pope Urban II. Without Anselm, we would be without the Ontological Proof, and we never would have waged war against the infidel Turks, or the heathen Jews. So, we are doubly indebted to Saint Anselm, and should take this opportunity to learn a little more about him:
Anselm was one of the early Church Fathers who attempted to justify faith, not by reference to Holy Scripture, but through the use of logic and reason alone. Having been inspired by Saint Augustine’s The City of God, (413-426,) Anselm understood that to defeat Paganism, he must support his arguments using methods employed by pagans. This he did, in 1077 with Monolgion, in 1078 with Proslogion, and in 1098 with Cur Deus Homo. His major contribution to apologetics and theology is now called the Ontological Proof, which, essentially, is a set of logical steps which show that God must exist.
One thousand years later, his proof is still a powerful argument against the plague of atheism. With it, we can turn the tables on physicists, biologists, chemists, and psychologists. We can fall asleep at night knowing in our soul that God does indeed exist. We can use the scientist’s weapons of logic and rhetoric to injure that scientist’s theories.
But, the skeptic asks, how can we use a one thousand year old argument now, in the year 2000? Is it not out of date? Is it still applicable in a world of black holes, nuclear physics, Einstein-Rosen bridges, and self-replicating memes?
I answer in the affirmative, and I will relate the Ontological Argument in a more contemporaneous way, with the hope that my more simplistic, understandable methods will prove effective.
Anselm’s Ontological Argument:
The essential points of Anselm’s arguments are these:
For a further explanation of his original ideas, please see his Monolgion and Proslogion.
I have thought long and hard, in an effort to find a suitable way of laying out the foundations of this argument in a contemporary manner. After much prayer and guidance from the Clergy, I have decided to show Anselm’s support using Yoohoo Chocolate Drink, because it is a glorious modern day subject, and one which I believe will clearly be understood, especially in relation to Anselm’s third point.
Yoohoo and it’s Greatness:
It is an accepted fact that Yoohoo is a great beverage. I know it, you know it, even Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman, (two of the 20th centuries great physicists,) know it. (please see Hawking’s unexpurgated edition of A Brief History of Time, and Feynman’s unexpurgated QED.) So, this is an undeniable fact, and one in which my modern explanation hinges upon. If you disagree, it is because you are stupid, have no taste-buds, or have never tried Yoohoo. No other explanation exists.
So, Yoohoo is great. Fact number one. And, recognizing that Yoohoo is great, we must also agree that Yoohoo is great only in comparison to something better, and something worse. (No night without day, no black without white, no good without bad, etc.)
When we understand that our judgements are contingent upon not only one value, but a set of values, we begin to see the inevitable result. If Yoohoo is good, God must exist, because great can be improved to wonderful, wonderful can be improved to scrumdiliumptious, and scrumdiliumptious can only be improved with flawless, which is God.
To illustrate this point, (and the opposite direction, the proof of Satan,) I have prepared a comparative list:
So, we see that Yoohoo, (or anything for that matter,) being great is absolutely contingent upon something above it being better, and something below it being worse. Following those betters and those worses, we inevitably reach God and Satan, without whom we would know no Good or Bad.
Furthermore, we now can see how God rules the top of this graph: He is the only thing that exists independent of Yoohoo. All the other items on the graph are only emanations of God. (See Plato’s Cave for more on Ideals.) Without God, there would be no emanations, no great things, and most terrifying of all, no Yoohoo Chocolate Drink. (A careful reading of The Revelations of John show this to be one facet of Hell.)
So, Believe in the Lord, friends, He Must Exist!
You need never doubt again, as the man who doubts further supports the undeniable existence of God Almighty. In order to deny the existence of God, we must first conceive of a God, and in order to conceive of a God, God must exist, because the concept of God can be improved upon, and therefore, God must exist.
This concludes my exposition of Saint Anselm of Canterbury’s Ontological Argument.
Ian McGreal: Great Thinkers of the Western World. New York, Harper Collins Co., 1992. Pg. 81-86.
John Hopkins: A Companion to the Study of St. Anselm. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972.
Saint Anselm: Monologion. England, 1077.
Saint Anselm: Proslogion. England, 1078.
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"All This Nonsense over a Little Gold Man," by Aaron Thomas
This Oscar season (the 72nd one of its kind), pundits, movie critics, and even the occasional celebrity has been talking about how this is the closest Oscar race in years, and in a lot of ways, they are right. No film has led the pack with so few nominations since Rain Man in 1989. (Compare to last year when Shakespeare in Love was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress, and in both Supporting categories.) Many will say that this makes the winners difficult to predict, but the truth is that the winners, as a general rule, are difficult to predict. For instance, I didn't read a single article predicting James Coburn as last year's Best Supporting Actor winner.
It is helpful to remember that all of the performances and other contributions to film that are nominated are worthy of the Oscar. Who gets the Oscar is not the best man, but depends on thousands of other things as well. That said, take my predictions as you would take anyone else's, but be sure to take what I say about who should win to heart, because, well... I'm right.
Kevin Spacey (American Beauty)
Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown)
Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story)
Denzel Washington (The Hurricane)
Russell Crowe (The Insider)
This category is pretty open. Personally, I would not have nominated Spacey for his Lester Burnham performance and given the nomination to Philip Seymour Hoffman for his portrayal of a transvestite in the DeNiro vehicle Flawless. Other than that, I don't think anyone got snubbed with these nominations, although I can't help feeling bad for Matt Damon, who put his soul into the character of Tom Ripley... not that he would have won anyway, but a second nomination would have been nice.
Who will win: Sean Penn will not win and neither will Richard Farnsworth. I know Spacey is the favorite right now, but somehow I cannot imagine the Academy giving him another statue. (It's quite possible, though, and a lot of people think he's going to win.) Personally, I think it is more likely that Russell Crowe will win, since, like Spacey, Denzel Washington has already won once. Besides, giving Crowe the statue will honor his earlier work in the Academy favorite L.A. Confidential.
Who should win: Crowe. He gave me chills. Washington is a close second.
Annette Bening (American Beauty)
Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds)
Hilary Swank (Boy's Don't Cry)
Julianne Moore (End of the Affair)
Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart)
I have heard complaints that there weren't enough really good contenders for this spot this year and I don't understand it, frankly. In addition to the five mentioned, I've heard great things about Reese Witherspoon's turn in Election, and Sigourney Weaver's role in Map of the World and I thought Glenn Close (Cookie's Fortune) turned in an excellent performance early in the year. Furthermore, while I will acknowledge that Eyes Wide Shut is a flawed movie, I thought Nicole Kidman did a great job.
Who will win: Hilary Swank... with Bening as a long shot. Meryl Streep won't get another one for a while, deserved though it may be.
Who should win: Hilary Swank. Her performance in Boys is absolutely riveting and by the end, sincerely desperate and sad. It broke my heart.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense)
Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules)
Tom Cruise (Magnolia)
Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile)
This was the biggest race this year, I think. Other actors whose names were being mentioned in connection with this nomination: Christopher Plummer (The Insider), Wes Bentley and Chris Cooper (American Beauty), Harry J. Lennix (Titus), and Max von Sydow (Snow Falling on Cedars). The nominees in this category should feel quite privileged.
Who will win: Cruise doesn't have one yet, and this is his third nomination. Osment has the second-best chance of winning, I think, because he's a kid, and the Academy thinks that's fun.
Who should win: I wouldn't mind any of them winning, but I am really rooting for Tom Cruise. It would be nice for him to have, and I think it's just the right time for him. Besides, he deserves it. He did a great job with Frank T.J. Mackey.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich)
Chloë Sevigny (Boy's Don't Cry)
Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense)
Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown)
Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted)
My main beef with this category is the huge snub of Helena Bonham Carter for her wonderful performance in this summer's Fight Club. Frankly, I prefer her performance as the chain-smoking Marla to all of the performances nominated.
Who will win: I think Angelina Jolie is the early favorite for this award, and I fully expect her to win. Her dad is Oscar-winner Jon Voight (Coming Home), and that just makes good television.
Who should win: Samantha Morton.
Before I get to the last two big categories, let me inform you that the winner of Best Documentary will be Buena Vista Social Club. I have not seen it and it is likely that I will not, but it will win without a doubt. Another sure thing is the winner of the award for Best Foreign Language Film. And the winner is… Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother). I have seen this movie (starring Cecilia Roth and Penélope Cruz as a pregnant nun) and I only half-liked it. It’s a nice little feel-good melodrama about transvestitism and motherhood (I’m putting it badly, but it’s difficult to describe) without much of a message or much of a point.
Trust me on these two for sure. I have no doubt that they will both win.
Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
Michael Mann (The Insider)
Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules)
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)
Spike Jones (Being John Malkovich)
Including Hallström in this category was a mistake. I will discuss the flaws of his film in more detail later, but he does not belong with these other four visionaries, whose films in 1999 have stretched the bounds of moviemaking. The other nomination should rightfully belong to any one of the following four people: Julie Taymor, Anthony Minghella, Norman Jewison, or Paul Thomas Anderson who all grew in the making of their films (and it’s growth that you can see by looking at their earlier work.)
Who will win: Sam Mendes has already won the Director's Guild Award for Best Director, and I think I read that in the entire history of the Director’s Guild Award (some 50 plus years), the Oscar-winner has been the same as the Guild winner every single time but three. We’re talking at least a 94% chance that the winner will be Sam Mendes.
Who should win: Mendes.
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Sixth Sense
I will say right now, that the Best Picture nominees this year are a joke. The five best movies of the year were, in this order, American Beauty, Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Titus, and The Insider. The only other nominee on my top ten is The Sixth Sense. The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules are films that seem to have no point, certainly no clear message--and in the case of the former--no end. Both have nice themes that make a person feel good as they leave the theatre, but leave no lasting impression. Neither approaches the stature of a great movie. I won't see either one again. Other films that were better than Cider House and Green Mile: Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, The Hurricane, and even The Matrix.
Who will win: It boils down to Beauty and Cider House, but I don't honestly think Cider House has a chance.
Who should win: "Sometimes there's just so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart is going to cave in." --American Beauty
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"Does Intention Entail Belief or Does it Consist of Belief?" by Brandon Paradise
In this paper, we will discuss both Gilbert Harman’s and J. David Velleman’s theories of intentions. The central dispute between their two theories of intention is that Harman holds that intention entails belief, while Velleman holds that intention consists of belief. Velleman constructs a model of intention in which intention consists of belief in order to explain the apparent spontaneity of an agent’s self-knowledge. Harman, on the other hand, rejects the thesis that intention consists of belief because of an example involving an insomniac. My goal in this paper is to show how Velleman’s theory of intention can avoid the problem posed by the case of the insomniac. The conclusion will then be that Velleman’s theory is more plausible than Harman’s, because it is able to successfully explain more about our commonsense observations of agents, namely, how an agent’s self-knowledge is spontaneous.
In Harman’s model, intention entails belief in that when one intends to A one believes that one will A. According to Harman, intentions are the result of practical reasoning and beliefs are the result of theoretical reasoning. For example, if I intend to write this paper, I must know that it is within my power to write this paper. Since knowing involves believing, I therefore must believe that I will write this paper in order to intend to write this paper. Thus, one comes to have a belief that one can do something, such as the ability to write a paper, as the result of theoretical reasoning, while one comes to have an intention, like writing a paper, as the result of practical reasoning. Simply put, the process goes as follows: practical reasoning forms intentions dependent upon the conclusions (beliefs) of theoretical reasoning.
Now that we have an understanding about how intentions are formed in Harman, it is necessary to discuss what he thinks makes an intention an intention. According to Harman, an "‘act’ of forming an intention is always a means to end" (Harman, 157). Stated another way, an intention is always a way of doing something else. This feature of intentions is what leads Harman to conclude that intentions are self-referential, in the sense that one must intend to intend. That is, one always forms an intention intentionally. An important feature of intentions that Harman derives from this observation is that intentions are a means of guaranteeing that an agent will act in a particular way.
Because there are a variety of ways in which an agent believes he can conduct himself, how does an agent choose to conduct himself in a particular way? Harman’s answer is that an agent forms a particular intention because the intention formed satisfies intrinsic desires in a way that his other options for action do not. A good way to think of the process by which an agent chooses among the beliefs known to be possible through theoretical reasoning and then utilizes them in practical reasoning, is to imagine that one’s beliefs have been placed inside of a spaghetti strainer whose filtration design mechanism sifts for beliefs that satisfy intrinsic desires. The beliefs that make it through this straining process calculate into practical reasoning, which then concludes with intentions. In this way, theoretical reasoning dictates to practical reasoning, insofar as it provides practical reasoning with beliefs of what it is capable of intending. Harman makes this observation when he states, "if one concludes that one will not be able to do what one has been intending, that conclusion must change one’s intention" (Harman, 152). In other words, if one comes to believe that one cannot A, one must change one’s intention to A.
An important observation made possible from the above discussion is that those beliefs that do not calculate into the process of practical reasoning remain in the strainer, that is, in the realm of theoretical reasoning. This observation is important for our purposes because it leads to the implication that one can have a belief without a corresponding intention, but one cannot have an intention without a corresponding belief. Because of this distinction between beliefs and intentions, Harman comes to the thesis that intention entails belief but does not consists of belief. In order to successfully argue this thesis Harman must distinguish intentions from mere predictions. It is necessary for him to make this distinction because a prediction can be a self-referential conception in the same way that intentions are. (An example of this will be presented shortly). The problem with identifying intentions with mere predictions is that such an identity would make it difficult to mount a successful argument whose thesis states that intention does not consist of belief but entails it. This is because predictions do consists of beliefs, and if intentions are predictions, then it would be difficult to see how intentions would not consists of beliefs. Harman avoids this difficulty by arguing that intentions are not to be identified with mere predictions on the grounds that mere predictions result from theoretical reasoning, while intentions result from practical reasoning. The reason for this distinction is that practical reasoning and intentions are required to cohere with intrinsic desires in a way that theoretical reasoning and predictions do not.
Harman uses an example involving an insomniac in order to illustrate the difference described above between mere predictions and intentions. In this example, an insomniac holds a self-fulfilling belief that he will stay awake, which enables him "to make the self-referential prediction that he will stay awake because of that very prediction, although he does not intend to stay awake" (Practical Reasoning, 164). Keeping in mind that Harman says that intentions are always a means to an end, and that they aim at satisfying intrinsic desires in a way that predictions and theoretical reasoning do not, we can understand how Harman concludes that the insomniac’s belief is a mere prediction and not an intention. This is because the insomniac did not intend to stay awake and so does not base his prediction that he will stay awake out of a desire to stay awake. Harman then concludes that the insomniac did not adopt the belief as a means to satisfying an intrinsic desire. And, therefore, the insomniac’s self-fulfilling belief is accurately categorized as a prediction resulting from theoretical reasoning, rather than an intention resulting from practical reasoning. This is so because, as mentioned above, practical reasoning is required to cohere with intrinsic desires in a way that theoretical reasoning is not.
Now that we have explained how Harman uses the example of the insomniac in order to prove that intentions are not mere predictions, and so that intentions must not consists of belief, we will now discuss Velleman, whose thesis is that intentions do consists of belief. Velleman’s central argument is that intentions are a peculiar kind of belief, peculiar in that they are conclusions of theoretical reasoning constitutive of practical reasoning. Velleman comes to this central argument by thinking about what our practical experience consists of, specifically, he observes that self-knowledge of what an agent is doing seems spontaneous and not discovered. This observation points him to a flaw in the way that Harman describes an agent’s intentions. The flaw is that in Harman’s model there is a causal process from theoretical to practical reasoning, which implies that an agent comes to know what he is doing through steps.
In Harman’s model, the agent seems to discover what to believe, and then proceeds to form intentions. This setup describes a process in which what the agent can intend is predetermined, where practical experience tells us that his is not often the case. An example Velleman uses to show how an agent has spontaneous self-knowledge of what he is doing is an agent looking in the mirror to meet his own gaze. In this case, the agent predicts that he will look in the mirror to meet his gaze, because he expects himself to act in that way, as he prompted himself to. The agent could have done something differently, if he had predicted that he would do something differently. This type of prediction is what Velleman terms a reflective prediction. This differs from the ordinary conception of prediction, which implies that a set course of conduct has been determined for the agent, and he thus does not have the option of deviating from the predetermined conduct.
Velleman’s peculiar type of prediction—reflective prediction—differs from predictions issued by the traditional conception of theoretical reasoning. In Velleman’s reflective predictions, the agent is not passively registering settled facts to believe, and thereby making predictions. Rather, the agent is determining what to believe, not from preexistent features of the world, but by the agent’s own invention. In this way, Velleman merges the traditional conception of theoretical reasoning that concludes in what to believe with the traditional conception of practical reasoning that concludes with what to intend.
Specifically, the agent’s reflective reasoning (reflective predictions about what he will do) is theoretical reasoning in the sense that it concludes with belief and practical reasoning in that it concludes with an intention to act or an action, like the case of an agent meeting his gaze in a mirror. Thus, Velleman is able to make the claim that intentions consists of belief by merging the traditional conception of theoretical reasoning as concluding in belief with the traditional conception of practical reasoning concluding with intention or conduct. Velleman is able to accomplish this merger between the two traditional conceptions in question by identifying intentions as self-fulfilling beliefs, self-fulfilling beliefs like the one exemplified in the mirror example.
Velleman proceeds to explain why theoretical reasoning and predictions have been thought to be completely distinct and antecedent to practical reasoning and intentions rather than contemporaneous. The reason for the traditional conceptions, Velleman tells us, results from the way we differentiate fact from fiction. Facts, Velleman tells us, are considered as knowledge, and accepted as true, because they are discovered, opposed to fiction, which is invented or created. Traditionally, theoretical reasoning has been thought to be the process of discovery by which an agent acquires facts, that is knowledge, which then translate into what the agent believes. This process of ‘acquiring’ beliefs has led to the conception of theoretical reasoning (which Harman uses above) as a passive process of registering settled facts, which then serve as the bases for forming intentions by means of practical reasoning.
Velleman, however, makes the argument that not all an agent’s knowledge is acquired by passively receiving settled facts. Some knowledge, Velleman argues, "is contained in true and reliably justified fictions", an example of which would be the agent’s prediction that he will look in the mirror to meet his own gaze (Velleman, 92). The agent’s prediction that he will look in the mirror is a self-fulfilling belief, and, according to Velleman, an intention the agent holds to look in the mirror. The knowledge that the agent has that he will look in mirror is just the sort of knowledge that is contained in true and reliably justified fictions, according to Velleman. The formal definition that Velleman gives to self-fulfilling beliefs is that they are beliefs adopted by an agent in order that the agent will make them true by causing his conduct to realize them. In Velleman’s words, "the agent doesn’t just report the news about himself; he doesn’t even make the news and then report it. He makes up the news in advance, relying on himself to act accordingly" (Practical Reflection, 92). By identifying intentions with such beliefs, Velleman explains how an agent’s self-knowledge of what he is doing is spontaneous and not subject to the causal, relayed process described in accounts of intention like Harman’s, where an agent acquires beliefs from theoretical reasoning by registering settled facts (preexistent features of the world) and then proceeds to enter into practical reasoning those ways which he believes he can conduct himself in that satisfy intrinsic desires. In Velleman, desires are important to the formation of intentions as well, but they do not function in the same way. Rather than requiring that predetermined intrinsic desires and beliefs are matched by the agent, Velleman argues that self-fulfilling beliefs are created by the agent in order to satisfy desires.
Now that we have sketched Velleman’s theory of intention, recall Harman’s example of the insomniac, which was employed against the thesis that intention consists of belief. For the remainder of this essay, we will be discussing how this example applies to Velleman’s account, the problem that it poses, and a way that Velleman might revise his theory in order to avoid the problem that it points to in his account. The problem that the insomniac poses for Velleman’s theory is that it is an instance of a self-fulfilling belief that is not an intention. Remember that the insomniac had a belief that he would stay awake that he believed would ensure that he would stay awake, although he did not intend to stay awake. The problem, then, is that intentions cannot be self-fulfilling beliefs. Velleman’s response to this attack on his account is that it does no damage to his account because the insomniac does not adopt the belief that he will stay awake out of a desire for its fulfillment, and so the belief is a mere prediction and not an intention.
Velleman, however, sees another way in which the case of the insomniac could be damaging to his account, which concerns whether beliefs can be formed at will. If it were to turn out that beliefs cannot be formed at will, then it would be very difficult to see how Velleman could sustain an account of intentions whose thesis is that intentions are invented self-fulfilling beliefs. The problem has to do with the fact that the agent cannot adopt the self-fulfilling belief that he will not stay awake in a way that will guarantee its fulfillment; if he could, then he would not be an insomniac. This challenges the notion that beliefs can be adopted at will because it implies that agents "may unable to form a belief that isn’t already true, even though it would be true if he formed", and thus disables Velleman’s theory of intentions as invented, self-fulfilling beliefs. Such a conclusion seems to point to the correctness of Harman’s rejection of the thesis that intentions consists of beliefs in favor of the thesis that beliefs are encompassed by intentions but not identical with intentions. Furthermore, if one is not able to form a belief that is not already true but that would be true if formed, then it seems that it is incorrect to merge practical and theoretical reasoning but correct to divide them into a causal process where beliefs are ‘acquired’ by registering settled facts of the world and then entered into practical reasoning. This is because beliefs would then be preexistent, already ‘true’ components of practical reasoning, and not created by the agent.
I do not believe that the above discussion is fatal to Velleman’s account. He need only make a few additions to his theory in order to maintain it credibly. As a starting point, let us note that Velleman never dissolved theoretical reasoning in the traditional sense; he just removed it from participating in the formation of intentions. This fact allows us to construct a defense of Velleman’s theory. First, though we need to mention the evidence that Velleman thinks figures into the formation of intentions, which is an agent’s "background knowledge about [his] surroundings and abilities" (Velleman, 20). This is important because it allows us to distinguish the kind of self-fulfilling belief that is a prediction from the idea that Velleman has of a self-fulfilling belief that is an intention. According to Velleman’s theory, the insomniac would have the prediction kind of self-fulfilling belief and not the intending type. This has to do with the nature of the evidence the insomniac bases his prediction on. Since insomnia is a chronic condition, it is the case that the insomniac has had a continuing problem with sleeplessness. The idea, then, is that the insomniac makes the prediction that he will stay awake based on his past experience of sleeplessness, and his accompanying inability to choose to go to sleep. I believe that this is a case in which the insomniac is a passive spectator, his condition of insomnia and the belief that he will stay awake has been brought upon him. More precisely, the insomniac has registered a preexistent fact about the world, namely, that he is someone who cannot sleep.
Since the insomniac is registering a settled fact about the world, this example does not imply that an agent can only adopt beliefs that are already true, and cannot adopt beliefs that would be true if adopted. Quite differently, the example shows that an agent can not adopt beliefs that are contrary to existing facts about the world. What this example does, therefore, demand of Velleman is that he distinguish what it means for an agent to be passive—when an agent is registering settled facts about the world—from what it means for an agent to be an active, inventive intender. In the passive role, it is clear that the agent is himself more a less a feature of the world, defined by its conditions, whereas, in the active role, an agent is the definer of the world. I suggest that a good way to begin thinking about this problem would be in the framework of direction of fit. Specifically, it is necessary to define when agent is a mind-to-world role, and when an agent is in a world to mind role. This is really to specify under what circumstances an agent is directed without choice to act according to the world, and in what circumstances the agent can inventively direct his own actions.
There is one anticipated objection that I would like to respond to before I end my discussion of Velleman, which is that, in the case of the insomniac, it seems like his inability to sleep and his belief that he will is a purely psychological construct. Acknowledging this, I do not think that it diminishes the extent to which the belief that he will stay awake is a preexistent feature of the world. Many of our personalities our psychological constructs, and I think it would be difficult for many people to adapt their personalities at will. This is because, like the belief of the insomniac, beliefs about ourselves become preexisting features of the world. For example, when you ask someone whether they like chocolate or vanilla ice cream more, and they respond that they like vanilla ice cream more, in the normal case, I think the person thinks of the fact that he likes vanilla ice cream more as a settled, preexisting fact of the world, not to be changed at will. A more useful example to prove that we often think about ourselves as having preexisting features is the case of someone who wants to be successful, but believes that he will not. Furthermore, the person knows that his belief that he will not be successful will cause him not be successful, for lack of self-confidence. It is not that the person intends not to be successful, in fact, the person desires to be successful. However, the person has been in the habit of being unconfident, so-much-so that it becomes a preexisting feature of who the person is. What the point then is, as applied to the insomniac, is that he in the habit of believing he will stay awake, and just happens to know that the very habit of belief that he has is keeping him awake. It may be the case that his habit is irrational in light of his desires, but it is still not the case that he is intending the habit. In fact, in the normal case, we do not think of habitual action as intentional at all but as a feature automatism, so I think it unpersuasive to hold that psychological constructs cannot be conceived of as preexistent features of the world.
After having defended Velleman’s view against the case of the insomniac, and showing how Velleman’s account explains the apparent spontaneity of self-knowledge in a way that Harman’s account precludes, I am favor of accepting the thesis that intention consists of belief over the thesis that intention entails belief. The future problem to be solved in an account like Velleman’s, as mentioned above, is what makes an agent passive and what makes an agent active. This question has to do with finding criteria to judge passive action and active action beyond the terms of intention and prediction, which are themselves defined in terms of active and passive action. In this paper, I do not have time to begin such an investigation, and so leave this question for the future.
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"The Oedipus Instinct," by the Rhetorical Ronin
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are through you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the houses of tomorrow, which you can not
visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Freud is to Psychoanalysis what Socrates is to philosophy. The theory of psychoanalysis is primarily concerned with the development of the human personality; it was Freud who presumed that human personality is a tripartite system, consisting of the id, ego, and the superego. "The id is said to contain all the instinctual drives that seek immediate satisfaction and like a small child (they are said to operate on the "the pleasure principle"); the ego contains the conscious mental states, and its function is to perceive the real world and to decide how to act, mediating between the world and the id (it is governed by "the reality principle"). Whatever can become conscious is in the ego (although it also contains elements that remain unconscious), where as everything in the id is permanently unconscious. The superego is identified as a special part of the mind that contains the conscience, the moral
norms acquired from parents and others who were influential in early childhood; though it belongs to the ego and shares its kind of psychological organization, the superego is also said to have an intimate connection with the id, for it can confront the ego with rules and prohibitions like a strict parent" (Leslie Stevenson & David L. Haberman 155). If at an early stage the child is exposed to an environment that consists of overly aggressive and dominant parents the development of that child’s superego may become a tad bit tyrannical, causing an adverse reaction within the psyche of that child. The result is the emergence of the Oedipus Complex. When the superego exerts an unhealthy tyrannical influence upon the psyche of the child burdening it with an immense amount of moral guilt and shame. The id will tend to lash out at the superego by expending a powerful gust of instinctual psychic energy directing it toward the ego. In an attempt to unconsciously encourage the ego to revolt against the
extreme moral influence of the superego. Hypothetically speaking, it can be said in favor of the Oedipus complex, that it is in fact a equalizing agent that is hurled into the dynamics of the child’s psyche for the sole purpose of resolving an inner psychological conflict between the id and the superego. The priority of the Oedipus complex is to maintain a psychological equilibrium within the psychological constitution of the child’s psyche. This phenomenon can be likened to the emergence of certain circumstances that give to the hostility between a tyrannical governmental system and its residing populace, which can lead to a revolution to resolve the conflict between the government and its inhabitants. Calvin S. Hall , professor of psychology at Western Reserve University, illustrates this best when he writes: " The prohibitions of the consciences are the inhibitions or anti-cathexes which block the discharge of
instinctual energy either directly in impulsive behavior and wish fulfillment, or indirectly by way of ego mechanisms. That is, the conscience opposes both the id and the ego, and tries to suspend the operation of the pleasure principle and the reality principle. A person who has a strong conscience is constantly on guard against immoral impulses. He spends so much of his energy for defense against the id that he does not have enough to perform useful and satisfying work. As a consequence, he becomes immobilized and lives a straitjacket existence." ( Hall 43 ) The author Calvin S. Hall is apparently attempting to convey to the reader the obvious fact that a progressive motion can only transpire within the sphere of a harmonious relationship between an organism and its necessary parts. For example, if my head and the upper portion of my body wish to travel in a specific direction and my
legs wanted to travel in an entirely different direction, the confusion generated by these to opposing forces would virtually keep me at a stand still, preventing any progression in either direction.
At its worst, the Oedipus complex has conventionally been viewed as a pseudo-scientific absurdity lacking even a modicum of empirical evidence needed in order for it to be considered a legitimate scientific theory. Freud had this very criticism in mind when he had written: "So long as we trace the development from the final stage backwards, the connection appears continuous, and we feel we have gained an insight which is completely satisfactory or even exhaustive. But if we proceed the reverse way, if we start from the premises inferred from the analysis and try to follow these up to the final results, then we no longer get the impression of an inevitable sequence of events which could not be otherwise determined. We notice at once that there might have been another result, and that we might have been just as well able to understand and explain the latter. The synthesis is thus not so satisfactory as the analysis; in other words from knowledge of the premises we could not have foretold the nature of the result. it is very easy to account for this disturbing state of affairs. Even supposing that we thoroughly know the etiological factors that decide a given result, still we know them only qualitatively, and not in their relative strength. Some of them are so weak as to become suppressed by others, and therefore do not affect the final result. But we never know beforehand which of the determining factors will prove the weaker or the stronger. We only say at the end that those which succeeded must have been the stronger. Hence it is always possible by analysis to recognize the causation with certainty, whereas a prediction of it by synthesis is impossible." ( Hall 50 - 51 ) "What Freud is saying here is that because of the subtleties in the relative intensities of excitatory and inhibitory forces and because small changes in the intensities may produce large effects, psychology cannot be a predictive science. It can however, be a postdictive science in the sense that given a result it can look back and unearth the causes that produced the result." ( Hall 51)
There are numerous critiques which document what many consider to be serious discrepancies with the Freudian methodology of psychoanalysis. After a careful examination of such material, however, I found that none of those have attempted these critical analysis could seem to avoid the post hoc, ergo proper hoc fallacy. Furthermore, because of this I have taken the liberty to disregard any persons that wishes to argue in such a disreputable fashion. For example, in a book entitled The Freudian Fallacy Raymond Greene writes that he has heard "Freud described as ‘the greatest con man in history of medicine.’ This is unfair! He undoubtedly believed in the truth of his hypothesis when he first pronounced them, instanced by his RIDICULOUS theory of infantile sexuality. But, then why has Freud held sway for so long ? I think that all men faced with a mystery long for clarity. Mystery is a Bugbear that physicians abhor. They have been led astray by other GURUS than Freud, but this tendency they should resist. Of Sir William Osler, my old teacher, Alexander George Gibson said, ‘ I have never known any doctor say more often I don’t know.’ This is the beginning of wisdom. Freud had a scientific training that should have protected him from the prevalent medical vice of explaining one mystery by the substitution of another. I think Miss Thornton’s view, so ably set forth in this book, that the answer lay in his addiction to COCAINE has much to recommend it." ( E. M. Thornton ) Rhetoric of this type is a direct violation of the rules of argumentation and, moreover, it is indecent! Arguments like this, lack the objective view of a critical analysis and tend to mistake a subjective analysis for an objective one. This sort of error is relatively an easy one to detect, for you can always spot a faulty argument by the type of rhetoric it uses. Usually, the rhetoric is affected with personal biases and disagreements, and is generally an appeal to the existing moral code, which I label an appeal to morality. Ironically enough, Freud was quite aware of this phenomenon and has categorized it as a particular ego personality type. "The ego-ideal strives for perfection . Its energy is invested in cahecting ideals which are the internalized representatives of the parent’s moral values . These ideals represent perfectionistic object-choices. A person who has a lot of his energy tied up in the ego-ideal is idealistic and high minded. His choice of objects and interest is determined more by their moralistic than by their realistic values. He is more concerned with differentiating the good from the bad than he is with distinguishing between the true and the false. For such a person , virtue is more important than truth."( Hall 44) An individual such as this who displays this particular behavioral pattern is unconsciously the slave of his superego. By identifying with the ethical and moral construct of the superego, and in adhering to the ethical- idea or frame work which the superego is composed of, the ego of that child experiences an intense feeling of pride. It is important to keep in mind that the superego is the internalized moral precepts of the parents and just like a parent it is able to reward, as well as punish. With this in mind, the superego can and will confer upon the ego a strong sensation of pride, in return, for satiating the will of the superego.
Deriving its name and essence from the Hellenic tragedy Oedipus Rex, Freud was inspired by the essential patricide and incest motif to later incorporate it to symbolically represent the transitional dynamic of the "ego" overcoming the "superego." Written by the Hellenic poet Sophocles who was born outside of Athens at Colonus, in 496 B. C. Oedipus Rex the play is undeniably acknowledged as one of the greatest of all the tragic dramas of the honored tradition of Greek theater. In this celebrated Greek drama, Oedipus unknowably kills his father and marries his mother. By the advent of psychoanalysis ( the study of unconscious aspect of the human psyche) Freud postulated that written into the biological constitution of the male child is the innate drive to kill his father and sleep with his mother. For many, the Freudian presupposition of the inherent existence of the Oedipus Complex is an absurdity and because it fails to coincide with the extant of our moral conditioning, we tend to unconsciously resist the probability of this Freudian concept. Historically, this should be expected, for it has always been customary of human beings to reject any scientific hypothesis that did not confirm with what we had already considered to be the truth of the matter. For example, the imprisonment and excommunication of Galileo by the Catholic church for asserting that the Sun, and not the Earth was the center of the universe.
The Oedipus complex in its entirety, is the inherent transitional drive of the human organism from childhood toward adulthood and because of this it should not be feared. Freud postulated that human beings were being dominated by two basic instinct: Eros (the Sexual drive or life force) and Thanathos (the death force, which explains the phenomenon of warfare) Eros is located on various parts of the body categorized as erogenous zones. According to his theory the erogenous zones are very important to the cognitive development of the child. Cognitive development consist of three stages, 1. the oral stage,2. the anal stage, and lastly the phallic stage. At the advent of the phallic stage the male child becomes fixated on his own penis. He discovers a great sense of pleasure through masturbation and so it becomes of great interest to him. A crucial development occurs during the phallic stage and the Oedipus complex begins to emerge. The Oedipus complex according to Freud, is a period of time during cognitive development when the male child becomes sexually attracted to his mother, to the point of obssesion. Furthermore, he begins to view his father as a potential rival competing for the affection of the mother. After the child realizes that the father is much to powerful as an adversary, reality sets in and the child now begins to understand the impossibility of his sexual obssesion with his mother is. As a result of this realization the Oedipus complex is supposed to be officially resolve. But, is this exactly the case? Or must the Oedipus complex continue in till the superego is utterly destroyed? Though I have asked the reader these questions, I do not wish to expound upon them now, but I plan to return these questions later on in the essay.
As I have already mentioned the Oedipus complex is a transitional dynamic inherent in the human organism. Since its inception Freud had searched rigorously for some biological evidence which would support his presupposition of the existence of the id. Unfortunately, for Freud that he is unable to witness the fruition of his search, but with the advent of the gene and our scientific understanding of genetics, the biological evidence needed to support Freudian id has been found. The gene is defined as a basic unit of heredity, or a unit of biological history. According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, human beings are also descended from animal ancestors. " Apart from this very general argument for the mechanism of evolution, there is much direct empirical evidence for our common ancestry with other animals. Comparative anatomy shows the human body to have the same general plan as other vertebrates - e. g. four limbs with five digits on each. The human embryo goes through stages of development in which resembles those of various lower forms of life. In the adult human body there are remnants of such lower forms -e.g. vestigial tail." ( Stevenson & Haberman 209-210) The Oedipus complex is a vestigial trait that we as human beings have inherited from our primordial animal ancestry. Freud understood this intuitively, when he had determined that the urge to kill the father and have sex with the mother was inherent in the male child’s biology. A behaviorist by the name of Lorenz has made the argument that evolution has equipped certain species with a "ritualization" of fighting for the production biological advantages to insure the survival of that particular species. The Oedipus complex exist to push the child toward self discovery.
At the advent of the Oedipus complex the child becomes familiar with himself and also with his attraction toward the opposite sex. In other words, as I have stated previously that the Oedipus complex is a transitional dynamic, it is the beginning of the child becoming a husband and a father himself.
Previously, in this essay the question was ask is the Oedipus complex resolved when the child realizes the futility of his sexual obsession with his mother, or must it continue in till the superego is utterly destroyed? If the child is ever to become a true individual possessing an identity of his own, the superego of that child must be overcome. In order for this to happen the superego must become dormant. It can no longer have a positive or negative effect on the individual’s psyche, especially if that individual is no longer a child. When properly interpreted for its symbolic meaning, the Oedipus complex is the spiritual murder of the superego so that the child can become the father of himself. He must become independent of the superego’s influence and create his own moral code. It is extremely important, that the individual play a free an active role in recreating, or restructuring his own personality. In the end, the individual must discover and become himself. The Oedipus complex is the Oedipal project, a project that sums up the basic problem of the child’s life: whether he will be a passive object of fate, an appendage of others, a plaything of the world or whether he will be an active center within himself - whether he will control his own destiny with his own powers or not. ( Becker 35-36)
Another Freudian presupposition which has been vindicated from the scientific data that has been collected over the previous years, (pertaining to the nature of genetics) has been his presupposition that humans are purely sexual beings. The human gene, which the author believes to be what Freud referred to as the id, it would seem has programmed humanity with one central and very important command. Transmit the code! This simply means engage in as much sexual intercourse that is humanly possible. In fact, what we now understand about genetics, this Freudian presupposition is undeniable. According to what the author has read concerning genetics is that the gene, it would seems keeps us alive long enough to make a replication of itself. This is why roughly after the ages of thirty to forty-five years of age, we begin to decline sexually. And this is why, late in our lives the human body will tend to develop ailments such as cancer and menopause. It is assumed that this occurs, because we are no longer any use to the gene.
In closing, the author would like to comment upon the unjustified way in which we have criticized the Freudian hypothesis. The Freudian model of the human personality will forever haunt our civilized world, there is no escaping this. As the author has argued previously in this essay, that the major reason behind the Freudian controversy has been our inability to accept his hypothesis based upon the extant moral code. This is indecent and above all foolish. If we ever expect to discover the truth concerning our existence, we must cultivate the ability to see beyond our moral idea. Ultimately, we must learn to come to grips with the fact that our moral code is nothing more than an abstract idea, that is no more real than the childish belief in Santa Claus. If we wish to truly understand anything we must let go of what we think to be the TRUTH, and approach reality with an open mind, as well as an open heart. This essay is dedicated to great and brilliant man like Sigmund Freud, who’s genius has been bastardized, and men who have been intellectually crucified.
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"The Necessary Co-presence of Pain and Pleasure in Ban-Yatra Pilgrimage" by Anne Eva Doer
If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friend, and never see them again… then you are ready for a walk.
-Henry David Thoreau (Haberman 12)
The pains of pilgrimage are deep and various. They are found not simply in the physical walking, but also in the walking away from physical and mental comfort. In his book, Journey Through the Twelve Forests, David L. Haberman describes in graphic detail the parting and participatory pains as he journeys on the Ban-Yatra pilgrimage. The Ban-Yatra (literally ‘forest journey’) is a 200-mile circuit through the forests associated with Lord Krishna’s activities around Braj, a town in central India. Krishna is a deity favored by many Hindu religions. He is an ever-playful prankster and lover whose actions, as told in the stories, display a blatant disregard for social conventions. A tenet of the Braj religion is that all life is to be modeled after Krishna’s lila, or play; participation in this play is essential for the Braj Vaishnavaite. Haberman writes that, "with the irresistible call of his flute, [Krishna] lures his players into the forest to experience his essential nature, which is declared to be ananda – ‘joy’ or ‘bliss’" (Hab 5). Ban-Yatra pilgrims take to circumambulating Braj to participate in Krishna’s play, and also to experience Krishna’s ananda. Yet, by the end of Haberman’s story of a quest for joy, the reader has acquired a deep understanding of a pilgrim’s pain – an ironic and unexpected conclusion. Haberman also recognized this contrast and found it confusing, asking throughout his book such questions as, "What does all this suffering have to do with the journey through sweet forest, expressly in pursuit of enjoyment?" (Hab 87). The short answer is that it is only through suffering (in the most comprehensive sense of the word) that a person can experience true joy. This paper will explore the necessary co-presence of intense pain and sheer bliss in the Ban-Yatra, evaluating precisely how this tension is necessary in building the pilgrim’s relationship with Krishna. The pilgrim’s relationship with and reverence for Shiva and Radha will serve as markers in this outsider’s account, guiding in the understanding of the nature of the pilgrim’s pain and consequent joy.
I. Entering a relationship with Krishna by following Shiva
Ironically, the Ban-Yatra - a celebration of Krishna - begins at a Shiva temple. In many respects, the ways of Shiva, the brooding mountain-ascetic, are contradictory to the ways of Ban-Yatra pilgrims. The human condition is one of restlessness, "there is a haunting lack which engenders the incessant flight from on thing to another," Haberman observes (Hab 7). Ascestism, commonly associated with the Hindu term ‘tapas’, seeks to alleviate the discontentment of this condition by self-mastery – the controlling of one’s kama, or desire. The ascetic devotes his or her energy to performing austerities and fixating on one stable point of zero desire. By transcending the tumultuous play of the world, the ascetic attempts to seek perfection. In contrast, Haberman explains, "the religion of Braj involves the cultivation of desire," not the elimination (Hab 28). The Ban-Yatra pilgrim believes that all of life is Krishna’s
play – lila – and that life’s goal is Krishna’s divine essence – ananda – not perfection or stability. The pilgrim removes himself from the confines of social conventions upon entering the forest, thereby cutting loose the stabilizing factors.
Despite the extreme contrasts between the ways of Shiva and the religion of Braj, Shiva is a popular deity among the Ban-Yatra pilgrims. Many sects of Hinduism revere Shiva as the supreme being. In Braj, however, Shiva is Krishna’s subordinate and model devotee. In his book, Haberman recounts the story of how Shiva, performing austerities on his mountain, was aroused by the flute of Krishna sounding out from the land of Braj. Lured by the irresistible Krishna, Shiva rushed to the forest of Braj. Upon arriving, Shiva sank in dismay at his inability to cross the Yamuna River whose waters create the eastern border of Braj. He paid tribute to the goddess Yamuna at the banks of the river, and she appeared before him. The goddess instructed that only in the form of a gopi (cowherdress lover of Krishna) could he enter Braj. Shiva bathed in the waters of the river and emerged a beautiful gopi – a manifestation of Shiva called "Gopishwar," literally ‘Lord Who Is a Gopi’ (Hab 23). It was in this form that Shiva stepped into the lila of Krishna.
Shiva undergoes a transformation, much like the pilgrim must. Haberman describes the beginning of his journey, and how he too bathed in the waters of the Yamuna, inadvertently changing himself into a beautiful gopi – the vehicle through which one participates in lila. However, it is not only in his spiritual transformation to a gopi that Haberman follows Krishna on the Ban-Yatra. As Haberman describes, in the course of the pilgrimage, "Contrasts continually appeared: outer versus inner, difficult walking versus enjoyable stories, hard versus soft, ascetic versus erotic, painful versus blissful, suffering versus love, and masculine versus feminine" (108). The inner aspects to which Haberman refers are spiritually cultivated on the journey through the myths and the images the myths cast upon the land; however, the pilgrims - Haberman included - begin the journey a step behind Shiva. The cultivation of the hard outer portion of the journey, the pilgrim’s transformation into an ascetic, also needs to occur. It was not solely the desire for Krishna that lured Shiva to Braj and enabled him to experience bliss in the forest - it was also the contrast his life as an ascetic provided that allowed him complete surrender to ananda. Without knowledge of true suffering, or the complete absence of joy, the experience of joy means nothing, and bliss cannot be had. Pain and joy are not mutually exclusive, but rather necessarily co-existent. The bodily experience of the pilgrimage, i.e. making the body walk away from comfort and towards suffering, is the pilgrim’s asceticism. In order for the Ban-Yatra pilgrims to enjoy their goal, they must undergo the pains of the ascetic; they must follow Shiva.
II. Building a relationship with Krishna by following Radha
While the physical journey, at least for Haberman, begins in a temple to Shiva, the spiritual journey of the Ban-Yatra begins in worshiping the deity with the ability to assume the form of the gopi – Shiva. While walking the path of the ascetic is necessary in order for the Ban-Yatra pilgrim to reach his or her goal, equally important is the cultivation of the feminine persona. Thus, the pilgrims transfomation is two-fold. He or she must first sacrifice all to become like an ascetic, and second abandon all, as Shiva did, to become like a gopi. In the stories of Krishna, it is the gopi’s condition that best embodies the pilgrim’s situation. At the sound of Krishna’s flute, the gopis drop everything - dishes, husbands, suckling babes, and run to the forest to meet him. There, they participate in Krishna’s play or dance – lila – and he pleases each and every one of them, appearing in multiple forms to suit their erotic pleasures. The gopis’
desires for Krishna penetrate all societal barriers and obligations. Most stories describe the journeys to the forests as made under the cloak of night – secretive, illicit. This depiction reinforces the anti-establishment aspect of Krishna devotion. Radha exemplifies this complete abandonment of societal order in pursuit of Krishna’s love in the myths of the Braj religion. Just as Shiva stands as the model ascetic, Radha, Krishna’s favored gopi, stands as the model gopi. Because of her display of this peculiar form of selflessness, Radha is held supreme among the gopis and Krishna devotees, and it is by following Radha that the pilgrim is unified with Krishna.
The roles of the gopi and pilgrim are importantly parallel in the Ban-Yatra. The transformation here is less physical and more spiritual than that which occurs between the pilgrim and the ascetic. The pilgrim physically experiences the bodily sacrifice of the ascetic, but does not partake in sexual relations on the pilgrimage (at least, if he or she does it is a coincidence rather than a necessary condition for his or her goal). The erotic love play in the stories of Krishna and the gopis is an inclusive metaphor for the spiritual relationship that the devotee is to have with Krishna. The pilgrim becomes a gopi by entering the mind-set of reckless abandonment for Krishna, or by changing his or her outlook. The myths of Krishna and the gopis serve to facilitate this change in outlook in two ways. First, by telling of how Radha was, they tell of how the pilgrim is to be like Radha – unreserved in his or her love for Krishna. Second, the myths actually change that which the pilgrim sees (darshan) on his or her pilgrimage. The stories ease the pilgrim’s detachment from his or her previous view on life by actually changing how the pilgrim sees the places he or she visits along the journey. Braj and its forests become more of an image of Krishna, and less of a geographical location, or a set of rugged conditions for extended traveling.
Haberman’s voice in the Journey Through the Twelve Forests exemplifies this change in perspective the pilgrim undergoes. The pilgrim is hesitant at the beginning of his journey; as Haberman describes: "feelings of strangeness and uncertainty gripped me" (Hab 10). However, during the course of the pilgrimage, Haberman’s perspective changes. At one point in his journey, Haberman, emotionally and physically exhausted, rests beside the Prema Sarovar, the "Pond of Love." He describes the pond as he first observes it - by its shape, physical landmarks, and beauty. As he sits there, a seductive young woman approached him. "She encouraged me to let go of my ‘research eyes’ and see with my ‘lila eyes’," he writes (Hab 179). After recounting this event, Haberman describes the pond in an entirely different manner, presumably in the new manner in which the young woman told him to see it. He tells of how he sees (darshan) two lovers at the edge of the pond opposite his bank; they embrace lovingly and then disappear. Haberman determines this to be an image of Radha and Krishna. Later when recounting the vision to his fellow pilgrims, a man explains, "Prema Sarovar is a powerfully confusing place. Even Radha became greatly confused there by the madness of love" (Hab 179). The pilgrim becomes like Radha by embracing the strangeness and uncertainty of a situation, by succumbing to the limitless confusion of mad love. To be a gopi, the pilgrim’s vision must be entirely realigned to see and embrace Krishna’s love. In transgressing the emotional by-products of leaving the ordered and entering the chaotic, the pilgrim, like the gopi, becomes closer to Krishna.
III. Continuing a relationship with Krishna
This transformation of the pilgrim to the spiritual mind-set of a gopi is not all joyful. At the beginning of "Surrender and Return," Haberman recounts a story about the gopis bathing in the waters of the Yamuna at Chir Ghat one cold morning. While the women were in the water, Krishna, the constant prankster, stole their clothes from the banks. In order for the gopis to acquire their clothing, Krishna made each one of them appear before him naked. Haberman comments that "the gopis represent human souls seeking union with the divine. The clothes represent ideas and objects that are clung to; they are obstacles that produce the anxiety that keeps one from letting go and plunging into the divine lila" (Hab 196-7). The gopi does not personify pure joy, as the inner spiritual world of the pilgrim is not without pain. There is a strain in the gopi’s detachment from her loved ones; there is risk involved in the uncertainty of
illicit love; most importantly, there is tremendous anxiety in the separation of the gopi from Krishna. Haberman writes, "The passionate asceticism of the forest is the asceticism Radha endures to accomplish a secret tryst with Krishna" (Hab 157). The love shared in his presence becomes torturous in his absence, and the gopi, like the ascetic, is forced to learn self-mastery to live in the daylight beyond the forest. Thus, ironically, it is in the form of the erotic and joyful lover that the necessary co-presence of pain and joy are most evident. The pilgrim, like the gopi, is continuously restless.
Strangely enough, it is only in this uncertain, unpredictable, and restless state that the Ban-Yatra pilgrimage is resolved – physically and spiritually; it is in this state that the pilgrim’s relationship with Krishna must eternally continue. Haberman suggests that the restlessness of the pilgrim is most clearly derived from the pilgrim’s attachment to goals - something similar to the ascetic practice. The Braj religion teaches that goals, like other instruments of order, must also be abandoned on the road to ananda. Haberman explains that where there is no teleological goal by which to measure the present, ordinary existence becomes much more enjoyable. To rephrase, where there is no distinct aim for which you move and act, movement and actions become enjoyable and meaningful in and of themselves. Joy in Krishna’s play is found in the acceptance of unresolved desire – desire without goals, or desire as the goal. It is contentment in natural flux and unpredictability of human desire. This world of Krishna is unstable, and the change from pilgrim to gopi is as constant as the change inherent in the unstable world of Krishna. It is in this sense that the pilgrim resolves his or her pilgrimage contentedly restless.
It is also in this sense that the Ban-Yatra pilgrimage has no real end. As Haberman writes, "A love affair with Krishna does not end in a purposeful climax but leads on and on to yet another forest in a state of ongoing excitement" (Hab 185). Continuing a relationship with Krishna is exciting; excitement entails highs and lows - pain and pleasure. The Ban-Yatra pilgrim’s acceptance of the restlessness, the incessant flux of pain and pleasure, and the ultimate change in perspective is not reversed to its prior state prior at the end of the pilgrim’s walk. The circumambulation of Braj, in this regard, serves not only to honor the city (as circumambulation is often an act of respect), but also symbolically continues the pilgrim’s journey – as a circular path has no end or ultimate goal, neither does the Ban-Yatra pilgrim.
The pilgrim’s change in outlook, propelled by the walk of the ascetic and the myths of the gopis, allow the pilgrim to view the entire world as an image of Krishna. Just as the Ban-Yatra pilgrimage is circular and unending, the pilgrim’s relationship with Krishna is unceasing. A repeated theme throughout Haberman’s story uttered by the pilgrims with whom he converses and reiterated in the stories they tell, is that Krishna, in a very material way, is Braj. Accompanying this theme is the idea that Krishna is the world. Haberman writes:
According to Braj Vaishnavism, this entire world is Krishna. He is the beautiful sunset that was enchanting me, the road that blistered my feet, the sun that scorched me, the birds that serenaded me, the trees that whispered to me, and, perhaps most of all, the muddy water I had slipped into on the way to Chir Ghat. He is this very world in all its wonderfully twisted multiplicity of forms (Hab 215).
Here, perhaps, is the true summary of the pilgrim’s continued relation with Krishna - the land of Braj is Krishna for the Ban-Yatra pilgrim. It is the destiny of their original travel; they go to Braj, to find union with Krishna, and see (darshan) a fantastic image of Krishna in the land, water, and people. It is in Braj, in the transformation of the pilgrim, that the devotees realize the true power of Krishna – that Krishna transcends all barriers, physical and spiritual. He transcends the structural barriers imposed by society, and the physical barriers of the land. He even transcends the dichotomy of joy and pain, incorporating joy into pain, and pain into joy. Krishna is not only Braj, he is the world. Thus, although the pilgrims leave Braj, they never leave Krishna. By the end of his story, Haberman had accepted Krishna’s essence – ananda - and all the excitement, pain, and joy associated with it. The pain had not vanished from his journey, but rather, from his mind. It was in the face of pain that he could find pure joy. Haberman had traveled through asceticism and emerged on the other side somehow above it. Pain and pleasure, in the end (or more accurately, the unending), were not sought, but accepted; his life in lila transcended this dualistic distinction.
Haberman, David. Journey Through the Twelve Forests. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994.
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"Circumcision" by Alan Nicholl
I am opposed to the circumcision of infants. Here are my reasons:
The reason circumcision is performed at all is for historical and religious reasons, not for medical reasons. Circumcision is not medically necessary; the medical societies now consider it optional, and will in time recommend against it because of the risks involved. The health benefits claimed are always statistically minor and so do not warrant the practice. Additionally, any putative health benefits mostly relate to adult males; to circumcise a baby today for benefits that are hoped to accrue decades later is unwarranted, because advances in medicine that will occur during those decades may make such prevention unnecessary. Also, to circumcise in the hope of preventing cervical cancer in a future sexual partner is clearly unethical, robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Circumcision is inhumane, because it is invasive, injurious, and painful. Removal of an equivalent amount of skin from any other part of the body, such as earlobes, would be considered mutilation, pure and simple. The only reason circumcision is not considered mutilation is again for historical and religious reasons which should carry no weight in a rational discussion of public policy. It's always been done, hence it's okay, seems to be the reasoning involved. The same argument can be made in favor of female circumcision among those cultures that favor it, yet this practice is viewed with horror by most Americans.
Circumcision reduces the sensitivity of the penis, and so reduces sexual pleasure in adult males, and a botched circumcision can ruin a man's life.
Circumcision removes a necessary protection of a sensitive part, as nude sunbathers discover. This protection is also useful while clothed.
Circumcision is performed on a patient who cannot give his consent. Because it is not medically required, for reasons of medical ethics it should be withheld until consent is possible.
Circumcision is performed in the name of a religion which may be repudiated by the recipient when he becomes able to judge. For such persons, the religious purpose becomes nugatory. The bodies of children should not be sacrificed to the religion of their parents.
The religious purpose of circumcision may have been repudiated by the church of which the parents are members. Through ignorance of their own avowed beliefs, some parents will have unnecessary circumcisions performed.
The religious beliefs of many parents who permit the circumcision of their children are unexamined and not strongly held, thus nullifying the religious purpose of the procedure. When performed without a serious religious conviction of its necessity, the procedure is a mockery.
Circumcision is invasive, injurious, painful, expensive, and carries some risk. Because there are no compelling reasons in its favor, it must be omitted.
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Aaron Paul Bell