The Diyas-ian Psychology of Festivity

Preface:  An Update on “Me”

It has been several months since I last posted here. My most sincere apologies.

For a long time, I feared silently that I had run out of words. Where does one go after spending so much time in the central, silent chamber of the salt mine? I had less to say, giving my thoughts instead unto the peaceful silence. I also began reading less books and articles, as I increasingly found it hard to find things that sparked my creativity. Of what might this be a symptom? Have I finished my process of “individuation”? Have I completed the stages of my Hero’s Journey? Obviously not, one might say, but still the question poses itself: What happens now that I have made peace with traditional Christianity (e.g. as a friend says, a relationship that is “uneasy and uncomfortable, but affirming nonetheless”), effectively ending my long-standing “crisis of faith”? I can now see, for instance, why the issue of “enlightenment” becomes so tricky to handle among even the most advanced spiritual practitioners (NB: I am not one of them). If you are not paying attention, a certain “narcissism” always seeps quietly in the back door. Or perhaps it is more likely that this self-mastery was there laughing at me the entire time.

In the past few months, my personality and thought became almost frighteningly well-integrated, as the multiple fragments of truth slowly came together into an almost-Whole that soon became “good enough” by approximation. I turned away from high theory, to the extent that I could escape its grasp, and instead I decided to move towards (direct) action in the world. I joined a Quaker meeting, and I began working alongside committed peace and justice activists in general. In any case, I also recognized others I had met on this journey who, seemingly, had also reached similar plateaus. They took on these “shining” and genuinely unique personalities of their own, perhaps reflective of their original disposition or “psychological type”. Mine, like an INFJ, is characterized by its “tenderness” as George Fox might say.

In any case, my tender self continued conversation and dialogue with a few others, but only a few.

On the whole, I grew increasingly indifferent and (so) stopped adding content here. Every now and then I would try to write something new, but would be utterly incapable of speaking. I have always been rather lonely, but I suspect that I grew more alienated in some ways that completely eluded me. The difference being that now I could manage it more or less effortlessly by turning that loneliness into a generalized solitude. This alchemy became an embodied act, albeit one which took a lot of effort. Alchemical processes, in and of themselves, failed to enchant me anymore now that they gradually became “normalized” in my thinking. In short, this normalization drained me of my longstanding creativity. I soon found that this drainage was not either psychologically or ecologically sustainable for me in the long-run. I wasn’t able to write, simply, because I did not allow myself any real occasion to speak. There were now so few with whom I could communicate, constructively, at this “high” level. Silence became my refuge, my newly-acquired form of passive resistance.

With this realization, my (pathetic, desperate, etc. insert any adjective you please) situation increasingly made sense to me. I needed more than a mere occasion to speak.

In short, I needed an entire festival.

All Eyes on Gujarat:

Diwali – the Festival of Lights!

In contemplating on my thought-process, the following irreducible duality held me captive:

  1. continual cries of “All is Jainity!” on one hand, and
  2. a consistent desire for the “salt-point” which is a non-philosophical non-violence on the other.

As indicated in the preface, I am figuring in my life that this “superhybridity” is certainly not sustainable in the long-run. In the art world, perhaps there are parallels here with metamodernism and Romantic Conceptualism. The aim is now to escape my fascination with this Novalisian with-and-beyond rhythm entirely, instead moving in the direction of a post-postmodern psychology. The way out is through. To avoid these pitfalls, this blog instead focuses its eyes on Gujarat and, in particular, goes through its psychology and ecology. In this post, I plan to address solely the Jainity aspect, with an opening onto a more positive Life-psychology. Later on, Gujarat will also capture my attention because it is, synchronously, the site of the greatest salt-output in India. Ultimately, the double-synchronicity in this very spatial place proved key for me in overcoming the specifically psychological and ecological violences of my former superimposition, hopefully liberating my thought from its gripping mind-trap.

Specifically, this post deals with my own (political) psychology and (personal) ecology by overcoming my silence with a certain outrageous festivity. This post also marks my entrance into a truly “postformal” space, transcending my previously legalistic-topographical formalism. Even the most enriched kinds of categorizations, it seems to me, fall prey to this problem. It is within the nature of categorization, however abstract, to miss out on the abundance of Life itself. This troublesome eclipse arguably has no greater expression than the experience of Diwali in Gujarat. It is an apparently remarkable experience, an experience which, right now, I can only but long for “romantically” and “conceptually” (with my typically Novalisian stance) from a distance. Perhaps someday I will be able to witness for myself, but, until then, I have only the stories told to me by some of my dear friends.

I am inclined to believe them, owing to my recent solitude. I can see their eyes light up with joy, whereas my face grew rather plain and “normal”. Diwali at this place marks a constructive intervention and undoing in my psychology and ecology. It is one which is both universally and univalently motivated by the felt and bodily sensation of this spatial location (Gujarat) and temporal period (late October-early November). Since we are dealing with “types” and category theory, it is worth looking at the recently published HoTT book, entitled Homotopy Type Theory: Univalent Foundations of Mathematics (here) because it, I believe, speaks boldly to this same problematic we are only beginning to tackle together. Moreover, it does so in roughly the same “univalent” spirit.

In this moment, the site of Gujarat interweaves within itself the most significant pieces of the Big Story we can tell to the world about Life itself. It is a story of human experience which begins through an entry into the “dark night of the soul”, that soon drags us through the night so that we may all eventually come to experience, together, at last, the Light of Day. There is something so special about this story, something which speaks to the “inviolable core of Indian-ness” (Ashis Nandy) within each of us as human beings. The “imperialism of categories” (again) which has long been operating subtly in my thought, however enriched it purports to be, must come to an end. To the question “What is Life itself?” this special something about Diwali finally provides, without missing a single beat, the thunderous response “THIS IS! HERE WE ALL ARE!” with no possible questions remaining.

It suddenly “bursts forth like a star” (Rilke), this powerful We-space in which true community can be enjoyed.

It is a kind of community that I have long been lacking, and through which a certain transcendence of violence can actually take place in reality. The alchemical fire that burns in the heart of this (my) “salty” experience is to be cast-away, as though displaced outside of me and instead inside a diya. These diyas are also used, notably, in Tibetan Buddhist offerings. I offer my inner fire to the world, in the humble service of Life. I began to let go of my grip as I slowly came to realized that during Diwali the entire Eastern world, all at once and all together, becomes suddenly aware, however momentarily, of its own past-prior Enlightenment. Through my experience, I caught a glimpse of this too and so decided to open myself onto the many joys of this post-alchemical festivity. Let it be said that justice is a collection of candles and voices raised. Life itself demands, through Justice, I let go of the weightiness and unwieldiness of the darkness in my “crisis of faith” and instead raise my own inner Light with others.

For some selective background, Gujarat is the location where Jains believed their 22nd tirthankara achieved salvation, and in the Early Medieval era it served as the “chief center” of all Jaina affairs. The Palitana temples which sit high upon Mt. Shatrunjava have long been recognized as a most holy pilgrimage place bearing a multiplicity consisting in a sea of thousands of temples. It would probably not be too unreasonable to suggest that an off-the-cuff calculation might yield the fact that a critical 10% of the world’s entire Jain population lives in roughly this region. Today, Gujarat certainly boasts the largest Jain population in India. Including other Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and other religions of India, this region of the world in particular seems to have its traditional roots most firmly in extreme nonviolence.

It was, after all, the ancient culture which gave rise to Mahatma Gandhi among many other satyagrahi:

My religion has no geographical limits. If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself. My life dedicated to service of India through the religion of non-violence.

Ashis Nandy, a so-called “neo-Gandhian mystic” and political psychologist, routinely provides provocative analyses which are indispensable in this forthcoming analysis of Gujarat.

The overall negligence of post-colonial theorists to think nonviolence is in the final analysis the most damning self-critique possible (see here). Nandy, together with Vinay Lal, stand out in my mind as two of the few post-colonial intellectuals who are exceptions to this unfortunate rule of neglect. Indeed, we might suggest that they are on their own crusade for the future of satyagraha itself. Like my own silence, the silence of most post-colonial theorists when it comes to nonviolence itself is indefensible and unsustainable. Yet, post-colonial theory is not alone. From the start, I always have maintained that in the entire history of ideas questions concerning the categories of “violence” and its “trauma”  have escaped our conscious attention. 

Despite its Gujarat’s cultural reputation of nonviolence, and despite the sea of temples which stand as monuments to its peaceful history of holding to this truth, in 1969 a series of violent riots began primarily in the urban cities. These finally came to an “end” thirty-three years later in 2002 (see here), with many questions left open and unanswered. Riot After Riot (see here), here are some statistics:

  • Fifty-eight major communal riots in 47 places since 1967
  • Ten in South India, 12 in East, 16 in West, 20 in North India
  • Ahmedabad has seen five major riots; Hyderabad, four; Calcutta, none since ’64*
  • The 1990s saw the most riots in the last five decades: 23
  • The 1970s saw seven riots, the ’80s, 14; the 2000s have seen 13
  • Total toll: 12,828 (South 597, West 3,426, East 3,581, North 5,224).

To learn something about Gujarat from these riots is thus to learn something very significant about the nature of violence and its origins.

In other words, it is to arrive at an acute understanding of the intimate relationship between violence and nonviolence. Spivak famously left the question open in “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, merely hinting in this Gandhian direction through her Derridean analysis of the satisatya (truth), etc. whereas Homi Bhabha, understandably, also in this Derridean spirit, is launching a seminar on the issue. Most recently, the Histories of Violence project released its first issue.  Yet, our present thinking on nonviolence is still severely limping. There has not been a substantial effort to take on nonviolence itself; that is, to make thematic the importance of an active nonviolence resistance by emphasizing its ethicality and practicality from within the moral gravity. One could possibly expect from these circumstances in Gujarat that one could potentially see more clearly the nature of violence in itself, that is, against the backdrop of such an extreme nonviolence. 

With that understanding held in mind, we look now towards the issue of psychology. However, I will not be attempting this in the context of the Gujarat riots, as Nandy does. Instead, as to be expected, I have decided to take a far more speculative route to reach roughly the same conclusions (“Obituary of a culture”), so as to deal also with my personal Jainity of Jainities! mentality.

In historical terms, as it is well known, the Jains have produced many innovations in the domain of mathematics including but not limited to the invention of the number zero and inquiries into infinity. Closer to the “wild heart” of the things themselves, but still not quite there, more traces of this interesting life-enhancing relationship (Jainism <–> mathematics) can be discerned through a careful, sustained questioning of what is generated at this juncture. The connection between the two can be additionally understood for what it tells us about the state of the world today. Specifically, what has become of these innovations? What has resulted from the forgetting of Jaina nonviolence? How has, in turn, violence transformed this relationship? I found in such a dialogue something which looks nothing like what I had expected.

The unconcealed of this exploration is actually quite cringe-worthy to the “critical” and “mathematical” eye:

Once can sense immediately that there is something obviously “fishy” going on here with this use of so-called Jain mathematics. What is going on here? Is it a dead end? Is there any other way forward? Have we “fallen” this far? How far, exactly?

While this video does not have the same smell as the odor of “New Age”, it is still rather close. However, I say this because it should not be dismissed as New-Agey pseudo-mathematics. There is something else at work. Specifically, just as New Age was a predominately Western spiritual movement, the connections here point most definitively to a certain Western influence. Yet, what is happening here, however, is predominately non-spiritual or indeed it is secular. In fact, Nandy’s careful analysis in Time Warps suggests that today “religious violence” is in large part paradoxically generated by secularism, which creates the divide between religious/secular and sides in favor of its own. This particular institution serves as an interesting example of this phenomenon, albeit a little bit more autonomously. What is found here is, arguably, none other than the essential core of late capitalism itself at work in its latest stage of imperial development.

With some quick research, one finds that the real “magic” in the video is actually taking place somewhere in Singapore, itself home to approximately 1000 Jains. More significantly to the West, this is the most notorious site of private offshore banking and a place often lauded as a free-market paradise. Nandy writes, on page 85:

The economic exploitation to which radical economists mechanically apply the epithet ‘internal colonialism’ is no more than a by-product of the internal colonialism I am speaking about. The colonialism validates the proposal, which can be teased out of the works of philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse, that the most extreme forms of violence in our times come not from faulty passions or human irrationality but from faulty ideologies and unrestrained instrumental rationality. Demonology is now for the mobs; secular rationality is for those who organize, instigate or head the mobs: unless of course one conceptualizes modern statecraft itself as left-handed, magical technology and as a new demonology. 

It might better be called for what it is: “Dark Marxism”

It becomes clear the Australian individual speaking in this above video (named “Jain 108″) is working within in the financial services sector, in partnership with others in the field of “developmental operations” (portmanteau: devops). Devops in places such as Singapore mark the cutting-edge of global financial capitalism, where ideas such as “Asian lean management” and “lean banking systems” in order to optimize “flow” or “automation” of capital enterprise and business communications are all the buzz. These deeply, deeply capitalist enterprises seem to consist in the same sort of affective vocabulary found in Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia series. The sheer proximity between D&G and the “imperialism of categories” is striking and cannot be denied, perhaps mirroring the intimate relationship between violence and nonviolence. Projects like “Mathemagics”, whose goal is to “bring alive the magic of Math”, seem to bloom forth on the ground while there are millions if not billions of dollars silently buzzing behind the scenes.

What gives?

One wonders at the primary use or reason for teaching young children from Singapore “quick tricks” in calculation and mathematics, and for fostering a certain love for math and naming it in this way. When seen against this decidedly capitalist background, however, it is plausible that there is being cultivated a rationalist and instrumentalist secularizing mentality. In all likelihood, this practice effectively gives rise to a certain skill set that is increasingly on-demand in global or international financial markets. Similar appropriations of nonviolence have happened with the image of Gandhi in many regions of India. One might find that this sort of logic is also at work in the Middle East.

Principle: The real global centers of authoritarian capitalist violence are topologically equivalent to those of with historically established traditions of nonviolence.

Does this entail the moral bankruptcy of nonviolence?

No, rather, it suggests the exact opposite: that a social forgetting of the power of nonviolence has taken place. The key word “democracy” is revealing itself to be morally bankrupt (Laruelle’s “democracy of thought” certainly included here). It fails to stand on its own if it is not supplemented by a second, independently realized value: ahimsa (nonviolence). It is our task to find this nonviolence again through a certain return to tradition. Nandy rightly envisions this with a post-secular and arguably non-Laruellean non-philosophical awareness, in the idea of “critical traditionalism”.

Again we turn our eyes back to Gujarat in search of a certain means of ensuring a more traditional “victory” over capitalism, only to find a beautiful arch which bears “victory” in its very inscription. Imaginally, we find ourselves now standing absolutely dumb-founded, in complete awe, at the towering entrance to Fatepur Sikri (in Uttar Pradesh). This palace was formerly a place of interfaith fluorishing, notably among Jain, Sufi, and Buddhist practitioners. (Today, it is a tourist attraction.)

Fatehpur Sikri sits on rocky ridge, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) in length and 1 km (0.62 mi) wide, and palace city is surrounded by a 6 km (3.7 mi) wall on three side with the fourth being a lake at the time. Its architect was Tuhir Das and was constructed using Indian principles. The buildings of Fatehpur Sikri show a synthesis of various regional schools of architectural craftsmanship such as Gujarat and Bengal. This was because indigenous craftsmen used for the construction of the buildings. Influences from Hindu and Jain architecture are seen hand in hand with Islamic elements. The building material used in all the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, palace-city complex, is the locally quarried red sandstone, known as ‘Sikri sandstone’. [...]

Buland Darwaza (“the Gate of Magnificence”) - Set into the south wall of congregational mosque, the Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri, this stupendous piece of architecture is 550 metre high, from the outside, gradually making a transition to a human scale in the inside. The gate was added some five years later after the completion of the mosque ca. 1576-1577 as an ‘victory arch’, to commemorate the Akbar’s successful Gujarat campaign. It carries two inscriptions in the archway, one of which reads: “Isa (Jesus), Son of Mary (on whom be peace) said: The World is a Bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the World endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.”

Not knowing where to turn, we read the inscription for guidance.

Is it cryptic? Obviously so: the reading does not occur at all in the Bible, including in the Sermon of the Mount. How are we to understand it? How are we to understand it whilst immersed in an atmosphere enclosed by such beautiful architecture? How are we to understand it beneath of the glow of red sandstone? How are we to understand it in this astonishing inter-faith palace-city? How are we to understand it in the place which is haunted with the specter of Akbar the Great? One can almost feel his still-living presence, and I am reminded momentarily of Hiravijava‘s world-changing petition to Emperor Akbar, asking that he accept nonviolence.

Sayings of Jesus (the Prophet Isa) entered the cultural economy of the early Muslim world extending from “Spain to China” via, among other things, the Silk Road while western Christianity has long disowned them. This circulation of such a wisdom led to a sphere of great play and open experimentation, with many occult religions also sparking in and out of existence along the road. The palace-city of Fatehpur Sikri, like many abandoned temples, served as one of these critical locations. It had originally been abandoned, presumably, due to a lack of water only to be taken up again centuries later for tourism in India. Yet through the pictures and historical narratives one can perhaps approximately discern a certain psychological patterning, given by that of the red sandstone.

One can re-imagine the festivity of spinning Sufi dervishes singing in the center platform surrounded by water, the daily prayers and rituals, and perhaps even the laughter of children. The ghostly scene literally animates itself before our eyes, teaching us how to best live in accordance with Life in the World with The Diyas-ian Psychology of Festivity…

(Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!)

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3 thoughts on “The Diyas-ian Psychology of Festivity”

  1. It’s good to hear your voice; I enjoy the way your mind appears in text. I acknowledge the light that is you.

    I too read ‘can the subaltern speak’; my answer to her essay is ‘only through appropriating the rhetoric of power’, but that leaves us in a strange state – no?

    Ill comment more later – for now, I am reminded of Arjuna looking over the army of his enemy, waiting upon the battle, speaking with Krisna.

    (It is tedious to write long on an iPhone)

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