skip to Main Content

Coincidentia Oppositorum: Rites In Appropriate Spaces?

Coincidentia Oppositorum: Rites In Appropriate Spaces?

Introduction

The planetary spread of the informational, genetic and space technologies has been continuing apace for some time now and is poised to renew questions regarding the possibility and desirability of manipulating life and cosmos at a micro level. Notwithstanding critiques of technology as promoting instrumental reason, many non western countries eagerly embrace the new technologies for developmental gains. While the cultural conflicts stemming from such globalization have attracted scholarly attention (sensationalized as the “clash of civilizations”),the ecological and economical crises have engaged the activists. There is consensus that new values other than sheer exploitation and mastery, such as respect toward nature or the cosmos and equity,must inform our intervening at the molecular level of genes or the cosmic level of interstellar exploration.

But there is little forthcoming on which traditions and practices would be salient. Traditionally, religious and spiritual practices that saw the world as a site of revelation of the sacred moderated the extractive zeal. The triumph of liberalism and the fear of fundamentalism have shunted these practices to the private sphere from where they still continue to trouble and fascinate discerning analysts. The efflorescence of Yoga and meditation worldwide bear out the individualizing impact of this privation of the spiritual. Lurking in the shadows there persist the messy and priestly rituals that show no signs of fading away in the light of secularization.

For sometime now, I have been puzzled by the newspaper photos of Indian Space Research organization (ISRO) scientist Shri. Radhakrishnan praying at Tirumala (a premier Hindu sacred site) with mini prototypes just before the launches of PSLV C 16 (in April 2011), PSLV C 18 (October 2011) and again PSLV C 25 for the Mangalyaan or MOM (in November 2013). One newspaper reported that the ISRO chief made a thanksgiving visit after the success of GSLV D5.[1] Far from being an aberration, this practice seems to be quite widespread. Another newspaper has reported that a group of scientists has been routinely bringing replicas before the launch of every satellite for the last twenty years to Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala in the Western Ghats.[2] This “coincidence of opposites” must provoke us to think beyond the usual genealogical dismissals that alert us to the caste/class provenance of the agents and their false consciousness. Conversely, the faithful have used the same to assert their ‘Truths” and the triumph of the spiritual over the temporal. Both these viewpoints seldom move beyond rhetoric and are uncritical of their respective lifeworlds; that is to say, the scientistic view pretends as if modern reason has not been subverted by various critiques while the advocates of the spiritual pretend as if spiritual or religious “truths” are transparent and universal.

In the following, I assemble some instances of idiosyncratic practices, move on to why they puzzle us and attempt to make sense by going beyond modern western metaphysics using the notion of coincidentia oppositorum in religious studies. Drawing upon insights from Roberto Calasso’s monumental work on Indian Vedic rituals, I try to rekindle wonder regarding some revelatory aspects of this coincidence of opposites in the Indian context.[3]

Return of the Repressed

Lest we think this is either a peculiar Indian strength or weakness, we may note that both Russian and American scientists and cosmonauts routinely partake in many rituals and superstitions, albeit in a more private manner. Russian cosmonauts apparently leave carnations at the Yuri Gagarin memorial, visit his shrine, ask for his ghost’s permission to fly with them; they all watch the same film “White Sun in the Desert” the night before the launch and listen to the same music that was played for Yuri Gagarin just before take off; they do not have launches on October 24th following mishaps in 1960 and 1963 and technicians place coins on the rails of rockets for good fortune. The funniest of all is their ‘re-enactment’ of Yuri Gagarin’s act of urinating at the right wheel of the bus before take off![4] Americans apparently have the same high protein diet as Alan Shepard, the same e-z boy reclining chairs and the commander must play cards with the crew until he loses a hand! There are also more sublime rituals, such as reading of the Genesis and Communion in space which has given rise to “lunar bibles”.[5]

Why be puzzled? Do we not know that modern technology is just a value neutral method and is not necessarily hostile to religion or spirituality? As an Indian President Radhakrishnan noted, modern science embodies a spirit of inquiry and experimental method. Aware of the limits of science, he recognized that science cannot explain why matter should exist or life should occur at all.Hence he thinks that spirituality can just supplement science. Science and technology are mere means to human ends.[6]

But many western philosophers, including Martin Heidegger and Friedrich Nietzsche, have argued that modern science and technology, as an offshoot of modern reason, is not just a method but a metaphysic, and as such embodies the modern western will to power over the universe. Free self determination is the essence of modern reason and in this capacity, human reason legislates for itself the criteria of true knowledge. In the process, it steers clear of pre-given causes and purposes. Clarifying what this means, Heidegger pointed out that modern science and technology only emphasize efficient causes (how to) rather than final causes (what for); god, immortal soul, eternal beatitude, complete enlightenment were some of the final causes posited by those who did not think of reason and techne as autonomous. But these final causes were soon condemned either as empty rhetoric or as heteronomous and thus confined to the dustbin of rationality. That technology has become fully autonomous is evident in the fact that we do not anymore ask why it is important to go to Mars; we only contemplate how fast and how cheaply it can be done. Or we justify the Mars missions in terms of finding water or other resources in the long run. Technological progress, we are told, is inevitable; adaptation is the only prudent response.

However, modern reason’s autonomy was always suspect and soon it was admitted that there were other powers, such as History, Society, Language/Culture, Unconscious, and so on that shaped it. The value neutrality of reason and thus by extension diverse techniques, ranging from the obvious applications such as machines on the shop floor to the less obvious ones such as book keeping practices, were analyzed and criticized in terms of their asymmetrical impact on different classes. Just a cursory look at the influential titles of our time – the Dialectic of Enlightenment (Adorno and Horkheimer), Knowledge and Human Interests (Habermas), Discipline and Punish and Madness and Reason (Foucault) – is enough to show the extent to which the claims of modern reason to be universal, impartial and liberating have been questioned. And yet, as Jurgen Habermas noted, the realm of science and technology (‘systems world’), as governed primarily by instrumentality and efficiency, was not uprooted. Many feminists, for instance, may question some reproductive technologies as reinforcing sexist power structures, but they do not question the view that technologies ought to give us greater control over our bodies so as to free ourselves from pre-given natural and cultural roles and values; the final end of the human body is not to be a vehicle for wisdom but to be a site of freedom- which brings us back to technology as a means to bring about greater freedom in the sense of mastery.

In this sense, Heidegger argues that modern technology approaches the world as full of unexploited resources waiting to be mastered for our use and comfort.[7] It also opens up our bodies and minds as a resource base to be harvested. As Juan Enriquez puts it, the “big reboot” is about to come with cell and tissue engineering and robots when humans will take direct and deliberate control of their evolution as well that of other species.[8] Enriquez mentions, among other things, “printing” skins and other body parts so that one can rebuild any organism from any one of its cells. Humans may even be able to download their memory into a new body. All this is premised on our ability to map gene sequences and then alter codes as per design. Undoubtedly, as Francis Fukuyama has noted, this “post human future” will give rise to new ethical, political and economic problems. How people will act when such enormous redesigning capabilities become cheap and accessible remains to be seen.

But for now, some curious practices accompanying maximum mastery in the sphere of space engineering are worth reflection. As Roberto Calasso has remarked, Apollo and Saturn were recruited by NASA and Agni (Fire) has been deployed by the Indian Space organization to name fatal weapons; Agni was the messenger between gods and humans in Vedic India and in pointing to the sky, the namesake missile is still functioning in the same way, though the sky is now bereft of gods and thought of only as obstacle-free terrain.[9] This may be as true for the “spiritual scientists” as it is for their secular counterparts.

Does this mean that scientists are deluded or superstitious in continuing to invoke gods and prayers? From a philosophical viewpoint, it might appear as though scientists are ignorant of the metaphysic embedded in modern science and technology that is opposed to any final causes or ends. Or they do not care about the glaring contradiction in their scientific practice of maximum mastery and personal prayers to dethroned idols?C.N. R.Rao, an award-winning scientist, commented that ISRO’s seeking God’s blessings for satellite launches by offering a small replica of the spacecraft, was superstitious.[10]Or as Jean Baudrillard argues, one may say that their activity of praying actually serves to censor the fact that they do not ‘truly’ believe in transcendental forces or gods. But these views are all motivated by a hermeneutics of suspicion that interprets these intriguing practices as obscuring, if not concealing entirely, our planetary domination through technology.

Ritual Enactments of Precarious Mastery

Perhaps there is another way of looking at the persistence of apparently conflicting practices, namely through a hermeneutics of trust. Now superstitio, as Ananda Coomaraswamy never tired of reminding us, means that which stands over and survives.[11] The present penchant for non-binary thinking by emancipationists of all kinds is a propitious moment in which to recall some aspects of coincidentia oppositorum.

Nicholas of Cusa coined the phrase to describe God wherein all contradictions meet or coincide.[12] Ananda Coomaraswamy also explicates it in terms of divine biunity where opposites like “Essence and Nature, Being and non-Being, God and Godhead—masculine and feminine, are coincident without composition.”[13] In mystical theology, this notion has served to flesh out the moment of illumination when the soul overcomes all worldly dichotomies and its own diremption from the divine.

Mircea Eliade used the term to capture the mythical pattern where sacred narratives hold together diametrically opposed accounts of the Beginning and End, of the One and the Many, of Being and Becoming. Eliade saw that while coincidentia oppositorum shows “how utterly different divinity is from humanity, it was also the archetypal model for many types of religious men and for certain forms that religious experience takes.”[14] Thus he predicated it not only of god or the divine ground, but also considered it a facet of religious experience and therefore as intrinsic to the articulation of that experience, which is why ‘inspired’ sayings straddle poetry and thought, image and concept.

Moreover, Rennie points out that Eliade’s fascination with coincidentia oppositorum stems from an inherent recognition that “Existence, as it presents itself to us is itself a coincidence of opposites, both sacred and profane, real and unreal, both a concealment and revelation of the real.”[15] This extension of the notion beyond the sacred realm to comprehend unity of existence is pronounced in Carl Jung who thought of the psyche/self as a site of such unity. Jung also used the phrase to understand the simultaneous appearance of apparently incompatible phenomena, events or situations.[16] Henderson notes that coincidence must be distinguished from chance or randomness and refers to two phenomena occupying the same space, be it logical, imaginative or material space.[17]

Since every phenomenon is layered both in structure and substance, it is necessary to clarify the meanings and interpretations of coincidentia oppositorum. Ewert Cousins has distinguished between three meanings of this notion; a monistic view where opposites are seen as identical, a dualistic view where opposites are united by “external juxtaposition,” and a third view in which opposites continue to exist as opposites and the coincidence is of mutually affirming complementarity.[18] Many analyses which extend this idea to worldly phenomena pursue the second and third variants, i.e., those where the phenomena continue to exist as opposites and only the affinity between disparate elements within each is highlighted. As Lawrence Bond clarified regarding Cusa, “the coincidence of opposites provides a method that resolves contradictions without violating the integrity of the contrary elements and without diminishing the reality or the force of their contradiction. It is not a question of seeing unity where there is no real contrareity, nor is it a question of forcing harmony by synthesizing resistant elements.”[19]

Coincidence of opposites is thus only one type of unity of opposites, the others being “instances where one opposite supersedes another, instances where the two opposites are superseded by a third and one where the elements of the opposites are mingled.”[20] Hegel’s dialectic, which privileged the supersession of contradictory opposites in History and thought, has been the most influential variant in emancipatory discourse cross-culturally. Against this, Eliade deploys the coincidentia oppositorum to highlight the persistence of mythic patterns of thought and attendant actions. Coupled with Eliade’s trenchant critiques of historicism, it opens up a pathway to revaluate such “vestiges” more seriously. Implicit in its many uses is the appeal to interdependence and mutual revelation of a phenomenon either wholly or partly through another phenomenon that appears to be its opposite.

In this vein, Eliade noted “ritualistic” aspects in modern life; for example, the extraordinary and assiduous attention to rules of procedures oriented to repetition and control in modern scientific techniques is analogous to a similar concern in ritual spaces. Besides, the re-enactment of Yuri Gagarin’s acts by cosmonauts resonates with the rituals of hero-myths. The setting apart of the elite crew and their rigorous physical and emotional training (say in fasting or hanging upside down) is reminiscent of initiatory practices. And the reading of Genesis from outer Space recalls the standpoint of the Lord God who beheld everything He had made and found it Good. However, while affirming something beyond, these similarities do not quite undermine self-assertion and mastery. Human beings seek aid and express thanks but do not explicitly renounce the desire to conquer space or time and be like the gods.

Here it may be more useful to draw upon ritual reasoning rather than theological or theosophical speculation to grapple with some metaphysical dimensions occluded by seeing technology solely as human self-assertion gone wild. Many rituals aspire to transcend the human condition and access the Beyond in a manner analogous to (and perhaps most literally embodied in) our space programs. Delving into the Satapata Brahmanas, the compendium of Vedic rituals, Roberto Calasso highlights some bolder and neglected aspects: first, it is striking that even the gods are not excepted from ritual sacrifice and pour libations. In the Vedic view, the gods engage in rituals even after ascending to heaven; even though it is not clear whom they sacrifice to, they recognize a source beyond them, intriguingly calling it Who (Ka).[21]

Moreover, the Indian rshis, (seers, visionaries) are also shown as continuing to practice and officiate at sacrifices even though they often mock and are contemptuous of the many Vedic and Hindu gods. Thus, the rituals performed by some Indian scientists, invoking Agni/fire god, even as they have tamed it to ascend to the skies, seems to be in line with the practices of Vedic gods and those who go beyond them, the seers.[22] Parrying the ‘Whom to’ question, the ritual of sacrifice is affirmed as the model for every action that seeks to be an end in itself.[23] More literally, the offerings to the unknown also mirror the enormous investments into space hoping for results in the unknown future. It is agreed that the Indian Mars mission was only a ‘technology demonstrator’ and though it has started sending stunning pictures of the Martian surface, its concrete benefits will only fructify in a remote future.

Second, Vedic ritual space and action is marked by not only a relentless urge for domination and control but also an anxious, intense feeling of impermanence.[24] This is manifest in the prayer for removal of obstacles in the beginning as well as the request for invited gods to leave so that one can return to ordinary life. And there is always an acknowledgement that one’s gestures and offerings may not be right or precise or pleasing or adequate to attract the gods. It is almost as if consciousness of mastery is never certain of itself and is haunted by its fragility. International rivalry and competition in conquering space, the enormous risks at stake, the fleeting celestial windows for specific projects may all fuel and heighten a sense of contingency that afflicts mastery. There are many expressions and reminders of this fragility within the ISRO or NASA offices and the media reports. For instance, the ‘peanuts tradition’ of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena California goes back to the seventh successful probe mission to the moon when the staff were passing around peanuts leading them to attribute good luck charm to peanuts and continue the tradition.[25] Recently, NASA sent lucky peanuts to ISRO for the MARS mission via facebook.[26] In this light, breaking a few coconuts need not be out of place in the Indian context. In other words, what we term superstition may be expressive of a profound sense of contingency that haunts all major enterprises.

Third, every major ritual claims to represent the whole and hence must recognize, if not include forces that are hostile and may wreak havoc if excluded. In this context, Vedic ritual texts repeatedly wrestle with residues, leftovers, exclusions and even seek a “pact” with ‘spiteful rivals’ through appropriate gestures of offerings.[27]For example, the sacrificer looks for a crack or hole in the ground, sets up a fire and pours an offering to recognize and satisfy Nirrti who is a goddess opposed to all order. Thus what may appear to be just a gesture towards a residual tradition may still be fraught with meaning.

Admittedly, all the religious rituals that select Indian scientists may be engaged in have not been considered here. We have not looked at the specific temples, offerings, the ritual fees, the number of priests or the names and formulas of the gods and goddesses. Nor have we looked at all the various expressions of religiosity accompanying this event. But some elements of Vedic ritual are quite standardized and ubiquitous; fire altars, offerings of ghee, lamps, incense and other sacred items, invocation of gods, offerings to chosen deities, ritual fees, consuming of leftovers, and so on. From these, it may be inferred that the ritual of sacrifice, even in its simplest form, serves as a model for every action because it is above all about yielding and offering to an invisible, unmanifest presence as the source of all Being.

As Eric Voegelin alerted us, human reasoning must illuminate human existence in terms of metaxy or being in-between ignorance and wisdom, perfection and imperfection, life and death, immanence and transcendence and order and disorder.[28] In Yogic meditational techniques, practitioners seek to experience this state of consciousness. But Vedic rituals allow for a structured acting out of our being in-between order and disorder and enable us to recognize that all our ordering and mastery is precarious and temporary. More than anything, the blazing and devouring fire cannot fail to evoke a sense of indebtedness, fear and trembling as we intuit that the ground may be beyond good and evil, order and disorder.

Justification: Reactionary or Revelatory?

The above is a “justification” in the literal sense of showing the metaphysical reasoning underlying some rituals which can deepen our present penchant for non-binary thinking as we makes sense of what seem to be aberrations. It may be objected that this justification does not see how such ritual performances violate “scientific temper”. Lamenting the lack, Pushpa M. Bhargava, a prominent Indian scientist recalls that in 1964 many scientists refused to sign a statement saying that “I believe that knowledge can be acquired only through human endeavour and not through revelation, and that all problems can and must be faced in terms of man’s moral and intellectual resources without invoking supernatural powers.[29] It is doubtful whether other prominent Indian scientists, such as former Indian President A.P.J Abdul Kalam, whose demise has sparked off another rhetorical round on scientific temper, would have supported such a strong statement against revelation. Instead of harping on the scientific temper, which presumes ignorance, it may be better to harken to the spirituality manifest by those who are scientifically literate.

More scathingly, Meera Nanda notes that “every one, from prominent scientists, thinkers, politicians ( even secular ones like Nehru), to say nothing of the likes of Mahesh Yogi and his fellow god-men and god-women – seemed so smugly comfortable with the great neo-Hindu ‘synthesis’ of empirical science with mysticism and magic . . .”[30] She rails against such “mixing and matching” that highlight the affinity between modern science and Hindu mysticism or Vedic practices on grounds that it is obscurantist and promotes conservative and reactionary politics. Nanda faults all these agents for using modern science and technology purely instrumentally and rejecting individualism and secularism for revivalist nationalism. Her polemics is primarily against the attempts to ‘scientize’ Vedic ‘magic’ and harmonize modern theories with Vedic accounts of creation. She is also savagely critical of the method of correspondences at work in such attempts.

Nanda’s confidence in modern science and its capacity to deliver enlightenment is admirable as is her certainty that the ‘prominent thinkers, scientists, politicians’ who hold on to Vedic or Hindu religion are either deluded or fascist or both. The problem with Nanda’s thesis is that she faults these agents for using science merely as a means and diluting its social emancipatory aspects without seeing that modern science epitomizes instrumental reason all through. Moreover, she is equally guilty of seeing the religiosity of her subjects solely in instrumental, reactionary and sinister terms bereft of truth or meaning.

I have tried to steer away from such dogmatic reductionism here; rather than arguing for the continued performance of rituals, I have proceeded to uncover possible reasons why they may be popular. In fact, Vedic sacrifices have become public performances evoking not only devotion but also eliciting joy or addressing sorrow or fear in the public at large.[31] I am not asserting the scientific or efficient character of the rituals; their votaries cite them as conducive to goals ranging from world peace at one end to purifying the air and causing rain at the other end. It is their metaphysical subtlety in dealing with the unknown and the shadows they cast then on spectacular displays of scientific prowess that is worth consideration.

It may be objected that the scientists or even ritual practitioners themselves may not be aware of these esoteric meanings. In fact, only a few space scientists engage in religious rituals and are embarrassed by the media attention to such “personal” acts. True, but the actions of a select few, publicly enacted, go beyond their intentions and are open to interpretation. Second, it is the intelligibility of their actions from a ritualistic viewpoint that is foregrounded here.[32] It may be alleged that our focus detracts from India’s triumphal entry into an elite Mars club at a fraction of the cost spent by other countries. But the success of the Indian mission is undisputed and apparent to all; it is the accompanying ‘meaningless’ practices that concern us.

Another objection may be that there are innumerable occasions when we feel and express the existence of an Unknown ground and intuit precarious contingency with fear and trembling; therefore this particular conjunction is not paradigmatic. In India especially, such coincidences are legion; to mention one, those trying to go to the US from Hyderabad, Telangana, routinely visit a temple where the presiding deity is fondly called “Visa Balaji”. And there are more irreverent coincidences where names of deities are used for bars and discotheques.

However, there is a general consensus that outer space ventures are high risk both in terms of human and material resources. Space exploration pursued in different national institutions is advertised to and affirmed by the public as apogee of scientific excellence and precision engineering; hence their openness to the vast unknown and resort to intriguing rituals may be seen as symptomatic. True, there are mundane expressions of cognitive inadequacy but these do not question the scientific commitment to mastery over the unknown in future. This is not to deny the occurrence and efficacy of other modes of coping, say, through meditation or binge drinking; but the tonality of these experiences is one of anxiety and insecurity, which as Voegelin clarifies, implies being scared or frightened.[33]

Voegelin contrasts this with the tonality of tension, one where both the poles of our experience of existence, in the here and now as well as the Beyond, are affirmed.[34] As he puts it:

“Man is not a self created, autonomous being carrying the origin and meaning of his existence within himself. He is not a divine causa sui; from the experience of his life in precarious existence within the limits of birth and death, there arises the wondering question about the ultimate ground, the aitia or prote arche, of all reality and specifically his own. The question is inherent in the experience from which it rises; . . . Man, when he experiences himself as existent, discovers his specific humanity as that of the questioner for the where-from and the where-to, for the ground and sense of his existence.”[35]

Some of these aspects such as the experience of precariousness of life, of wondering questioning about the where-to and where-from are also affirmed and acted out in the Vedic rituals. As Calasso observes, “ritual serves to solve through action what thought alone cannot resolve…”[36] But what is unique here is the gesture of sacrificing to the invisible, acted out in the pouring forth of offerings into fire as well as burning of lamps and incense, the symbolism of which is immediate and transparent to many. Unlike Voegelin who privileges the reasoning soul/psyche as the site and sensorium of the divine (which is also present in the Indian theses regarding atman), it is the fact that human beings must act with inadequate knowledge that is valorized in the sacrificial vision. Far from making them irresponsible, this makes the ritual experts obsessed with correctness and precision in formulas and gestures. And since they suffer from “irresolvable doubt” about the existence of and ways to negotiate with the “Beyond”, they even recite a formula in silence so that the doubt is never cleared up![37]

To conclude, I think it is illuminating to go beyond the scientific discourse that confines itself to benefits which will accrue to human beings in the near or distant future to justify expensive space projects. This one-sided emphasis on instrumentality and efficacy obscures the metaphysical uncertainty surrounding these ventures. Usually, it is customary to probe what rituals have to say about the soul or gods or the political economy and social organization of participants. But what they may have to say about our world and actions is relatively rare and is confined to the modern obsession with techniques and procedures. I have tried to show that they may reveal aspects usually repressed in rational and scientificaction and discourse about such actions. Conversely, they may also be a bulwark against the crass instrumental use of religion in contemporary politics. Ironically, this kind of sophistication is neither easy nor comforting in the din of ‘we’ versus ‘them’ sophistry of both liberal and extremist ideologues.

 

Notes

[1]The Deccan Chronicle 7 January 2014.

[2]The Hindu 24 December 2005.

[3] A preliminary version of this paper was presented in the panel discussion on Mars Orbiter Mission held by the Centre for Regional Studies, University of Hyderabad in 2014. I am happy to acknowledge discussions with Dr. Arvind Susarla and Dr. B.L Biju. Thanks to Sujana for fixing the references and Aparna for timely help.

[4]Richard Hollingham, “The Strangest Space Launch Rituals”, 10 July 2014,   http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140610-the-strange-rituals-of-cosmonauts, accessed 28 October 2015.

[5] Alan Murphy, “The Losing Hand: Tradition and Superstition in Spaceflight”, The Space Review, Tuesday, May 27, 2008, http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1137/1, accessed October 28, 2015. See also Robert C Pearlman, “Lawsuits Leave Lunar Bibles in Limbo: Legal Battle over Space-flown Scriptures”, http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-021813a.html, accessed November 17, 2015.

[6] For an elaborate analysis of this approach see Vasanthi Srinivasan, Hindu Spirituality and Virtue Politics ( New Delhi: Sage 2014).

[7] Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” In Basic Writings, ed.,David Farrel Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), p.299.

[8] Juan Enriquez, “The Next Species of Human (TED 2009https://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_shares_mindboggling_new_science/transcript?language=en accessed 24 Jan 2015).

[9] Roberto Calasso, Ardor, Translated by Richard Dixon, (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2014), p.353.

[10] “Isro seeking Lord Balaji’sBlessings is Superstition: Professor CNR Rao”, Economic Times, November 23, 2013. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-11-23/news/44390004_1_divine-blessings-space-missions-superstition, accessed Nov 18, 2015.

[11] Ananda Coomaraswamy, “Traditional Psychology” in Roger Lipsey Ed. Coomaraswamy: 2 Selected Papers Metaphysics, (Princeton: Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press,1977), p. 365n 101.

[12]Dennis McCort, Going Beyond the Pairs: The Coincidence of Opposites in German Romanticism, Zen and Deconstruction, (Albany: SUNY, 2001)), p. 22; David Henderson, “The Coincidence of Opposites: C.G Jung’s reception of Nicholas of Cusa”, Studies in Spirituality, 20, p.101-113.

[13] Ananda K Coomaraswamy, “Tantric Doctrine of Divine Biunity”, in Roger Lipsey Ed. Coomaraswamy: 2 Selected Papers Metaphysics, p.231.

[14] Bryan S. Rennie, Reconstructing Eliade: Making Sense of Religion, (Albany: SUNY, 1996), p. 35.

[15]Ibid., p. 36.

[16] David Henderson, op.cit., p. 106.

[17] Ibid.,p. 103.

[18]George Tavard, “The Coincidence of Opposites: A Recent Interpretation of Bonaventure”, Theological Studies, Vol 41, 3 (September 1980) p. 576.

[19] Ibid., p.104.

[20] Ibid., p.106.

[21] Roberto Calasso, Ardor,p. 205 & 213.

[22] Roberto Calasso, Ardor 227.

[23] Roberto Calasso, Ardor 247.

[24] Roberto Calasso, Ardor, 227.

[25]Tanya Lewis, “Peanuts, Blackjack and Pee: Strangest Space Mission Superstitions”, http://www.wired.com/2012/08/space-mission-superstitions/, accessed 0ctober 28, 2015.

[26]The Economic Times, “Mars Mission: ‘Lucky Peanuts’ wish from NASA to ISRO”, Nov 1, 2013, Accessed October 28, 2015.

[27] Roberto Calasso, Ardor, p. 237.

[28] Eric Voegelin, “Reason: the Classic Experience”, Anamnesis, (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978), p. 103.

[29] Pushpa M Bhargava, “Scientists without Scientific Temper”, The Hindu, 17 January 2015 http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/scientists-without-a-scientific-temper/article6794464.ece, accessed 18 November 2015.

[30] Meera Nanda, “Manu’s Children: Vedic Science, Hindutva and Postmodernism”, http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/July2004Vedic_Sc_MeeraNanda.pdf, accessed 6 November 2015.

[31] Silke Bechler, “The Performance of Contemporary Vedic Sacrifices in Private and Public Spheres in India” in Axel Michaels and Christoph Wulf ed., Emotions and Rituals in Performances, Routledge, 2012, p. 52.

[32] I am drawing upon Ananda Coomaraswamy’s view in the context of folk art that “the necessity and final cause of folk art is not that it should be fully understood by every transmitter but that it should be intelligible”. See Ananda K Coomaraswamy, The Door in the Sky: Coomaraswamy on Myth and Meaning (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1997), p. 220, n47.

[33] Eric Voegelin, Reason, The Classic Experience, p. 101.

[34] Ibid., 91.

[35] Ibid., 92.

[36] Roberto Calasso, Ardor, p. 229.

[37] Roberto Calasso, Ardor, p. 93.

Vasanthi Srinivasan

Vasanthi Srinivasan is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad in India. She is also presently Head of the Department. She is the author of Gandhi’s Conscience Keeper: C. Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics (Permanent Black 2009) and Hindu Spirituality and Virtue Politics (Sage 2014).

Back To Top