“The Red Thread is not a kind of ancient Truth, nor is it a kind of secret Wisdom,
that is hidden deep within. It rather refers to a very ultimate,
an essence that living originates in, exists in and is sustained by.
It is just beyond thinking, beyond feeling, and beyond any desiring or believing;
beyond affirming and negating.
It is merely ‘What Is’”
An environment for transformation
In a previous paper Attuning to a World in Well-Being, I introduced Nâm thinking as it has evolved from the life and work of Yoginâm.[i] The vantage point of Yoginâm is that the human being is by nature a transcendental being, sharing in a resonance which is infinite in its multi-layered expressions. Living in this realisation means one will approach life in affirmation of a totality, and sharing in its essence. This is an all-inclusive state of openness for what is known, not-known and un-knowable: Peaceful acknowledgement of ‘What Is’.
Yoginâm relays that living in awareness of your transcendental nature is a psychological necessity, a natural aspect of living. Nevertheless, socio-cultural configurations of the modern West overall have lost the transcendental as a living reality, having thrown away the baby with the bath water in the process of becoming secular.[ii] He pinpoints that many contemporary crises and global problems originate in this dissociation. When we do not succeed in reintegrating this transcendental orientation into our personal, social and cultural lives, we may gradually loose our humanity.
The purpose of the work of Yoginâm is to help restore this transcendental orientation, by making it accessible in a form, approach and language that fits the cultural environment and mindset of people living in the modern West. While a degree of ignorance of one’s transcendental nature is a starting point at birth, it is the Task of Human Living to realise this nature, and live life optimally in its light. This is a transition from a state of ignorance to a state of wisdom, from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. Nâm is a practice of this Task of Living, for which the circumstances of daily life provide the raw material.
The state of ignorance belongs to what we may call the ‘separated subject’; experience of being an isolated unit, separated from a surrounding world that you may allow dictating your reality. Yoginâm speaks of a double Illusion of Separation. The first is that there would be a separation between Awareness and Experience, i.e. between transcendence and daily experience. The second is that there would be a separation between ‘Sense of I’ and ‘Sense of World’, between what I am subjectively, and the world around me. They are a mirror image and resonate in continuity, which Yoginâm expresses by describing the human subject as ‘I/World’:
“I/World is infinitely sharing in all the dimensions that it consists in.
It is an ongoing hallucination of infinite potentiality,
that is being restricted to the human frame of reference.
Being human is a closure of infinite potential.
Ideals, opinions and beliefs are further closures of this closure.”
(The Book of Nâm, p. 61)
I have been witnessing the life and work of Yoginâm evolve for a long time. I believe pursuing an anthropological perspective can be of added value. The thought and way of living originating in a transcendental orientation has attained renewed significance for modern Western man. We may be in need of some support from a modern-day mystic, while it is there.
This study aims to demonstrate this by discussing perspectives from two social scientists. The first is psychologist Matthias Desmet, who recently published an intriguing, if controversial piece of work.[iii] Its subject matter suggests some urgency in relation to problematic socio-cultural processes for which he sees modern man as an atomised creature is an elemental cause. In our terminology, it would be related with the persisting state of the separated subject.
The second is anthropologist Louis Dumont, whose work focused on ideologies in anthropological perspective. His analytical perspectives help us understand the nature of our Western cultural configuration better. Furthermore, his perspectives facilitate an understanding of the mystic type in a social perspective. That is, in the way he is uniquely situated in relation to the social world.
I intend to sensitise for how the transcendental and innovative thought of a type like Yoginâm is of meaning and value for the contemporary world. Finally, I will describe how these innovations come to expression in more detail.
Mass formation of the separated subject
In his book, Desmet exposes some critical deficiencies in the configuration of modern democratic societies. His diagnosis should be of concern in the interest in their resilience. Below I will provide a somewhat extensive outline of his perspectives. For some, the subject matter may feel sensitive and perhaps provoking. The reader is asked to bear with me, as it will help us to pinpoint the nature of current social problems from an ideological, and subsequent transcendental perspective, and help understand the value of the vision and practice of living carried by the mystic type.
Desmet perceives totalitarian processes steadfastly gaining ground in our world, and studies the psychological conditions that make this possible as a socio-cultural process. It is important to note that he distinguishes totalitarianism from classical dictatorships.
He singles out that the totalitarian tendency is the logical consequence of a certain ideology based in a mechanistic worldview. This is a narrative in which man is reduced to a material organism, ignoring the psychological, symbolic, and ethical dimensions of the human being. An ideology which limits its belief exclusively to the rationalisation of all life and the universe. This causes various consequences: Man becomes isolated from his fellow man and nature; man stops resonating with the world around him; it turns the human being into an atomised subject.
Desmet describes how in his view during Covid-19 a totalitarian dynamic emerged. It would seem safe to observe that measures that have been taken are totalitarian in nature, without having to assess whether the circumstances have justified it or not. What has been exceptional is the role of the official narrative. Any diverting views became steadily censored across the spectrum. Media, politics, and other strands of power started speaking explicitly with ‘one voice’ not to be defied. This was an extraordinary transformation taking place for democratic societies.
Desmet qualifies the process in the population in a totalitarian scenario as mass formation. A group hypnosis that impairs individuals’ self-awareness and bereaves them of their ability to think critically. There are four conditions for such a process: Generalised loneliness, social isolation, and lack of social bonds amongst the population; lack of meaning in life; widespread presence of free-floating anxiety and psychological unease; and a lot of free-floating frustration and aggression. I would see these conditions as intimately related with the state of the separated subject.
Mass formation sets in the moment there is a ‘suggestion’ in the public sphere, an impulse, a narrative, creating a sense of renewed interconnectedness amongst the masses (consisting of individuals otherwise existing in relative isolation). When the new social bond that a narrative creates becomes the driving force, the truth of it no longer matters. Desmet sees a mounting difference between solidarity of the masses and genuine loving interconnectedness.
States of anxiety play a large role, as the totalitarian pattern will constantly seek for new objects of anxiety for the masses. This is what unites narratives that generate this anxiety, man constantly being in need of renewed protection from external threats, a non-stop to crises. This shows how the state of separation between a subject and an objective world is required for this kind of anxiety to have impact. Without this dissociation, there is no anxiety. There is certainty.
In the context of views on totalitarianism, Desmet discourages conspiracy perspectives, for it draws attention away from the notion that the driving force of the process is an ideology in play. A way of thinking. He suggests that ultimately we must go beyond the mechanistic ideology in order to come to a substantive sociocultural solution. “The most fundamental change that we as a society have to aim for is not a change in practical terms but a change in consciousness” (p. 148).
He highlights how the mechanistic worldview is in fact scientifically outdated. For instance by providing ample evidence of research showing how the psychological acts as cause for the physical realm. Our mindset and terms in which we think about reality indeed ‘matter’.
Furthermore, one major problem of a mechanistic way of thinking is the difficulty of grounding ethical principles in it. It is about being the fittest in the struggle for survival. This ideology sees the universe as a logically knowable, controllable, and undirected process, a meaningless interaction between particles. While it is actually an open, living and creative universe. Modern science has shown that all things small and large are connected, everything is part of an overarching, complex, and dynamic system. The smallest units of matter may not be objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas, potential.
Desmet highlights a tension existing within science. On the one hand its development is a steady growth of rational knowledge of obvious value. On the other hand, its course leads to witnessing an a-rational core in things, eluding human understanding. The greatest scientists have increasingly come to acknowledge a mystical dimension to the universe, as their findings pointed towards something man’s rationality could not fathom.
It makes sense: To approach the universe in its ‘all-ness’, the more you need ‘all’ of your being facilitating the realisation. Just a rational part of you cannot comprehend the whole. This is what mystics have always seen and practised. Their expressions are abundant with this.
Desmet observes that this “a-rational” something is not just a negligibly minor aspect of all things observed, it is the very essence of life. This illustrates why and how, in a rationalisation of the world, human beings increasingly feel the essence of life eluding them. Science witnesses that there is some dimension beyond where science, at least traditionally, cannot go. However, I feel that at the other side, we may find an awareness, as embodied by the mystics.
Desmet’s theory suggests that the separated subject permeating the modern West is by no means a marginal glitch. When an ideology rules that reinforces the illusion of the separated subject the environment may be vulnerable for totalitarian advances. That what all agree we should prevent from ever happening. It generates a range of problems for the humane environment. In order to place this in a constructive context and become more meaningful, let’s discuss some analyses by the anthropologist Louis Dumont.
Anthropological perspectives: Holism and two kinds of Individualism
Dumont’s work focused on ideologies, which he understood as ‘systems of ideas and values current in a given social environment’. He studied the cultural configuration of India. He used his acquired insights to reflect back on Western culture. Looking at ourselves in perspective he considered a primary task of cultural anthropology.[iv]
His leading views touch upon holism and individualism. Holism is a cultural configuration where the main value is with the ‘whole’ that people collectively share in. One will live in reference to this whole. There is no ‘individual’ as a distinct value.
Individualism represents a system of the dominating value being the Individual. The man in the world is not a subject within a larger whole. He is his own unit of meaning and value. There are two meanings of the word ‘individual’. One is the empirical subject that every human being is. The second is the individual as a category of value, an expression of an ideology. He figures modern individualism to be an exception, both cross-culturally and historically. Holism represents the common type.
Holistic cultures and societies may have different forms and expressions. They are not homogeneous, yet there will be similar ideas and values. For example, Dumont qualifies holism as characterised by a primacy of relations-between-men, while individualism is characterised by a primacy of relations-between-men-and-things.
In the holistic configuration of traditional India, Dumont did identify a kind of individual, however he is different from the modern individual. He is the renouncer, one who leaves the social world, to dedicate himself to the transcendental life. This way was integrated in India’s holism. While going his path makes this type an individual, all his efforts go into transcending it; “the man who is after ultimate truth forgoes social life and its constraints to devote himself to his own progress and destiny. When he looks back at the social world, he sees it from a distance” (p. 25). Dumont identifies that this man has been responsible for all innovations in religion that India has seen, thus facilitating its holistic scope.
Importantly, a holistic configuration has a transcendental dimension integral to it. This means that finally, the social collective is not the highest value, the transcendental sphere is. This could be represented by, for example, Dharma.
Dumont qualifies the Indian type socially as an outworldly individual, and the modern individual as an inworldly individual. He sees a yawning gap between the two. In his study on the origins of modern individualism, the problem is how starting from the common type of holistic societies a new type has evolved that contradicts the common conception.[v] His thesis is: “If individualism is to appear in a society of the traditional, holistic type, it will be in opposition to society and as a kind of supplement to it, that is, in the form of the outworldly individual” (p. 26).
He surmises that a form of outworldly individualism was present with the first Christians and the surrounding world. This was expressed for instance in the notion that all men are equal in God, man is an ‘individual-in-relation-to-God’. Dumont sees the old form and the new being separated by such a radical and complex transformation, that it took seventeen centuries to be completed. It is a transformation where Christianity over centuries transforms from an outworldly to an inworldly orientation.
“The main lesson upon which to meditate is perhaps that the most effective humanization of the world has issued in the long run from a religion that subordinated it most strictly to a transcendent value” (p. 52). At this point, we may recall Yoginâm stating that a process of dehumanisation may follow when a transcendent value is discarded all together.
The potential of transforming from modern individualism to holism and its pitfalls
Any society may need a healthy dose of holism to rely on natural interconnectedness and cohesion between humans. If Desmet identifies the atomised subject and his mechanistic worldview as root cause for a totalitarian potential, one may find that a transformation out of this predicament will require a more holistic ideology. This faces two problems.
The first problem is this modern Individual as a separate unit of value, with Dumont emphasising that holism is an environment where that ‘individual-in-the-world’ is not.
The second problem is that holism is naturally situated in a wider transcendental context. The highest order cannot be the collective order (the error of communism). That, transcending all is the highest order, representing an ultimate guiding force. Like Natural Law, or Dao. The modern West lacks such an all-encompassing transcendental sphere of reference.
On the first problem, it is interesting that Dumont, some decades ago, provided his own analysis of totalitarianism, and pinpointed it as a modern phenomenon. As a feature that is embedded in the ideology of modern individualism in such a way, that it will keep haunting it.[vi]
He explains insistently that introducing ‘holistic categories’ into the environment of inworldly individualism cannot succeed because they are systematically antithetical. Dumont therefore emphasises that the totalitarian disease is encapsulated in the modern ideology, similar to Desmet.
It is “a disease of our own world – and not simply an aberration of a group of fanatics, the effect of various historic causes, or the going astray of an entire nation” (p. 158). He assesses that “totalitarianism is a disease of modern society, that results from the attempt, in a society where individualism is deeply rooted and predominant, to subordinate it to the primacy of the society as a whole” (p. 150). This leads to inevitable contradictions, tensions, and violence.
Desmet describes a similar process on a psychological level as the essence of mass formation: “A society saturated with individualism and rationalism suddenly tilts towards the radically opposite condition, radically irrational collectivism” (p. 97).
The introduction of holistic elements into an environment of inworldly individualism is essentially the separated subject shaping ideas of ‘Wholeness’. Yet he would not be able to fully experience his integral sharing in a Whole. Ideas would be conditioned by his existential state of separation. He could be inclined to situate holistic categories in an ‘objective’ world, as this is the only common world he knows. A genuine Whole is not objective. It is transcendental to him, and he would be sharing in its resonance.
“The sharing of ‘I/World’ is not an individual life in a collectivity of lives
It is rather like the integral sharing of a drop in an ocean
That shares entirely in the ocean”
(The Book of Nâm, p. 110)
This demonstrates that for modern individualism to transform into modes of holism, any transformation must occur on the level of the individual. He needs to become a different kind of individual, passing beyond separation, realising the transcendental nature of his world. Dumont highlights that the modern individual has hidden in his internal constitution an unperceived but essential element of ‘outworldliness’ (p. 56), which suggests that modern man has the potential for this transformation in him.
Mirroring Dumont’s thesis cited earlier, I would promote this thesis: If genuine holism is to appear in a society of the modern, individualistic type, it will be in opposition to society and as a kind of supplement to it, that is, in the form of the outworldly individual.
For an environment of the separated subject to mature towards a holistic state of being, the involvement of a type living a realisation of transcendence would be inherent to the process. This is also consistent with Dumont’s qualification that “the holism/individualism distinction supposes an inworldly individualism, while in the inworldly/outworldly distinction, the outworldly pole is not opposed to holism” (p. 57).
Important to appreciate is that what makes this type an outworldly individual is that he stepped out of society, out of its habitual programmes of perception, to attain to what transcends it. Having come to a realisation, he perceives life and the world from another perspective. He is conditioned differently. His outworldliness is phenomenological, rather than empirical. He may translate that mode of being, yielding means for the individual-in-the-world to manage his lifeworld of experience in such a way that it opens him to his transcendental state of being.
The second problem of integrating more holism into modern society was the absence of a transcendental order in the modern Western world. It could be illustrative to see how this may invoke surrogate transcendentals. I see a transcendental as ‘a feature that is not rational in its nature, invoking an image which is beyond you’. This beyond can be of a genuine spiritual nature, truly triggering a connection to your spiritual nature.
It is a surrogate when this so-called beyond is essentially of a material nature, whereby it cannot facilitate orientation to actual transcendence. It may only seem so, hint at it. If we appreciate that the human being essentially is transcendental, but then stays deprived of awareness of that nature, his transcendence remains dormant. This may make him receptive to a (surrogate) transcendental. It is that vacuum needing to be filled.
Surrogate transcendentals are visible in our world. One expression may be in professional sports, with the marketed notion of the great player being “not human”; he is “God playing these sports”. He had an “epic” performance, and he is the “Greatest of All Time”. It is present in the wider celebrity cult, displayed as if they are super-humans: They are called “Stars”, a term not used elsewhere when individuals excel in their craft. When these people say anything publicly, apparently we all need to take notice. It is entirely unreal. Avoiding idol worship appears to make much sense. In movies, the figure around all the time is the ‘Hero’, always manifesting extra-ordinary talents. The Hero represents the language of myth, the transcendental, as Joseph Campbell has illuminated.
Surrogate transcendentals manifest elsewhere, like in ‘Save the Planet’. Practically, the planet would not need us saving it, whilst we, with other life and non-life forms are it. Keep our environment clean, organised, in a harmonious balance; certainly. Yet saving the planet is a simple over-estimation of what we can know it needs, and how to contribute. It is a transcendental. Other examples are Climate change, Global health, Patriotism, or the Greatest country on earth.
Paradoxically, while science has been discovering dimensions of the world that we cannot grasp rationally, by our reigning ideology we are convinced that we know everything there is to about the Planet’s changing nature. It would surely be an idea of the separated subject that a single factor in isolation would be the cause of such grand changes, as that is a world he understands. Even while for science this should have been absolutely the most implausible scenario for such a complex ecosystem, where everything else is otherwise contingent on a dynamic of interrelations.
Interesting is the image of climate change shaking up the planet so profoundly, it is causing extreme weather. Not more calm weather, but harsh. The image is the Planet being in total Rage and wreaking havoc in response to our behaviour, as we shall experience all the time now. Primitive people figured heavy thunder meant the Gods were upset; what seems an identical mind-set. Climate change is displayed in dramatic mythical fashion.
These are surrogate transcendentals, not by potentially being incorrect, but by being of a material nature. From a transcendental perspective, it makes them superficial, volatile, in need of gullibility, and therefore cannot serve as an ultimate binding force, however hard one tries. Dumont would likely consider some of these surrogate transcendentals as instances of ‘holistic categories’ imposed in a modern environment (that haunting dynamic of the totalitarian disease). Surrogate transcendentals should spread easily in an environment where humans ignore the transcendental nature of living.
“Ignoring the expression of the transcendental nature,
or distorting it by rational elaborations, however beautifully and subtly constructed,
leads unavoidably to a sense of emptiness,
a fundamental doubt and a loss of meaning,
and as its offshoot to a lack of purpose”
(The Book of Nâm, p. 11)
The transcendental of a genuine spiritual nature can be restored by modern man transforming his perception of who and what he is. And in what kind of universe he lives. Becoming open to the transcendental nature of living, transforming from a ‘closed system’ as a separated subject to an ‘open system’ of a transcendental man.[vii]
Following Dumont has demonstrated that this process can only take place on the level of the individual. This can also only take place there where that modern individual is: ‘In the world’ and ‘through the world’. It is a practice of everyday life. The focus of Nâm is here, and by looking at practices Yoginâm suggests, we can perceive features this will involve.[viii]
Transforming into a transcendental human being
In a recent talk with Yoginâm, he recalled a story by Rumi along the following line:
One man eats a plate of rice and creates anguish and jealousy.
Another man eats a similar plate of rice and he creates love and kindness.
It is the way in which you eat the plate of rice, which determines what you create.
Yoginâm sees overcoming a state of Ignorance and opening to Awareness of our transcendental nature as The Task of Human Living. This task is not one amongst other tasks, it is performed within all other tasks. This is not about what you do, it is about how you do it.
The Task of Living is to live life in such a way that you may contribute beneficially to the totality of all. During a talk, Yoginâm clarified, “while we cannot know the totality of all, human beings have always been experimenting, and in that they reached heights and depths. Nowadays we are closer to a depth, but there have been heights. In the heights people realised that we are having a very intimate relationship with the totality that is. It is not something far away.”
Performing the Task of Living is to use every instant in order to contribute as well as possible to life. “In this experience of thousands of years, humanity concluded that beneficially contributing to totality implies harmony, implies compassion, implies love, and implies understanding. It implies trying to do your best in everything that comes up. Many traditions include indications for what this means, and how to perform this task of living optimally. It is found in teachings of Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and it can be found in books like the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita.”
Earlier views above illustrated how in the recent history of mankind an ideology came to rule insisting we could just discard all these insights, it just would not count anymore: We are figuring out rationally what this universe is all about, and experts will let you know. As the rational mind cannot see the creative spirit, also spirit did not matter, and matter was left on its own. Then, science discovered there is something rationally unknowable about the universe. All of a sudden it has become relevant and meaningful again to figure out how this relationship between man and his unknowable universe, that he is intimately sharing in, can be reintegrated in living.
The focus of Nâm is to support a Journey of the Return to this transcendental relationship in living, to strive living as a Complete Human Being. Yoginâm has repeated a saying by Rumi, that you can perform many tasks in life successfully, but if you do not perform that one task, none of it matters and your life has gone to waste. It is abundantly clear that in current times, many are craving to go beyond that uninspiring state of the separated subject and to approach living creatively, living life spiritually.
The realisation that one is not a separate unit
that moves in a world like an actor does on a stage,
but a sharing in infinity that is being closed down
to what one erroneously considers as a fixed identity,
is a Cause for far-reaching Consequences.
(The Book of Nâm, p. 62)
Some may find that effort has gone into this subject in what is known as New Age. This would concern still mostly the environment of the separated subject and his therapeutic mind-set. There is plenty of health and satisfaction in it. However, practices would tend to be ‘add-ons’, i.e. not particularly tailored to dissolving the existential predicament of the separated subject. In this sense, Yoginâm prefers to avoid the term ‘spirituality’ as it may affiliate with a different field. For clarity, he distinguishes between satisfaction spirituality, and Attunement spirituality. The latter is integrated into every aspect and moment of living.
It is also useful to note that it would not be helpful to see all this as a ‘Great Awakening’, meant here as if by a spark of light humanity will become enlightened. Instead, this is about becoming a different kind of being. The natural state of sharing in totality that is, requires drawing it into Attention in Remembering constantly. This will impact your Attitude towards circumstances – since they are an expression of this totality – and the kind of Behaviour you will consequently engage. It implies consistency in Ethics, based on observation of Resonance and a natural regularity of Cause and Consequence.
This occurs not on the level of a collective mass, but on the level of the individual. At best, it occurs for a critical mass of such individuals.
Yoginâm has emphasised that for the ‘spiritual endeavour’ it is important that the symbolic scope is connected to one’s own cultural programming. Adopting traditions from other cultures will involve many pitfalls. One pitfall is romanticism of being identified with the other culture, mistaking its exotics for the essence. The tradition of the other culture has been shaped for a different psychological mindset, thus easily giving rise to misinterpretation and confusion.
An example Yoginâm has provided is the Sufis’ Spiritual Love. In Arabic and Persian, different words express ‘love’ with refined nuances, which may all be translated into that single word in many modern languages. This Love may carry a different sense, as it does for Western people, and the inner process it will trigger may not be the same. At risk of oversimplifying, Western love may be associated with satisfaction and fulfilment, whereas Sufi Love may be a relentless longing for an unreachable object – a very different inner state. Yoginâm is sensitive to such nuances from having lived himself in societies of the Middle-East for several decades. Having intimately experienced Persian Sufism, since his guide (‘pir’) was from that tradition, has enabled him to witness how Western people could get distracted from the essence.
Against this background Yoginâm embraced a task of ‘translating’ the essence of the mystical endeavour into a form and language which fits the psychological and cultural mind-set of people in the modern West. In a way in which it can be integrated into daily life. He observes that besides a secular orientation, modern people have acquired a virtual thinking about reality, of qualifying the world in scientific terms, and analysing themselves in psychological terms. This virtual thinking may easily grasp an idea how everything is interconnected and that you may manage life creatively on this basis. Nâm uses a more psychological (non-academic) language.
Yoginâm would concur with Heidegger that the reality you perceive is intrinsically connected with the language you use to describe it. It has been essential for him to develop a vocabulary that facilitates perceiving life and oneself from a transcendental perspective. That may facilitate an approach to living in such awareness most optimally. Such a vocabulary is a skilful means.
He has translated a way of mysticism. Not ‘horizontally’ from another culture, but ‘vertically’, from the essence of the transcendental state involved. In my view, this work is that of a Sage. Or using Dumont’s term, the work of the outworldly individual.
In providing a paradigm of living by means of which the modern human being may transit to a man opened to his transcendental nature, Yoginâm has had to deal with various tendencies of the modern mind-set, which he considers not helpful for transcendence. One tendency is that primacy of rationality, a need to understand. While transcendental living will involve some kind of mind, one will need to go beyond the rational as a decisive force. This is essential to open to other spheres of being, like those of Creative Imagination, Sovereignty, Guidance, and Awe and Wonder.
Specific Nâm terminology could help nurture some understanding. Yet a state of Awareness is beyond understanding, since it is beyond experience. Yoginâm relays that we are not rational beings, even if rationality is a strong part. We are Beings of Imagination. Through imagination we discover and create our world. The motor of imagination is Meaning.
Another tendency Yoginâm has had to deal with concerns Western people’s program of relating to a transcendental in terms of ‘believing’. In Christianity, some belief may even represent ‘truth’, a fine breeding ground for a dualistic stance on life and transcendence. It is partly responsible for the mechanistic ideology, once it became possible for the transcendent to pass away. People would be apprehensive about ‘again’ having to believe in something, yet also may not see how to relate to a transcendental without the condition of belief.
Yoginâm clarifies two obstacles for finding Attunement to the transcendental in living. One obstacle is to consider the Ultimate in an anthropomorphic image, since this limits its scope. The other is to consider the Ultimate as an entirely abstract image. The transcendental is everything that is. So certainly, it should be as wide as possible, but it should also be as warm and as close as possible, he conveys. Being very close-by calls it into Attention and gives it Meaning. While the Ultimate remains Unknowable, by a skilful means, one may make it very intimately present.
Nâm does not invoke the workings of believing. Its foundation is Affirmation, which is a strong psychological state. It is your ongoing Affirmation of an unknowable totality you are sharing in through daily living. Whatever symbols you may use to express this. Just because it is so self-evident. This leads to Peaceful Acknowledgement of ‘What Is’.
The Affirmation and orientation of Attunement become a source of Certainty. This does not arise from knowing, nor from believing. It arises from an Embrace of Unknowability. This is a much stronger and more attractive state than anxiety. It becomes a deep source of meaning.
During a talk, Yoginâm explained: “The starting point of Nâm is taking the responsibility that you are what you are, as an aspect of a Whole, that you cannot know, but you are fully responsible for. Since you are of a Whole, it is interactive, you are not standing there alone. Already that what you are, is beyond what you think you are. Everything as you, like thinking, feeling, is already transcendental and can teach you what it is. If you take the responsibility, you receive guidance to the degree that you take the responsibility. From this realisation comes Awe and Wonder. Things happening are no longer coincidences, you are creating them, by what you are. It is a subtle shift from ‘soul identification’ to ‘Heart identification’. In the former you think you are that small little thing which stands there in the world. In Heart you realise that you are at best a cloud that flows along other clouds, a drop in an Ocean. It is not definable. By understanding the task of living, you begin to understand what you are. That is Know thyself, which means know your God. The kind of God you know is what you think you yourself are.”
Yoginâm lives a secluded life in Andalusia. After he graduated from Leyden University with a doctorate degree in cultural anthropology he lived and worked in the Middle East. Gradually however Nâm, as he would call it, became his focus. With it he tries to ‘de-spiritualise’ the spiritual endeavour. He sees that as the essence of human living, which he sees as essentially transcendental. The spiritual endeavour is for him not something ‘religious’ but rather an aspect of natural psychology. It belongs to what he sees as growing up into a mature human being. With Nâm, he presents a way that allows this natural maturity to shape itself, utilising often ancient methods that the traditions of the world have been using since time immemorial.
In my view, because of its focus on essence, resonance and openness, Nâm can also be a ground for cross-cultural understanding and reconciliation. Many contemporary thinkers are calling for a needed change of consciousness, a different orientation to Living. It is a call for Humanity, and I think Yoginâm answers the call with profound meaning and value.
[ii] I recognise that “modern West” would seem a generalised term. In the meaning of a cultural configuration it does not primarily indicate a geographical space, but more a paradigm.
[iii] Matthias Desmet, The Psychology of Totalitarianism (2022).
[iv] Two primary works of Dumont are: Homo Hierarchicus; the caste system and its implications (1970), and Essays on Individualism; modern ideology in anthropological perspective (1986). Quotes and page numbers in this article will refer to the second title.
[v] Louis Dumont, “The Christian Beginnings: From the Outworldly Individual to the individual-in-the-world, in Essays on Individualism (1986), pp. 23-59.
[vi] Louis Dumont, ‘The Totalitarian Disease’, in Essays on Individualism (1986), pp. 149-179.
[vii] I derive the terms closed system and open system from the work of the brilliant Matthew Ehret, who elaborates on these terms in various contexts of analysis, including in relation to paradigms of thought. See www.canadianpatriot.org.
[viii] To indicate when I am referring to a term from the body of Nâm vocabulary, I will write it with a capital and in italic, e.g. ‘’Breath’’