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The center and circumference of silence: Yoga, poststructuralism, and the rhetoric of paradox

George Kalamaras

[T]he divine eye is center everywhere, circumference nowhere. --Paramahansa Yogananda

THE CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL DEPRIVATION OF POSTSTRUCTURALIST POETICS

In recent decades sacred experience in general, and in particular that of silence, has been interrogated by poststructuralist theory. This critique argues against the naming of a condition that it perceives as being separate from discursive representation, casting such a condition as a 'metaphysics' that sees itself as separate from social and cultural conditions (see, for instance, Derrida 1978: Chapter 4). Hindu philosophies of meditative silence, built as they are upon an examination of nondiscursive realms, quite naturally fall prey to certain of these poststructuralist arguments. Jacques Derrida, for one, depicts the condition of the unsaid as a 'violence of primitive and prelogical silence' (1978: 130). Silence, he maintains, is a condition only of cultural oppression, a 'violence' that the speaking subject must try to overthrow if one is to have any psychological or cultural power. For the postmodern sensibility in general, silence is most often a 'death' that threatens the power to make meaning. Specifically, silence hinders symbolic access to experience; furthermore, in the absence of any 'meaning' it even prevents the endless 'play' of words---or, as Michel Foucault describes, 'mirrors' --themselves, a play of discourse that alone contains, as he argues, 'a single power' that prevents the speaking subject from falling into the abyss of silence:

International Journal of Hindu Studies 1, 1 (April 1997): 3-18. 1997 by the World Heritage Press Inc.

4 / George Kalamaras 'Headed toward death, language turns back upon itself; it encounters something like a mirror; and to stop this death which would stop it, it possesses but a single power: that of giving birth to its own image in a play of mirrors that has no limits' (1977: 54). In such a depiction, then, language becomes the only means of preventing one from slipping into the void of silence, a nihilistic--or, as Derrida argues, 'primitive'--condition that inhibits one's power to make meaning. Within such a depiction, the meditative traditions of India become suspect as either tools of a metaphysical mystification of the rational or philosophies of spiritual transcendence which ignore social dimensions of language and, thus, are grounded in and maintain oppressive systems of discourse. Both one of the greatest strengths and weaknesses in recent decades of poststructuralist poetics (which take their lead from poststructuralist theory) has been to pose problems with the nature of the 'sacred.' While Romantic concepts of sacred experience as a condition lying outside textuality have served in large measure to reinforce hegemonic culture by mystifying discourse and the meanings it inscribes, as several poststructuralist critiques rightly argue, the absence of, and in some cases hostility toward, authentic sacred experience in poetic theory has left our most radical poetries culturally and spiritually deprived. The primary culprit in this deprivation seems to lie in postmoderu epistemology itself. Poststructuralism indeed offers a new liberatory ground from which to critique oppressive systems of discourse. However, its method of dismantling hierarchical systems of discourse faces two serious limitations: the inability to conceive of the condition of paradox as, first of all, a generative experience, and, furthermore, as a kind of 'center' itself, albeit a reconstituted or 'decentered' one. Indeed, the concept of paradox as center ought to be examined with the same scrutiny that accompanies oppressive claims to discursive 'origins.' As Derrida, among others, has argued, a concept of 'origins' implies a first, originary experience, an 'essence,' that language can never represent. 'Origins,' he argues, or 'the meaning of being represented...will never be given us in person, outside the sign or outside play' (Derrida 1976: 266). Such a concept can lead to a hierarchical system which carries with it cultural oppression of those subjects who speak from the margins and not from the center of the privileged discourse. However, I want to argue that the apprehensiveness of radical poetries in the last several decades to even approach a reassessment of concepts of a 'center' suggests itself a kind of oppressive 'center' at the core of poststructuralist poetic theory. Specifically, poststructuralist theory often posits an epistemological ground that holds suspect those systems different from 'itself,' that is, those epistemologies positioned at the circumference of poststructuralism's 'center.' The very ground of meaningfulness of poststructuralist critiques is thus plagued with a binary system of investigation in which deconstructive theory often

The center and circumference of silence / 5 depicts the 'other' of alternative epistemologies as distinct from the 'self,' so to speak, of its own method of discursive analysis. This dichotomy of 'self' and 'other' or 'center' and 'circumference,' ironically, appears to be dissonant with the intersubjective and dialogical ground poststructuralism claims as its domain. As Mikhail Bakhtin describes, language acts shape one another in a kind of 'mutual cause-and-effect and interillumination' (1981: 12). If this is so, then true intersubjectivity needs to include the 'other' not simply as a measure of egalitarian responsibility, nor even as a nod toward benign relativism, but rather as a generative method of refining and even interrogating the ground of meaningfulness of one's own poststructuralist critique. One method of refining the ground of poststructuralist poetic theory, then, might be to reopen a dialogue between seemingly 'distinct' epistemologies, that is, between what lies at both the 'center' and 'circumference' of radical poetic theory. Such a dialogue could be approached not just through classical rhetorical strategies, say, as through the process of dialectic hallowed by Aristotle (1932) and other classical rhetoricians. Nor should it be approached only through the more liberatory analysis of deconstruction, which still often positions competing discourses in a binary way, for instance, as 'others' distinct from the 'self' of a liberatory project. Rather, a new dialogue might occur from within an arena that foregrounds reciprocity, a system, for example, which holds binary categories-such as 'center' and 'circunfference'--suspect. One such arena is Eastern philosophy, particularly the Hindu-yogic tradition that has arisen during the past several centuries in India. A dialogue between Eastern and Western theory, positioned within an arena that foregrounds reciprocity, can enrich not only poststructuralist poetics of the West, but it can also enable Indian philosophy to reconsider itself, as Harold Coward (1990: 12) (following the lead of his teacher, T. R. V. Murti [1983]) notes, from the perspective of the philosophy of language. Because of space limitations, I will center my discussion on the former rather than on the latter of these concerns. It is my intention to focus on paradox as sacred experience, to argue that the reciprocal paradigm of yogic meditative philosophy is a system capable not only of accommodating paradox and recasting it as a generative condition but also of offering an epistemology compatible with that of radical poetics, one that can ultimately enrich poststructuralist poetics in ways truer to their radical intent. Before I proceed with my discussion of the compatibility of the Hindu-yogic tradition and Western poststructuralist poetic theory, however, let me first claim as my philosophical ground the Advalta Ved~ta tradition--radical (or absolute) nondualism--the dominant school of Hinduism. Certainly the meditative traditions of Hinduism are diverse; even, for instance, traditions of Advaita (non-

6 / George Kalamaras dualism) and Vedanta are themselves comprehensive. For instance, although Vedanta chiefly favors a nondualist system, it has manifested in a variety of ways, the most influential being radical nondualism, and even a form of dualism, represented by the dualist school, the Dvalta of Madhva. The term yoga is similarly comprehensive. As Georg Feuerstein notes, yoga 'played a varyingly prominent role in these schools [of Ved~mta] and was interpreted differently by their protagonists' (1990: 389). Yoga, comprised of a variety of specific psychospiritual practices, has as its goal the joining or 'yoking' of the individual 'self' (atman) with the larger, more expansive 'Self' (brahman), t an emphasis on nonduality that it shares with Advaita Ved~mta. (Indeed, the etymology of the word, yoga, itself means 'to join, to yoke.') Therefore, focusing on certain nondual yogic aspects of the Advaita VedS.nta tradition can offer us ways to deepen our understanding of this dominant methodology of Hindu thought and can also help demonstrate its harmony with a major philosophy of the West, poststructuralist poetics. Furthermore, within this tradition, I will emphasize yogic philosophies and practices that enable the practitioner of silence to achieve an awareness of the nondual nature of experience. Self-realization, the Hindu scriptures repeatedly describe, is experiential, and the actual practice of yoga (meditation and asanas) is the central method of attaining the enlightenment state that philosophical discourses describe. In other words, the study and practice of yoga is a site of metaphysical 'praxis.' By claiming the yogic tradition within Advaita V e d ~ t a as my principal citing, then, I also hope to argue implicitly for a further dimension of the nondual aspect of meditative silence, namely, a true praxis in which theories and practices inform one another in reciprocal, nonhierarchical ways. Finally, I will also occasionally draw upon elements of other Eastern mystical philosophies that are closely aligned in purpose with Hinduism, and particularly yogamthose philosophies that share concepts regarding knowledge, as well as silence as the ground of such meaningfulness. Specifically, I will sometimes draw upon Buddhism (especially some of the Mahiy[ma schools such as Zen) and Tantrism (a distinct school of obscure origin within both Hinduism and Buddhism, emphasizing the concept of gakti, or the feminine principle of divine experience, in both outer rituals of devotion and those of a more inner or symbolic nature). I have chosen not to limit my discussion to Hindu-yogic philosophy since the yogic tradition (as is Hinduism) is diverse and varied. Furthermore, and perhaps more significantly, occasionally drawing on the intersections between yoga and other meditative traditions will often allow me to illuminate my points with greater complexity and concreteness. This seems particularly appropriate given the interest in Western poetics in recent decades in both Zen and Tantric Bud-

The center and circumference of silence / 7 dhism. An analysis of the fine lines of distinction between Eastern mystical practices, and even those of the yogic tradition alone, seems more appropriate for an article on comparative religion. Drawing on the commonalties of some core tenets of various Eastern meditative practices as they relate to the Hinduyogic tradition, as I will do here, should more properly facilitate my goal: to demonstrate that yogic meditative philosophy is a system capable not only of accommodating paradox and recasting it as a generative condition but also of offering an epistemology compatible with that of radical poetics, one that can ultimately enrich poststructuralist poetics in ways truer to their radical intent.

YOGIC PHILOSOPHY AND THE PARADOX OF BEING AND BECOMING

The meditative traditions of India have always relied upon paradox as a central method of exploration, as well as a means of describing an experience of 'higher consciousness' itself. Buddhist philosophy (particularly the Zen Ixaditions that arose in China and Japan after Buddhism's migration from India), for example, and its focus on the kOan have attained recognition to various degrees in American poetic theory, from experiments of the Beat poets in the 1950s, up through the introduction of the radical juxtapositions of the Surrealist movement (thanks to the more lucid translations of the past several decades), particularly of the French and Hispanic traditions. As I (Kalamaras 1994:115-17) have argued elsewhere, the seemingly contradictory phrases of traditional Zen kSans, such as 'What is the sound of one hand clapping?' and 'What is your face before your parents were born?,' are designed to short-circuit the discursive capacities of the mind and open it to an experience of the nondiscursive, where seeming opposites reside in a condition of reciprocity rather than conflict. Just as significantly, though, paradox permeates the philosophies of yoga, from methods of attaining 'divine consciousness' to descriptions of the qualities of this experience itself. In the case of the former, for instance, numerous Tantric and Ha.thayogic texts, among others, delineate specific techniques for 'neutralizing' the binary experiences of discursive consciousness. Many of these techniques (such as mentally focusing upon the apparent contradictions of inhalation and exhalation, or even yoking often divergent impulses of 'body' and 'mind' into a more reciprocal 'mind-body' relationship) themselves work with paradoxical techniques. In the case of the latter, BrShman.i. "cal texts such as the Vedas -----especially the fourth and most philosophical of these, the Upani.sads-repeatedly describe the condition of samadhi (the unified experience of medi-

8 / George Kalamaras tators) as a paradoxical condition, where experiences of 'self' and 'other,' 'this' and 'that,' and 'center' and 'circumference' reciprocally reside and are not in conflict. That is, paradox constitutes both the practice of yoga and the outcome (enlightenment). As a generative experience, paradox can lead one to enlightenment and also permeates this supreme consciousness pursued by yog[s and attained by advanced meditators, what Alex Comfort calls 'the oceanic experience' (1984: 4). This highly fluid condition in which opposites reciprocally reside, thus presents an interpretation of paradox as a generative experience which is, indeed, meaningful. One 'paradox' of yogic practice, then, is that the condition of paradox is not only a method of attaining the supreme, unified state of awareness but also an outcome of the practice of paradox itself. To put this another way, paradox is not a method of transcending itself but, rather, a means of investigating itself and of engaging in a more complex and intimate way with a condition of apparent opposition that is nonconflictive and reciprocal. One might say, then, that it enables an epistemology of true 'praxis,' where theory and practice--in this case, 'Self-realization' and meditative technique--are one. More specifically, the supreme realization of 'divine consciousness' is that one's own Being is the same as the condition of Being within the entire universe; furthermore--and perhaps paradoxically--this condition of Being is known by the practitioner to be one that is ever-changing, in short, a condition of Becoming. This is a concept found throughout many central yogic texts, including the Upanis.ads. It is especially articulated in explanations of spanda (the dynamic quality of 'absolute' consciousness) as described in Kashmir ~aivism. As Mark Dyczkowski argues: [T]he dynamic (spatula) character of absolute consciousness is its freedom to assume any form at will through the active diversification of awareness (vimar~a) in time and space, when it is directed at, and assumes the form of, the object of awareness. The motion of absolute consciousness is a creative movement, a transition from the uncreated state of Being to the created state of Becoming. In this sense Being is in a state of perpetual Becoming (satatodita); it constantly phenomenalises into finite expression .... Rightly understood, Being and Becoming are the inner and outer faces of universal consciousness which becomes spontaneously manifest, through its inherent power, as this polarity (1987: 77). Supreme consciousness, then, is a condition in which the consciousness of Being is not static and stable, say, like the nihilistic state that Derrida (1978:

The center and circumference of silence / 9 96-97), for one, attributes to metaphysics, but rather ever-changing and dynamic. In the context of such a nondualist model, in which 'Being is in a state of perpetual Becoming,' I want to suggest that the endless play of meanings that poststructuralist theory locates is, thus, not distinct from but similar to that of meditative awareness of symbolic transaction. Therefore, while poststrucmralism warily points to paradox as a condition of psychic stasis, the meditative traditions of Hindu yoga fred sustenance in paradox. Paramahansa Yogananda has described this experience of cosmic consciousness in paradoxical terms, namely, that 'the divine eye is center everywhere, circumference nowhere' (1981 [1946]: 208). Paradoxically, the yogL through various meditative practices, withdraws consciousness from the periphery of the body in ways which heighten the inner sensorium; in total intimacy with a 'center' of awareness, then, the advanced meditator's consciousness expands to embrace the immensity of the universe, moving beyond all awareness of limitation, psychological borders, or psychic 'circumference.' Since the sacred unified experience embraces all things, it cannot include a condition hostile to itself. That is, when perceived from the perspective of the meditative, nonbifurcated consciousness, one immersed in a condition of nondiscursive psychic expansion or fluidity between 'subject' and 'object,' even apparent conlradictions inform one another in significant nondialectical ways. In other words, in meditative consciousness, the 'profane' of discursive awareness is reconceived as reciprocally connected to the 'sacred' of the nondiscursive---to borrow terms from Mircea Eliade (I959). The 'sacred' experience of cosmic consciousness, consequently, is sacred only because it no longer excludes the 'profane.' One of the great paradoxes of the 'sacred' experience of meditation, therefore, is that nondiscursiveness (or silence) contains symbolic experience. One might say, then, that language culminates in silence, and one locates in silence an emptiness that is 'full.' It is full in large part due to its expanded perception of the interanimation of all things. Silence is also full in that it carries with it, according to the yogic tradition, a profound experience of sound that permeates all things, what yog~s refer to as Ore, the sound of the molecular vibration of the universe one hears when one's consciousness is free of discursive separation between subject and object. As Sir John Woodroffe has noted, Om is the 'Mahagakti,' or 'Radical Vital Potential,' of the universe. '[T]he letters A, U, M, which coalesce into Ore,' he argues, represent the continuous dissolution and rejuvenation of the 'molecular activity' of 'matter' (1985 [1922]: 296). Numerous yogic texts, then, refer to the state of meditative samadhi as an unbroken attentiveness to Om, or to the underlying sound of an undifferentiated universe that exists as unmanifested potential, that

10 / George Kalamaras is, as a 'radical vital potential.' This full-emptiness, what W. T. Stace has described as the 'vacuum-plenum paradox' (1960: 162), is a dynamic state of awareness where silence and sound reciprocate, self and other merge, and distinctions between this and that dissolve. A central paradox, then, exists in Hindu-yogic philosophy in that language and silence are reciprocal rather than conflictive. As poet Octavio Paz, himself a practitioner of Tantric yoga, has noted: If language is the most perfect form of communication, the perfection of language cannot help but be erotic, and it includes death and silence: the failure of language .... Failure? Silence is not a failure, but the end result, the culmination of language. Why do we keep saying that death is absurd? What do we know about death? (1982 [1974]: 14). Western language theory often positions language against silence, emphasizing

logos or the Word. This emphasis on logos, though, is often based upon a false
understanding that meditation strives for a transcendent ground separate from the Word, and that it seeks stable meanings which lie outside linguistic referents. However, in the Hindu-yogic tradition, meditative silence is a symbolic form itself, and the perception the yog~ has within silence is a complete absorption within the layers of this symbolic form, most notably the dimensions of Om, the most sacred of all Hindu mantras. The relationship between silence and symbolic form is a subtle yet pervasive one in Hindu philosophy. To begin with, language has held a central role in Indian philosophy for thousands of years, placing language at the center of all activity---even that of meditative silence. As Coward notes: In contrast to the relatively recent stress on linguistics and the philosophy of language in the West, linguistic speculations were begun by the Hindus before the advent of recorded history. Beginning with the Vedic hymns, which are at least 3,000 years old, the Indian study of language has continued in an unbroken tradition upto [sic] the present day. The Indian approach to language was never narrow or restrictive. Language was examined in relation to consciousness----consciousness not constricted even to human consciousness. All aspects of the world and human experience were thought of as illuminated by language (1980: 3). This emphasis on language has not foregrounded the methodologies of logos over those of silence, as has Western analysis. In fact, at the center of this speculation has been a continuous examination of the integration of language, sound,

The center and circumference of silence / 11

and silence--specifically, that of Vedic mantras. In meditation, for instance, the repetition (either oral or mental) of a mantra is said to affect material and psychic conditions, as C. Mackenzie Brown (1986: 73), among others, has argued. Mantras, therefore, are said to actually activate the dissolution of dualistic perceptions, helping the meditator attain nondualistic realization. In the Hindu tradition, as Woodroffe (1985 [1922]: 113, 165-74) describes, one such mantra, harhsa, is said to have the capacity to unite both masculine and feminine tendencies, ham referring to Siva, or the masculine principle of the universe, and sa referring to Sakti, or the feminine tendency. Harnsa means 'I am He/She,' and is also a mantra often used to unite one's consciousness with that of brahman ('He/She'). When one attains the consciousness of unification with the Creator of all things, then, one attains a unified Self in which all opposites-even those of masculine and feminine aspects--are dissolved. There are numerous mantras, each used for different purposes or to effect particular material and psychic occurrences, the most important being, Om, the root sound and source of all other mantras. Ore, specifically, is described by yog~s as one of the most predominant manifestations (along with light) of deep, meditative attention. The Upani.sads, for instance, abound with descriptions of Om as the source of all things. The Man.d.ukya Upani.sad (1.1) is particularly explicit in its depiction of Om as the eternal source: 'The syllable Om [which is the imperishable brahman] is the universe.' Becoming one with Ore--the imperishable brahman--yog~s tell us, enables one to realize the supreme Self. As the Ma.n4.ukya Upani.sad (1.12) continues: 'The Fourth, the Self, is Om, the indivisible syllable. This syllable is unutterable and beyond mind. In it the manifold universe disappears. It is the supreme good---One without a second. Whosoever knows Om, the Self, becomes the Self.' A full description of the complexities of this most sacred of all Hindu mantras is beyond the scope of this present analysis. However, I want to emphasize that central to nearly all Hindu traditions--particularly those rooted in Vedic, Ved~mtic, and Yogic schoolSl-is a focus on the primacy of silence as the Word (not as a condition separate from it), and the concept that the realm of nonconceptualization (meditative samadhi) is permeated with the all-encompassing sound, Om. Because the condition of nonconceptualization is itself nondualistic, its primary experience, Om, is likewise nondualistic--'One without a second,' as the Man..dukya Upanisad describes---containing within its manifestation the ability to resolve all contraries and recast paradox as reciprocal rather than dichotomous. At the core of nonconceptualization, therefore, lies the condition of paradox--a sound-filled silence. It is within the realm of this paradox in which other paradoxes (such as subject and object, or symbol user and symbol) become resolved.

12 / George Kalamaras A THEORY OF THE SACRED IN POSTSTRUCTURALIST POETICS:

'CENTER EVERYWHERE, CIRCUMFERENCE NOWHERE'

This reciprocal paradigm of yogic meditative philosophy, a system capable of accommodating paradox as a generative experience, can offer to the poststructuralist perspective an epistemology that is compatible with it, one that can enrich poststrncturalist poetics in ways truer to their radical intent. That is, the silences or discursive gaps demonstrated and at times even evoked in radical poetry such as that of the 'language' poetry movement, can be recast in light of yogic meditative philosophy as conditions of 'emptiness' which axe, paradoxically, 'frill' of meaning. One such meaning might be the reconstitution, say, of the significance of 'center' and 'circumference' and a more complex rendering of their reciprocity. As Yogananda has described the samddhi experience, 'the divine eye is center everywhere, circumference nowhere.' Such an argument for a reading of poststrncturalism through the lens of Eastern meditative texts is not widely accepted in radical poetics. Poststructuralist poetic movements often focus on the nonreferential aspect of textual symbols. One example is 'language' poetry, a radical poetics that has exerted much influence in American poetry since the early 1970s. The work of Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, Roll Silliman, and Rae Armantrout, among others, is typical of this radical school. Although writers connected to this 'movement' hesitate to define the poetics of language poetry---e~specially because language poetry is by no means monolithicnwe can make some observations about the poetic ideas that language poets share. As Joel Lewis describes, language poetry, following the lead of poststructuralist theorists such as Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Foucault, and others, developed a stance that treats the poem as a text that is a part of a larger intertextual discourse. Rejected is the idea of the isolated iconic poem (that New Critic ideal) or the notion that language is purely representational--the idea of language as being a carrier for meaning that melts away as a story or anecdote unfolds. This emphasis is on textuality. The notion of the poem as a wellwrought urn, a perfect unity with an absolute meaning beyond paraphrase, gives way to the notion of the poem as a linguistic complex, a field of meaning, and the poet as a sort of air-traffic controller for the numerous cultural and ideological codes that make up the poem (1990: 23-24). Emphasizing textuality and ideology, then, language poetry (as well as other poststrncturalist poetic theories and practices which share a common interest in

The center and circumference of silence / 13 'language' as a culturally-grounded nonreferential symbol) sees its project as foregrounding social critique and demystifying oppressive forms of discourse (see, for instance, Bernstein's edited collection [1990]). One such form is the discourse of 'mysticism,' which from the perspective of this critique is often perceived as a romanticized 'transcendental' philosophy which privileges individual experience and the transcendence of symbolic expression over social and historical factors which shape and are shaped by symbolic form. However, as I have argued in my discussion of Ore, the arena of mysticism does not ever 'transcend' symbolic form but actually enables the meditator to enter a deeper, more complex relationship with symbolic expression, that is, with the textures of sound and silence. This may require one further point of elaboration, one more explicit to Western poetics. Specifically, similar to Gaston Bachelard's concept of 'intimate immensity' (1969 [1964]: 183-210), where the image user achieves psychic vastness from concentrated attention upon a poetic image, the meditator likewise achieves psychic 'immensity' (the yogic sam&thi experience) from an 'intimate' attention to various yogic techniques, those grounded chiefly in paradox. For example, by concentrating upon the symbolic form of a mantra (the paradox being sound and silence), or even, say, upon one's own breathing (the paradox being inhalation and exhalation), yoggs can become so intimate with the symbol that they psychically merge with it. To put this another way, yog~s, by interiorizing consciousness through deep attention to and concentration upon various symbolic experiences, become 'intimate' with these experiences and with their 'individual' consciousness. Through such intimacy, they attain the psychic vastness of cosmic consciousness, a fluid, paradoxical, and nondiscursive condition where opposites reciprocate, and such concepts as 'individual' are lost in the more 'public' experience of being interconnected with the consciousness in all things (for a more detailed discussion of the nontranscendental quality of yogic meditation, see Kalamaras 1994: 186--96). I want to turn now to a recent interview in Lingo with the French writer Claude Royet-Journoud (1995: 160--67). While Royet-Journoud would probably resist my attempt to connect concepts in his work to those of Hindu philosophy - - i n light of the poststructuralist critique of mysticism above--his discussion of concepts of 'center' nonetheless can provide insight into some of the similarities between poststructuralist and Indian mystical concepts of 'center,' as well as begin pointing to a reconsideration of the meaningfulness of a concept of 'center' in radical poetics. I have chosen Royet-Journoud as my principal citing not only because he has been instrumental in beginning a conversation between contemporary French and American poetry, but also because his articulation of the concept of 'center' illus-

14 / George Kalamaras trates the kind of paradox at work in both poststructuralist poetic theory and philosophies of meditative silence. Such an examination of similarities, I want to argue, can help demonstrate that the reciprocal paradigm of yogic meditative philosophy can indeed offer an epistemology compatible with that of radical poetics, one that can ultimately enrich poststructuralist poetics in ways truer to their radical intent. In particular, examining similarities can help reintroduce into poststructuralist poetics a concept of the 'sacred' without sacrificing a critique of 'transcendent' (and implicitly hierarchical) forms of discourse that are oppressive. Royet-Journoud describes the concept of a 'center' in terms of his writing this way: I've always seen my books as it were in suspension along the fluid periphery and at the same time linked by a shared center. Something of a fiction, of course, since I don't believe in a center any more than in origins .... But the center that unites all four [books] is always something in process of dissolving, of coming undone (1995: 161). Royet-Journoud thus argues for the postmodem sensibility prevalent in movements such as language poetics: a concept of text as decentered language-body, elliptical yet social, neither pointing outside of itself for meaning nor inward toward 'deeper' signification. While Royet-Journoud posits the existence of a 'center,' he simultaneously deconstructs this concept, reconceiving it as unstable, and existing, if you will, 'in a process of dissolving, of coming undone.' He points to a key paradox, therefore, at the core of poetics which take poststructuralism as their epistemological ground: the relationship between Being and Becoming. Furthermore, true to poststructuralist theory, Royet-Journoud questions the concept of 'Being,' arguing that a text's 'meaning' has no stable point of origins, but that 'meaning' lies (if at all) in the enactment of confronting a text's opacity. Here, then, he echoes Derrida's description of 'origins' (1976: 266), as well as theories of nonreferential symbols espoused by other French poststructuralists. His argument also corresponds to that of American language poet Bruce Andrews, who notes, for instance, that '[w]hat we face first is the language seen in formal terms: the sign. There is no "direct treatment" of the thing possible, except of the "things" of language. Crystalline poetry---or transparency--will not be found in words' (1990: 104; emphasis in original). The 'center' of Being, that is, ultimately cannot exist, for such existence implies meaning outside of Being, outside of the text. Furthermore, to even attempt to name this condition implies textual stability, an illusion and phantom. Like many poststructuralist thinkers, then, Royet-Journoud's theory of textu-

The center andcircumference of silence / 15


ality approaches the limitation of its epistemological method. Many poststrncturalist critiques of paradox therefore conceive of it as stasis, a condition that language cannot ever penetrate, much less get beyond. A mystifying and binding form, paradox deepens the opacity of textual meaning. The best that can be hoped for is to keep talking in the midst of such textual suspension, what Paul Christensen has described as 'The language merely drift[ing] forward, advancing in medium-width columns down the page, beginning arbitrarily and ending arbitrarily' (1986: 22). But what if this 'something' that Royet-Journoud points to were reconceived not as a condition of merely static origins? What if this 'something' were reconceived--in the context of Hindu-yogic philosophy-as a condition of origins that was 'original,' but it was original only because by its fluid, continuous nature it posed problems with a static worldview, even, paradoxically, with the very idea of its own 'original' existence? In other words, what if the point of origins was 'original' only because it was continuously in flux? Furthermore, what if poststrncturalist poetry took up the charge of its own implication, finding in the ground of its syntactic slippages and paradoxical meanderings a stable instability, so to speak, a condition of Being that is always Becoming? If we were to read Royet-Journoud through the more reciprocal paradigm depicted in philosophies of yoga, we would see that he begins to take up the challenge of paradox (albeit by implication), pointing to it as a possible way to reconstitute textual stasis in terms of something more fluid yet persistent, dissolving yet present. As he has argued, even though 'the center...is always something in process of dissolving, of coming undone,' it is nonetheless present. That is, the 'center,' as he notes, is '[s]omething of a fiction' (emphasis added). If it is '[s]omething of a fiction,' then it might also simultaneously be something that is not a fiction. Here, then, Royet-Journoud approaches the language of the mystic, who holds paradox as central to a description of the experience of meditative silence. More precisely, the yogg turns to paradox as the only means of expressing in an unfettered way a perception of exl~rience of simultaneity, one of psychic fluidity between subject and object. Such consciousness is often referred to by yogis in paradoxical terms as 'net/, net/,' as in the B.rhadaran.yaka Upanis.ad (4.5.15), where 'IT]he Self is described as not this, not this.' Paradox, therefore, permeates the consciousness and discourse of the yogT. The 'center' of meditative awareness, like Royet-Journoud's center, is only a center because it is dynamic and not static, that is, because it is 'in the process of dissolving, of coming undone' and not in the process of solidifying. One might perceive this 'center' in meditation and poetry, consequently, as a liminal space, one which looks neither forward nor backward toward meaning but is itself entirely because its condition of Being is a state of perpetual Becoming. Here, it

16 / George Kalamaras is worth repeating Dyczkowski's point that, 'The motion of absolute consciousness is a creative movement, a transition from the uncreated state of Being to the created state of Becoming. In this sense Being is in a state of perpetual Becoming.' C. H. Knoblauch (1988: 138) argues that a dialogical ideology (one that takes up the charge of the Marxist argument for a rhetoric of intersubjectivity)----if it is to be truly dialogical--must present opportunities for critique of its own position. I have been arguing that one limitation of poststructuralist analysis has been its very method of investigation, one that positions the 'other' of alternative epistemologies as distinct from the 'self' of its own method of discursive analysis. Reading poststructuralism through the less binary, more reciprocal lens of yogic philosophy offers an opportunity for the kind of critique Knoblauch suggests. Recently, Andrew Joron has taken up a critique of poststructuralist poetics. He tells us: If metapoetics is an owl's flight, in that critical theory can never fully anticipate, much less produce, the object of criticism, then an untheorized-perhaps untheorizable--moment exists at the inception of the poetic object. Renewed interest in Surrealism attests to a desire to resituate poetry at exactly this point where practice exceeds its theoretical measure--a point of Utopian discontinuity (Joron 1995: 12). The philosophies of the East and, in particular, the experiences of yogic meditation offerjust such a 'utopian discontinuity' that can inform our radical poetries in ways which reintroduce the quality of the sacred back into poetic theory without succumbing to hierarchies and oppression. What is 'utopian' is the permanence of Being, of a 'center everywhere'; what is 'discontinuous' is the shifting of this point of reference, the continual 'process of dissolving' of which RoyetJournoud speaks. It is a condition of Being that is always Becoming, or in the words of the great yog~ Paramahansa Yogananda, it is a condition where 'the divine eye' of mystical union 'is center everywhere, circumference nowhere.'

Notes

1. Central to Hindu mystical practice is the assumption of one's own yet-to-be-realized divinity, that is, undifferentiated, nondualistic consciousness--what the Hindu refers to as an identification of the individual divine principle (atman or self) with the broader, ultimate principle (~tman or Self). The former is the divine principle manifesting within the confines of ego-personality, while the latter is the unrestricted divine

The center and circumference of silence / 17


principle manifesting as the expansive Self. Such an awareness of Self is paramount to an identification with brahman, the originary principle that underlies all creation. Thus, ~man and ~tman are really the same; it is only for spiritual aspirants to perceive and experience this nondualism for themselves. I have capitalized the word Self in those places where the concept is meant to denote the condition of the expansive, 'realized' awareness to which Hindu-yogic philosophy attests, while I have used the small case to denote the more limited awareness that is restricted by ego-personality.

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GEORGE KALAMARAS is Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.