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The Puzzle of Playful Matters in Non-Dual Śaivism and Sāṃkhya: Reviving Prakṛti in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā through Goethean Organics

Department of Philosophy, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Religions 2020, 11(5), 221;
Received: 15 February 2020 / Revised: 3 April 2020 / Accepted: 10 April 2020 / Published: 30 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Abhinavagupta is widely viewed to be a cautious, perceptive, and sympathetic reader (even of his opponents), with some researchers even celebrating him as a pre-modern intellectual historian. But scholars all too often underestimate how and why Abhinava misreads many of his rivals. Abhinava’s treatment of the Sāṃkhya Kārikā (SK) illustrates this. Abhinava and Sāṃkhya alike hold to the doctrine that effects share identity with or reside within their cause (satkāryavāda). But according to Abhinava, Īśvarakṛṣṇa (and other Sāṃkhya thinkers) fails to explain how a cause (sat) can give rise to its effects (kārya, including the manifestations of effects) without ceasing to be itself, since the underlying material cause (mūlaprakṛti), e.g., a square, changes its identity from one manifestation (vyaktaprakṛti) to the next, e.g., a triangle. In place of this, Abhinava argues that only the Pratyabhijñā approach can account for satkārya and abhivyakti (manifestation). Causes and effects, Abhinava tells us, are but expressions of how divine super-consciousness (Śiva) appears to itself through the playful manifestation of a seemingly material other (Śakti). However, a closer reading of the canonical Sāṃkhya text, the Sāṃkhya Kārikā, reveals that this system originally advocated a metaphysics of living nature, not inanimate matter. From this basic yet important correction, Sāṃkhya could explain the very same playful interface between cause and manifest effect described by Abhinava, since the manifest procreativity (vyaktaprakṛti) of organic nature exhibits constancy in the midst of its self-transformations. I draw this out through a critique of the modern scientific assumptions that underlie much Sāṃkhya research, and in its place I develop an organicist reading that is informed by Goethe’s phenomenological science of life. This approach helps to resuscitate core Sāṃkhya metaphysical categories in terms of their directed and intelligent aliveness (not just their materiality). Moreover, it offers clues to why Pratyabhijñā misinterpreted the SK: (1) it gave allegiance to classical Sāṃkhya commentaries (many of which misconstrued Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s views), and (2) its organizing philosophical narrative precluded metaphysical dualism and the self-sufficient power of nature to conceal itself. View Full-Text
Keywords: satkāryavāda; vyaktaprakṛti; abhivyakti; Sāṃkhya; Pratyabhijñā satkāryavāda; vyaktaprakṛti; abhivyakti; Sāṃkhya; Pratyabhijñā
MDPI and ACS Style

Ashton, G. The Puzzle of Playful Matters in Non-Dual Śaivism and Sāṃkhya: Reviving Prakṛti in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā through Goethean Organics. Religions 2020, 11, 221.

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