Conformism and Crowd Violence: When the Majority is Really a Mob

In the final weeks of the fall semester 2013 I asked the students in my “Introduction to Literary Criticism” course to read René Girard’s I See Satan Fall like Lightning (2001), which with The Scapegoat (1981) is one of the best portals to the man’s thinking.  I lectured a good deal on Girard’s text and […]

Strength, Spirituality, and Masculinity Against Materialism

“Make your nerves strong,” said Swami Vivekananda, “What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel. We have wept long enough. No more weeping, but stand on your feet and be men. First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards.” That religion will come after — and in some sense […]

The Four Warrior Practices for Achieving: Anytime, Anywhere

We’re all human. So why can some face down even the most terrifying situations, overcoming overwhelming odds, and achieving what so many others others might believe impossible? Reading the classical commentaries on the martial arts, listening to contemporary masters, and hearing how contemporary elite military units tackle situations, tells us that there are less than […]

Hinduism’s Cosmology of the Divine Mother

On the occasion of Navarātrī, Dirk Gysels, historian and civil servant of the Belgian kingdom, spoke, at the request of his daughter Freya who runs a centre of devotional and ritualistic yoga to the north of Antwerp, about the “Cosmology of the Divine Mother”.  I present the major  lines of the discourse of Dirk, who himself practises Śākta spirituality. In […]

The Veil Illuminated: Photographer Drew Tal Reimagines the Niqab in New Exhibit

“Worlds Apart,” an exhibition of photographic works by Drew Tal opened at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery last week. The focus of the exhibition – which is also being shown in Istanbul, Turkey – is the Muslim veil. Most of the works are, at least ostensibly, portraits of various Muslim women, some wearing the niqab (veil) and some […]

Adversity, and its Importance

Ferdinand Hodler, The Day (detail).

Friederich Nietzsche tells us that “whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.” It’s a bold statement. Yet, though today the culture often seems to reward those who wallow in self-pity (not least of all through litigation for emotional upsets and “offense”), adversity has played a crucial part in the spiritual, intellectual, and creative development […]

Is Hinduism Rational? (Part II)

“Subration is the mental process whereby one disvalues some previously appraised object or content of consciousness because of its being contradicted by a new experience. […] From the standpoint of the subject, to subrate means to undergo an experience — practical, intellectual, or spiritual — which radically changes one’s judgment about something. An object or […]

Is Hinduism Rational? (Part I)

I am well accustomed to being the only religious person in the room. My social circle is fairly diverse, but the friends that I have known the longest and with whom I have been the closest have largely been atheists (some more militant about it than others). Even with the more extreme among them, I […]