Yoga Sutras 1.9

I.K Taimni's Yoga Sutras 1.9

Sutra 1.9 acknowledges imagination.  I can’t say I like Taimni’s translation with its number of negative connotations (words like ’empty’, ‘devoid’ and ‘fancy’).  My intuition, in fact, is that it is a bad translation (biased).  Taimni wrote this for Westerners around 1960, precisely at the zenith (imho) of positivism.  Sadly, however, I do not know Sanskrit, so I can’t really go about correcting it.  Actually, I’m going to try.  My version is:

Cognition predominately aligned with and sourced in internal subjective states, processes and reflections is termed “imagination”.

Iow, imagination is primarily the result of contact with some “object” “inside” the “mind (body)”.  And if that doesn’t accord with Patanjali‘s intention, I’m fine with that.  Having read more than a few books on cognitive science and the nature of metaphor as a (the) foundation of cognition, I consider myself, and modern science in general, to be adequate to the task of defining something which isn’t going to get much treatment in the Sutras, since it is just a Vrtti, and something that is intended to be suppressed anyway.

Taimni states:

The first two categories of mental modifications exhaust all kinds of experiences in which there is some kind of contact with an object outside the mind. These may therefore be called ‘objective’ in their nature. Now we come to the other two kinds of Vrttis in which there is no such contact and the mental image is a pure creation of the mind. Here again we have two subdivisions. If the mental modification is based upon a previous experience and merely reproduces it we have a case of memory.  If it is not based upon an actual experience in the past or has nothing to correspond to in the field of actual experience but is a pure creation of the mind then it is fancy or imagination.

Taimni then acknowledges that imagination is “derived ultimately from the sensuous perceptions which we have actually experienced sometime or other, but the combinations are novel and these do not correspond to any actual experience… The two categories of memory and fancy on account of the absence of any contact with an external object which stimulates the mental image may be called ‘subjective’ in their nature.

Is there much else to say about imagination here?  There is much more to say about imagination in general.  Does it apply to the enterprise of Yoga, to the goal of inhibiting the modifications of the mind?  Hmm…  Probably.  The cognitive linguists and cognitive scientists have been discovering that pretty much all of human understanding is metaphorical in nature (from Wikipedia: Cognitive Metaphor):

In cognitive linguisticsconceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another, for example, understanding quantity in terms of directionality (e.g. “prices are rising”). A conceptual domain can be any coherent organization of human experience. The regularity with which different languages employ the same metaphors, which often appear to be perceptually based, has led to the hypothesis that the mapping between conceptual domains corresponds to neural mappings in the brain.

Or, from Wikipedia’s article on Metaphor:

Conceptual metaphor

Main article: Conceptual metaphor

Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In Metaphors We Live By George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. A common definition of a metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way. They explain how a metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. The authors call this concept a ‘conduit metaphor.’ By this they meant that a speaker can put ideas or objects into words or containers, and then send them along a channel, or conduit, to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. In other words, communication is something that ideas go into. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors we use, such as “argument is war” and “time is money.” Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors also suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: “Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself.” (Johnson, Lakoff, 1980).

Another good book is The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind’s Hidden Complexities

Why am I talking about all this?  Notice that little line in the Wikipedia quote above: “A common definition of a metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way.”  Doesn’t this seem a lot like the realm of correspondence/dissimilarity in sutras 1.7 and 1.8?  Iow, we could have a perception/cognition that on one level (superficially) does not correspond with anything, but that, upon deeper (looser) examination, does.  In fact, metaphor becomes the bridge between all wrong (cartoonish) perceptions and the actual correspondences between those perceptions/cognitions and “the object”.  So, although Taimni (and perhaps Patanjali) toss imagination out the door, in fact, imagination is one way that correspondences are established between dissimilar perceptions/cognitions.  So, it would seem that imagination (of course, I may simply be conflating imagination with metaphor) is a road or a doorway from Viparyaya to Pramana…

Lastly, although I am not going to say why, I recommend reading the following blog post as well as all the comments:

Reflections on the Red Book by Carl Jung

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