Thread. On the "Emotion of Awe* in the Bhagavad Gita and it's capability to affect the reader.

Based on certain ideas I got from Haidt's "Righteous Mind". 0/n

One of the aspects of scripture is in their ability to connect with readers at an emotional level, apart from providing an exposition to truths.

The is different from what you might get reading an avg contemporary fiction or non-fiction work, which is what makes them influential for ages. 1/n

The Gita, for eg, employs methods like repetition of the same basic ideas using metaphors, imagery etc. to make sure atleast some aspect of the hard-to-grasp truth sticks.

Some of these truths include the powerful, all-encompassing nature of the Supreme and the eternal nature of your Self. 2/n

As another eg.,

From the meaning of "Islam" i.e. submission, you can guess what kind of emotions the Quran wishes to prime in it's serious readers -- the feeling you get when you submit to a higher authority that dispenses rewards and punishments for your acts and beliefs. 3/n

In chapter 11 of the Gita, Shri Krishna agrees to show Arjuna his cosmic form, i.e. the *vishwaroopam*.

As many have reasoned, this acts as proof of Shri Krishna's divine nature and deterrants for future mere-humans posing as Gods.


But what does this mean to the individual readers? What implications or impact does this description of the Lord have for them?

Here, it'd be pertinent to refer to Haidt. In his book, "The Righteous Mind" he charts out a framework for why people are divided by ideologies and religions. 5/n

In the 3rd part of the book, he explores the idea of how group morality binds us and also blinds us.

Haidt spends a good portion of this part telling us that *natural selection maybe applicable at the level of the group* -- not merely at the level of competing individuals of a species. 6/n

This competition is eventually expressed in the form of warfare.

This is what cooperation in large numbers allows for -- a group itself behaving as a superorganism.

Think of highly cooperative species such as ants, that too express warfare. 7/n

What binds us into such a "superorganism" is the ability to believe in & flexibly cooperate around entities greater than the tribe - nations, gods, values etc.

That sets up the ground for codifying "inviolable truths" in scripture and using shared sacred symbols & forms as focal points. 8/n

These shared sacred entities (the gods, identifying symbols) may not make much sense to the rational individual, but they make perfect sense to the "rational group" or superorganism.

And most of the times, these evolve organically over centuries or millenia. 9/n

Thus apart from the individual egoistic and selfish nature, human nature also has a groupish overlay.

We are ultrasocial creatures whose groupish minds helped cohere, cooperate and outcompete other groups. 10/n

We have the ability (under special conditions) to transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves.

That ability is what Haidt calls "The Hive Switch". This switch is a group-related adaptation, to make groups more cohesive. 11/n

We can experience such joy/bliss of this sort through group rituals and congregations -- for eg. group dances, congregations and group chantings in temples, or through spirit of self-sacrifice . 12/n

The very act of congregating itself is powerful stimulant -- as Durkheim puts it in the following excerpt.

It allows you to move from the realm of the "profane" (normal day-to-day concerns) to the realm of the "sacred" - something higher and nobler. 13/n

Now, Haidt discusses three ways in which this "Hive switch" can be activated -- through the emotion of awe (in nature), certain drugs, and raves.

Here's how a certain person describes attending a rave party. 14/n

The *emotion of awe* is relevant to our discussion.

Here's how Ralph Emerson, in the 19th century, describes the rejuvenation and joy gained by looking at stars, farmlands etc.

Note how similar it looks to what happened to Arjuna in Gita where he's gifted "divine eyes". 15/n

Darwin describes a similar experience in his autobiography. 16/n

Emerson and Darwin both found in nature a portal between the realm of the profane and the realm of the sacred.

Even if the hive switch was originally a group-related adaptation, it can be flipped when you’re alone by feelings of awe in nature, as mystics and ascetics have known for millennia. 17/n

The emotion of awe is often triggered when we face situations with 2 features: vastness (overwhelming and makes u feel small) and a need for accommodating something new (i.e. an experience that is not easily assimilated into our existing mental structures. 18/n

"Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked to the hive switch, along with collective love and collective joy." 19/n

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