Saturday, 24 August 2019 at 21:35
Historically, there has been a central philosophical issue.
The relationship of the individual human being to the One, the originating entity, Spinoza’s Substance, the All, Nature, or God if you will.
This is a central issue because it impacts upon thinking about what it means to be human.
The emanation of all manifest things from the One was a concept originating in Plato’s work and neo-platonism.
Importantly, this Platonic emanationism was taken up by Judaic Kabbalah in the Middle Ages and was absorbed into mainstream western thinking in all its variants, be they philosophical, theological, alchemical, scientific and more.
A key figures in all this was Isaac Luria (pictured), who reworked the Kabbalah into a metaphor of exile and return, which resonated with Jews as disparate in their approaches as Spinoza and Sabbatai Zevi.
Spinoza was undoubtedly the catalyst figure in the development of enlightenment thinking.
Kabbalistic Freemasonry and the scientific endeavours of the Royal Society also had huge influences, to such an extent that the thought medium in which we now all swim is a kabbalistic-scientific soup.
The human being is reduced to being one amongst countless other manifestations of the One, a mode of existence of the One, that is one amongst countless other manifestations of Nature.
The often unspoken watchword of this near-universal standpoint of modern times is - ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’, meaning that mankind is powerless to change Nature; the best we can hope to do is understand it and submit to it.
And yet - to submit to the Law of the One is the suicide of the self.
How is the self preserved? How is the self reborn?
© John Dunn.
Monday, 12 August 2019 at 21:11
Reading Benjamin Crowe’s essay Heidegger's Romantic Personalism prompted a metaphor in my thinking.
Crowe writes that Martin Heidegger (left) aimed to replace superficial banality with "inner truthfulness" by calling into question the "masks" behind which individuals and societieshide from the task of self-responsibility.
Another way of looking at what Heidegger deems to be the philosopher’s task is to see him as the irritant sand within the oyster, with the irritant being a metaphor for induced anxiety.
The "rigour" of philosophy, which "must heighten anxious worry in its constant renewal in the facticity of Dasein, and must ultimately make actual Dasein insecure" (Collected Works, 59 174). Philosophy is to be understood, in Heidegger's view, as a "counter-motion," a "motion against [Gegenbewegtheit]" the "ruinance" that life inflicts upon itself (Collected Works, 61 132/99). Philosophy must join "the constant struggle of factical, philosophical interpretation against its own ruinance, a struggle that always accompanies the process of the actualisation of philosophising" (Collected Works, 61 153/114).
Out of the response to the philosophically induced anxiousness will come the pearl of authenticity. Thus the role of the philosopher is to make life hard for itself.
This [i.e., making life hard] is the only duty philosophical research can be required to fulfil, unless of course it wants to miss its object completely. All making it easy, all the seductive compromising of needs, all the metaphysical tranquillisers prescribed for problems that have been for the most part derived from mere book learning - the basic intention of all of this is from the start to give up with regard to thetask that must in each case be carried out, namely, bringing the object of philosophy into view, grasping it, and, indeed, preserving it (Natorp Report). Posted by John Dunn.
The One conundrum
Saturday, 10 August 2019 at 20:25
The kabbalistic Tree of Life was first formulated as an image in 1516 as the frontispiece to the Latin translation of Gikatilla's Gates of Light.
A development of the image later appeared in Cordovero's Pardes Rimonim, published in Cracow in 1591.
A later development was created by Robert Fludd in 1620 - illustrating in an overtly inverted tree that everything has its roots in the One, which is above all.
The Tree popularly known today appeared in Oedipus Aegyptiacus of Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest, published in the middle of the 17th century.
This dates the visual development of the Tree of Life to the period coveringthe height of the Reformation to the end of the Thirty Years War, whichmay have some relevance.
The Tree of Life is a pantheistic depiction of oneness as a picture of the macrocosm. It gives an account of the creation of the world, accompanied by the Sefirot emanating from the transcendent God. It also charts the cosmic harmony of the universe upheld by the Sefirot under the constraining influence of the polar system of opposites. In short, it is a model of the divine world order, and in manifesting the invisible God through His attributes, it is also an image of God as everything.
Where does this leave the freedom of man within this God as everything?
This is a conundrum confronted by Freemasonry. Labor in the First Degree hasthe goal of the individuation of the Self, and in the process of interior development this individuation is essential. Only a person operating from the level of Tiferet/Self can assume responsibilities andexercise freewill. This is the rationale for placing the Self at Tiferet, the sefirah (singular) connected with ego.
Yet an independent entity with genuine freewill is inconsistent with the existence of a pantheistic oneness. In the course of the mystical ascent that is the apparent Freemasonry path, there comes a time when one must surrender one's freewill to the Divine Will; and, indeed, one must give up the concept of one's Self as an separate entity.
In this sense, the Tree of Life can also refer to man as a microcosm, the ideal man created in the image of God. Interpreted in this way, it becomes a way of salvation for the mystic seeking deliverance from the bonds of flesh through the soul's union with God. The arrangement of the Sefirot from the bottom to the top of the diagram marks the path which he has tofollow in order to attain the ultimate goal, the crown of heaven represented by the Sefirah number one, Keter.
© John Dunn.
A Seraph is a lover
Thursday, 8 August 2019 at 21:20
In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote that: ‘in the court beyond the world, closest to the most exalted Godhead’… the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones occupy ‘the first places’.
He argued there is no reason why we cannot aspire to be like the first amongst these angelic orders i.e., the Seraphim, which ‘burns with the fire of charity’.
Attainment of the status of Seraph is all about love.
‘If we burn with love for the Creator only’, wrote Pico, ‘His consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim’.
Then comes the transfigurative leap. Pico wrote:
Whoever is a Seraph, that is a lover, is in God and God is in him; even, it may be said, God and he are one.This is the love and dialectical relationship to God from 1John:
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)This is God and man in a dialectically sustaining relationship, one needing the other.
© John Dunn.
Tuesday, 6 August 2019 at 21:09
I have read an article recently in which the author states the Freemasonic view of the Renaissance, arguably the current culturally paradigmatic view.* He wrote:
Three fundamental ideas seem to characterise the Renaissance view: First, theDeity was considered to be without limit. This resulted in a view of all existence as a single, tightly integrated unity centred on the Deity. A particularly clear statement of this view comes from the Hermetica:‘... for God contains all things, and there is nothing that is not in God, and nothing which God is not. Nay, I would rather say, not that God contains all things, but that, to speak the full truth, God is all things.’Second, earthly experiences were considered to reflect events in the heavenly realms; the succinct statement of this idea is, ‘As above; so below.’ There must be a correspondence between that which occurs in the higher (heavenly, causal) levels and that which occurs at the lower (earthly) ones. Third, knowledge of the ‘higher,’ or more subtle, aspects of the Universe was thought to be available only by experience (i.e. by one’s own revelation); certainly not by logical argument, nor, ultimately, by faith in the authority of another’s revelations.However, it seems to me that this mono-cosmography or, to use a more familiar term, pantheistic worldview, became the dominant thinking of the Enlightenment following the Renaissance, during a Counter-Renaissance so to speak. These ideas were perhaps driven by the concept of The One in Platonic and neo-Platonic thought, as well as the Judaic Kabbalah, which was derived from Platonism, as far as the ineffable Oneness of the beginning of things is concerned. These ideas took hold during the Renaissance with Plethon’s reintroduction of Plato’s writings into the West, as well as the surge of interest in the Kabbalah in Western Europe at roughly the same time, and contributed to the downfall of the Renaissance in a Counter-Renaissance. Mono-cosmographical ideas are found amongst all the canonised prophets of the modern era, most notably in Jung’s work.
Freemasonry may operate secretly, but in doing so it is reinforcing the dominant intellectual paradigm of our time. It counters the idea of the separateness of creatures from the creator, which was the core principle of Renaissance thought, i.e., the idea of capax Dei, the capacity for God, the capacity of man to be a disrupter, destroyer or creator in his own right.
*W. Kirk MacNulty, Masonic Tracing Boards and the Western Metaphysical Tradition.
© John Dunn.
Giddy in Gidding
Monday, 5 August 2019 at 21:44
Of course, consciousness, especially whilst most of those around you remain asleep,is exhilarating. It offers the prospect of joining equally enlightened comrades in a conscious elite, who will lead an unconscious and passive majority into newly managed circumstances for the benefit of everyman.
A19th century version of a Shakespearean ghost: Parnell as Macbeth and Dr Cronin as Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth. By: Tom Merry in St Stephen’s Review, 2 June 1889. Wellcome Library reference: 564962i.
This privileged insight compensated for the fact that, rather than being free of the laws that direct me, be they natural or social, I remained subject to them. The reinvigorated battle cry of materialists down the ages has emphasised the perversity of this passivity - ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’. As a Marxist initiate, access to elite knowledge would serve me as the consolatory counterweight to the new passivity for many years. After all where might the alternative to my materially derived knowledge originate - from those gods? ‘The point, however, is to change it’, wrote the young Marx about the world. But hiswords had quite the opposite impact. My Marxism not only rationalised the fiction of life in the world, but also exonerated my willing participation in its current form as ‘necessity’.
But doubt could not be kept out. It intruded into the fiction like Banquo’s ghost at the banquet. The question stopped me in my tracks. I remember the exact circumstances in which it happened, whilst cycling, on a bend in the lane between Old Weston and Great Gidding in Cambridgeshire. Such was the intensity of the moment, I was literally stopped in my tracks. I paused at a field gate to ponder the question - what am I?
© John Dunn.
Thursday, 1 August 2019 at 21:39
Gustave Doré, Dante in a dark wood
You may not know it, but you are probably a Marxist. Marxism is the basis of all the so-called Left and Right political and philosophical creeds of our time - anarchism, communism, socialism, liberalism, libertarianism and conservatism. Marxism grew out of Spinozism. The modern world to this extent is a Spinozist world - a world obsessed by oneness, wholeness, togetherness - and I mean this at a deeply philosophical level, not only the warm platitudes of media-driven popular culture. The individual is lost in the dark wood of all this inclusiveness, not simply subsumed into the crowd, I mean lost to himself.
Whilst trapped in the darkness we will experience slavery as freedom, in other words the ‘freedom’ to pursue actions prompted by others, human or machine. There are forces that have a political and economic interest in this death of the self, the dehumanisers who do not want you to see the human as a disrupter of equilibria, but rather as a colluder serving the interests of their equilibrium.
The would-be escapee must first win a personal battle to save the ‘I’ or all is lost - forever. This is the quest for the Grail of our times, the answer to the question - what is the I? Or to put is more personally - who am I?
© John Dunn.