Thoughts on a Gnoseology of Metaphorics

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We have grown weary of the man that thinks.
He thinks and it is not true. The man below
Imagines and it is true, as if he thought
By imagining, anti-logician, quick,
With a logic of transforming certitudes.
-Wallace Stevens, Sombre Figuration

I have come to realize, after all my years of studying philosophy and psychology, that my own personal gnoseology must be one I am calling “metaphorics.” I name it this to accentuate the primary use of metaphorical thinking in the acquisition of knowledge, or, rather, gnosis. What is metaphorical thinking, or metaphorics? Metaphorics is the type of thinking that occurs in art, mysticism, poetry, and mythologizing. Unlike its cousin, logical analysis, metaphorics does not need to set up a dichotomy between subject and object. Even though this type of thinking has its usefulness, this is a reductionist practice that transforms beings into objects to be analyzed by a subject. This is why metaphorics is more primary to our experience. In a gnoseology of metaphorics, beings are accepted phenomenologically, as they are in reality, be they humans, animals, plants, stones, etc. In metaphorics, The need to split object from subject does not arise.

Why do I use the word, “gnoseology?” It denotes more the sense of an inward, revelatory knowledge than the usual term, “epistemology.” The ancient Greek language had several words for knowledge, two of which were gnosis, and episteme. In short, both mean a “theory of knowledge,” but gnosis has more of a sense of non-sensory, experiential, intuitive knowledge, while episteme leans more toward a scientific type of knowledge. Knowledge that emanates from the Cosmic Mind is more of a revealing, or unconcealing of truth. It arises sometimes spontaneously, perhaps in a “Eureka moment,” or through meditation or active imagination. A fine article by Rev. Fr. Troy W. Pierece called, Gnosis, Episteme, and Doxia, Oh My!, explains the differences between gnosis and episteme quite well.

 So, a gnoseology of metaphorics is a theory of how imaginal knowledge is acquired through communing with the Cosmic Mind. I have discussed this very briefly in my article, Bruno and the Cosmic Mind. I use the word “communing” here, but Bruno was more explicit. In his book, De Umbris Idearum, He used sexual imagery to convey his meaning:

Hence in order for you to acquire a consummate and absolute art, it behooves you to copulate with the soul of the world, and once you have copulated with it, to act, for it is teeming with rational forms, and it generates a world full of rational forms (qtd. in Mendoza 163).

Bruno’s highly imaginative reasoning follows thusly: the Soul of the World, the Cosmic Mind, has produced all material forms, including the human body.  According to Anaxagoras, everything is in everything, therefore humans contain elements of the Cosmic Mind, the Soul of the World, thus allowing us to enjoy intercourse with it. This is exactly how Michaelangelo created the amazing works he is famous for, as well as Einstein, Picasso, da Vinci, and many others who have tapped into this awesome power.

Mankind has ignored this type of knowledge for much too long. Certainly, logical, deductive, scientific knowledge has served a great purpose to further our civilization, but it is nearing its limit. We need gnosis. We need metaphorics. We need to tune into the Soul of the World, copulate with it,  in order to get humanity past this crucial period in our evolution.

More to come later……

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 5: A New Ethics

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Far, far away Soria Moria Palace shimmered like Gold, by Theodor Kittelsen (1899)

Bruno desired to place truth into the hands of the human race. He may not have completely seen the ramifications of an acentric universe, that this would lead humanity to question its own self-worth in the face of nihilism. Humanity believed it dwelt in the center of God’s universe. After Bruno, this delusion was banished. Humanity lived on a planet that was just another speck in a vast, infinite ocean of other specks. Eventually, this truth, among others, would lead many to discouragement, anxiety, and despair. But now that the lies had been dispelled, mankind could focus on its true nature, to become conscious of its affinity with the cosmic mind, to copulate with it, and to bring forth truth in abundance.

Bruno envisioned that we would gradually become more aware of our relationship with the cosmic mind, and that we would join together with it in the dynamic creation, evolution, and transformation of the universe.

Bruno’s revolutionary philosophical anthropology would thus lay the foundations for a viable universal religion, since it would offer a spiritual bond that had some chance of success in bringing humanity together, in leading it to peace and solidarity, and above all, in securing its survival (Mendoza 217).

Bruno’s goal was to completely overthrow the value system of the day, what Nietzsche would later call, a “transvaluation.” The Church’s total entrenchment in Ptolemaic cosmology gave Bruno the courage to believe he could overturn their religious and ethical system. When the masses discovered how primitive the Church’s beliefs had been, they would turn from it in droves. If the hierarchy could be proven wrong about such an important point, what would be the value of the remainder of their doctrine?

The body, and matter, in general, had been denigrated by the Church for almost the entirety of its existence. This was carried over from Plato, who believed the body is a tomb, a prison of the soul. When matter is viewed in this way, it leads to the neglect and abuse of all living things, and the entire planet. It is utterly crucial how we view matter. Without a true respect for matter, or, as I call it, “animatter,” there can be no true ethics. Bruno wrote,

Divinity reveals herself in all things . . . everything has Divinity latent within itself. For she enfolds and imparts herself even unto the smallest beings, and from the smallest beings, according to their capacity. Without her presence nothing would have being, because she is the essence of the existence of the first unto the last being. [Expulsion, p. 242]

If one believes the Divine is innate to matter, One will treat all material things with reverence and respect. Think of how this one point would totally transform our world, if acted upon! Think of the tremendous damage being done to this world by various corporations all in the name of profit and someone’s twisted idea of freedom! It is a crime against the soul of the world and all of us individual souls. The ethical ramifications of the fusion of matter and soul are mind-boggling!

The so-called Copernican revolution was really not very revolutionary, since all he did was replace the earth with the sun; he retained all the other nonsense from the Ptolemaic worldview. It was Bruno who truly revolutionized cosmology by asserting there was no center at all, which is how we view the universe today.

Bruno’s view of humanity was revolutionary. He sought to overturn age-old traditions concerning human nature and humanity’s place in the universe. Instead of worn-out anthropocentrisms, Bruno claimed that humans are linked by the same soul that permeates everything. The same soul that is in all our bodies is the same soul that creates worlds and beings in those worlds. Soul and matter are indissoluble.

If all of this is true, the manner in which we treat our fellow humans changes. No longer will we allow racism, sectarianism, chauvinism, or bigotry to exist in our societies. Jingoism will have no place in any nation. War would necessarily be a thing of the past, since we would not want to harm the Soul that is innate to all of us by harming anyone, since we are all interconnected by soul. Of course, this is a Utopian dream. I have stated before that I do not believe such a state of existence is possible. It is something, however, for which we must strive if our world is to continue.

The Universal Intellect coupled with soul, the cosmic mind, has the potential of providing humanity with an unlimited intellect. We have limitless potential because we all share the Mind of God. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when he quoted Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.” Jesus was trying to teach humanity the truth of who we really are. Giordano Bruno was attempting to do the same.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 4: Epistemology

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Bruno was one who fully utilized the imagination in his work. It took him a mere ten years of traversing the imaginal world to reach a more accurate picture of the universe than Galileo’s, who spent several decades calculating and experimenting. Even after those many years, when Galileo was ready to die, he still believed the Sun to be the center of the universe. Bruno accurately saw the universe to be without a center almost sixty years prior to this. Galileo had much better technology, some he invented himself. Bruno used, primarily, his imagination, along with astute observation, to reach these revolutionary conclusions. This brings to mind Albert Einstein’s success, using his “thought-experiments” to reach equally monumental developments.

Bruno had serious reservations concerning the sole use of mathematics to ascertain the nature of reality. He cites Ptolemy as one example of someone with amazing mathematical skills, who claimed the earth to be the center of the universe. This view was dominant in the West for over fifteen hundred years. Bruno felt that the use of mathematics, to the exclusion of observation, reason, and the imagination, was not a reliable road to knowledge. In this point, Bruno was anti-Pythagorean and anti-Platonic. But this does not mean Bruno totally rejected mathematics. He believed it is was very useful in his work to corroborate “the intuitions about the universe that he believed only philosophy could provide…” (Mendoza 158).

Eventually, Einstein helped to prove that mathematics was indispensable in cosmological theory. He didn’t accomplish this, however, exclusively through mathematics, but by using his amazing imagination to envision the geometric motions of heavenly bodies.

Bruno’s epistemology is firmly grounded in his idea of the Cosmic Mind, which you can read about in my article, here.

Bruno’s conviction that the human mind was ‘the eye of divine intelligence’ may have prompted him to ‘tune in’ with the cosmic mind. Man had first to set his mind free from all the prejudices that held it imprisoned in the dark dungeon of ignorance so as to render it capable of establishing contact with the cosmic mind. He simply had to let the ‘larger mind’ take over (Mendoza 162).

Bruno’s mature epistemology is dialectical, preceding Hegel by a little over two centuries. Borrowing from the coincidentia oppositorum of Nicholas of Cusa, and the dynamic Heraclitean principle of becoming, Bruno forged a theory of knowledge that was truly unique. In de umbris idearum, he writes:

…in order for you to acquire a consummate and absolute art, it behooves you to copulate with the soul of the world, and once you have copulated with it, to act, for it is teeming with rational forms, and it generates a world full of rational forms. And these forms (Plotinus would agree) shape and form in seed everything that exists, like tiny worlds. Hence since the soul is everywhere present, all of it in the whole and in every part of it as well, you may be able to behold, as the condition of matter will allow, in everything, no matter how small or cut off, the world, not to speak of the semblance of the world, so that we may without fear say with Anaxagoras that everything is in everything (qtd. in Mendoza 163).

Bruno is asserting the “tuning in” of the mind with the cosmic mind that involves “copulation” with the soul of the world. Powerful imagery, indeed! The same thought processes, archetypes, imagery of the cosmic mind can be experienced in the human mind. The universe is understandable because the subject and object of knowledge share the same type of configuration; the mind and the cosmic mind have basically the same structure.

So, using his dialectical methodology, Bruno saw mind and matter as complementary, as  interdependent “moments of reality” (Mendoza 164). The macrocosmic mind and the microcosmic mind both share the same divine and infinite Oneness.

Probably the thing that distinguished Bruno’s method most of all was his courage to question the authoritative assertions of the past. Because of his method of free thought and uncompromising intellectual honestly, he influenced all freethinkers after him to not rely on revelation or dogma for their discoveries, but on their own minds and imaginations.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 3: Atomic Theory of Matter

The Burning of Rome, by JMW Turner
The Burning of Rome, by JMW Turner

We hear much about Bruno’s contributions to cosmology, especially in the first episode of the new Cosmos series, starring host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Indeed, his cosmological ideas were revolutionary and amazingly prescient, but his primary contributions to humanity were philosophical and ontological, as we will see. I believe his theory of matter is most important. It influences all his other accomplishments.

Bruno formulated the most impressive theory of matter of any post-medieval European philosopher, perhaps to this day. Using only his powers of speculation and imagination, Bruno devised an amazingly powerful ontological theory that rejected Platonic dualism in favor of a strict monistic view of the universe. Of course, as any good philosopher, Bruno stood on the shoulders of the giants who preceded him. He synthesized ideas from the Presocratics, Stoics, Nicholas of Cusa, and others to create an entirely novel idea concerning the stuff of the universe we call “matter.”

Plato’s dualistic position of two separate worlds, one of the Forms (mental world), and one of physical matter has its roots in Pythagoras’ discovery that our world is connected to numbers. Pythagoras probably did not conceive of these two realities as being separate. Plato, however, made them distinct by recognizing there are no perfect examples of mathematical forms, such as the triangle, anywhere in our material world. Because of this, he believed that all material objects are flawed. This drove a wedge between mind and matter that is still with us to this day. Prior to Plato, the Presocratics had held to a monistic view of things. The Stoics also, afterwards, were monists in their cosmology, as were the Neoplatonists.

Plato’s student, Aristotle, disagreed with his teacher concerning this radical dualism. He retained the idea of the necessity of the forms and matter, but he claimed they were inseparable, thus making him a metaphysical monist. He did, however, believe that the realm of planets and stars was without flaw or imperfection. Aristotle remained a physical dualist, since he distinguished between an imperfect world of matter (sublunar) and a perfect world of stars and planets (supralunar).

By the time of Bruno’s arrest, the Roman Catholic Church had adopted the Aristotelian form of hylomorphism. In this theory, substances are envisioned as composites of form and matter. Matter is seen as entirely passive and dependent on the corresponding form to give it dynamism and quality.

Aristotle’s position would come to dominate the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. The synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christian theology was accomplished in the twelfth century by St. Thomas Aquinas, who was of the opinion there was no conflict between secular philosophy and Christian theology. Of course, Thomas incorporated many ideas taught by Islamic scholar, Averroes, not the more mystical Avicenna. Averroes helped to open the door in the West to open materialism.

Giordano Bruno was revolutionary in that he realized that a proper view of atomism (which he adopted from Leucippus and his student Democritus) did not require matter to have an external cause, nor some separate internal principle in order for it to proliferate. Bruno’s philosophy of matter is rigidly monistic: intrinsically, matter possesses within itself the animating power of its own emergence. In this view, all matter is sacred and dynamic.

Bruno rejected the views of Aristotle, as well as Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius in regards to matter because they portrayed it as devoid of any qualitative or quantitative value. His idea is that form and matter are factual, but not distinct:

In strict monism, the Aristotelian notion of the indissoluble interconnectedness of matter and form is paramount; matter and form are not two different and separate entities as they were in Platonic dualism, but two aspects or modes of the same physical reality (Mendoza 114).

So, form and matter are two different “modes” of one physical reality. The idea of modes is vastly different than positing two distinct substances. Descartes would, later, take the notion of distinct substances to its extreme in his mechanistic dualism of mind of matter. According to Descartes, matter is dead and lifeless.

Bruno offered a theory of matter that vanquished the dualistic ideas of Plato and Aristotle. He called his idea mater-materia, or “matter-mattering.” Here, matter possesses intelligence; it is the origin of all Forms. This idea could be termed “materialistic,” but it would be accompanied by the qualifiers, “intelligent and animated materialism,” since matter intrinsically possesses intelligence and consciousness. Bruno’s idea, here, bears similarity with Anaximander’s Apeiron. Also, this means that God is intimately connected with His creation. Mind is not separate from matter; mind is within matter. The phrase “mater-materia” connotes the womb of the Mother. Matter exists as an agent of “mattering;” matter is the matrix of all material forms.

 We think of “materialism” as something negative because it is based on the Cartesian worldview where mind and matter are bifurcated. Bruno’s conception of materialism is based on a monistic view, where all of Nature is alive with a resplendence that illuminates our world.

His new model of matter came complete with a somewhat original atomic theory partly based on the ideas of Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius. This came even before Galileo and Gassendi formulated atomic theories of their own. Bruno imagined atoms to be homogenous, indivisible, three-dimensional particles, which have the innate ability of self-movement. He called this self-animating power “soul.” He believed that, since there were infinite bodies in the universe, there are also an infinite number of atoms, all capable of spontaneous self-motion. In Bruno’s universe, as in Heraclitus’, all is in continual soul-flux.

Perhaps Bruno’s most important contribution to ontology is the radical, monistic flavor of his atomism. Because of its intrinsic nature, matter has the ability to generate complex states of order. Matter and form are not distinct, as in Plato. They are tightly interconnected, being different only in modal description. Bruno’s idea of

…matter has…the intrinsic power to generate all possible forms, and the immanent intelligence to direct and govern all organized complex forms that issue from it” (Mendoza 115).

This point is what I base my own theory of animaterialism upon. The “intrinsic power” and “immanent intelligence” is soul. Every atom in the universe is brimming with dynamic soul. Every atom is divine and has purpose.

 Our world is finally coming to terms with the latent energy in Nature. Atomic energy is just a metaphor for what really is innate to every bit of matter in the universe. This is a mere representation of the power of soul, for it burns brighter than any atomic explosion. If we all saw ourselves as being permeated with this soul-energy, just think what we could do!

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 2: Cosmology

Hubble-5

Giordano Bruno had his eyes steadfastly fixed on the future of mankind. He desired more than anything that humanity be led out of the despotic morass of the Christian religion, with its chains of hierarchy, intolerance, dogmatism, and downright tyranny. Not only that, but he wanted to provide all peoples of all nations and religions an intellectual and spiritual infrastructure that they could wholeheartedly accept without reservation.

The overthrow of Ptolemaic geocentrism was paramount in order to seriously weaken the dogmatic edifice that had been constructed by the Church over the previous fifteen centuries. Copernicus, to his credit, began the assault, albeit timidly. In 1543, he published his life’s work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Copernicus proposed that the Sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe. Strangely, he died the same year. His heliocentric theory was, indeed, a revolutionary proposal, but it was in no way powerful enough to demolish the cosmic order of that era. The security of being at the center of an ordered universe was still, for the most part, intact. Perhaps the earth was not the exact center, but we were still near enough to it that it didn’t make much difference. It would take the new cosmology of Bruno to obliterate the entire structure.

The Nolan philosopher boldly proclaimed the universe had absolutely no center. This was one of the most revolutionary statements in Western history. We are still reeling from the ensuing waves this idea brought about, even after four hundred years. Bruno was the first post-medieval European to assert an acentric universe. With this, the old worldview was shattered. As Ernst Bloch said, “the roof of the heavens was pulled off , the world-onion with the seven skins exploded” (qtd. in Mendoza 73).

For some reason, humans like centers. We feel uncomfortable if we realize there are none. The philosophical and ethical ramifications of an acentric universe are far-reaching. Bruno’s proclamation was really the beginning of humanity’s encounter with nothingness and absurdity, preoccupations of the later Existentialist movement. Suddenly, those who grasped the significance of this insight, which Bruno received entirely through his imagination, realized how insignificant humans appeared to be. By bringing forth this basic truth, however, Bruno freed philosophical and scientific thinking from the old dogmatic viewpoints that had dragged them down for so long. Because of this, Professor Mendoza calls him, “the initiator of Modernity” (Mendoza 74).

It is not only the idea of acentricity that makes Bruno so important. He also asserted with equal fervor that the universe is infinite, homogenous, and isotropic. Furthermore, he believed the universe is filled with innumerable worlds. This is modern cosmology in a nutshell. All boundaries, hierarchies, and harmonies associated with the heavens are now obsolete. The universe is infinite; perhaps it always has been. It has no center. All matter is composed of the same elements throughout the cosmos. Can you imagine how mind-blowing all this must have been in the 1590’s?

One of the reasons why his cosmological ideas are so important to his plan of universal religion is because Bruno extended these ideas into the realm of his ontology, ethics, and, of course, his theology. I will delve into these areas in future installments.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 1: Religion

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The scene of the excution of Giordano Bruno in Piazza Campo dè Fiori, Rome

Giordano Bruno was a rare revolutionary, whose intellectual powers only occasionally arise among humans.  The ideas he espoused during those days of religious oppression and intellectual suppression demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage. Even during the expanded intellectual and artistic freedom of the European Renaissance, the terrors of The Inquisition hung over his head like the sword of Damocles. But, unlike Damocles, he bore the tortures, suffering, and finally the flames. He left behind a legacy that is with us to this day.

Bruno’s supreme vision was to replace Christianity with a completely new religion, one that would encompass all religions. It would need to be a movement that would appeal to all of humanity. A lofty goal, indeed! This, he believed to be his primary calling in life. Let’s face it, humans are alienated from one another, to a large extent, by religion. This becomes radically so when religions become fundamentalist in nature. In our world of today, this is a monumental problem, but it was in Bruno’s day, as well. Nations have been fighting and killing each other over religion for millennia. Bruno hoped that his teachings could light a flame under the foundations of humanity that would burn brilliantly for eternity.

Bruno was inspired to change humanity’s plight by several of his Renaissance predecessors, especially Marsilio Ficino. Ficino’s patrons, Lorenzo de Medici, who was tutored by Ficino as a boy, and Lorenzo’s father, Cosimo de Medici, gave Marsilio the opportunity to cultivate and bring forth his talents, as they did for many artists and intellectuals of the day. One of his greatest accomplishments was the translation of the Corpus Hermeticum, the primary text of Hermetism as taught by Hermes Trismegistus. In fact, just before he began working on the Corpus Hermeticum, he had been translating into Latin the works of Plato for the de Medicis. But after they were presented with Byzantine copies of the Corpus, Lorenzo ordered Ficino to stop work at once on the Plato translations and begin translating the words of Hermes. The de Medicis believed the Corpus contained “the most solid and promising foundation for the much needed universal religion” (Mendoza 46). Their enthusiasm was due to the fact that they believed that Hermes was a contemporary of Moses, and that his teachings contained elements that would appeal to all religious minds. Ficino completed and released a collection of thirteen tractates in 1471. This was a watershed event in Western history that influenced and animated many Renaissance luminaries, particularly Giordano Bruno.

According to Professor Ramon G. Mendoza,

A new religion based on reason and a realistic vision of the world had to be founded if it was to have any hopes of being universally accepted. Bruno’s cosmological model and the new philosophy with which it was intimately interlocked finally provided the foundation indispensable for a universally acceptable new religion (Mendoza 47).

Bruno felt his only chance for his new philosophy to take root would be in Italy. Germany was out. They were too enthralled with Luther and the religious freedom they believed he had brought them. Bruno needed the support of the Italian nobility and the intellectual elite. He had great confidence in his rhetorical powers to convince them of the viability of the new religion, and he could speak to his fellow-countrymen in his native tongue. He would later regret the decision to accept an invitation to teach his ars memoria to a wealthy Venetian noble named Mocenigo. Upon moving into Mocenigo’s palace, he was delivered to the Inquisition by the Venetian five months later, just after Easter, 1592.

Many of Bruno’s ideas are still timely. In the next installments, I will attempt to present those I feel we should take seriously. I will also explain why I think these ideas should be included, if we ever attempt to bring about a universal religion.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

 

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Hermes, God of the Liminal

One characteristic of Hermes that makes him perfect for the role of World Daimon is his mastery of the liminal, the metaxical. The Platonic metaxy, the place of Soul, that intermediate region between contrarieties, this is the state of being that is ruled by Hermes. He has been called, by Edward Edinger, the patron god of depth psychology,  because of the depth psychologist’s’ concern with mediating consciousness and unconsciousness. It is in this place that Soul dwells, and Hermes is the Guide of Souls, the Psychopomp. Hermes is the collective archetype I am calling the World Daimon. He is the collective Daimon of all humanity.  He fits this role because of his plasticity in changing modalities with such suppleness. His role as Guide of Souls was probably most important to the ancient Greeks, since it is he who would lead them to rest in Hades. Without his guidance, the Greeks believed, one wandered the earth eternally as a bodiless shade. Hermes, leader of all individual daimones, is guide of all who wish to heed the call of his subordinates and experience the depths of Hades, where great treasure is to be found.

While these journeys to the underworld may grow to be voluntary, for most of us the initial foray is more likely to be against our conscious wills. Nevertheless, unlike the myth of Persephone and her abduction by Hades into the underworld, the image of Hermes as psychopomp relates to a different and more benevolent kind of descent into that nether realm. As Downing observes, “reflection of Hermes’ role as psychopomp leads us to think about the underworld experience in a particular way, to ask: What is the difference between being guided to rather than abducted to the underworld?” The value of having Hermes as one’s companion in the descent to the underworld rather than Hades is that the psychopomp’s role is to guide us in whatever ways are required to learn the lessons which a knowledge of death brings to the living of life. “The Hermes image repeatedly enforces descents into personal and social underworlds of great power” observes Doty, “into realms where one is lost without a hermetic guide who can recognize the importance of going into the darkness willingly, the importance of hearing the significances of the deathly side of things.” Moreover, because Hermes, again unlike Hades, has the knowledge with which to bring us back to the daylight world of consciousness afterward, “he guides us to an underworld experience which is not limited to death, but makes everyday life more satisfyingly complex (Hermes as God of Liminality and Guide of Souls, by Richard Stromer, Ph.d).

Lest we forget that our world undergoes its own descents into Hades, I’d like to remind you that Hermes is not only in charge of individual daimones, for our sakes, but guides the Anima Mundi in her own dark nights of the soul. These have occurred many times, a few in recent history such as world wars I and II, and the Cold War. During the twentieth century, humanity gained the knowledge to destroy the planet. Hermes led us down into darkness and back into the light once again, thus causing the roots and depths of the World Soul to become greater than before. The Soul of the World must be made and cared for, just as we make and care for our souls. It the task of Hermes, god of the winged caduceus, to guide her toward her destiny.

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Metaphysical Solace

Oedipe et Antigone, by Charles Jalabert

In writing about Attic tragedy, Nietzsche states,

The metaphysical solace which, I wish to suggest, we derive from every true tragedy, the solace that in the ground of things, and despite all changing appearances, life is indestructibly mighty and pleasurable, this solace appears with palpable clarity in the chorus of satyrs, a chorus of natural beings whose life goes on ineradicably behind and beyond all civilization, as it were, and who remain eternally the same despite all the changes of generations and in the history of nations (Nietzsche 39).

 

The “metaphysical solace” Nietzsche speaks of, is the human experience that is at the very ground of life, an experience that nullifies those things we usually consider as bringing well-being to a person, such as wealth and success. The phrase is misnamed because it really has nothing at all to do with the “metaphysical,” taken to mean, “the supernatural or incorporeal.” The solace Nietzsche is referring to here is perfectly natural and requires no external world or transcendent deity to produce it. 

Early in his career, Nietzsche sought after metaphysical solace in the “revitalization of myth and activation of the myth-building potential of consciousness” (Safranski 86), as opposed to the attempts to find metaphysical solace in religion, philosophical idealism, or the quest for knowledge, as in science. To these latter solace-seekers, Nature needs to be corrected or compensated for in some way. Somehow, it is not sufficiently equipped to bring about the state of solaciousness we are discussing. But in Nietzsche’s mind, solace is to be derived solely from Nature in the form of the tragic tension that emerges from the conflict between Apollinian and Dionysian forces.

The satyr, half-man, half-goat stands in stark opposition to the Apollonian man. The satyr is a carefree being, totally devoid of the mundane worries of life. He knows how to have a good time. He doesn’t concern himself with bills, mortgages, a job, etc. The natural life is all he knows. We would do well to allow some of this attitude into our own lives. The movement of Bohemianism, as well as the Beat movement, was in tune with the satyr.

Even though we value life and the world for its good things, Nature is notorious for being, at times, unjust, unfair, and filled with misery. Life itself is tragic and we are all tragic characters. We all suffer. As the Buddha said, the essence of life is suffering. Most attempt to transcend the world through religion, philosophy, drugs, sex, even suicide, but life is what it is.

Since the time of Socrates, our world has been dominated by, and an overemphasis placed upon, the forces of Apollo. The Dionysian forces of our world have been suppressed, usually by social viewpoints that consider these as sinful, evil, or just uncivilized. Apollo, of course, is the god of order, rationality, and the visual arts. Dionysus is the god of wine, ecstasy, the fertility of nature, and music. These two powers are in perpetual conflict, not only within our world, but within ourselves. Nietzsche believed that Attic tragedy was the synthesis of these forces.

We have emphasized Apollo for so long that it is very difficult for us to embrace Dionysus, especially if we have been brought up in Christianity, truly an Apollonian religion if there ever was one. Christ is light, just as Apollo is the god of the Sun. In I John 1:5, the Apostle states, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (KJV). This is a one-sided understanding of reality, and is the typical Western viewpoint. It is Apollonian to the core.

The metaphysical solace Nietzsche refers to is the primordial experience of unity. It is a unity of the contrary forces of Nature that makes our lives worth living. It is naive to ignore one side of reality, as many times we do in our orderly, capitalist, consumer-driven world. Under the streets of our very civilized and ordered societies, the earth is rumbling. The cthonic forces of Nature, having been repressed for so long, seek an outlet. If Apollo and Dionysus cannot be reconciled in some way, as Sophocles and Aeschylus did when they wrote their tragedies, the unfettered powers of the Underworld will be unleashed on the world, and in the lives of individuals.

The way to solace is not the avoidance of suffering, but the phenomenological embracing of Nature. It is not the embracing of pie-in-the-sky idealism or social Utopianism. It is not waiting until we get to heaven. A wonderful life awaits us here in this world now. The understanding that there are contrary forces within all of Nature, and that they require equal recognition, will foster new imagination and birth new creations.

Works Cited

Nietzsche, F.W. The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Ronald Speirs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Safranksi, Rüdiger. Nietzsche, a Philosophical Biography. Tr. Shelley Frisch. New York: Norton, 2002.

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Ethical Implications of Bruno’s Philosophy

Cosmic Composition, by Paul Klee  
I am of the opinion that one’s view of matter ultimately leads to one’s system of ethics. So, after examining Bruno’s ontology and metaphysics for some time now, what are the ethical implications of accepting these things as truth? In this article, I will attempt to outline the resulting effects of accepting the following Brunian assertions,

The one infinite is perfect, in simplicity, of itself, absolutely, nor can aught be greater or better, This is the one Whole, God, universal Nature, occupying all space, of whom naught but infinity can give the perfect image or semblance. [De Immenso ii.12, Singer p61].

Divinity reveals herself in all things . . . everything has Divinity latent within itself. For she enfolds and imparts herself even unto the smallest beings, and from the smallest beings, according to their capacity. Without her presence nothing would have being, because she is the essence of the existence of the first unto the last being. [Expulsion p 242]

Those wise men knew God to be in things, and Divinity to be latent in Nature, working and glowing differently in different subjects and succeeding through diverse physical forms, in certain arrangements, in making them participants in her, I say, in her being, in her life and intellect. [Expulsion p 237]

First of all, and perhaps the most obvious, is that if one believes the Divine is innate to matter, One will treat all material things with reverence and respect. Think of how this one point would totally transform our world, if acted upon! Think of the tremendous damage being done to this world by various corporations all in the name of profit and someone’s twisted idea of freedom! It is a crime against the Soul of the World and all of us individual Souls. The ethical ramifications of the fusion of matter and Soul are mind-boggling!

The so-called Copernican revolution was really not very revolutionary, since all he did was replace the earth with the sun; he retained all the other nonsense from the Ptolemaic worldview. It was Bruno who truly revolutionized cosmology by asserting there was no center at all, which is how we view the universe today.

Bruno also espoused the idea of a  universe that is totally homogeneous, i.e. matter and Soul are intertwined everywhere in our infinite universe, and it is all in constant flux.

Bruno’s view of humanity was revolutionary. He sought to overturn age-old traditions concerning human nature and humanity’s place in the universe. Instead of worn-out anthropocentrisms, Bruno claimed that humans are linked by the same Soul that permeates everything. The same Soul that is in all our bodies is the same Soul that creates worlds and beings in those worlds. Soul and matter are indissoluble.

If all of this is true, the manner in which we treat our fellow humans changes. No longer will we allow racism, sectarianism, chauvinism, or bigotry to exist in our societies. Jingoism will have no place in any nation. War would necessarily be a thing of the past, since we would not want to harm the Soul that is innate to all of us by harming anyone, since we are all interconnected by Soul. Of course, this is a Utopian dream. I have stated before that I do not believe such a state of existence is possible for homo sapiens sapiens. It is something, however, for which we must strive if our world is to continue, and it may take a new species of human to bring it to pass.

The Universal Intellect coupled with Soul, what I am calling The Cosmic Mind, has the potential of providing humanity with an unlimited intellect. We have limitless potential because we all share the Mind of God. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when he quoted Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.” Jesus was trying to teach humanity the truth of who we really are. Giordano Bruno was attempting to do the same thing.

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Zarathustra’s Three Metamorphoses

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In his greatest work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaims that “God is dead” (Nietzsche 41). For Nietzsche, this means that the philosophical abstraction known as “God” to institutional religion, especially Christianity, has died in the hearts and souls of Western man. It also means that the dualistic metaphysics of Plato is no longer viable. With one fell blow from his philosophical hammer, Nietzsche strikes down the two-world theories that have dominated Western thought since Plato. But even though God’s death leaves a gaping hole in Western man’s being, Nietzsche has recognized that the death of God is necessary to bring about transformation.

Prior to God’s death, human consciousness is bound in a morass of “Thou shalts,” a controlling, will-less existence, where the new, the unique, is anathema. Creativity, which is mankind’s birthright, is frowned upon when it is implemented to bring about new values, new opinions, and new attitudes, that deviate from the norm. But when the ideals, the “eternal” standards have died, creativity can burst forth. As in the saying of Jesus, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24 KJV). Before, the existence of God guaranteed eternal standards of ethics, knowledge, politics, metaphysics, etc. But afterwards, all these are obliterated. Now, humanity is tossed upon a sea of uncertainty. Now, there are no absolutes. In the midst of such a tempest, however, a new creation is born. The problem, for Zarathustra, then, is to discover new realities–to create new meaning out of the chaotic aftermath of God’s death.

In the section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled, “Of the Three Metamorphoses,” Zarathustra describes a process of human transformation. The metamorphoses will become Zarathustra’s answer to the nihilism created by the death of God.

Nietzsche begins: “I name you three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit shall become a camel, and the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child” (Nietzsche 54). These metaphors describe various stages in the transformation of human consciousness. Just as we pass through physical stages on our way to adulthood, Nietzsche proposes that we pass through various stages of consciousness. We are constantly becoming. We are not static creatures. In fact, for Nietzsche, nothing is static; all is in flux; there is no imperishable being; all is becoming. One point, however, should be noted: this process of transformation is not necessarily linear. Rather, it is cyclical in nature.

First, let us ponder the camel. A camel is a beast of burden. When commanded, it kneels down to accept heavy loads. It seems to possess a sense of duty in bearing what it is ordered to bear. It can go days through the desert without water. The camel-image refers to the human tendency to confront that which is difficult for us out of a sense of duty. We do not will what we do at this stage, but do “what we ought to do.” We are not free to make our own decisions because we give our will over to what we believe are our duties. Nevertheless, by doing “what we ought” we challenge ourselves, paving the way for further refinement.

Zarathustra says, “What is the heaviest thing, you heroes? so asks the weight-bearing spirit, that I may take it upon me and rejoice in my strength” (ibid.). In bearing the heaviest burdens, the camel-spirit becomes lofty in its strength, in doing its duty. This type of attitude reminds me of someone like Hegel, who would try to systematize all reality into a neat logical box, and then have the audacity to believe that everything has been explained. In order for further metamorphosis, this pride must be weakened: “Is it not this: to debase yourself in order to injure your pride? To let your folly shine out in order to mock your wisdom” (ibid.)? It would be a heavy burden indeed for someone like Hegel to admit that he was wrong. I know of one philosopher who did this. Shortly before his death, Thomas Aquinas had a mystical experience that caused him to describe his life’s work as so much straw. Sometimes, “wisdom” must be mocked in order for new realities to be born.

Zarathustra asks if it is not a heavy burden “to feed upon the acorns and grass of knowledge and for the sake of truth to suffer hunger of the soul” (ibid.)? For someone who has devoted much time to the search for truth and understanding, it is a very heavy burden to discover that all our so-called wisdom and knowledge is fleeting. The seeker longs for a person, a book, or some other foothold that can lead him or her to a bedrock of truth. It is burdensome because one discovers there is no such absolute foundation. One must consume what small morsels of truth one can find on the cold, damp ground. One must suffer hunger of the soul when the understanding comes that all so-called truths are really uncertain.

Zarathustra asks if it is not a heavy burden “to wade into dirty water when it is the water of truth, and not to disdain cold frogs and hot toads” (ibid.)? Think of sloshing through a green, miry swamp. It is a nasty undertaking. One can get lost very easily. The air smells bad. There are dangerous creatures at every turn. The frogs and toads are not really dangerous, but they are a nuisance, and there may be serpents lurking about. Seeking for truth is exactly like this. It is a burdensome affair to search and search, only to find that one is going around in circles, not to mention all the encumbrances along the way. This is the realm of becoming, where there are no absolute standards–no firm path on which to tread. Actually, there is no sense of being, except that it is becoming. The greatest burden here, however, is when one learns to wade into these waters without disdaining the difficult struggle of living in a world that is devoid of standards. This undertaking can bring about transformation.

The camel takes upon itself its heavy burdens and flees into a desert of solitude. Here, the camel must continually question even the “truths” it has accepted. It must interrogate this new idea, i.e., that there are no absolute standards.

The seeker of truth who carries the burden of uncertainty will eventually need solitude. Not actually literal solitude, but a separation in thought from those who still adhere to two world theories. Only in solitude can genuine creation be brought forth. This is why Zarathustra traveled to the mountains. “Here he had the enjoyment of his spirit and his solitude and he did not weary of it for ten years” (Nietzsche 39). It is in the desert that the camel changes into a lion, for “it wants to capture freedom and be lord in its own desert” (Nietzsche 54).

The lion is, at the same time, a mighty, noble warrior, and a vicious killer. It is noble in the sense that it craves freedom. It desires to create its own freedom, but it must kill to get it.

The camel is only a beast of burden. A beast of prey is required for the task of capturing freedom. The might of the lion can perform the task at hand.

Who is to be the lion’s victim? “It seeks here its ultimate lord: it will be an enemy to him and to its ultimate God, it will struggle for victory with the great dragon” (Nietzsche 54-55). The great dragon, which the lion will battle for its freedom, is called “Thou Shalt.” The lion’s foe is the spirit of commandments, i.e., when others seek to instruct us in what we must believe and accept as truth. History is replete with examples of the enforcement of commandments. One that comes to mind is the Catholic Inquisition.

The great dragon sparkles with gold. “The values of a thousand years” shine on its scales (Nietzsche 55). The dragon believes itself supreme because it believes it possesses the one truth concerning all existence. It believes in a transcendental realm of absolute ideas that can be understood by humanity through the faculty of reason. It believes in a transcendental being (God) that has created this realm and now watches over it, so that truth remains eternal. The dragon despises opposing opinions. “There will be no ‘I will,'” it says. One either conforms, or one is trampled underfoot. But the might of the lion says, “I will!” The lion is the beginning of the will to power, the will to create new realities, the will to become what one is meant to be.

The lion cannot create new values. However, its might is needed to capture freedom for itself. After the dragon has been mauled by the spirit of the lion, what then? The lion must understand that now there is no guiding hand of a transcendental God, or the firm foundation of a realm of absolute Ideas. There is no external authority. Now, the lion is alone; it is responsible for itself. There are no more laws, no more duties for it to bear. Is this not the greatest burden?

The lion is victorious. It has uttered the sacred “No” to the dragon. One thing remains: the lion is not capable of creating new values for itself. It is merely a warrior. Its talent lies in destruction. For creation, another metamorphosis must take place: the lion must become a child.

But tell me, my brothers, what can the child do that the lion cannot? The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes (ibid.).

The child possesses unique talents which make it the perfect choice for the third transformation.

The child is innocence. It has no sense of what life was like when the dragon was still alive. There is no guilt because there is no awareness of Thou Shalt. It knows only becoming–awaking each day to discover a new idea, a new game to play, a new world to explore.

The child is forgetfulness. It has forgotten the heavy burdens of duty and the longing for freedom. Now, it constantly abides in freedom. It has forgotten the golden scales of the dragon. It has forgotten the ancient ways of the past, the so-called eternal values and standards. It lives only for the moment.

The child is a new beginning. When long-held beliefs have been called into question by the camel, and then destroyed by the lion, one enters a new epoch. After a time, the values one has created for oneself become obsolete. These must not be allowed to become sacred cows, for, eventually, they must be destroyed and replaced by new values. The spirit of the camel will question whether these beliefs are still viable. If not, the spirit of the lion will destroy them. Then comes a new beginning, the spirit of the child, who will bring about the creation of new values. This cyclical process never ends, unless one becomes stagnant, i.e., if one ceases to create by returning to a notion of static being.

The child is a sport, or a game. Children are always inventing new games, along with a set of rules for each. When I was about eight years old, some friends and I invented our own version of “whiffle ball”. It was similar to regular baseball. But, because we didn’t have enough fielders, we had to create a set of rules that would work for just three or four players. Also, the rules would change depending on whose yard we were playing in at the time. We didn’t need any adults telling us how to play our game. We created it ourselves. This, in my opinion, is the attitude that Nietzsche is trying to get us to think about here. We need to adopt the attitude of a child. When faced with a problem, even if it is only how to play a silly child’s game, the child will create a solution. He/She will allow spontaneity to flow freely, creating rules that fit the particular situation.

The child has no knowledge of anything eternal or transcendent. There is only spontaneity and creative play, that is, until we adults pound our values into their heads. After enculturation is complete, they are fortunate if they ever break free from the Thou Shalts of the herd.

The child is a self-propelling wheel. At this stage of transformation, the child possesses the will to power, or the power to roll its own wheel. Creation is the wheel that is propelled along by the will. As long as it is understood that all is becoming, the wheel continues to roll along. However, when “wisdom” becomes ensconced in one’s thinking, then the wheel comes to a screeching halt.

The child is a first motion. When the great dragon was still alive, no movement existed. There was only static being; there was no creation. There were only “the values of a thousand years.” The camel questioned those values; the lion destroyed them. Now, the child is the first motion, because the child is the creator. Creation is not static, but dynamic.

Think of how the earth continually creates and re-creates. Every spring, new life bursts forth from the earth. There is a period of growth, decay, and then death. I think this may be how Nietzsche envisions this process of transformation. Creators always pass through such periods of growth, decay, and death. The child represents growth, i.e., the growth of new realities. The camel eventually doubts these realities (decay), and the lion destroys them (death). Then, once more, the child creates new ones, and the process begins all over again.

The child is the sacred Yes. In order for new creation to occur, the spirit of the child must utter a holy Yes to life.

Yes, a sacred Yes is needed, my brothers, for the sport of creation: the spirit now wills its own will, the spirit sundered from the world now wins its own spirit (ibid.).

Before, the spirit had no will of its own. It was controlled by the beliefs of others, by the beliefs of the herd. But the sacred No was spoken by the lion. The spirit now has no sense of duty; it is not impelled to act in any other way than the behavior it chooses. Now the sacred Yes is needed in order for creativity to be unleashed, for new values to be invented. Nietzsche is not saying that we should simply adopt those values that give us the greatest pleasure. I see it as being much more complex. He is affirming the need to pass beyond all polarities (good and evil, for example) and create for ourselves a set of values which will allow us to envision the prospect of overcoming ourselves. Perhaps we will never get there. The Ubermensch may only be a possibility. The main point, however, is to take the risk, to make the attempt, to struggle with the uncertainty. By doing this, we are constantly abiding in the flux of life.

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. New York: Penguin, 1969.

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