• Apollodorus
    531
    As it is, many do not believe in God, or any supernatural power. Humanity, in many ways, stands before a godless abyss, struggling to know what to do next, in order to survive...Jack Cummins

    God doesn't have to be a person. In Platonism, and to some extent in Christianity, God is the (impersonal) principle of truth, goodness, beauty, order and justice. When we stop believing in something higher than ourselves we end up with slogans like "love your sweat" (and possibly other substances starting with "s") which is where our raw, animal instincts come into play (we don't love anything more than wallowing in them) and we divide our lives between the gym and the rally and become pawns on the chessboard of political and commercial interests while imagining that we're "empowered" and that we "rule the world". Psychological manipulation is very easy for those who are experts at it and when you have nothing higher to believe in than your own sweat and righteous anger, you can fall pray to it before you even know it.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    I didn't know that Telhard de Chardin saw categorised life in that way, but it seems similar to the theosophists. My own feeling is that I sometimes feel that objects around me seem alive, especially when my books and CDs fall over in my room. However, I wonder to see extent it is that our consciousness affects the objects, as if we are having an interaction with the energy fields. I definitely think we are within complex fields of energy, and Einstein stressed the participant observer role in experiments, so it would seem likely to me that the underlying principle extends to life in general.Jack Cummins

    This forum does not seem to use links so I am reluctant to do so, but you mentioned Einstein and the participant-observer role with a question about how our consciousness affects reality and so think we need to think in quantum physic terms when contemplating reality.


    Quantum Theory Demonstrated: Observation Affects Reality ...https://www.sciencedaily.com › releases › 1998/02
    Feb 27, 1998 — "observer's" capacity to detect electrons increased, in other words, when the level of the observation went up, the interference weakened; in contrast, when its capacity to detect ...
    Missing: participant ‎| Must include: participant
    — Science Daily
  • Athena
    1.3k
    God doesn't have to be a person. In Platonism, and to some extent in Christianity, God is the (impersonal) principle of truth, goodness, beauty, order and justice. When we stop believing in something higher than ourselves we end up with slogans like "love your sweat" (and possibly other substances starting with "s") which is where our raw, animal instincts come into play (we don't love anything more than wallowing in them) and we divide our lives between the gym and the rally and become pawns on the chessboard of political and commercial interests while imagining that we're "empowered" and that we "rule the world". Psychological manipulation is very easy for those who are experts at it and when you have nothing higher to believe in than your own sweat and righteous anger, you can fall pray to it before you even know it.Apollodorus

    I just watched an awesome program about what can happen when we speak to our hearts and listen to our hearts. When we live in our heads, what we think reality is can be pretty dark. More animal desire and fear than the love and freedom we can experience when connecting with our hearts. We might think of the heart consciousness as a spiritual force and see in many spiritual traditions, including Christianity, the rituals people practice to connect with this force. A few days ago I watched a program about Evangelical Christians and they were obviously connected with the spiritual force and there is no way we are going to convince the people who experience this that there is not a God and a reality that is different from the reality we create in our heads, of desires and fears.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I just watched an awesome program about what can happen when we speak to our hearts and listen to our hearts. When we live in our heads, what we think reality is can be pretty dark. More animal desire and fear than the love and freedom we can experience when connecting with our hearts. We might think of the heart consciousness as a spiritual force and see in many spiritual traditions, including Christianity, the rituals people practice to connect with this force. A few days ago I watched a program about Evangelical Christians and they were obviously connected with the spiritual force and there is no way we are going to convince the people who experience this that there is not a God and a reality that is different from the reality we create in our heads, of desires and fears.Athena

    Yes, desires and fears are fundamental to human psychology. They can take hold of our mind and obscure our heart. Both love (or infatuation) and hatred can make us blind. Even worse when they are used by others to manipulate, control and enslave us. This is why various traditions from Greek philosophy to Christianity have recommended methods of controlling desires and fears by developing virtues (ἀρετή, arete) such as temperance and courage. Once desires and fears have been brought under control, the eye of the heart opens and sees the higher realities and beauties of spirit. To use Plato's parable, once well-trained, the horses of the soul's chariot pull us upward and we ascend to the higher realms instead of constantly being pulled down to earth.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    I see what you mean, but we mustn't be too harsh on Christianity. The Church banned animal sacrifices and blood sports. Besides, it could have been worse, just think of Islamic State or Communist Russia. Science has advantages and disadvantages and without the support of a more traditional faith society turns to all kinds of weird cults invented by fraudsters and commercial interests.Apollodorus

    Okay believing in evolution and being spiritual can go together. I love the subject of morality built on sound reasoning! I am perhaps even fanatical about it because violating nature and bad judgment can lead to bad things.

    I am gaining an understanding of how Christianity plays an important role in human rights but it can do as much harm as it does good. Like a medicine that can cure us, but also kill us. The faith is like faith in a lucky rabbit's foot. The false belief can get desired results. But what if we realize the truth as it is realized in all religions, philosophy, and science! What if we put right reasoning first?
  • Athena
    1.3k
    Yes, desires and fears are fundamental to human psychology. They can take hold of our mind and obscure our heart. Both love (or infatuation) and hatred can make us blind. Even worse when they are used by others to manipulate, control and enslave us. This is why various traditions from Greek philosophy to Christianity have recommended methods of controlling desires and fears by developing virtues (ἀρετή, arete) such as temperance and courage. Once desires and fears have been brought under control, the eye of the heart opens and sees the higher realities and beauties of spirit. To use Plato's parable, once well-trained, the horses of the soul's chariot pull us upward and we ascend to the higher realms instead of constantly being pulled down to earth.Apollodorus

    :love: I love you. You are using the language that turns my heart on, virtues and arte.

    Once desires and fears have been brought under control, the eye of the heart opens and sees the higher realities and beauties of spirit. Yes, I think this should be our goal and I am so pleased you are aware of the way to do that.

    There was a time when I thought of developing a church but I didn't have enough sermons to give for weekly services. :lol: But those of us who think as you do have none of the benefits of belonging to a church. We don't have the fellowship, the constant reassurance that of belonging and shared values and perspective on reality. We don't have one book, with one easy to share explanation of life. On the other hand, this thinking goes naturally with caring about global warming and preserving life on this planet and is becoming a popular movement.

    I so believe in our human good and our ability to overcome evil, but uniting like-minded people is a challenge. Democracy is our best bet but education for technology does not prepare us for democracy.
    Imagine if all the churches put their bibles on a backroom shelf and focused on teaching math and preparing people for a technological society. How long would Christianity be in the service of God? That is what we have done to our democracies. We stopped preparing the young for democracy, taking our cultures for liberty for granted, and leaving moral training to the church. This is the beast destroying our world and human potential. Some even gleefully speak of when computers run our lives and lack faith in humanity. What can we do to get us back on track with democracy?
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Your link idea looked interesting, but I am not sure if you typed it in properly, because I was not able to access it on my phone. Anyway, thanks for your many contributions to the thread.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Well, on the other thread I was accused of being a "Nazi", so you'll have to be careful what you say. But I agree that we could all do with more love and less war. Enough political sloganeering, activism and rallies. Just relax with a pint of cool Prussian beer, although Bavarian wouldn’t be bad either.

    As to the church, I don’t really attend except for necessities like weddings and funerals.

    What can we do to get us back on track with democracy? Good question. My answer would be with a parable from the Bible (Matthew 13:25-40) about the enemy who sowed tares or weeds among the wheat while the farmer slept. Ignorance is a form of sleep that prevents us from identifying the enemy, seeing through his plans and taking steps to stop him. People need to wake up and stay wide awake, aware and alert at all times and encourage others to do the same.

    The first thing to wake up to, from a Christian point of view, is the fact that the Church has been hijacked and taken over by political and financial groups who are using it as an instrument of subversion. We need to build a new Church, a Church of the people, a Church of true believers.

    But I feel @Jack Cummins is getting a bit impatient with us and would (rightly) like to reclaim his thread, so maybe we can discuss this elsewhere.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I am not getting impatient with your discussions at all. You have made good contributions. I created the thread with the aim of opening up any possible conversations which may arise. I am just extremely pleased that the thread is still going and it is the second longest one I have created so far, and I think that there is probably more mystery to be discussed. Really, I see my question as going back to the whole tradition of Greek mystery schools.
  • Anand-Haqq
    62


    . Yes ... there are unfathomable mysteries, beyond human understanding ...

    . Life is a mystery ... it cannot be approached through the mind ... Why?

    . Because Life is not an academic question to be solved ...

    . Life is beyond mind ... As you're beyond mind ...

    . Mind is utilitarian not existentialist ...

    . And Life is existentialist ...
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I do agree that academic understanding of life does not really approach the experience of mysteries fully. However, I do think that reading the ideas of some who had certain insights is useful as some kind of training, because there is a danger of struggling, and feeling perplexed, alone.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Really, I see my question as going back to the whole tradition of Greek mystery schools.Jack Cummins

    I would recommend "The Golden Chain" by A. Uzdavinys if you haven't read it already. It traces Greek philosophy to its earliest beginnings.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Thanks for recommending the book. I will look out for it.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    Well, on the other thread I was accused of being a "Nazi", so you'll have to be careful what you say. But I agree that we could all do with more love and less war. Enough political sloganeering, activism and rallies. Just relax with a pint of cool Prussian beer, although Bavarian wouldn’t be bad either.

    As to the church, I don’t really attend except for necessities like weddings and funerals.

    What can we do to get us back on track with democracy? Good question. My answer would be with a parable from the Bible (Matthew 13:25-40) about the enemy who sowed tares or weeds among the wheat while the farmer slept. Ignorance is a form of sleep that prevents us from identifying the enemy, seeing through his plans and taking steps to stop him. People need to wake up and stay wide awake, aware and alert at all times and encourage others to do the same.

    The first thing to wake up to, from a Christian point of view, is the fact that the Church has been hijacked and taken over by political and financial groups who are using it as an instrument of subversion. We need to build a new Church, a Church of the people, a Church of true believers.

    But I feel Jack Cummins is getting a bit impatient with us and would (rightly) like to reclaim his thread, so maybe we can discuss this elsewhere.
    a day ago
    Jack CumminsAccepted Answer
    2.2k
    ↪Apollodorus
    I am not getting impatient with your discussions at all. You have made good contributions. I created the thread with the aim of opening up any possible conversations which may arise. I am just extremely pleased that the thread is still going and it is the second longest one I have created so far, and I think that there is probably more mystery to be discussed. Really, I see my question as going back to the whole tradition of Greek mystery schools
    Apollodorus

    Jack is a super person who encourages discussion. However, we have gone off-topic and I don't like that, but, but... you asked how to make democracy strong and what you said of virtues and arte is essential to the people having power and using it well. That is not much of a mystery but it is a major theme in all philosophies East or West. I guess we can turn it into a mystery by questioning if there is life after death and if how we create ourselves in this life affects what happens to us when we die.

    I have read the ancient Greek notion is, we are reincarnated and each time we have forgotten our past lives but we can be triggered to remember what we have learned in previous lives. This was important to their democracy because they wanted to come back to a better place, not a destroyed place. Doing things that glorified their city-state, was feather their own nest. I do live with a sense that I need to create myself as a better person, and hopefully do some good that will make everyone's lives better now and in the future.

    The recent focus on consciousness is most exciting.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I think that you have quoted me as @Apollodorus. I don't mind, so I just hope that he doesn't. Generally, I go along with what I believe the Buddha thought, with lack of certainty about reincarnation. I would much rather the possibility of some deeper aspect of myself returning for future lives, and I just keep an open mind. More lives than one seems to offer more scope than just one for the development of consciousness.

    I went through a time when I really wondered a lot about reincarnation, but I am not sure that it is possible to know for sure at all. As it is, I agree with your focus on how 'to create myself as a better person.' That is not to say that I don't think reincarnation is an interesting question, in the wider one of life after death. At least, it would not leave us floating around as entities, without bodies.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I do live with a sense that I need to create myself as a better person, and hopefully do some good that will make everyone's lives better now and in the future.Athena

    That pretty much encapsulates what philosophy is about.

    As for reincarnation, and I think this also touches on @Jack Cummins' observation, it was a theory that operated on more than just one level. One of the aims of Greek philosophy was to expand man's consciousness, or "open the eye of the heart", to higher realities. Thinking of reincarnation, even as a theoretical possibility, served the purpose of expanding human consciousness in the same way astronomy (which was also an important element in philosophy) focused the mind on the heavenly world above. In other words, reincarnation served a very important psychological and spiritual purpose. Accomplished philosophers were no ordinary men, they were qualified and experienced spiritual masters and guides who knew what their were doing, hence the paramount importance of the master-disciple relationship. This can sometimes be difficult to appreciate for modern man who either has no access to a qualified teacher or who, following the default approach of materialistic, consumer-orientated society, thinks he can construct his own philosophy or spiritual "ladder to heaven" from bits of materials gleaned from the Internet or from books. This is not to discourage individual effort. As they say, when the disciple is ready the teacher, in whatever form or shape including life itself, appears. But it remains that there is a qualitative difference between learning by yourself and learning under a teacher or in a group which means that misinterpretation or misunderstanding of original sources or teachings can happen rather more easily than we think.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I believe that you are making an important point when speaking of the way in which there is a danger in becoming confused about certain topics, including life after death and reincarnation, without the guidance of a teacher. I do engage in such topic discussions on this forum, but it can be difficult in some ways because we are remote from one another and do not know each other. However, it is probably better than us reading and thinking about our ideas completely alone, in isolation.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    However, it is probably better than us reading and thinking about our ideas completely alone, in isolation.Jack Cummins

    Correct. Humans are social creatures. They learn from each other and learning or study groups do assist in this process. The thing is that people often join such groups for their own reasons, e.g. to socialize or kill time. Others may put too much energy into defending their own positions or promoting their egos, often without realizing, of course. But philosophy forums are good enough places to start as long as we don't forget why we're here. In Platonism, as in other traditions, memory plays a central role on many levels. It is important to understand that life, including learning, takes place on different planes of existence or levels of experience simultaneously, only one or two of which we are normally aware of, and even that incompletely. I find that keeping this at the back of our mind as it were, can open up unexpected avenues of perception and experience.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Generally, I find discussing ideas on this forum, but I am trying to be a bit reserved and cautious about how much I talk about certain ideas, like reincarnation. I have probably shared more in certain threads than I should have done, and I ended up feeling stressed out with some responses I received. I am just saying that because you are new to the forum, and there are some people who can become fairly hostile. Obviously, it is entirely up to you how much you share. At the moment, I am trying to be a bit more cautious than usual.

    I like deep discussions and trying to think of some new threads which don't involve aspects of religion. I do enjoy discussion religious ideas so much, but at the moment, there are so many heated religious arguments going on in some threads. I have been using the forum for about 8 or 9 months and it goes in phases. People come and go, so I hope that you stick around. If I get into threads where it becomes tense, I prefer to keep a low profile. I feel that I learn through interacting and hearing various views, and what is good is that it is from people from all across the world. It is my first forum, and I will probably try to continue to use until a new avenue appears. I do agree that learning often takes place on many levels, and I think that I am in this life with fairly heavy karma...It is probably this that keeps me moving forward with the mysteries of life.

    I am probably happier to discuss ideas like reincarnation or extrasensory perception on this thread rather than the one on reincarnation. That is because this is an older thread, so it is quieter and when talking about such ideas I am just trying to vocalise them with a few readers, rather than have to prove that I am right.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    That pretty much encapsulates what philosophy is about.

    As for reincarnation, and I think this also touches on Jack Cummins' observation, it was a theory that operated on more than just one level. One of the aims of Greek philosophy was to expand man's consciousness, or "open the eye of the heart", to higher realities. Thinking of reincarnation, even as a theoretical possibility, served the purpose of expanding human consciousness in the same way astronomy (which was also an important element in philosophy) focused the mind on the heavenly world above. In other words, reincarnation served a very important psychological and spiritual purpose. Accomplished philosophers were no ordinary men, they were qualified and experienced spiritual masters and guides who knew what their were doing, hence the paramount importance of the master-disciple relationship. This can sometimes be difficult to appreciate for modern man who either has no access to a qualified teacher or who, following the default approach of materialistic, consumer-orientated society, thinks he can construct his own philosophy or spiritual "ladder to heaven" from bits of materials gleaned from the Internet or from books. This is not to discourage individual effort. As they say, when the disciple is ready the teacher, in whatever form or shape including life itself, appears. But it remains that there is a qualitative difference between learning by yourself and learning under a teacher or in a group which means that misinterpretation or misunderstanding of original sources or teachings can happen rather more easily than we think.
    Apollodorus

    You said that so beautifully I could cry. I recently said something close to that to my daughter, telling her how sorry I am that I could not give our family the benefits of a church because Christianity just isn't my path. I don't think she fully understood what I was saying, the importance of that group of which you speak.

    As I understand philosophy and democracy they go together. The group mind being far superior to individual efforts to understand right thinking and right action. This forum is the closest I can get to the intellectual stimulation I desire. It would be so wonderful if we could gather to share a meal and have a symposium.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    I went through a time when I really wondered a lot about reincarnation, but I am not sure that it is possible to know for sure at all. As it is, I agree with your focus on how 'to create myself as a better person.' That is not to say that I don't think reincarnation is an interesting question, in the wider one of life after death. At least, it would not leave us floating around as entities, without bodies.Jack Cummins

    Interesting notion floating around without bodies. Does not sound good at all. However, being one with God might mean without an ego that necessitates separation from God, but instead being part of one consciousness. As the Egyptian notion of the spiritual trinity. Our body dies with death, and our heart is judged and may or may not enter the good life, and no matter what, the third part of our trinity returns to the source. Our 3-dimensional reality being an illusion of separation.
  • Tom Storm
    971
    As it is, many do not believe in God, or any supernatural power. Humanity, in many ways, stands before a godless abyss, struggling to know what to do next, in order to survive...Jack Cummins

    That's a nice summary of what people often believe about humanity. Is there an abyss? I think only for people with a certain cast of mind. The abyss doesn't have to be godless. There is also the god abyss. Christ knows a lot of theists live tortured lives not knowing what god wants from them, being mocked by silence and emptiness and sometimes being kept awake at night with visions of hell fire, etc.

    My own experience is that many secular people live calm, rational lives, with few concerns about metaphysics and epistemology and still manage to live deeply and thoughtfully, rarely being too concerned by questions of transcendent meaning.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    My own experience is that many secular people live calm, rational lives, with few concerns about metaphysics and epistemology and still manage to live deeply and thoughtfully, rarely being too concerned by questions of transcendent meaning.Tom Storm

    Yes, but as political creatures, in a democracy, it is important to decide what is the right thought (truth) and the right action. Our abyss is an economic collapse such as Germany experienced before Hitler seized power and totalitarianism or socialism killing our democracy with liberty. That would be hell on earth and our only defense is right reasoning and right action.
  • Tom Storm
    971
    You are far too dramatic. Voting well and community solidarity does not require you read Schopenhauer or Plato or care about the nature of reality. The people I am talking about well and truly take care of social responsibilities.

    Incidentally Hitler was begat by one of the most well read, most cultured, philosophically literate societies on earth. Just saying...
  • Janus
    10.1k
    There are several mysteries which seem essential to the philosophical quest; the existence of God, free will and, life after death. These seem to be central to philosophy. Endless books have been written on these subjects. However, no one seems to have come up with any clear answers, and it seems to me that they remain as unsolved mysteries. We all contemplate these aspects of life, but it does seem that there are no definitive answers. Perhaps the whole aspect of mysteries is central to philosophy and what keeps us searching. Are they unfathomable mysteries, beyond human understanding?Jack Cummins

    To orient ourselves; existentially, ethically, aesthetically, we need to embrace theism (in the broadest sense) or let it go. There cannot be a definitive yes or no answer to the question of the existence of God; because, inter alia, there seems to be no definitive definition of God.

    As to free will, I think that it must be presupposed if you think it is necessary to believe people are praiseworthy or blameworthy for their actions. And I think it must be presupposed in the full libertarian sense, otherwise it cannot provide rational justification for praise and blame. (Note: reward and punishment are not the same as praise and blame).

    Life after death is something that cannot ever be empirically tested, because any such purported life would not be life within the empirical realm (unless like Lazarus, someone returned from death; but then you could never know for sure whether the person had really died or merely appeared to be dead).

    Those who look to science will of course say these questions are already answered, but their presupposition is that science is best equipped to offer answers to such questions. All views have there share of baseless presuppositions.

    Here's an example: say neuroscience comes up with a theory of consciousness that is widely accepted as true. You might then think the so-called 'Hard Problem' had been definitively solved/ resolved/ dissolved, but whatever explanatory mechanisms could be proposed in such a theory, how could we ever know they are the whole story. They might seem adequate to some minds, but that would say more about those minds than it would about the exhaustivity of the theory.

    My motto is to forever keep an open mind. At present I am not a theist; which means that I don't accept divine command theory in ethics. I also don't believe in any form of afterlife, but I don't deny it either; I remain agnostic; which means I live my life, and consider my actions, in terms of what I can hope to assess; their likely effects in this life, not in some unknown or merely imagined afterlife.

    As to free will, I believe I am free, because I experience myself (within obvious limits) as being so, and I see insufficient reasons from science to believe otherwise.
  • emancipate
    275
    As to free will, I believe I am free, because I experience myself (within obvious limits) as being so, and I see insufficient reasons from science to believe otherwise.Janus

    Experience is tricky. You don't know what direction your thoughts will take 10 mins from now, and you didn't choose to have the thoughts you had 10 mins previously. Infact, if someone asked you to think of a book, any book, there is no experience of choice. Rather, from the pov of experience, the book titles that appear in your conscious awareness seem arbitrary (of course, once you have a few titles in mind you are apparently free to select one, but it's not clear how free that 'choice' is, if at all).

    You have a good motto.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    Rather, from the pov of experience, the book titles that appear in your conscious awareness seem arbitrary (of course, once you have a few titles in mind you are apparently free to select one, but it's not clear how free that 'choice' is, if at all).emancipate

    When you say "it's not clear" I interpret that to mean there is no proof, or there is no empirical evidence. I would agree with that. But it is also not clear that choices are not free either, so as I said, I see no good reason to deny the present feeling of freedom.

    The fact that we cannot explain or model freedom conceptually does not bother me; in fact that is exactly what I would expect.

    You have a good motto.emancipate

    Thanks :cool:
  • Apollodorus
    531
    As I understand philosophy and democracy they go together.Athena

    They do indeed. But the main concern in Platonic philosophy is justice or righteousness. The ideal government or political system is one guided by the principle of righteousness. Hence Plato's suggestion that countries should be ruled by philosopher-kings.

    By the way, the notion of "floating around without bodies" is not a Platonic one. In Platonism the soul after death or between incarnations is endowed with a subtle, non-material or "astral" body. The soul also inhabits this astral body in the dream state or out-of-body experiences.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Generally, I find discussing ideas on this forum, but I am trying to be a bit reserved and cautious about how much I talk about certain ideas, like reincarnation. I have probably shared more in certain threads than I should have done, and I ended up feeling stressed out with some responses I received. I am just saying that because you are new to the forum, and there are some people who can become fairly hostile. Obviously, it is entirely up to you how much you share. At the moment, I am trying to be a bit more cautious than usual.Jack Cummins

    I don’t actually frequent online forums much, for the simple reason that I haven’t got the time. I only came across this one while I was working with my colleagues on a project about Greek philosophy and its transmission from Plato into modern times. Incidentally, this in itself makes a fascinating subject. It is generally assumed in Western Europe that Greek philosophical texts were somehow “lost” to Europe and were reintroduced through Latin translations from Arabic. But if you said this to an educated Greek, he would smile at your ignorance. The assumption is largely true of Western Europe which was overrun by Germanic tribes but the Eastern part of the Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) with its capital at Constantinople lasted until 1453 (about a thousand years) and all the original texts were preserved in Greek (Christian) libraries, universities and even monasteries. Meantime, there were Greek or Greek-speaking philosophers in Alexandria (Egypt) and other parts of the Middle East and when Muslim Arabs conquered the region in the 600s, Greek philosophy passed on to the Arab world.

    The Arabs didn’t have the manpower or experience to run the administration, so they largely left the Byzantine administration in place, with Greek-speaking non-Arabs in charge of the conquered territories. For example, St John of Damascus’ father, Sergius ibn Mansur, was one of the many Byzantine Christian officials in Syria retained in the new Muslim Umayyad administration. Under Muslim rule, St John himself was able to write a book in Greek, The Fount of Knowledge, in which he refuted the teachings of Islam (makes interesting reading, by the way).

    Greek civilisation, even under Christianity, was unsurpassed at the time. Constantinople, “the New Rome”, was unmatched and the Muslim Arabs dreamed of making it the capital of the Muslim world. In particular, the Arabs had a keen interest in Greek philosophy. Centres of Greek philosophy had already been established in Persia and Christian Armenia had libraries with Greek philosophical texts. In the 700s, following the Arab conquests, the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur built a learning centre (“House of Wisdom”) at Baghdad and ordered the translation of Greek philosophical works, gathered from the Byzantines, into Arabic. This is known as the “Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement” but translations were also made into Syriac and Persian so that, incredible though this may sound, the whole of the Middle East was re-Hellenized under Muslim rule. It was at this time that Islamic mysticism a.k.a. Sufism made its appearance under the influence of Platonic currents from Alexandria, Baghdad, Harran and other places. The Persian scholar al-Biruni even believed that the word “Sufi” was derived from Greek sophia, “wisdom”. This may not have been entirely true of the word, but it certainly applied to the tradition.

    And so, Platonic philosophers and mystics carried on the tradition, sometimes disguised as Christians in Greece and elsewhere in the Christian world, as Muslims or “Sufis” in the Arab-Persian World and even as far as India where many had already established themselves in the early centuries of the Christian Era.

    Transmission of the Greek Classics – Wikipedia

    Graeco-Arabic translation movement - Wikipedia

    Christian Platonists and Christian Neoplatonists

    What you are reading here is something that the vast majority of people, even those with higher education, know nothing about (except some with knowledge of Byzantine studies and related fields). The same happens with philosophy and spirituality in general. Very little is known, much less is understood, and less still is put into practice and experienced. On the other hand, the saying “seek and you shall find” applies above all to the spiritual path. Half of the time, while you’re looking for something, you may find something else that is of even greater value. The main thing is to keep an open mind and believe in the impossible at all times. And don’t let anyone tell you that reincarnation is a myth.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    176
    I saw this elsewhere and thought of this thread. Certainly Hegel took mystical ideas seriously. Granted, this is an appeal to authority, but an appeal to the guy I consider the second or third greatest mind in history following Plato and maybe Aristotle (Hegel might edge out the later).

    Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom — he believes he has found it. Hegel writes in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, “To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowledge — that is what I have set before me” (Miller, 3; PC, 3). By the end of the Phenomenology, Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom.

    Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom. His claim is, however, fully consistent with the ambitions of the Hermetic tradition, a current of thought that derives its name from the so-called Hermetica (or Corpus Hermeticum), a collection of Greek and Latin treatises and dialogues written in the first or second centuries A.D. and probably containing ideas that are far older. The legendary author of these works is Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice-Greatest Hermes”). “Hermeticism” denotes a broad tradition of thought that grew out of the “writings of Hermes” and was expanded and developed through the infusion of various other traditions. Thus, alchemy, Kabbalism, Lullism, and the mysticism of Eckhart and Cusa — to name just a few examples — became intertwined with the Hermetic doctrines. (Indeed, Hermeticism is used by some authors simply to mean alchemy.) Hermeticism is also sometimes called theosophy, or esotericism; less precisely, it is often characterized as mysticism, or occultism.

    It is the thesis of this book that Hegel is a Hermetic thinker. I shall show that there are striking correspondences between Hegelian philosophy and Hermetic theosophy, and that these correspondences are not accidental. Hegel was actively interested in Hermeticism, he was influenced by its exponents from boyhood on, and he allied himself with Hermetic movements and thinkers throughout his life. I do not argue merely that we can understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, just as we can understand him as a German or a Swabian or an idealist thinker. Instead, I argue that we must understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, if we are to truly understand him at all.

    BTW, Marxists.org and Gnosis.org have a great collection of English texts that are free and in editable/copyable forms. Really nice.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.