Archive for Philosophy

The Sound and the Fury

Posted in academia, Philosophy, Technology, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , on February 27, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Science is the analytical description, philosophy is synthetic interpretation. Science wishes to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the obscure into the known. It does not inquire into the values and ideal possibilities of things, nor into their total and final significance; it is content to show their present actuality and operation, it narrows its gaze resolutely to the nature and process of things as they are. The scientist is as impartial as Nature in Turgenev’s poem: he is as interested in the leg of a flea as in the creative throes of a genius. But the philosopher is not content to describe the fact; he wishes to ascertain its relation to experience in general, and thereby to get at its meaning and its worth; he combines things in interpretive synthesis; he tries to put together, better than before, that great universe-watch which the inquisitive scientist has analytically taken apart. Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war; but only wisdom — desire coordinated in the light of all experience — can tell us when to heal and when to kill. To observe processes and to construct means is science; to criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy: and because in these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For a fact is nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.

–from the introduction to Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy

Since this book was first published in the 1920s, I guess by “sound and fury” Willie D. was referring to crazy new inventions like the telegraph and jazz music. It’s kinda like when Dogen tells us not to be too enticed by pretty flowers — at the time it was a major distraction from the time one could be spending on (non)attaining nirvana, or exploring the superunknown.

Will was a funny guy — a fine writer, and full of interesting quirks. For example, in the first few lines of Chapter 1, he discounts 20th century Asia Minor as “quiet and apathetic,” and goes on to say that Socrates’ bust is so hideous, he looks more like a porter than a philosopher. ZOMG dude u r so judgmental!!1!

Cool book, though a little wordy. Durant wrote a bunch in this series, giving a chronological rundown in the major events of history, philosophy, great civilizations and thinkers, etc. They’re certainly better than the dime-a-dozen history books you can buy on Amazon on any subject and be absolutely mired in poor sources or a lack of inspiration (I’m looking at you Stephen Turnbull and Thomas Cleary).

Still, I cannot even begin to assess the can of worms that the quote above opened. Better to zip my lips. For once I’d like to write a post that doesn’t generate boatloads of hate mail.

Pity Me, Smart People!

Posted in Christianity, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Relationships, society, World of Emotions with tags , , , on April 9, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I think I’m just too dumb to read Nietzsche. Not to dumb to get it of course, but too dumb to read it. Wordy stuff like Friedrich Wilhem is a real headache for this uh, wizard. I make super slow progress through his translated works.

Personal shortcomings aside, his whole schtick about pity got me thinking. You know where he talks about how the master classes pity the slave classes, and the slave classes pity themselves so they create a new imaginary value structure based on divine salvation, which excludes the master classes and condemns them? Of course you do. What he’s saying is that the slave classes are inferior in their strength of will and cannot be considered as equals by the master classes, because the master classes gauge everything by strength of wills. Indeed, the master class’ very existence and position in life is dependent upon their strength of will, so they cannot compromise their drives to let a weaker willed person survive. And likewise this would merely betray a weak drive… Survival of the strong, etc.

Of course, this exists in modern society, but not so blatantly (i.e. with physical violence). And it also made me think, isn’t everything just a case of one duality pitying the other? ‘Cause you know, slave and master classes are just another duality. They’re just another dancing cosmic pair who need each other, who have the explosive love-hate romantic relationship that functions relatively smoothly but occasionally gets nasty with bumps in the road when one side gets too greedy.

Think about it (I sure hope all you smarty-pants who can read Nietzsche already have): Master classes pity slave classes, humans pity animals (particularly dogs!), the smart pity the dumb, the strong pity the weak, the beautiful pity the ugly, the happy pity the sad, the talented pity the clumsy, man pities woman, the rich pity the poor, and on and on and on and on. Not that this is empathy, oh lawd no! This is pity, which means there is a notion of pathetic qualities of the pitied party which the pitying class is aware of. And in each case, the pitied class also pities itself! I mean, this was Nietzsche’s whole complicated point, so I don’t need to really expound upon it.

Oh hell, I can’t help myself! The master class, or class that pities the other, in pitying them manipulates them by pretending to be empathetic to their plight! That is, if they truly felt empathy for the slave classes, they’d be of the same class! They’d be manipulated into that pitied position! It’s kind of like one of my classic intuitive insights: in order to rule people effectively, one must separate oneself from them. One cannot be emotionally attached to or tied to anyone they rule over. Imperium indeed! Hitler and Goebbels knew what this was all about…

This leads me to some dangerous conclusions about religion. I say dangerous because knowing this stuff can make a person nihilistic or incapable of following religious practice. So, if you practice religious stuff right now and don’t want your mind to be smooshed into jelly at the revelation of intuitive cosmic truth, stop reading here.

For you brave, foolish souls left — I am thinking that religion serves the purpose of gradually boosting the pitied/slave classes’ morale and emotional balance until they themselves can arrive at the point of being members of the master classes. The problem is that a lot of people don’t have the karma or chutzpah to get there in this current incarnation, and a lot of people have to be excluded from the master classes, so most of us are stuck in the slave classes. But the goal of religion as a tool for the common person (of effective, honest religion, anyway) is to create a healthy view of self in the practitioner.

Hmm, I guess that’s actually not so profound. Isn’t that what I believe about everything? Martial arts, religion… they’re all supposed to teach a person how to be independent from others, how to rely on oneself, without being manipulative of others. So… yeah, I guess I’m not an evangelical Christian or anything since I don’t think blind faith will really help you unless it develops into something more pristine. Blind faith is for the slave classes. But what is crazy is how there are a lot of people in powerful positions that don’t care about other people that do have the blind faith of the slave classes.

Another headache, am I right?

Socrates’ Daemon and the Tower of Babel

Posted in Asceticism, Mysticism, Paganism, Philosophy, Religion, society, Technology, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It is interesting how all nations and lineages take pride in the significant moments in their history or timeline as well as those profound people who stand out as remarkable and virtuous to the world. But, as Socrates is credited with saying, virtue is not hereditary in genealogy nor in the lineages of cultures and traditions. The veneration of a notable character for being of the same cultural or social origin, this betrays modest ignorance in an individual and blatancy or confusion in a culture.

This stuff is kinda confusing, but…some genetic traits are predisposed for different things. Like, some bloodlines excel naturally at music, some at visual art, and so on. And actually, it’s more complicated than that, evading even scientific categorization (AMAZING, I know). It’s more realistic to say, some combinations of genes or traits (not necessarily bloodlines) create the parameters for certain “artistic opportunities” to manifest. An artistic opportunity in this definition, is what William Blake would call the “poetic genius”. An individual, whose manifestation possesses the ability to exaggerate the deep, layered, subconscious cosmos through a communicative medium of time-space expression. While it is often artistic expression, there are those with divine intuition in other arenas of the mind, such as math, linguistics or engineering. Such an existence is a window of artistic–and divine, opportunity.

The summarized point here is that a genetic predisposition to craftsmanship in something, especially art, still does not bequeath creativity. And it’s the same with virtue. It is beyond genetic transmission. Some genes and environments simply create greater odds or “luck” for a virtuous person to manifest. But there are no guarantees.

This makes me think of Socrates’ “daemon”. I’ve had discussions with philosophy students who conclude that the concept of a daemon, or active/vocal conscience present in his cognitive sphere, is/was only a metaphor. But one can also look at it without reading into it and take it at face value — that Socrates really did have a familiar spirit or special sense that informed him of the outcome of his potential actions. What makes that so crazy?

Now, clearly we can’t prove anything here about what Socrates himself meant to communicate in our modern language and symbols. But that doesn’t really matter much to me. I can see that it isn’t purely metaphorical in that early language. This is a facet of the ancient world: there does not seem to be such a strict division between something existing as a metaphor and having concrete existence. Due to the absence of any kind of extensive canon to build language and symbols upon, and since Socrates seems (to us, at least) to be creating (via Plato’s dialogs) a lot of archetypal philosophical ideas, the actual assessment of Socrates’ daemon as a spirit lies somewhere between literal and metaphorical.

But this makes the discussion pretty interesting. The gods of empiricism are at large in our modern collective venues of prayer. With the development of technologies, mankind stands at the altar of the machines. The ignorant will never know what they pray to, but most people have a hint that whatever they actively reinvest inspiration into becomes a potent idea, and eventually a bearer of will and being. Those who profess athiesm and materialism pray to these ideas — they bow to them and ask them to manifest in our world with ever greater resonance. They raise their kids amidst this blind technolust and project it upon society at large.

Prometheus (the name means literally, “fore-thought”) brings fire to mankind and is punished by the gods. One interpretation could be that Prometheus changed the pantheon of gods humanity worshiped, or made man fall into belief in demigods. Intensive intellectual thought brings fire to humanity and changes his fears and beliefs. There are a wide plethora of ways to interpret this kind of event.

When I was younger, like many others, I used to wonder whether modern man had lost the ability to see the spirits of antiquity. While most of us in the industrial world may have lost the ability to perceive the gods of old, it is not so much a loss of vision as it is a change in focus. Modern society worships different things, and most people are only able to see the things society worships. Mechanization and industry are actually a result of prayer, creating demigods we see as being holy.

The story of the Tower of Babel involves mankind’s quest to build a bridge to God, to become greater than God. The project eventually falls apart from the petty social squabbles around realizing this pipe-dream. But another symbolic outcome of this story is that mankind unwittingly summons a Satanic archetype — a destructor — which destroys the valuable fruits (virtues) of humanity’s labor (community).

The Answer to Philosophy: Empty Universe!

Posted in Buddhism, Occult, Philosophy, The Arts, World of Emotions with tags , , , on February 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Well, I thought I’d point out that Empty Universe is an absolutely killer website. Every thing’s laid out really well in big fonts, all easily accessible, with a bunch of philosophical explanations and translations of Buddhist texts from various traditions. Oh, and not to mention nice, smooth, refreshing energy coming from the whole thing.

Sorry to sound like a schizo/new-ager with the energy angle, but I had to describe the site adequately! And I hope one day someone will put up western philosophical texts on a similar web site, with energetic vibrancy comparable to say, Access to Insight or the aforementioned site. Philosophical texts are just so dry!

I suppose that’s in line with the inherent nature of western philosophy. It’s an academic form of expression. Here the soul is imprisoned and, in some cases, even sacrificed for its very ejaculation! Why, just look at Nietzsche…

And what’s the role of western philosophy? I know a few folks who really tried to assuage all their mortal insecurities by accumulating an encyclopedic knowledge of the philosophical canon. You’ll run into a lot of occultists and religious folks who did this too. Hee hee, I’m not completely innocent myself…

The problem I concluded upon is that philosophy doesn’t propose a concise method or a practice – it’s just rumination upon all of the lines of forethought that exist. And it’s getting more complicated over the years. It’s the art of thinking and expressing it. It’s literary art, rather than any compendium of answers to life’s mores and woes.

It’s hard to be a philosopher these days. And a lot of philosophers can get too caught up with being a man/woman of letters: they care too much about being esteemed. For, what can you do in society with philosophical expertise but be esteemed and teach at a university? Go on to study law, or maybe be an “astral duelist” (they’re the same thing, right?).

I like philosophy. It’s enjoyable reading, but it’s also kind of dangerous. It can make your mind complicated! Unlike television.


The Degenerate Age

Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Doom and Evil, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Have you noticed that philosophers, stoics, hermits, religious folks, true artists and so on always decry their own society as being a degenerate one? There is always this claim that some societies of yore were ideal, superior, and their cultures were richer. If you look into the philosophical canon, you’ll see this tendency starts with Plato (or Socrates) and Confucius–whom point to the courts of the philosopher kings of antiquity as the ideal societies of humanity. This grim critique continues on through to folks like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger–all of whom lament the impending industrial and capitalist drive thinning their European cultures and exponentially increasing the world population.

The spiritual movements of the late 19th century also saw this as important; the Blavatskys, Yeats and Crowleys of the world all used the gravitas and ethos of impending cultural, spiritual and environmental death to promote their works or groups. And even today, Buddhist lineages tell us we are living in the degenerate age, Christian fundamentalists insist the end of days are coming, and martial arts masters like Ueshiba and Hatsumi tell us we are living in “an era of blatancy” in which martial arts are more necessary than ever.

And honestly, you have to admit, that if you’re a remotely contemplative person, you have doubts about a positive future for mankind.

But why is that? Isn’t that really just some kind of personal spin? Some attachment that comes from a jaded search for purpose in one’s life, which relegates one to solitude? Because it seems to me, that in every single generation, there are a handful of individuals who lament the direction of the future; and instead of trying to harness its direction (a task which would take up all of one’s time for serious contemplation) they scorn the movement of mainstream culture and society.

To doubt society as a whole is easy; doubt is a potent altar to pray at. And even more so for anyone who studies liberal arts in colleges and so on. Those folks will find the main skills they’re learning are writing and how to critically analyze literature to form an argument. In other words, critical thinking. And critical thinking is certainly a helpful tool.

But a lot of people overdo it. A lot of people get attached to critical thought, or unknowingly enjoy it, hoard it, engross themselves in it. But it’s just a tool like anything else, and can easily overpower a person’s psyche. I’m not saying it’s bad to critically think things over, but it isn’t a recipe for any kind of happiness. And happiness isn’t a matter of being ignorant and blissful. It’s a matter of knowing what is worth critically analyzing, taming the mind and knowing when to stop analyzing things.

I think this is part of what makes people so damning of the society around them. Don’t get me wrong, I do think pop culture sucks and I actually think most new culture is boring or I can’t relate to it. And this is largely because everything is now a product being aimed at the lowest common denominator. But this is the direction of things. The blatancy society has built within its culture is due to humanity’s ignorant desires–the desperate search for power, stability and self-deification, the result of which is a rapidly approaching evolution into transhumanism. Everybody helped create and shared in this ignorance. After all, we’re all human too (for better or for worse).

Although society disappoints me, and I have trouble putting a whole lot of faith in other people, I am much more bothered by conditioned phenomena. Conditioned phenomena inherently sucks, and that’s why every modern era seems to be poor and shallow in comparison to some old zeitgeist; some past time and place which seems so romantic in the present.

Just for fun, here’s a little Kierkegaard (from Either/Or) on the subject:

Of all ridiculous things in the world what strikes me as the most ridiculous of all is being busy in the world, to be a man quick to his meals and quick to his work. So when, at the crucial moment, I see a fly settle on such a business man’s nose, or he is bespattered by a carriage which passes him by in even greater haste, or the drawbridge is raised, or a tile falls from the roof and strikes him dead, I laugh from the bottom of my heart. And who could help laughing? For what do they achieve, these busy botchers? Are they not like the housewife who, in confusion at the fire in her house, saved the fire-tongs? What else do they salvage from the great fire of life?

It’s not like I disagree with him: he’s right on the money. But I’m pretty convinced that unconditioned reality is where it’s at. So I don’t spend a whole lot of free time dwelling on how lousy conditioned reality is. It is a given, after all…