Homo Religiosus (ESOTERICISM EPISTLES - I)
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Homo Religiosus (ESOTERICISM EPISTLES - I)
28 th August 2007 - Antonio D'Alonzo writes:
I don't have any more illusions about the relation between Freemasonry and initiation. I am absolutely positive that for contemporary man it is rather impossible to transcend anything (the oriental man as well as the occidental man). Furthermore the possibility of an ‘esotericism' or an ‘initiation', at least in Freemasonry, concerns a trite dualistic ontology of a Platonic kind, viz. the ‘essences' up there and the ‘imperfect copies' down here, which contemporary thought has overcome a long time ago.
It would be preferable to talk about ‘Imaginal' or Mundus Imaginalis , as Corbin wrote. The task of elaborating a post-metaphysical or ultra-metaphysical thought (meaning the dualistic metaphysics of the subject opposed to the object) is already extremely hard. Fancy that our management can achieve this goal.
What remains is a group of brothers that carry on the path and us among them.
But our ‘stole-men' are true hindrances with their Garibaldism and laicism. In other words, let's abandon any hope on Freemasonry. We must do it ourselves; and under certain aspects this is not a bad thing, in this atmosphere […]
Athos A. Altomonte writes:
Dear Antonio, I fully agree with your analysis, which I don't find despairing but fair, if we consider the elitist model as a reference. The doors have been opened to ‘dogs and pigs', therefore this was to be expected. Luckily there isn't only the commercial side, the politicized aspect of stoles, so to speak; there have always been groups represented as Bad Fellowcrafts.
Metamorphosis, light and knowledge through contact exist. They are aspects that can be known and generated by creating the right relations according to the laws of Harmonics. We must learn to get in touch with these realities (under-dimensions and over-dimensions), starting from V.I.T.R.I.O.L., which is not only a metaphor. Today like in the past the initiatory path exists. But sometimes not even elitist groups believe in it and they are happy to pass on recipes to each other like cooks that don't cook. From this the situation of stall originates. They are profanes who play with stoles and cooks with recipes, but nobody tries to transform himself, to carve the stone.
This is an old dilemma. Perhaps because we are still immature, still too much in love with ourselves to think that the minuscule dimension identified with the ‘I am' can be re-modeled and enriched with new and more courageous functions. They remain attached to the ‘I am', without considering that it gets stronger. Whilst it should be dis-integrated and then re-integrated according to a superior standard, which for convenience we will call ‘superior ego', which is the only window on our inner sun.
30 th August 2007 - Antonio writes:
Fine, but there are intrinsic difficulties on the essence of the initiatory path as it is defined today in confraternities.
Unless we want to define the initiatory path as a gift received from above, like certain contemporary theologians propose in alternative to the Ratzingerian rationalization of faith. In this case we can affirm to believe ‘leaving aside' any statement of reason or science. But personally I consider a man of thought and not faith – and so do you, I believe. Therefore we can't help wondering about the object of our research, even taking on board the inevitable concessions to the epistemological limits of reason in the dim light of discursive ratio.
For example we talk about initiatory ‘path'. There are two ways to intend the word ‘path'; it can be meant as a distance between an initial and a final point; in this sense the alpha and omega of spiritual reintegration in the Principle, or if you prefer, in the ‘vacuity'. In the first instance the initiatory ‘path' recalls an objectivizing-descriptive knowledge founded on a meta-theory and not on a simple view of the world.
It is the idea of a ‘meta-network' of relative metaphysics: the base and the roots shared by the trunk and the branches. But unless we introduce a selection of the contingent doctrines and leave some of them out, the accounts don't balance. The Zen is not harmonizable, in view of a superior synthesis, with the biblical creationism or with the bloody cosmogony of Aztecs. None of these is compatible with the ‘primitive' religions. The argument of religious syncretism doesn't work either, because the syncretistic thought acts a posteriori and not a priori. When we think the ‘origin' we must place ourselves ‘at the top' rather than ‘at the bottom'.
The second possibility concerns the conception of the initiatory ‘path' as an intimate and personal journey. This second option seems more likely to me. In every tradition we find the mystic instance, meant as an overcoming of the individual condition, in view of the fusion with the Whole; the realization of the micro-macrocosm. In this case mysticism becomes a universal attitude of the spirit, the triumphal extension of the speculative intellect.
This idea is perfectly conceivable. But if mysticism is a universal faculty that all men have, more or less developed or obliterated, what sense does it make to talk about regular initiation or transmission of knowledge ? If mysticism belongs to the homo religious , what need is there to receive the initiation through a rite of passage? Hasn't perhaps esotericism, the secret character of the arcane science, been the veil of Maya necessary to escape persecutions and stakes of religious dogmas?
I think this is the decisive point. Mysticism is a branch of speculative philosophy that belongs to everybody because it is universal. It is a conscious or unconscious potentiality of the human mind. Everybody can reach spiritual realization. Evola and later neo-paganism have postulated the possibility of self-initiation. The elitist secret can be referred to the need to protect oneself from the persecutions plotted by official orthodoxies. The Columbus egg to escape the stakes of inquisition.
In this case true esotericism of esotericism is mysticism; likewise the exotericism of mysticism is esotericism. Everybody can achieve states of ecstatic fusion with the universe; Freud spoke about ‘oceanic feeling'. But if this interpretation is plausible, and I think it is, Masonic initiation equals a kind of psycho-drama aimed at reawaking potentialities that already belong to the homo religiosus. Nothing more.
31 st August 2007 - Athos writes:
Dear friend, as for me I reject the idea of initiation as ‘gift received from above', at least as much as the ‘Ratzingerian rationalization of faith'. I think in a realistic way, but I believe in something, such as in the achievement of conscience bridges that join the different fragments of our conscience. I think that using science amplifies conscience, and conscience gives depth to science. As a consequence, I think that science and conscience are indispensable elements for initiatory realization, wherever we start form. Then, in each of us there is a ‘magic' element that is intuition. It is an aspect left to chance, when indeed it should be driven to grow in suitable ways. When intuition amplifies, a new mind appears, much superior to the minuscule dimension of I (am).
On the use of intuition and intellectual sensitivity the eastern and western esotericisms agree in the symbology of a ‘Bridge or Arch'. The result of this fusion between one's own inner heaven and earth is the Royal Art (Ars Regia) or Raja Yoga (in Sanskrit, Fusion with the Royal).
For those who conceive the initiatory fulfillment as a fusion of ‘oneself', viz. the unification between the physical and metaphysical identities, this is self-initiation . According to Assagioli self-initiation is conceived through a supreme Act of Will ( inner fire ).
The man who can build inner ‘Bridges or Arches' needs other things to reach the meaning of gnosis, ‘knowing through contact'. This doesn't involve any miracle fallen from above , but a lot of work on oneself and a lot of trust on the work that one is carrying out.
The bridges made by the intellect allow the communication among several dimensions of conscience. Intellectual conscience doesn't originate from erudition, but it is pure intuitive intelligence. We should understand, though, the real potentialities of this ‘divine spark', as someone calls it, much bigger than it is normally thought. To improve this talent is the apex of esotericism and it is called Ars pontificia.
31 st August 2007 - Antonio writes:
I substantially agree with what you wrote, in particular on the intuitive amplification of the intellect which should allow the structuring of a new mind; perhaps the ‘natural' mind which Zolla talked about. As a philosophy scholar, though, I am keen on reflecting on the fundaments, in a different way from a scholar of psycho-synthesis as Assagioli is. I wonder, and after all thinking is more about asking questions than offering answers, on which metaphysics, or rather meta-theory, the psycho-synthetic approach is based.
Jung talked a lot about the principle of individuation between unconsciousness and conscience but avoiding to overstep the boundaries of science and to embrace the unknown. Is it only a result of his attitude as a doctor? I came to the conclusion that Jung, a very intelligent man, was aware that he couldn't found his researches on any credible or verisimilar meta-theory. He preferred to remain within the boundaries of depth analysis.
I'll explain it better. Gu é non founded his idea of ‘Tradition' on an exclusive/inclusive metaphysical system; he included the tasawwuf, the Vedanta advaita, Meister Eckhart, partly Platonism. He excluded Buddhism hinayana, Paracelsism, German philosophy. On which basis? Which are the ontological fundaments, the reasons of these inclusions/exclusions apart from personal idiosyncrasies?
I can be born at the end of the nineteenth century in France, be in conflict with the esoteric world in Paris, label most of the European traditions as ‘pseudo-initiatory'. I can meet a painter that initiates me to Sufism and state that tasawwuf is fully traditional.
It is obvious that these are arbitrary choices that don't lead to the elaboration of a coherent and verisimilar notion of ‘Primordial Tradition'. In other words in the generic idea of ‘Tradition' I include all that I like and I exclude what I loath (as Schuon with Freemasonry).
I mentioned Guenon and Schuon only as examples of intellectual misunderstandings; I am not interested in talking about their life or work.
Let's go back to our masters of psycho-synthesis. Psychology in general, like all human sciences, uses the inductive method; it goes from the empirical particular to a general theory. My impression is that these psychologists are very good with particulars, symbols, myth-analysis, etc. But they get in trouble when they must explain on which meta-theory or metaphysics they found their spiritual view. I am not surprised; to reflect on the final fundament has always been the task of philosophy rather than psychology, which has competences on the psyche but not on the prime Principles. If we think about the intellectual misunderstandings of the thinkers of ‘Tradition' or on the hesitancy of psychologists, we will reach a clear conclusion: every truth is arbitrary, since it is a cultural or individual construction.
So what is precisely the metaphysical ‘Truth' (with the capital T)?
First of all what is metaphysics? Metaphysics is not a monolith, like some people think nowadays. Who knows the history of western thought knows that metaphysics is the history of metaphysics. Metaphysics is the history of the single metaphysical doctrines that followed in the intellectual journey of the West. Let's take, for example the attitude of a person who likes Saint-Martin, who doesn't know modern and contemporary thought. He prefers to stop at Saint-Martin. In the name of Saint-Martin he refuses the philosophical nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the whole contemporary era, which perhaps he is not able to study.
The fact is that he trusts, he has fides that Saint-Martin's system is superior and able to refuse all that separates contemporariness from the French theosophist. The obstinate clinging to his doctrine is faith, a dogma, because it escapes reflection and the impact with modernity.
Whoever takes philosophy seriously, or the branch of philosophy that is metaphysics, knows that conscience is not something given once for all, but it evolves or regresses with history. The thought and conviction of contemporary man are not the same as the man of the eighteenth century. They are separated by the booming of techno-science, the secularization produced by laicism, flexible economy, the spreading of human sciences, etc… We are not any more the men who listened to and followed Saint-Martin. We live in the restless today and we must think in our historical-social condition, in the hic et nunc of post-modern deconsecrating.
It is not an ethical choice. When I write about homo religiosus I don't mean to state the possibility of an immutable essence; rather of an anthropological attitude to be historically declined . Metaphysics is the history of single metaphysical doctrines, where each overcomes the previous one. The spiritual attitude, the sacer is an anthropological dimension that doesn't necessarily require the faith in God or in a theological-metaphysical doctrine. If thinking makes sense, rather than simply believing, I must elaborate the ways which the spiritual attitude of contemporary man can be declined. I must decline the homo religiosus in the present tense.