Can absolute truth reach man? (ESOTERICISM EPISTLES - V)
By Authors of Esonet
© copyright 2007 by Esonet.it - Esonet.com
Can absolute truth reach man? (ESOTERICISM EPISTLES - V)
"If man cannot reach absolute truth, can the same truth reach man?"
16 th September 2007 - Athos A. Altomonte writes:
Dear Antonio, I would like to continue on the myth of ‘ absolute truths' . We will start from this to reach the idea of the ‘ Bearers of absolute truths ' which for the humankind, incapable on one hand and helpless on the other, are the tragic bearers of ideological cankers.
The question ‘ if man cannot reach an absolute truth, can this truth reach man? ' originated from your idea that ‘the esoteric part of esotericism is mysticism'. If I am not wrong, mysticism, which many people confuse with the carnal cults of devotion, is the only dimension where in rare cases, truth reaches the conscience of man through the heart.
In the previous epistolary (see) we said that the first cause that prevents man from reaching a totalizing truth is the inability of mind and conscience to assimilate views too superior to their characteristics.
We must also add that they are ‘children' of a physical dimension dominated by movement, where the thought undergoes continuous mutations. This is true for every thought, even the philosophical and scientific ones, whose assimilation drives the thinker to continuously overcome himself.
We know that many mental limits can be overcome and that conscience can be expanded up to the point of reaching boundaries far away from the original epicenter. But this occurs in the same dimension. The latter determines the insuperable limit; yet, many people have passed it: how? We wonder. The answers are multiple and we should start wondering about those which are more initiatorily reliable. But first of all we must understand what is an absolute truth and what is it made of.
But first, two common aspects of those who are not prepared on the rules of life: to confuse between reality and truth, forgetting that (one's own) reality is relative to oneself. Furthermore, a particularly striking aspect is that many look for the absolute truth only because they would like to replace their reality, which they don't like, with it, forgetting that by refusing their own reality they refuse themselves. At this point they are ready to become the sacrificial victim: drugged and dependent on the ‘Bearer of absolute truth', who is ready to supply them with the illusion they crave for.
An inevitable aspect of ‘absolute truths' is that they are indemonstrable. Furthermore, their characteristic is that they are non-deformable, immutable and perennial. This means that in their dimension they don't undergo the changes of time and even less the changes of human thought. Therefore, if I am not wrong, the second characteristic is their absolute immobility. Here is the second question: have you ever seen a truth unchanged through eras, cultures and powers?
Some people might answer that the truths postulated by religious doctrines are absolute. But they mistake dogmas with truth.
We have already talked about this, dismissing straight away the supposition that God's doctrines written by men, therefore in contrast with each other, are vehicles of transcendent truths. This leads us to the elimination of the mind as a possible medium between man's conscience and the truths uncontainable by him. This doesn't stop us at all. Reversing the proposition, I go back to the question: if man can't reach the truth, can it reach man?
Might it be that the heart is the key?
17 th September 2007 - Antonio D'Alonzo writes:
Athos - I start from the question ‘if man can't reach absolute truth, can this truth reach man?', which originated from your idea that ‘the esoteric part of esotericism is mysticism'. If I am not wrong mysticism, which many mistake with the carnal cults of devotion, is the only dimension where in rare cases, truth has reached the conscience of man through the heart […]
Antonio D'Alonzo – First of all I'd like to explain the sense of my statement on mysticism considered as ‘esotericism of esotericism'.
There are two types of mysticism: mysticism of ‘essence' and mysticism of ‘conjugal love'. The first, historically represented in the West by the Christian assimilation of Neo-Platonism and that is concretized in the thought of Marguerite Porete, Meister Eckhart, Suso, Tauler and finally Cusano, funds its statements on the ego's ability of detachment in view of a state of spiritual fusion between human and divine intellect.
Sometimes the word ‘heart' appears in these authors, but, as for many other spiritual traditions, it means the ‘center' of spirituality, the noetic intellect, rather than the seat of passion and feelings.
It is a ‘spiritual' feeling that transcends the craving for possession, the anxiety for the desired ‘object', typical of the via amoris , the second type of mysticism that finds its highest expression in female monasticism.
In some religions such as Hinduism, but also in some forms of Islamic gnosis, the two mysticisms integrate perfectly into a system whose ‘devotional-conjugal' form is the preliminary stage of ‘mysticism of essence', which represents the top of the ascent. In the West, in the Symposium and in the Phaedrus , Plato first introduced the possibility to reach spiritual contemplation starting from sensual desire. But catholic orthodoxy saw a danger in the ‘mysticism of essence' and tolerated only the ‘mysticism of conjugal love', easier to control than the first one.
Many times this second type of mysticism is presented as a bad sublimation of sexuality and of the repressed affection in female monasticism. The most striking example is Teresa of Avila, with her works and sensual ‘ecstasies' immortalized by Bernini.
The pages of the Autobiography and of the Interior Castle ooze eroticism disguised as some form of spirituality. On the contrary, the ‘mysticism of essence' starts from a simple idea: if the ego is not there any more, one overcomes the dualism Creator-creature and identifies himself with God. The unitas spiritus between the world and God, between man and God, can be reached only through detachment. In this perspective there isn't any need for great techniques to reach the unitas spiritus of rites, prayers or particular techniques, which on the contrary tend to reproduce the dichotomist separation between Object and subject, Creator and creature, Master and servant, etc…
It is sufficient to progressively detach from the ego, all the rest is an arsenal that, when it is not necessary, becomes dangerous because it produces new idolatries. The ‘path' is simple and complex at the same time; for Hegel the ‘speculative proposition' can incorporate the opposites. The difference between esotericism and mysticism, once we have verified that both have the same purpose, is that the first uses a lot of symbols and mythologems to produce anabasis, the second ‘strips itself' of everything and aims straight at the finishing line. In this sense if the purpose is the micro-macrocosmic unitas spiritus we can consider mysticism as a form of gnosis lacking the ‘frills' of esotericism.
Therefore it is the ‘nucleus', the ‘core', the ‘pulp' of gnosis, whilst esotericism, with its rites and symbols, is the ‘skin', the ‘rind' or the ‘shell'. It is the interiority or exteriority that many times, through its veiled and secret language, served to protect from the stakes of orthodoxy. We must not forget that the language of ‘those who have eyes to see and ears to hear' had a defensive function towards the guardians of the sacerdotal power.
The same relation between ‘vacuum' or ‘non-dualism' that illuminates and the ritual form that transmits and ‘contains' the essence is found in Hinduism and Buddhism Mahayana. Of course, a follower of esotericism has all the rights to think that symbols and rites are something more than simple frills. Everybody must find his own way suitable to his abilities. Perhaps with a banal image we can say that the mystic path is similar to a downhill descent where the skier gets straight to the finishing line. The esotericist is more similar to a slalomist who goes round markers, viz. symbols. Both reach the finishing line. But if by definition the ‘center' of a doctrine contains a higher degree of universality, it can't be but bare and reduced to essentiality, lacking all that doesn't concern the immediate spiritual fusion with the Principle. In this sense I wrote that ‘mysticism is the esotericism (center) of esotericism'.
These considerations, though, are useful only under a criteriology profile and they don't entirely solve the problem of the possibility of knowledge. The knowledge we look for can't be resolved solely in the path of ‘detachment'. Otherwise, it would be sufficient to be definitely inclined for contemplative life and fuga mundi . If we think that the only purpose of human existence is spiritual gnosis, it is sufficient to square accounts with mundane life and escape in an Eastern or Western monastery. There is another form of knowledge that concerns the view of the world, weltanschauung in German, which opens an era.
This view or ‘reality tunnel' regards the whole of beliefs that allow us to interact with others and ourselves. In other words, it defines our idea of ‘truth'. In this perspective the ‘path of detachment' as well, if it is carried out in the world and not in the ascetic life, can't be pursued in the forms elaborated by Eckhart or Angelus Silesius. After all, even the mysticism of the unitas spiritus presents itself as a contingent form, an attempt to ‘spiritualize' the harsh perception of the circular journey from life to death.
From death I come and to death I go back; this is the ‘atheist' and materialistic form of the unitas spiritus , which I can ‘soften' with the theory of a microcosm that merges with the macrocosm, of a drop of water that goes back and dissolves into the sea, of a spark of fire in the blaze, etc.
In other words, the sense of existence is already ours with the formula ‘I come from death and I go back to death'; mysticism spiritualizes this proposition replacing ‘death' with the Prime Principle, the One and Non-Being. The idea of the One – or in the Indian tradition the doctrine of Karma and Samsara – are already ‘optimistic' interpretations of the sense of the being. But this is part of the world where the ‘truth' is declined in the various historical epochs.
Athos – An inevitable aspect of ‘absolute truths' is that they are indemonstrable. Furthermore, their characteristic is that they are non-deformable, immutable and perennial. This means that in their dimension they don't undergo the changes of time and even less the changes of human thought. Therefore, if I am not wrong, the second characteristic is their absolute immobility. Here is the second question: have you ever seen a truth unchanged through eras, cultures and powers?
Antonio – Archetypes can cross epochs, ‘religiousness' can return; but they are not the same archetypes and the same religiosity. I'll explain better with two examples taken from sociology and geography of religions.
It is undeniable that nowadays, especially among very young people, there are ‘Dionysian' drives in the thrills of ‘Saturday nights'. ‘Buzz', drugs, alcohol, speed and violence fill the nights of twenty-year olds. If it is correct to say that ‘Dionysus' returns, we can't but observe that it is not the same Dionysus worshipped in the ancient mysteries. It un-veils itself in another way, it be-falls with other characteristics. It is manifested in the playful event and not in the religious-mysterial way; it presents new aspects such as the crypto-futuristic cult of speed, but it doesn't manifest itself in a rigidly ritualized context, etc…
Another example is linked to radical Islamism. The Salafism followed by the born again , by young Muslims in the United Kingdom or in the Low Countries is totally opposed to the original Islamic cultures but it operates a ‘de-culturation' by advancing the proposal of a strong and rigorist religiosity deprived of local particularities. Salafism severs the roots with national Muslim cultures, proposing a new kind of Islam for immigrants of first or second generation even in the respect of tradition. The Islam we have known so far rooted the religious element inside the national-cultural aspect; Salafism theorizes the emancipation of the first factor from the second. Yet, a careless observer might be tempted to think that we are assisting to a conflict between different cultures.
This is why, if we don't want to live in the past, we must question the hermeneutic horizon of our era, the way which the sense of the being occurs in us and in our time . Metaphysics is based on the opposition between a knowing and a known subject and then it postulates the mystic overcoming of dualism. The mistake in metaphysics is to think of a hypostatic object-entity only in the dimension of present time. Now, conscience (the observing subject) is a historical, phylogenetic construction in progress. If the observing-subject changes, necessarily the observed object changes as well.
The ‘truth', the contemplated object, the being – because of the inner evolution of conscience – doesn't exist as hypostasis but it changes in the becoming. The historicizing of conscience also historicizes the alleged meta-temporality of the known object. The object un-veils itself for the knowing subject; the evolution of the latter involves the un-veiling of the being that opens to the contemplating eye.
The becoming and the historicity of the concept of ‘truth' lead to the overcoming of the old dualistic metaphysics of the object-in-front-of-the-subject.
The task of the thinker is to think the way the idea of ‘truth' is declined in the age of technology. It is an era where we see the return of ‘religiosity' and ‘sacredness' in forms which are different from what we know, but which are still post-modern or super-modern products.
The ‘sacer' is an anthropological category that doesn't need gods or supernatural beliefs; it goes beyond any specific content inherited from the past.
Of course to refuse contemporariness and return to the ‘warm soup' of old cosmological doctrines is a legitimate choice.
To refuse one's own time is a romantic and suggestive choice, at least for the individual. Nevertheless I don't see a great future in this option when it is practiced collectively, because there is the risk of being overtaken by time and living in the past. The challenge of thought that doesn't quiver in front of new things is to think the way the ‘sacred' or the idea of ‘truth' is declined in the age of technology.
17 th September 2007 - Giuseppe Barbone writes:
Truth always reaches and inter-penetrates man; the problem is to be tuned in the right wavelength. In other words, we need ears to understand.
The topic seems extremely complicated to me, since it should be developed among subjects who have somehow ‘touched' this truth (the same difference there is between two blind people talking about colors), but I like to continue pretending that…? Truth can't be but transcendent ( the truth in its perfection keeps perfecting itself, God, perfect being, grows in perfection) because it is beyond visible and invisible, time and space of ‘micro and macro'.
Because of these peculiarities, it can't be taken-in and be-held but partially or with a synthetic view (intuition, in the instance of true initiation); mind and conscience can't take it in but in the form mentioned above. Personally I believe that the initiatory path leads or should lead to a fusion of mind, heart and conscience, although we could identify the mind with the alchemic salt , therefore it is not indispensable but certainly useful. (Philosophers say that to make the Work Mercury is sufficient .)
Athos asks: Might it be that the heart is the key?
I can't but answer yes. It is only with the help of the ‘heart' that we can ‘touch and take in certain things', which are not the result of long studies; indeed a deep study might invalidate the final result.
But let's go back to the heart with a spoken thought: why do we call heart this thing, which is certainly not the physical organ? Is it because of the function and position (like the central physical heart) that this kind of ‘essence' has or is it only because of its qualities? Is it the secret Fire that allows its activation? If so, what exactly is this Fire? Of one thing I am sure: Truth perennially vibrates outside and inside us, we must be able to read it. It is not possible to read a musical score if we don't know music.
18 th September 2007 - Antonio writes:
Athos - This leads us to the elimination of the mind as a possible medium between man's conscience and the truths uncontainable by him. This doesn't stop us at all. Reversing the proposition, I go back to the question: if man can't reach the truth, can it reach man? Might it be that the heart is the key?
I draw on Athos' idea to reflect on the possibility that the ‘truth' can reach man despite man. That is, despite the ontological limits of the anthropological dimension. These limits concern the impossibility to transcend the phenomenal aspect, since the human subjectivity is ‘immersed' in the world, ‘thrown' in a collective view of which it is part. If man is an integrated part of the world, of the ‘tunnel' that defines our perception of reality, how can he achieve the solitary vision able to perceive the Whole from the outside? Can the part get rid of the whole?
It is the problem of meta-language (language able to describe the functioning and dynamics of language) and of the existential setback of death. In order to reveal the arcane mystery of death we must die, we can't know anything for certain until we live (although there is a wide literature on the ‘near-death experience' which brings solace to the soul, it is not possible to exclude the idea that at the moment of passing away the brain produces visions programmed to soften the pathos of death).
Mysticism offers the possibility of re-integration of the individual monad in the cosmic ocean and the consequent liberation from the chains of samsara. Nevertheless, liberation seems to involve several cycles of re-births and perhaps it is out of reach for contemporary man, both Western and Eastern. The doctrine of the ‘Pure Earth' of Buddhism Mahayana, for example, is skeptical about the possibility to become a bodhisattva or an arhat for men belonging to the dark age (the ‘bodhisattva' is the man who, despite having obtained liberation, gives nirvana up to help all the other beings achieving it. The ‘arhat', once achieved the moksha, frees himself from karma and doesn't come back into samsara). The doctrine of the ‘Pure Earth' (or ‘Amidism') postulates that the highest possibility (I stress on the word ‘highest') is to obtain a rebirth favorable to the time of Maitreya, the future bodhisattva.
If the difficulty is prohibitive for a Chinese or Vietnamese Buddhist, how can contemporary western man, with his SUVs and terraced houses, aim at these goals?
I think it's preferable to take the cautious attitude of the ‘wanderer' on the way to a finishing line that he can't see.
Nevertheless if mysticism is not for everyone and it is not possible to elaborate a kind of ‘meta-language' until we ‘live' inside the ordinary langue , the possibility to elaborate a meta-theory or metaphysics suitable to the contemporary age goes through a new type of language and, as a consequence, of thought.
In this perspective, in the last two centuries it has been believed, against Plato, that the poetic word brought demiurgic and divinatory powers. From Novalis to Rimbaud, from Paul Valéry to Heidegger, who wasn't a poet, but a thinker, the ‘versifying' language has tried to pronunciate the ‘secret' word, the ‘sacred', the ‘being'. This attempt hasn't been pursued by poetry only, but also by the artistic and literary vanguards of the twentieth century; let's think for example of the surrealist experience or of the ‘flows of conscience' of Joyce's Ulysses . Or of Lacan's psychoanalysis.
The attempt to elaborate a language and an ‘other' reason is still open and it finds new lymph in the studies on imagery introduced in France by G. Durand. Corbin had already talked about ‘imaginal'; presenting the doctrines of the ‘Persian Platonics', the ishrāqīyūn , Sohrevardi's gnosis and Ibn Arabi's mysticism, he introduced a middle and medium dimension between the intelligible and the sensitive worlds: the mundus imaginalis.
For a few years Durand has been dedicating himself to elaborate anthropology of imagery that involves survivals of esoteric doctrines. An interesting attempt to harmonize the ‘mythical-magical' imagery with the possibilities that contemporary technology opens is also present in neo-paganism. Metropolitan shamanism, techno-paganism, ‘medio-mancy', etc…
They are interesting proposals that must be carefully screened, because they help overcoming the old twentieth-century dualism between technology and spirituality. The fault of techno-paganism, I think, is that it can't yet reflect carefully on its fundaments. But this consideration doesn't prevent us from following its possible developments. Likewise other possibilities are offered by cyberspace, virtual words, and interaction of avatars in Second Life.
If the latter continues on the commercial pattern that is characterizing its first steps, this possibility will disappear. But after all, I think that the future of spirituality is in the interlacement between cyberspace, multidimensionality and ‘magical-esoteric' survivals. It is already in progress and it can't be stopped. Indeed, we are discussing esotericism and mysticism through the Net.
On the Web there are tens of neo-pagan groups that direct their energy in the cyberspace. This ‘open source' spirituality will have to face religious fundamentalism.
I don't see a great future, though, for traditional religious aggregations. The challenge of philosophy is to think the interlacing between vision and thought, the way a new form of thought intertwined to image can happen. This is because techno-pagan ‘animism' is fine, but thought can't give up questioning. However, the questioning will have to move inside the scenario of multidimensional reality opened by science and technology.