Sticks

There is no point in talking to someone who seriously claims that he doubts everything, as he is not a man. He is, as Aristotle expressed, similar to the trunk (φυτού ὅμοιος). He is not fit to become a philosopher. He is rather teasing for the sake of teasing. Jewish philosopher, Saadija Fajjumi from the tenth century, in his work “Knowledge of faith and philosophy” advises to starve such men and beat them with sticks until they acknowledge that they consciously and definitely feel hunger and pain. Truly that is an effective means to bring them to repentance.

Franciszek Kwiatkowski – Perennial philosophy

Pyrrhonism

Arcesilaus_and_CarneadesWhat astonishes me most is to see that all the world is not astonished at its own weakness. Men act seriously, and each follows his own mode of life, not because it is in fact good to follow since it is the custom, but as if each man knew certainly where reason and justice are. They find themselves continually deceived, and, by a comical humility, think it is their own fault and not that of the art of life.

I have passed a great part of my life believing that there was justice, and in this I was not mistaken; for there is justice according as God has willed to reveal it to us. But I did not take it so, and this is where I made a mistake; for I believed that our justice was essentially just, and that I had that whereby to know and judge of it. But I have so often found my right judgement at fault, that at last I have come to distrust myself and then others. I have seen changes in all nations and men, and thus, after many changes of judgement regarding true justice, I have recognised that our nature was but in continual change, and I have not changed since; and if I changed, I would confirm my opinion.

The sceptic Arcesilaus, who became a dogmatist.

Blaise Pascal – Pensées

Dubito ergo sum

We indeed recognize in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us.

Without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? For it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know.

St. Augustine – Of the Image of the Supreme Trinity in Human Nature. The City of God XI, 26

Talking to a Peasant

For the generality of men God is the provider of immortality. Talking to a peasant one day, I proposed to him the hypothesis that there might indeed be a God who governs heaven and earth, a Consciousness of the Universe, but that for all that the soul of every man may not be immortal in the traditional and concrete sense. He replied:

Then wherefore God?

Miguel de Unamuno – The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples

Honesty of thought

What had availed the fact that I had at least tried to make my thought honest? Indeed, what did we mean by honesty of thought? Was not that, too, vainglory and pride and delusion? What man – or, indeed, what beast – cared about such a bloodless abstraction, when he was warm in his bed, well fed, with his well-beloved close to him, comforting him and transforming existence from its original emptiness to an eternal triumph of comradeship and love?

Why had we been created at all, if this agony of isolation could be our lot? How cheap seemed the agnosticism of youth, and yet how hopeless now to try to repudiate its skepticism. I could not say – I tried and tried again – “Our Father, who art in Heaven.” That was weakness and a desire to return to the warm protective womb.

I had tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and now, when so passionately I wanted to sink back into a kind of animal faith, I could not. I could do nothing; thought availed not at all, except to sharpen and intensify the sense of impotence and helplessness and depersonalization. Things – even the rocks and the sea – and myself were in the same blind, sensless category of non-being, of eternal death – made all the more piercing to us by the transient illusion of existence.

Yet if existence is only an illusion, perhaps no reality is stronger than it seems to be; its validity lies in that seeming. For where else could it lie? In an external world, the very awareness of which is necessarily a part of our limitations? There was no clear answer. I was caught in the old solipsistic net. Nor could I extricate myself from it – that is, so long as the pain of knowing I was aware (or the burden of consciousness, if you wish) could not be assuaged.

Harold E. Stearns – The Street I Know: The Autobiography of the Last of the Bohemians

Christian Taboo

The endeavour of the son to put himself in place of the father god, appeared with greater and greater distinctness. With the introduction of agriculture the importance of the son in the patriarchal family increased. He was emboldened to give new expression to his incestuous libido which found symbolic satisfaction in labouring over mother earth. There came into existence figures of gods like Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, and others, spirits of vegetation as well as youthful divinities who enjoyed the favours of maternal deities and committed incest with the mother in defiance of the father.

But the sense of guilt which was not allayed through these creations, was expressed in myths which visited these youthful lovers of the maternal goddesses with short life and punishment through castration or through the wrath of the father god appearing in animal form. Adonis was killed by the boar, the sacred animal of Aphrodite; Attis, the lover of Kybele, died of castration. The lamentation for these gods and the joy at their resurrection have gone over into the ritual of another son which divinity was destined to survive long.

When Christianity began its entry into the ancient world it met with the competition of the religion of Mithras and for a long time it was doubtful which deity was to be the victor. The bright figure of the youthful Persian god has eluded our understanding. He represented the son who carried out the sacrifice of the father by himself and thus released the brothers from their oppressing complicity in the deed. There was another way of allaying this sense of guilt and this is the one that Christ took. He sacrificed his own life and thereby redeemed the brothers from primal sin.

The theory of primal sin is of Orphic origin; it was preserved in the mysteries and thence penetrated into the philosophic schools of Greek antiquity. Men were the descendants of Titans, who had killed and dismembered the young Dionysos-Zagreus; the weight of this crime oppressed them. In the Christian myth man’s original sin is undoubtedly an offence against God the Father, and if Christ redeems mankind from the weight of original sin by sacrificing his own life, he forces us to the conclusion that this sin was murder. And if this sacrifice of one’s own life brings about a reconciliation with god, the father, then the crime which must be expiated can only have been the murder of the father.

Thus in the Christian doctrine mankind most unreservedly acknowledges the guilty deed of primordial times because it now has found the most complete expiation for this deed in the sacrificial death of the son. In the same deed which offers the greatest possible expiation to the father, the son also attains the goal of his wishes against the father. He becomes a god himself beside or rather in place of his father. The religion of the son succeeds the religion of the father. As a sign of this substitution the old totem feast is revived again in the form of communion in which the band of brothers now eats the flesh and blood of the son and no longer that of the father, the sons thereby identifying themselves with him and becoming holy themselves.

Sigmund Freud – Totem and Taboo

The Last Supper

Insufferable Negligence

Błażej Pascal - francuski matematyk, fizyk i religijny filozof

We know well enough how those who are of this mind behave. They believe they have made great efforts for their instruction, when they have spent a few hours in reading some book of Scripture, and have questioned some priest on the truths of the faith. After that, they boast of having made vain search in books and among men. But, verily, I will tell them what I have often said, that this negligence is insufferable. We are not here concerned with the trifling interests of some stranger, that we should treat it in this fashion; the matter concerns ourselves and our all.

Let them at least learn what is the religion they attack, before attacking it. If this religion boasted of having a clear view of God, and of possessing it open and unveiled, it would be attacking it to say that we see nothing in the world which shows it with this clearness. But since, on the contrary, it says that men are in darkness and estranged from God, that He has hidden Himself from their knowledge, that this is in fact the name which He gives Himself in the Scriptures, D e u s  a b s c o n d i t u s [Isaiah 45:15, a God who hides Himself] – what advantage can they obtain, when, in the negligence with which they make profession of being in search of the truth, they cry out that nothing reveals it to them?

Blaise Pascal – Pensées

Third Culture Kids

He said to me once when we were talking of the so-called horrors of the Middle Ages: “These horrors were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils.

Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilisation. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence.”

Hermann Hesse – Steppenwolf

Morals

Morals are the only proper subject of philosophy; for these inquiries are practicable and useful, but the discussions about nature are quite the contrary, neither being comprehensible, nor having any use, even if they were clearly understood.

For it would be no advantage to us, even if we could with our very eyes survey the whole world, and the nature of all beings, of whatever kind that is. For we certainly shall not be on that account wiser, or more just or brave or temperate, nay, not even strong, or beautiful, or rich, without which advantages happiness is impossible.

Wherefore Socrates was right in saying that of existing things some are above us, and others nothing to us: for the secrets of nature are above us, and the conditions after death nothing to us, but the affairs of human life alone concern us.

Eusebius – Praeparatio Evangelica

Agesilaus and Epaminondas

Some impose upon the world that they believe that which they do not; others, more in number, make themselves believe that they believe, not being able to penetrate into what it is to believe. The best of us is not so much afraid to outrage him as he is afraid to injure his neighbour, his kinsman, or his master. And yet we often renounce this out of mere contempt: for what lust tempts us to blaspheme, if not, perhaps, the very desire to offend?

The philosopher Antisthenes, as he was being initiated in the mysteries, the priest telling him, “That those who professed themselves of that religion were certain to receive perfect and eternal felicity after death”, answered he:

If thou believest that, why dost thou not die thyself?

Diogenes, more rudely, according to his manner, said to the priest that in like manner preached to him:

What! thou wouldest have me to believe that Agesilaus and Epaminondas, who were so great men, shall be miserable, and that thou, who art but a calf, and canst do nothing to purpose, shalt be happy, because thou art a priest?

We only receive our religion after our own fashion, by our own hands, and no otherwise than as other religions are received. Either we are happened in the country where it is in practice, or we reverence the antiquity of it, or the authority of the men who have maintained it, or fear the menaces it fulminates against misbelievers, or are allured by its promises. These considerations ought, ’tis true, to be applied to our belief but as subsidiaries only, for they are human obligations. Another religion, other witnesses, the like promises and threats, might, by the same way, imprint a quite contrary belief.

And what Plato says, “That there are few men so obstinate in their atheism whom a pressing danger will not reduce to an acknowledgment of the divine power,” does not concern a true Christian. What kind of faith can that be that cowardice and want of courage establish in us? A pleasant faith, that does not believe what it believes but for want of courage to disbelieve it!

Michel de Montaigne – Essays

The Doors of Perception

The sage came to the door of Heaven and knocked. From within the voice of God asked, “Who is there” and the sage answered, “It is I.” “In this House,” replied the voice, “there is no room for thee and me.” So the sage went away, and spent many years pondering over this answer in deep meditation. Returning a second time, the voice asked the same question, and again the sage answered, “It is I.” The door remained closed. After some years he returned for the third time, and, at his knocking, the voice once more demanded, “Who is there?” And the sage cried, “It is thyself!” The door was opened.

Persian story

Egoism

Each book is always only a book; that all words are always only words; they are never what they—with more or less success—try to describe.

There is a prison. In the cell there is a prisoner, on the watchtower there is a security guard. These two are one person. The prisoner is also his own guard, the guard is at the same time his own prisoner. But these two, prisoner and guard, they do not see that each of them is both one and the other. Even when sometimes it happens to the prisoner that he manages to escape from the cell and the prison building, he escapes with his invisible guard on his back and consequently what seemed to be freedom turns out to be just another form of prison. In the same way, the guard returning after service to his hometown, takes the invisible prisoner under the cap and wakes up at night, sweaty and scared, because he was dreaming what guards might dream up, namely, that the prisoner fled from prison. You’re the prisoner and the guard, the cell and the watchtower, the whole edifice of the prison, and all the so-called freedom.

The greatest mystery is that the there is no mistery. In fact, everything is open, everything is clear, everything is clean, everything is absolutely beautifully transparent.

The night is just to die. The day is just to live. One day is a lifetime.

Before all journeys: to the Bieszczady Mountains, the Yucatan, Patagonia, around the world, to the North Pole, the South, the Moon, Mars, Venus, wherever, before all these trips – there is one true and absolute journey: into yourself.

Edward Stachura – Fabula Rasa (about egoism)

Sentimental Journey

According to ancient Chinese, Indo-Iranian and African beliefs, the house of creator gods, of the Supreme Mystery, was the sky, fathomed as a stone vault. Perhaps this belief goes back to those times, when a man took to decorating caves, to study their insides, when he crawled in the dark rock corridors searching for the mystery of being, an explanation for everything, when watching how a new life grew from the ground, he gave to the ground the lives of the dead – their bodies, when in his mind a vague idea of ​​the afterlife was perceived, because was it possible for life to lead nowhere? To nowhere? – he could not understand that.

Instinct told him that the earth and life had some relationship. What kind of? The answers may be sought in the depths of the caves, the questions put to the heavens, which from time to time send down fire, rain, wind. Is heaven a great vault, similar to the vaults of caves? And if so, then heaven must contain great mysteries, like those that are hidden in the inaccessible interior of the earth.

He was close to finding the future house of gods, whom he must create, to give the foundation of knowledge about the world and about his genre. 35 000 years ago, a man did not know yet how his gods will look like.

Jerzy Cepik – How man made gods

The Year of the Monkey

If it is something which is not in any relation to all things known, such existence can not be established by any reasoning. How do we know that something, which is not associated with other things, exists at all? The whole universe, such as we know it, is a system of relationships; we do not know anything that could not be related. How can that, which is not dependent on anything and not related to anything, form items related to each other and dependent on each other in its existence?

Is either unity or multiplicity. If there is one, how it can cause a variety of things that come from different causes? If they are as many as there are things, how can the latter be related to each other? If it permeates everything and fills the entire space, it can not create them, because there would be nothing to be created.

If deprived of all properties; all the things that arise, should also be free of all properties. So it can not be their cause. If it is different from the properties, how it still creates things having these properties and manifests itself in them?

If it is invariable, all this should also be invariable, as a result can not vary in its nature with the cause. But all the things of the world are subject to changes and decomposition. How, how can it therefore be invariable?

If created the world, there would be no changes or destruction, there should also be no sorrow or unhappiness, right and wrong, given that anything both pure and impure, would have to come from somewhere. If sadness and joy, love and hatred arise in all sentient beings, then he should be able to feel sadness and joy, love and hate, and if it has this ability, how can we say that it is perfect?

If it was the creator, and all beings would have to be its silent followers, how would it be useful to practice virtue? If all deeds are its formation, they must be the same as their perpetrator’s. But if grief and suffering is attributed to another cause, in that case there is something that it is not the cause of. Why, then, would not be without a cause all that there is?

If there is the creator, it works with some purpose or no purpose. If it works with some purpose, you can not say that it is perfect, because the purpose necessarily implies satisfying a want. If it works without the purpose, it is similar to a madman or an infant.

Aśvaghoṣa – Buddhacarita

Play with the Environment

Following the collapse of the mediaeval ideal came modernity, linking The Renaissance with the Enlightenment. Today, we get a fourth, qualitatively new model of existence for people shaped by consumerism and abundant use of audiovisual media. The civilization formed after Gutenberg’s invention of printing press, is being replaced by the civilization of image, dependent on the information revolution, with the Internet as a special symbol.

In such a model, man plays a peculiar game with the environment. He does not reject religion, science or philosophy outright. He tries to perceive them in a new way, primarily seeing them as some forms of language games. Thus, oftentimes, the question of God is no longer burdened with the concepts once formulated by atheist ideologues. The classic meaning of this questions becomes semantically blurred, when it is said that both theism and atheism constitute a form of our subjective game with the environment.

Josef Zycinski – Postmodernists’ God

Water

I’m a slightly under the influence of Taoism, which says that we need to act like water. Do not make any effort, take life calmly. Everything that man does, so just ends. With the ultimate paralysis. This is the humanity, the tragedy of history. Everything man undertakes ends up as the opposite of what he planned. There is an ironic sense in any history.

There will be a moment that a man will become the exact opposite of everything what he wanted to be. He will see it all too clearly. Emptiness similar to boredom – is not the European experience. This is something Oriental. The emptiness as something positive. Teaching us how to recover from everything.

Emil Cioran – Interviews

Madness of Authorities

In contrast to others he set his face against all discussion of such high matters as the nature of the Universe; how the “cosmos” came into being; or by what forces the celestial phenomena arise. To trouble one’s brain about such matters was, he argued, to play the fool.

He was astonished they did not see how far these problems lay beyond mortal ken; since even those who pride themselves most on their discussion of these points differ from each other, as madmen do.

He set his face against attempts to excogitate the machinery by which the divine power formed its several operations. Not only were these matters beyond man’s faculties to discover, as he believed, but the attempt to search out what the gods had not chosen to reveal could hardly be well pleasing in their sight. Indeed, the man who tortured his brains about such subjects stood a fair chance of losing his wits entirely.

Xenophon – Memorabilia

Otro loco mas

Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours.

What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

Ernest Hemingway – A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

The Lighthouse Keeper

Those who knew him said that he had no luck, and with that they explained everything. He himself became somewhat of a monomaniac. He believed that some mighty and vengeful hand was pursuing him everywhere, on all lands and waters. He did not like, however, to speak of this; only at times, when some one asked him whose hand that could be, he pointed mysteriously to the Polar Star, and said, “It comes from that place.”

Light-house keepers are generally men not young, gloomy, and confined to themselves. If by chance one of them leaves his light- house and goes among men, he walks in the midst of them like a person roused from deep slumber. On the tower there is a lack of minute impressions which in ordinary life teach men to adapt themselves to everything. All that a light-house keeper comes in contact with is gigantic, and devoid of definitely outlined forms. The sky is one whole, the water another; and between those two infinities the soul of man is in loneliness. That is a life in which thought is continual meditation, and out of that meditation nothing rouses the keeper, not even his work. Day is like day as two beads in a rosary, unless changes of weather form the only variety.

Henryk Sienkiewicz – The Lighthouse Keeper Of AspinWall

Joy

He was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope. It was impossible to go to a movie with him without getting involved afterwards in a discussion on empathy, Aristotle, universals, messages and the obligations of the cinema as an art form in a materialistic society. He was a militant idealist who crusaded against racial bigotry by growing faint in its presence. He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.

Joseph Heller – Catch 22