Spiritual Traditions at the Roots of Western Civilization

Discussion in 'Extended Consciousness & Spirituality' started by Sciborg_S_Patel, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. The Spiritual Tradition at the Roots of Western Civilization

  2. A book I want to heartily recommend is Calasso's Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. I can't think of another book that so eloquently traces the development of the Western Mind in a narrative form.

    Some choice quotes:

    “The monster does not need the hero. it is the hero who needs him for his very existence. When the hero confronts the monster, he has yet neither power nor knowledge, the monster is his secret father who will invest him with a power and knowledge that can belong to one man only, and that only the monster can give.”

    "No sooner have you grabbed hold of it than myth opens out into a fan of a thousand segments. Here the variant is the origin. Everything that happens, happens this way, or that way, or this other way. And in each of these diverging stories all the others are reflected, all brush by us like folds of the same cloth. If, out of some perversity of tradition, only one version of some mythical event has come down to us, it is like a body without a shadow, and we must do our best to trace out that invisible shadow in our minds."

    Another is Rachel Bespaloff's On the Illiad ->

    "What he exalts and sanctifies is not the triumph of victorious force but man’s energy in misfortune, the dead warrior’s beauty, the glory of the sacrificed hero, the song of the poet in times to come—whatever defies fatality and rise superior to it, even in defeat. In this respect, Homer’s eternity, which centers around the will of the individual, is opposed to Tolstoy’s eternity, in which the split of individualization has been abolished."

    "It would be possible to see in Achilles the Dionysiac strain, a passion for destruction growing out of a hatred for the destructibility of all things; and in Hector, the Apollonian part, the will toward preservation growing out of love for human achievements in their vulnerability."
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  3. Some stories of Diogenes the Cynic. Not saying these definitively happened but they gave me a chuckle:

    Story 1

    Plato was discoursing on his theory of ideas and, pointing to the cups on the table before him, said while there are many cups in the world, there is only one `idea' of a cup, and this cupness precedes the existence of all particular cups.

    "I can see the cup on the table," interupted Diogenes, "but I can't see the `cupness'".

    "That's because you have the eyes to see the cup," said Plato, "but", tapping his head with his forefinger, "you don't have the intellect with which to comprehend `cupness'."

    Diogenes walked up to the table, examined a cup and, looking inside, asked, "Is it empty?"

    Plato nodded.

    "Where is the `emptiness' which proceeds this empty cup?" asked Diogenes.

    Plato allowed himself a few moments to collect his thoughts, but Diogenes reached over and, tapping Plato's head with his finger, said "I think you will find here is the `emptiness'."

    Story 2

    Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables.

    Coming up to him, Plato said, "My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn't have to wash vegetables."

    "And," replied Diogenes, "If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn't have to pay court to kings."
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  4. Teleology: A Shopper's Guide

  5. "Whoever has been initiated so far in the mysteries of Love and has viewed all these aspects of the beautiful in due succession, is at last drawing near the final revelation. And now, Socrates, there bursts upon him that wondrous vision which is the very soul of the beauty he has toiled so long for. It is an everlasting loveliness which neither comes nor goes, which neither flowers nor fades, for such beauty is the same on every hand, the same then as now, here as there, this way as that way, the same to every worshiper as it is to every other.

    Nor will his vision of the beautiful take the form of a face, or of hands, or of anything that is of the flesh. It will be neither words, nor knowledge, nor a something that exists in something else, such as a living creature, or the earth, or the heavens, or anything that is--but subsisting of itself and by itself in an eternal oneness, while every lovely thing partakes of it in such sort that, however much the parts may wax and wane, it will be neither more nor less, but still the same inviolable whole.

    And so, when his prescribed devotion to boyish beauties has carried our candidate so far that the universal beauty dawns upon his inward sight, he is almost within reach of the final revelation. And this is the way, the only way, he must approach, or be led toward, the sanctuary of Love. Starting from individual beauties, the quest for the universal beauty must find him ever mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung--that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself--until at last he comes to know what beauty is.
    -Plato, Symposium
  6. Nous

  7. As I mentioned the writer Hal Duncan's conjecture about 3-D time elsewhere, I thought it might be interesting to see his incorporation of the classics into his work. As an aside I also like a something he once said in his It Gets Better video ->

    "...What you are is not a weakness but rather will be the strength that you wield in all manner of circumstances because that strength is individuality. The world doesn't just get better, it's the individuals of the world that make it get better..."

    Euripides Bound: Hal Duncan 's use of Greek tragedy

    "What is clear is that this reading of Prometheus as socialist and Romantic hero leads to Duncan 's final conclusion about the nature of the information that Metatron and his fellow dukes are attempting to extract from Seamus. That information is, in the end, the answer to the prophecy of the child that will be stronger than its father.

    'So who's the son – the child – that's greater than its father? I'll tell ye who it is, Anna.


    Such an optimistic and positive reading of the Prometheus myth, one imbued with faith in the human spirit, stands in marked contrast to the pessimistic approach of Harrison."


    "Twenty years elapse between the end of Vellum and the second part of The Book of All Hours, Ink. The structure of the second part is the same as that of the first – different versions of the characters are seen though various story strands. One of those in Volume Three concerns a travelling troupe of players, performing in the various independent kingdoms that dukes have established across the Vellum. But this troupe has an ulterior motive, which is to destroy these petty dictatorships where possible. There are clearly deliberate echoes here of the Players in Hamlet, though the Players are pawns of Hamlet's schemes, rather than conspirators. [19] And the play Duncan has them perform is based upon Bacchae.

    Duncan sees a direct thematic link between Prometheus Bound and Bacchae. He regards both as ‘humanist' plays. As noted above, for Duncan the child that will be stronger than the father is humanity, that will outgrow the need for the gods. His reading of Bacchae is that Pentheus represents divine power, with all its restrictive and repressive elements, whilst Dionysus represents humanity, and the urge to get out and enjoy life through drink and sex. Humanity, on this reading, clearly wins. Such a reading is drawn from the works of noted sf author Philip K. Dick, and in particular his 1978 essay ‘Cosmogony and Cosmology' (to be found in Sutin 1995)."
  8. "...But all souls do not easily recall the things of the other world; they may have seen them for a short time only, or they may have been unfortunate in their earthly lot, and, having had their hearts turned to injustice through some corrupting influence, they may have lost the memory of the holy things which once they saw.

    Only a few retain an adequate remembrance of them; and when they see here any image of that other world, are rapt in amazement; but they are ignorant of what this rapture means because they do not clearly perceive. For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, see in them the realities, and these few only see the light of reality with great difficulty.

    There was a time when, with the rest of the happy band, they saw beauty shining in brightness --- We philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we saw the beatific vision and were initiated into a Mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we saw shining in pure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell..."
    -Plato, Phaedrus
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  9. 'The learned man is the only person who is not a stranger in foreign countries, nor friendless when he has lost his relations; but that in every state he is a citizen, and that he can look upon a change of fortune without fear. But he who thinks himself secured by the aid of wealth, and not of learning, treads on slippery ground, and leads an unstable and insecure life.'
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  10. Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2014
  11. "Although the Theory of Forms seems a little bizarre or metaphysically florid to us today, Plato was really, in positing the Forms, no
    more than making explicit the ontological implication of the Greek discovery of truth. This reification of thought, this extraction, from fallible
    and temporal experience, of abstract and eternal mirror images of the world which then became the proper objects of the epistemological quest,
    resonates down through the Western tradition. It is the origin of theory: in projecting a mental reflection or representation or idealized picture of the
    world onto a kind of abstract screen in an inner theatre, the mind is constituting theory. These mental processes have left their trace in
    etymology: the word, ‘theory,’ is derived from the Greek, theoria, a looking at, thing looked at; theoros, spectator; and thea, spectacle."
    -Freya Matthews, Why Has the West Failed to Embrace Panpsychism?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2014
  12. Magic versus Metaphysics

  13. 'The things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing, for example men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

    It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or another from our very youth. It makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.'
    Typoz likes this.
  14. Pre-Socratic natural theology

  15. "For ancient poets like Homer, the sun was a being of tremendous spiritual significance. The immense beauty of its rising and setting brought forth a dramatic display of the abiding moral harmony underlying the cosmos. For ancient philosophers like Plato, the sun was similarly a sign of the highest Good, but its visible light was thought to be only partially responsible for the shower of colors drenching earth and sky. Participating in the sunlit phenomena of the outer world was an inner noumenal light emanating from the eyes. Plato suggested that this inner light flows gently outward through the eyes from a psychic fire kindred to that animating the sun. It meets and coalesces with the light of the sun (or at night, the moon and stars) to bring forth the beauty and splendor of the universe. Plato’s was a participatory account of our knowledge of nature, such that soul and world were understood to synergetically intermingle in each act of perception."
    -Physics of the World-Soul: The Relevance of Alfred North Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism to Contemporary Scientific Cosmology
  16. "There is the profane way of talking, which is to talk about things. And if you care to notice, you will see that in the modern Western world we always talk about something. There is the word; then there is the point of reference for the word, which is always separate from the word itself. And this, of course, is the basis for nearly all modern linguistics.

    But according to people such as Parmenides there is another way of talking. This other way is that instead of talking about, you talk from. If you sense oneness you talk from oneness; and that oneness is communicated through the magic of the word in a way that our minds may find incomprehensible but that, even so, fascinates and endlessly obsesses them. For these people were magicians. The founders of logic and science in the West were sorcerers. They knew what they were doing even if, now, no one knows what they did."
    -Peter Kingsley
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  17. The Intensified Trajectory of Consciousness in Odysseus’ Vision in Hades

    "Along with familiarizing us with the cosmovision of the Amazonian peoples, our fieldwork also introduced us into the practice of shamanic journeying, which among Amazonian peoples, who live in an environment of extraordinary biodiversity, is often conducted in ceremonies utilizing ayahuasca, a psychoactive plant medicine whose name translates from Quechua as “vine of the spirits” or “vine of the dead.”

    There we were also struck by certain parallels between Odysseus’ visionary descent into Hades and ethnographies of traditional shamanic practices among indigenous peoples worldwide, especially when supplemented by cognitive archeologist David Lewis-Williams’ theory of the intensified trajectory of consciousness.

    These parallels are suggestive of a deeper morphological relationship between Homer’s narrative and the traditions of vision quest among the ancient, indigenous Mediterranean peoples (whose material culture is preserved in the Paleolithic cave sanctuaries), than is generally recognized. By viewing, as our main objective, just one episode in the Odyssey, the hero’s visionary journey in Hades,from an ethnographic perspective, this essay hopes to open up more inquiry into the indigenous, and shamanic, background of the epic poem."

  18. "i have lived through many ages. i have seen suffering in the darkness. yet i have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places..."
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  19. The Secret of Kells: the circle and the serpent


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