View Full Version : Philosophy and the Intellect

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008, 04:40 PM
In Phaedo, Plato (Socrates) describes the true philosopher as one who practiced dying, which he defined as the “separation of soul and body.” On the philosophic death, which was a crucial part of initiation, he writes: “the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body their especial study?” This art was a turning away from pleasures and senses, which, not unlike the Hermetic Great Work or the Hindu Yoga, is actually meditation and spiritual contemplation. The truth is revealed to the “mind gathered in itself,” for in this “the soul runs away from the body.” The “essence and true nature of everything,” the Absolute, is reached not by the bodily senses or by reason but by the intellect. “He attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her.” And again: “If we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves”; for “only the pure can behold the pure.” The same is repeated over and over in Plato, who admits: “I conceive that the founders of the mysteries had a real meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.”

Accordingly, man is a demigod, born from both earthly and heavenly parents, for the soul descends from the ether before physical birth, as is taught by traditional cosmogony. Returning to the non-manifest or what Eckhart termed the “uncreate Intellect” is the recollection or remembrance of God (often misinterpreted as reincarnation). In such a way, the poet or philosopher is the “interpreter of the Gods”; his truth is non-human, not of his invention, or in contemporary terms, not his “original thoughts.” This is so for the Spirit, which is non-human, possesses the memory of all things that ever were or ever will be, but also of that which is beyond all forms, the Infinite and Absolute. The human condition is placed between heaven and earth, of which the intellect is its intermediary and demiurge. Man is in this way naturally bipolar: the rational and emotional elements form the horizontal pole, while the intellect as both manifested and non-manifested form the vertical pole. The horizontal being thus acts as a support for the intellect (nous, buddhi) which is why in all spiritual paths we find the necessary preliminary tasks of building up and strengthening the moral and devotional aspects as well as the logical and doctrinal learning of the initiate. For fallen man resides on the periphery, or between the corporeal and dream worlds, where the accidents give rise to evil and illusion, in which man is ignorant of the Self; hence, the need for initiation, both exoteric and esoteric.

Now, the post-Aristotelian period in Greece saw a rise of philosophers who no longer practiced true philosophy, but rather were given over to moral, political, sensible, and rationalist speculations. One is the “heavenly philosophy” of Hermes, Pythagoras, Plato, the other is the “earthly philosophy” of the Epicureans, atomists, skeptics, etc. And it is due to the latter that Christianity was adopted as a return to tradition, but which quickly degenerated in the 14th century into sentimentalism, historicism, and literalism. We then find the earthly philosophy arising again in the modern period with Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, etc., who drew everything out of rational thought and the senses rather than the intellect. On this, it is often remarked how Descartes went looking for an initiation but couldn’t find one or was turned down because he lacked the qualifications. He proved this to be true by his “I think, therefore I am” which is the inversion of true philosophy.

Yet an even further deviation, which we can only note in passing, is seen in psychology, being nothing more than a pseudo-religion which makes of the divine a purely imaginative fantasy within the subconscious or a false idea of a collective unconscious which wholly lacks a transcendent component.

Wherever we find deviations such as these the cause is clear: the earthly philosophy is practiced by those who either lack an initiation or the qualifications to be initiated or who receive a pseudo- or counter-initiation, and the heavenly or true philosophy is practiced by those who have received a regular initiation attached to a legitimate tradition and who have effectively realized such in themselves. This becomes all the more evident in our return today to the Perennial Philosophy via Guenon, Coomaraswamy, Evola, Schuon, et al., who because of their initiations attained the spiritual center and were thereby qualified to interpret the mysteries.

One of the criticisms against the perennial philosophy reads as follows: How does one know that their teachings are true? Or: Isn’t the primordial tradition just the invention of Guenon and his followers?

The answer we have touched upon in the previous post. In point of fact not all traditions were lost as were those that adopted Christianity. There are still unbroken traditions that are passed on orally—as initiation can only be so—in the forms of Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, and certain forms of Buddhism. Now by tradition we do not mean the charlatanism and magic tricks performed by wandering jugglers and mendicants which now finds its way into modern occultism, but rather the mastery of the self, of the three worlds, and of the universal principles from which all secondary traditions are based. One may gather from this that we place no reliance on profane sciences awaiting ever new discoveries, for even after such discoveries are made it would be no less arrogant to think that a scientist who has no attachment to a legitimate tradition is somehow competent to interpret the meanings of such findings beyond the realm of science, which they are in no wise qualified to do! And it is the modern sciences, we might add, that are severed from metaphysical principles, and so exist only as specializations, in which no reality exists beyond the prejudices held within that narrow system, whether it be the historical or scientific method, it makes no difference to us what is merely superficial.

Additionally, we must add that it is folly to think that ancient Europeans didn’t have any contact with the East. Archeologists in fact proved otherwise, even beyond mere trade systems, and our ancient texts even say as much. Truth to tell, the ancient sages traveled to faraway lands in search for knowledge and integrated what they could into their own cultures. No one can say for certain exactly what belongs to whom, but the question is unimportant, for knowledge doesn’t belong to any one man. Much of our Western knowledge was preserved by the East, and before that, the East received their knowledge from the North. Still there are those who refuse to believe these borrowings took place, even though these exchanges do not invalidate a culture, nor take away from a certain ethnicity. There is a big difference between certain borrowings and outright multiculturalism or foreign domination. Presently we are only turning to the East to regain what the West has lost. This wasn’t the first time this happened, and probably won’t be the last. But the alternatives are wholly unthinkable because the heathen revival has no authority to rest upon, reviving broken traditions on the imaginations of archeologists and academic specialists who are only qualified to present their finds without commentary or interpretation which should be left to the sages themselves.