Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Plato's Four Arguments for the Immortality of the Soul from the Phaedo part 1

1- Argument from Generation of Opposites

Presented herein are the four arguments for the immortality of the soul from that classic work on reincarnation, Plato’s Phaedo.

Historical analysis has determined that Socrates’ associates in this dialogue are Pythagoreans, and so there is no need to argue for the belief in reincarnation as it is an accepted belief of Pythagoreanism. Moreover, one notices various allusions to Greek mystery religions, and so one can infer that this dialogue pertains to teachings related to the mysteries of initiation, making this dialogue a kind of philosophical mystery drama.

The first argument begins with the question: Do the souls of the departed exist in another world or not?

Accepting the Pythagorean account of reincarnation, the first premise proposed is:

“The living come into being again from the dead”

We can infer, therefore, that our souls exist in another world because if they did not come from the dead, they would not pre-exist.

And so the task at hand is to prove that the living come from the dead, that this is a necessary law.

To do this, a more general premise is presented:

Everything that is generated (plants, animals, humans) is generated from opposites; for example, when a thing becomes bigger it must have been smaller first.

This theory of opposites is a prevalent notion in Greek natural science; see, for example, Aristotle, Physics book 1. Further examples are given:











Moreover, there are two processes of generation, the first to the second and the second to the first (back and forth and vice versa). For example:











Hence, between each pair of opposites, there are two processes of generation.
We can then assume:
As sleeping and waking are generated opposites that have going to sleep and waking up as a process, so living and dying are generated opposites, the process being dying and coming to life.
And if this is so, then the souls of the dead exist in a place where they are to be reborn.
Furthermore, we can assume that the process of change from opposites must exist in a continuous cycle, or else things would remain static because if there was no waking up, we would always be asleep, and if there was no coming to life, then everything would die away.
One can then infer that since this process never ends, then the soul is immortal.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Franz Hartmann on Scepticism and Credulity

If a reasonable sceptic says that such things do not exist, he can only mean to say that they do not exist relatively to his knowledge ; because, to deny the possibility of the existence of anything of which we know nothing would imply that we imagined ourselves to be in possession of all the knowledge that exists in the world, and believed that nothing could exist of which we did not know.

A person who peremptorily denies the existence of anything which is beyond the horizon of his understanding because he cannot make it harmonise with his accepted opinions is as credulous as he who believes everything without any discrimination. Either of these persons is not a freethinker, but a slave to the opinions which he has accepted from others, or which he may have formed in the course of his education, and by his special experiences in his (naturally limited) intercourse with the world.

If such persons meet with any extraordinary fact that is beyond their own experience, they often either regard it with awe and wonder, and are ready to accept any wild and improbable theory that may be offered to them in regard to such facts, or they sometimes reject the testimony of credible witnesses, and frequently even that of their own senses. They often do not hesitate to impute the basest motives and the most silly puerilities to honourable persons, and are credulous enough to believe that serious and wise people had taken the trouble to play upon them "practical jokes/' and they are often willing to admit the most absurd theories rather than to use their own common sense.

It seems almost superfluous to make these remarks, as perhaps none of our readers will be willing to be classified into either of these two categories ; but nevertheless the people to whom they may be applied are exceedingly numerous, and by no means to be found only among the ignorant and uneducated. On the contrary, it seems that now, as at the time of the great Paracelsus, the three (dis)graces of dogmatic science self-conceit, credulity, and scepticism go still hand in hand, and that their favourite places of residence are public auditories and the private visiting-rooms of the learned.

It is difficult for the light of truth to penetrate into a mind that is crammed full of opinions of which it tenaciously clings, and only those who accept the opinions of others, not as their guides, but only as their assistants, and are able to rise on the wings of their own unfettered genius into the region of independent thought, may receive the truth. Our modern age is not without such minds.

The world is moving in spirals, and our greatest modern philosophers are nearing a place in their mental orbit where they come again into conjunction with minds like Pythagoras and Plato. Only the ignorant schoolboy believes that he knows a great deal more than Socrates and Aristotle because he may have learned some modern opinions in regard to a few superficial things, or some modern inventions, with which the philosophers of old may not have been acquainted ; but if our modern scientists know more about steam-engines and telegraphs than the ancients did, the latter knew more about the powers that move the world, and about the communication of thought at a distance without the employment of visible means.

If the anatomist of to-day knows more about the details of the anatomy of the physical body than the ancients, the ancients knew more about the attributes and the constitution of that power which organises the physical body, and of which the latter is nothing more than the objective and visible representative. Modern science may be successful in producing external appearances or manifestations with which the ancients were not acquainted ; the initiates into ancient sciences could create internal causes of which modern science knows nothing whatever, and which the latter will have to learn if it desires to progress much further.

The Life and Doctrines of Paracelsus (1887)
Preface v-vi

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Rose Garden (Gulistan) of Sa'di

This post dedicated to the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

The above verse can be found in the entrance of the United Nations Hall of Nations: building. Known as Bani Adam, (the Children of Adam), it is from chapter 1, story 10 of "The Rose Garden"( Gulistan) of Sa'di (1210-1291), a Persian poet in 1258. (Rhyming translation by -M. Aryanpoor) Iranian poet Sa'adi, from the 13th century, is one of the major influential Persian poets of the medieval period. He is recognised in the literary world for the quality of his writing style and in the spiritual realm for the depth of his thoughts. The well-known saying “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”, which was highly valued by Helen Keller, comes from Chapter 3, Story 19 of The Rose Garden.

His Rose Garden is said to be one of the widest read books of all time. It is wonderfully edifying poetic work full of short parables, verses and maxims, with a Sufi leaning. There are ten chapters:

I The Manners of Kings
II On the Morals of Dervishes
III On the Excellence of Content
IV On the Advantages of Silence
V On Love and Youth
VI On Weakness and Old Age
VII On the Effects of Education
VIII On Rules for Conduct in Life

Below is a translation from Sir Edwin Arnold:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a man.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Harvey Cox - The Market as God - 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11

Harvey Cox is the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. The following is a paraphrase of a talk given on September 15, 2016 at the 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11. He has also published a book recently on the subjet:

His thesis is similar to concepts of Mircea Eliade who posits that even in a desacralized society, structures of the sacred do not disappear, they persist in more secular forms, so one can perceive mythical  and initiatic structures in novels and films, for example.

The Market as God – Consumer Capitalism as a Religious System

We live as a deified economy. Why are we all so gloomy? Why are we so self-obsessed? There is a global crisis. Consumer Capitalism is contributing to the destruction of our common home. This religion is not represented. Priests don’t admit it is a religion, but pronouncements are expected to be infallible such as ‘’the market will correct itself’’; yet the poor are still waiting.There is a market god with a market faith. There is an office of evangelisation. There are enormous efforts of penetration of market missionaries. It is a world faith with all the accoutrements of religion: a narrative, rituals, cathedrals (malls). There are prophets who look into future to invest funds. There is credulity, even if not producing what is promised, such as when poverty persists. If someone dies of hunger, there are no police to locate the culprit; when homeless person dies it is not news, but when the Dow (stock market) goes down, it’s news.Polemic debate was a fine art amongst all known religions but we are now in a post -polemical era between world religions. Where are the great skeptics such as Voltaire,who made fun of his religion. People turn to this destructive market Deity that causes despair and homelessness. We need a rebirth of historical critical thinking with polemics to deal objectively with religion.

The market God has become omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. Monetary values have invaded all parts of our life. People pay their children to do the dishes. Students are viewed as customers and students thinks of themselves as consumers. Their used to be a sense of community. It is everywhere, it is extending its grip, it is relentless. It has us all in its thrall, but cannot make good on its promises. It’s omniscience is now under question. It is an incredible faith we are asked to subscribe to. It uses parables: commercials are mini-parables in three acts: 1- Illustrates consumers inadequacy; 2- Proposes some product; 3- The result is bliss. I went to Clifford Geerts anthropologist and his definition of religion is: system of symbols which acts to establish a persistent, pervasive and long lasting motivation in the form of a worldview that influences behavior in long run.

This market system has a narrative, symbols, rituals; it is a complete system with the objective to buy things. It’s about commodity, distribution and sales. I heard a confession of a businessman: “I spend all of my days trying to convince people to buy things they did not need”. It is a religion that persuades people to buy something that they don’t need. We all share the guilt for that. It is the escalation of one institution as the dominant force in our society. The market greatly exceeds its role, a dominant narrative is created. I am disappointed that people in theology don’t recognize this or gladly go along with it. This almighty God, all hearts open to him, all desire him who demands an impermanent fulfillment of needs. There is a cathedral in Milano; there is a mall whose design replicates the cathedral. Let us not ignore it, let us face honestly its threat because there is a globalization of indifference. Let us begin to train our critical thinking and our polemics at this threat. We have the right not to starve, and not to die of cold.