Why Does Everything Exist?

This is the second one, hope you enjoy.

Regardless of what one thinks of Heidegger, or his philosophy, he does raise a very important question, i.e. why does everything exist? He calls this the most dangerous question in existence and this may, perhaps, be due to his own philosophy, seeing how, if there is nothing more than meets the eye about the Universe, thinking about why all we might-not-have-beens have, for so long now wondered the Earth, which in itself is a gigantic might-not-have-been, which is really only a small spec of the Universe, the ultimate might-not-have-been. That progression of thinking is the definition of a man walking in the darkness. A man who walks in the light, however, need not fear the darkness and should be excited by the idea of exploring the land about him, because, if he is skilled in what he does, he will always find the way back. “All roads lead to Rome,” was a saying widely professed by many men of old, how much more so do all roads of thought lead to the Eternal City, where the Sun does not set, as long as he who walks them does not stray into the outer darkness?

When trying to find the causal thread that brings us into existence, it is useful to start with ourselves. Though we perhaps may not know ourselves the best (otherwise Socrates’ γνὀθι σεαυτὀν would make no sense), we are able to trace, rather easily the causal progression of our own existence. For myself, I was brought into this world by two parents, one man and one woman, on my birthday. I believe that the reader will find his or her own experience to be, for the most part, like mine, though I do not suppose that all or most were born on the same day. Each of my parents, my father as well as my mother, were brought into existence by their own parents, one man and one woman, on their birthdays. One could go on for several thousand pages about the parents of their parents and their parents in turn and so on and so forth, granted that they had a large enough family tree (which I do not have) and knew all the languages in which their family tree would have to be recorded (sadly, I do not have this either). However, after the several thousand pages, which I must skip due to lack of research, I would trace my existence back, through a long chain of derivations) to a rather surprisingly small group of people living a long time ago, the first group of humans.

From there, the theory of Evolution would guide us to find that man was evolved from a creature that shares common traits with both apes and modern humans. How this creature came to be, I would leave to the people who have made it their lives’ study to find these things and trust their conclusion that they came from a very primitive one-cell organism. Then, they would tell me that this organism was somehow formed from materials in the Earth. From there, they would tell me that every material element was once in the core of a star, long since exploded, which means that I ultimately derive my existence from an exploding star (an awe-inspiring thought, in my mind). From there, they would tell me that a nebula was what formed the star, which in term was formed by this and that (I forget the names) and ultimately trace my existence back to the beginning of the Universe. The latest theory is that the Universe was started from a flash of energy, which was converted (somehow) to matter and anti-matter, which makes up everything. Surely, many years from now, they will be able to tell that there was something else which caused the flash of energy to occur and so on and so forth.

It would seem, therefore, that my search has been useless, because I have found my own existence to have been a direct derivation of a flash of energy, which modern science cannot find a cause for. Science and scientific thinking, then, is to no avail. However, I have constructed a very long change of interlocking causes in my quest and have stopped at one particular link, whose preceding link seems to be invisible. Where science fails, however, thought must pick up. At this point, I have a long chain and I know that the chain continues on, but what is the next link?

There are three possibilities. First, there could be a set of links that are invisible, which connect the first visible link (the flash of energy) to the last (me at this moment). This view obviously cannot stand up to logic. If the chain of my existence is ultimately coming back to myself, then I must be living in a dream, because I know that other human beings cease to exist without causing a flash of energy which starts a new Universe.

Second, it could be that there is simply no end to the chain. The flash of energy was caused by another, previous, Universe that was radically sucked into itself and triggered a violent explosion. That Universe would have to have been created in a way similar to the current and so on and so forth ad infinitum. Some modern scientists have actually upheld this belief in trying to explain the origin of the Universe. Though it does explain the origin of this Universe, however (without a hint of fact), it does not explain the origin of the Universe and, hence, my own existence. Clearly, if we are to believe that strict laws guide the Universe as our scientists tell us, then we cannot hold fast to this view either.

Finally, there would have to be some cause that had a very different property from all the others. This Cause would be uncaused. This Cause, then, would be the ultimate origin of my existence. However, not only my existence or even human existence, because Evolution interconnects all the matter in the Universe, so this Cause would have to be the one Uncaused Cause that created all things.

The reader familiar with Aquinas should have seen my ploy for some time now. However, though I did not purpose from the beginning to end up in Aquinas’ arms, there is really no other path that we can take. The ultimate cause of why I and everything else exists is because there is an Uncaused Cause that has brought everything into existence. This Cause will hitherto be referred to as the Demiurge, or the Craftsman. In having bumped upon Aquinas one must not really stop at him, but rather examine the source of his reasoning, upon which we would learn that it is derived from Aristotle. In its turn, Aristotle’s thinking is derived from Plato. In Plato’s Timaeus, the Demiurge is that which has always existed and which will always exist, the Α and Ω, so to speak. If we are to take Plato’s thinking as valid, the first link, which anchors all the other links, is more like a hand. As to why Plato says that this Uncaused Cause is a rational and self-conscious being, I must cede to Plato, since I have neither the wisdom nor the time to explain it for myself.

In the Timaeus, Plato goes on to state that the Demiurge is entirely good and, because of this reason, created everything that exists, because He has no shade of jealousy in His heart. It is quite clear that a very obvious parallel can be made between the Demiurge and the Good in the Republic. If, then, the Demiurge is the Good, which would necessitate the statement that the Demiurge is good and His heart holds no jealousy, He must then hold love in His heart. Plato then goes on to state that he made a separate Universe of the Forms, which seems to be a self-contradiction with the Republic, where the Forms flow from the Good. In the two choices set between us, the option given in the Republic seems to make more sense than the one given in the Timaeus, since Plato’s whole corpus relies on the idea that following the Forms to their end leads us to the Good, union with which (eudaimonia, which is present as a term first not in Aristotle, but in Plato’s Phaedo 115d) should be the goal of our lives.

Quite surprisingly, there is a religion that fits in very well with this mode of thinking. It is none other than Judaism. Within Judaism, God, Who is perfect, good, and all-powerful creates the world out of nothing. Given these two converging spiritual authorities, one must wonder as to why God created the world. The obvious answer comes to us through Neo-Platonists as well as the Bible itself, the idea that goodness shares goodness. It would seem, therefore, that God created all of creation because of the goodness of His heart, which should say something terrifying to us concerning how often we use it as an ironic statement.

Of course, the question of whether the creation was needed to be created by God should be treated at this point. Some people within the Scholastic tradition have argued that God’s goodness is like the sun, which cannot shine only for itself, but which must light up everything around it with its rays. Of course, accepting this conclusion would deny one of our premises, because if we are to say that God is perfect (having crossed from Plato into the Christian world, we should use Anselm’s definition of God as our guiding principle), then He must not lack anything, but if he must create the world, then its non-creation would leave him lacking the world, which would make Him not perfect. Therefore, the creation of everything must be taken as a voluntary choice. Of course, the fact that compulsion in itself is antithetical to love and goodness is a very obvious point as well.

At this point, one may ask about God’s cause. It is obvious that if God is to be defined as the Uncaused Cause, then it would follow that He has no cause, but an argument that has been made before is that God is God’s own cause. Though we can use language to construct this sentence, it is essential to understand that it has no logical meaning. It is a lot like asking for the beginning point in a theoretical line or trying to disprove the omnipotence of God by trying to argue that God can never create a rock heavier than He can lift. It cannot be refuted because it stands outside of logic to begin with, but to stray outside of logic would be, for our purposes, to wander into the outer darkness.

It would seem, therefore, that the question regarding why everything exists is dangerous on two different levels for Heidegger. First, it sprays everything with an air of hopelessness, knowing that there are useless chunks of useless everything everywhere (useless here is to be contrasted with purposeful). After all, how can one have a hopeful view of the Universe if Hope has been removed from it (i.e. the Eternal Hope, Jesus Christ)? Second, it logically leads to a philosophy that clashes very violently with Heidegger’s. For those of us who are not Heidegger, however, the question of the cause of everything is not only not dangerous, but highly beneficial, if we follow where our logic takes us, because it leads us, by two different roads, into the arms of Christ and Christianity, which gives us hope. In addition, as another of Aquinas’ Five Ways dictates, this Uncaused Cause that we have accepted to mean God is also the purpose-giver for everything, so if He is the ultimate Cause of my existence, He is also the ultimate Giver of my purpose, which is to bind my will to Him, or as St. Augustine most beautifully puts it, “you have made us for Yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Plato and Inspiration

Hey guys, sorry about neglecting you for so long (again), but I have had a lot of work to do this past week. That being said, I figured I would post some of my philosophy papers as a sign of apology. The only think I want to say, obviously, is do not copy this or any of my posts into your paper. Not only is plagiarism morally wrong, but you will only end up looking like an ass in front of your teacher, because someone doesn’t wake up one day and think as if their whole life revolves around Plato or God or philosophy, so unless you have the behavior to back it up… alright, time for me to shut up for the present.

Looking at instances of inspiration in the work of Plato is rather difficult, because of the not-so-straightforward manner Plato puts everything in his writing. As pointed out in the letters, which, if not his, have to have been written by someone who was very familiar with his work, he is very reluctant to write openly, so one must take all of what Plato says with a grain of salt. That being said, we need not bury ourselves in the pit of skepticism, because Plato also assures the reader that, if he take to heart the philosophy of the dialogues, he will be able to understand and uncover what Plato is really trying to convey. For the purposes of this paper, inspiration will be looked at under two different fields, inspiration as witnessed by Socrates within himself and inspiration witnessed by others within themselves, though with the help of Socrates.

One very obvious dialogue to look at in this matter would be the Ion. In this dialogue, Socrates encounters a rhapsode, a man who has mastered the art of retelling Homer’s epics and performs in various functions. In addition, Ion claims that he can explain Homer to his listeners, which immediately grabs Socrates’ attention. Socrates first asks Ion about whether he can apply his knowledge universally, i. e. recite other poets’ works just as well as he can recite Homer’s, but Ion rejects the idea, saying that he is an expert in Homer and Homer only. Socrates then turns to ask Ion about whether he has any expertise in any of the matters that are discussed in Homer and Ion surprisingly claims that he does. Ion goes as far as to say that he is the best general in the land, since he is the best rhapsode in the land. Socrates asks whether the best general in the land would also be the best rhapsode in the land, but Ion denies it. It seems that Plato decides to do the reader a kindness here, because he does not go into further detail about whether the converse of Ion’s statement must be true, partly because it does seem quite obvious to the reader that Ion’s claim is nonsense from the beginning. Socrates then logically asks Ion why he is not leading the Greek forces. At this point, Ion decides the hide behind the fact that he is from Ephesus, claiming that the Athenians would never let a foreigner command their army. Of course, Socrates shuts this argument down, too. Socrates then returns to the “magnet” imagery, where he claims that the magnet is a metaphor for the gods, who input their magnetism into the poet, who then magnetizes the rhapsode, who, in turn, magnetizes the audience. Ion seems to look kindly on this view, however, it seems that he forgets the implications made by his statement (541b-542b).

If, as Ion claims, he is simply the second iron ring in the system of a magnet magnetizing three rings, then he has no magnetism of his own, i.e. Ion really has no knowledge of what he is talking, he is simply wrapped up in a pseudo-Bacchic frenzy when reciting Homer, who is himself wrapped in a similar frenzy by the gods. In saying this, Socrates is going after Homer’s inspiration, as well as Ion’s (pg. 937). Despite the radical claim that Socrates is making about Homer, i.e. that he has no knowledge, this idea could fit in well with the understanding of Homer in Ancient Greece, which is that he was inspired by the Muses, except for the fact that Socrates makes it very clear, in the Euthyphro among other places, that he is not quite a believer in regards to Homer being inspired by the gods or conveying any truth about them. The question then becomes, who is the magnet? If it is not the gods, then who is putting words in Homer’s mouth? One could easily, at this point, draw on the Republic and Plato’s critique of poetry (Books II, III, and X), but matters are made even more complicated by the fact that Socrates himself, in the Phaedo (61a-c), is writing poetry, seemingly inspired to do so by his “daimon” (of course, the presence of the daimon itself is a further complication, in addition to the apparent contradiction between the Apology and the Phaedo about whether the daimon is ever a source of positive knowledge for Socrates, but this will be treated in the second part). It does not seem, therefore, that Socrates’ argument here is simply another critique of poetry. Once again the question at hand is, who is the magnet? If such a thing as “the magnet” exists and Socrates has it, what does that mean about Homer, considering Socrates claims he relies false information about the divine, and what does it say about Socrates?

In order to make sense of this, we must modify the metaphor of the magnet and the rings and, for a second, try to be Socrates in his absence. If the true magnet is the daimon and Homer does not, in fact, have a daimon, then he himself must be the magnet. What of this? Homer is then giving out his own knowledge about the divine. Except, of course, that Socrates would claim he has no knowledge of the divine (let us compare magnets, if we accept Socrates’ to be right, then Homer’s must not be a real magnet). It seems, therefore, that Homer is the predecessor of Euthyphro, in that he claims to speak knowledgably about a subject in which he has no knowledge (of course, the fact that Euthyphro draws on Homer for his own argument brings it into a very nice circle), a trend which Socrates sees very commonly among the Athenians of his own day. The question of Socrates’ person concerning the magnet, however, still stands. If Socrates has a magnet also, (if he did not, then we cannot judge Homer’s to be wrong) then does Socrates also have no knowledge? One could here draw on the Apology and argue that Socrates claims from the beginning that he has no knowledge, but also knows himself to have no knowledge, which makes him wiser than the rest of the Athenians, but I believe that making that argument would leave us to forever wonder about whether the teachings of Socrates through Plato have any meaning at all.

Rather, I believe that there is an alternate route one could take. Having found the real magnet, one must, for a second, ponder the rings. Some may consider stretching the metaphor past its breaking point with this, but the results might grant us some deeper understanding of Plato’s corpus. It is obvious to most people that not any ring would fit to make the system work, i.e. that in order for the ring to channel the magnetism of the magnet, it must have a special property, conductivity. Whereas rings of iron complete the system, rings of bone would make it fall apart. It seems, then, that the magnet cannot use any ring, but only a certain type of rings, i.e. conducive rings.

This means that the ring, quite differently from being ordinary, must, in fact, be extraordinary. It seems then, that Socrates is the true teacher of the divine (in the Platonic sense, of the Forms and the Good which balances them all), not because he has no knowledge, but because he is a very specific type of a knowledgeable person, i.e. one made out of iron (one made adapt for the understanding of philosophy, a lover of knowledge and one who knows himself). This knowledge is then passed on to Plato, the true disciple if that title can be placed on him, the second ring, which, like the first, must be made out of iron. Plato then serves as a “rhapsode” to us, not only reciting Socrates, but also interpreting and expanding his teachings. Plato, then, conducts Socrates’ teaching to the reader, who must change his essence from bone to iron (i.e. the imagery of “bone” was intentional, indicating a change from corporeal to super-corporeal, from physical to spiritual) in order to gain the deep meaning of the teachings of Socrates.

That being said, the question of Socrates’ daimon still remains. In the Apology, Socrates claims that he hears a voice that always dissuades him from doing certain things, but which never encourages him to do anything (31d1-4). Even then, one can argue that this passage is not set directly at odds with the passage concerning poetry in the Phaedo (61a-c), if we do not first look at a similar passage in Crito. When Crito comes to Socrates’ room at the beginning of Crito, Socrates is glad that Crito did not wake him up from his dream, since he believes that it has given him some hints concerning his death (44a3-b1). It is quite clear that Socrates regards the dream as objectively true, so one must assume that the reader is supposed to take this dream as it being divinely inspired. In this light, one must also treat Socrates’ sudden disposition to write poetry in the Phaedo as divinely inspired.

The only way to explain this situation, then, is to claim that the daimon evolves as the story goes on. In the Apology, Socrates’ daimon has dissuaded him from going into public life, but there is a perfectly rational explanation for it, i.e. that Socrates would not have lasted nearly as much if he were involved in politics, which means that his philosophy may never have taken off and that modern Classicist would be reading Plato’s tragedies instead of Plato’s dialogues. On the other hand, once Socrates’ work is done and his death awaiting, the daimon changes its role, from guiding Socrates to carry out his work to giving him one image of comfort and one instance of positive knowledge. As far as the dream in the Crito goes, the greater meaning of it will not be discussed in this paper, but as the meaning of the one in the Phaedo can help the reader make sense of a general trend in Plato’s corpus.

Anyone who has read a fair amount of Plato would realize that Platonic dialogues can be divided into three large groups, dialogues which end in positive knowledge, dialogues which end in negative knowledge, and dialogues where Socrates is either present at the beginning or not at all, where the reader is perhaps invited to judge according to his own mind. Of these, the ones that end in negative knowledge, i.e. learning about what something is not (or, rather, about the reader’s own ignorance), are the earlier dialogues, then the dialogues that end in positive knowledge (where the reader actually learns from Socrates), and lastly dialogues where Socrates is not present for the bulk of the argument (where the reader is perhaps invited to take Socrates’ position on his own). This fits in quite nicely with the progression of the daimon, from negative to positive information.

Another useful way to look at the instance of poetry in the Phaedo is as an apology for poetry in its own right. Though Socrates critiques poetry in the Republic and other places, it is the eternal question of having a material in Greek in the original form to ask whether Socrates is talking about poetry in general or the poetry existing at the time (a similar problem arises in Latin, one instance of which is in the Aeneid, where it is impossible to discern whether Lacoon in Book II is speaking about all the Greeks or the Greeks at Troy’s beaches when he says, timeo Danaum…). Of course, the fact that Plato’s corpus is filled with references from Homer in itself should be a pointing hand toward the fact that poetry, even in the form that Homer gives it, may be useful in illustrating a principle. However, one is left to ponder whether there can be poetry which one may regard as “Homer as it should have been.” A discussion in the Symposium may offer some help in this regard.

Toward the end of the Symposium, Socrates is discussing with Agathon (a poet) and Aristophanes (a comedian) that the skilled dramatic artist should be able to also write good comedy (223d4-5). This may be poetry’s saving grace. Though it is quite clear that poetry for poetry’s sake may not offer much help in one’s pursuit of philosophy, poetry guided by philosophy may be a useful tool in learning philosophy. Part of the point in Socrates saying that a good artist should be able to write both comedy and tragedy is that a good artist should be able to rise to universals (a point made in Ion), but also a two-fold path to knowledge, either through somber, academic discussion or through a more entertaining, titillating discussion. The emblematic examples of these two very different approaches to philosophy, which are both present in the Platonic corpus, are the Republic and the Symposium, respectively. In fact, all of Plato’s writing, whether in the genre of the Republic or the Symposium, are filled with drama and poetic language, though they are written in prose. This is not to add the fact that many Platonists throughout the ages have written in poetical language (C. S. Lewis and Tolkien not the least).

It seems, therefore, that inspiration has a very important place within the Platonic corpus, but, at the same time, within the corpus itself, are included many decoys, to condition the reader to understand that not “inspiration” is, in fact, genuine inspiration. From all of it, only what one can gather from Socrates is to be regarded as genuine inspiration, but the reader is cautioned that what the many hold to be inspiration may, in fact, be a fake. Inspiration, therefore, is both used as a form of irony, when it comes from people other than Socrates, which he discredits, as well as a true guide to philosophy, indeed, as the true spirit and muse of philosophy itself, when it comes through the ring of Socrates himself.

(References are provided in Stephanus pages)

Evil and Death

Evil, yes Precious, yes. We likes it, we do.

So, I am actually surprised that I have not written a piece on this yet, but time to redress the past I guess (so much for a joyous Paschal post, huh?).

At any rate, the existence of evil is one of the reasons why I started this blog, because way too many people have forgotten what it means. One of the reasons why philosophies like Platonism and even Christianity caught on so quickly in the ancient world and are not that popular in our modern times is exactly the fact that people understood evil back then. Life’s a bi*ch and then you die, the whole nine yards. In our times, we are taught that evil is some far off thing in some far off place, this weird creature that lives somewhere in Antartica and gets out every 2,000 years to terrorize the earth and then goes back beneath the ice. Our criminals are usually people who have had hard childhoods, it’s not their fault, those poor guys (implicit assumption here, “They are not like us, we are better than them.”). We might even get huge wake up calls, such as those terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, but they are poor, stupid, brainwashed people (again, they are not like us).

There are two kinds philosophies you can hold on life. The first one is, “woe to him who cries ‘peace’ when there is war,” and the second “woe to him who cries ‘war’ when there is peace.” The first kind is where the philosophy of Plato, Jesus, and most other ancients fits in, the second one is where the modern psychologists fit in (if you want to read my rant on pop-psychology, look below, I believe it’s in the happiness post). We are at war and we better not forget it. Life is war, from the second we are born we start fighting. There are two kinds of evil in this world, natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil we know of every day when we watch the news, either there is an earthquake somewhere, or some volcano exploded, or there was a flood, and so on and so forth, I could go on forever. Moral evil is the other half of news, murders, rapes, kidnaps, you get the idea.

According to Plato, all evil comes from ignorance. Obviously, what he means is moral evil (or does he?). Well, the idea is, whenever you commit evil, you harm your soul (I’ve explained this is another post, I used an example concerning Horcruxes). Now, if you truly understand what this means, (this is the plainest version you’ll find by the way) then you would never commit evil, unless you are into hurting yourself, which is a little weird. Of course, most people do not understand this very basic idea, so it is up to us people who understand to show them (fly little bird, fly). Of course, this is one of those concepts that is really easy to shake your head to, but really hard to keep in mind, a lot like when you were in Calculus class, where whenever you could overcome the challenge of your professor’s accent (mine was Swiss, the TA was Bulgarian, really weird stuff) you understood the differential formula perfectly, then homework time came.

A quick point about the “hard childhood” b.s. Every single person to walk this earth has had a hard childhood. You will be surprised at who who has had the worst possible childhood. I seriously believe that it is the richest kids that have the worst childhood. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks to be born into a poor family, but you learn you have to fight from day one. When you are born into a rich family, you most probably have never even heard the word “no.” And then you come into real life. For most people, this is college, where they are made to realize that the Universe does not revolve around their a-hole. Believe me, you do not want to be there, I’ve had to pick up the pieces once or twice (I guess I am too merciful). Also, these are the people that write college essays about how they are going to kill their roommate (true story, I swear, was told to me by one of the SAP people at my school, of course, the guy got rejected), because they have never had to fight in their life, so the first time they hit a challenge, they want to jump off a cliff. So, no matter how poor or rich you are, your childhood has sucked, the question is what you do with it.

At any rate, moral evil is easy to explain, the problem comes in at natural evil. There is no one perfect explanation for this, but one theory that works for me (hey, it might work for you) is mentioned in Plato’s Symposium, but is known now as the “spiderweb” theory. The idea is, everything is connected, everything. In the Symposium, Eryximachus mentions that love is the way of the whole Universe, i.e. everything must be in harmony. So, you may not get hairy palms, you may not go blind, but what you did contributes to me freezing my behind off in a snow storm last Halloween, so thanks. Alright, spent way too much time on this, let’s move on.

Now, the reason why I wanted to write this thing is because I participated a few weeks ago in some weird thing in the hall of my cafeteria. This group on my campus does this thing where they have a bunch of pictures and they give you these stickers and you have to respond by placing your sticker in one of those choices (I really don’t know how to explain better). Well, one of them was, “Do you believe we can defeat evil?” I put my sticker in the “no” part. Of course, you get to talk about it afterward. Not surprisingly, the girl I was talking to was pretty puzzled (please notice, I did not say evil could not be defeated, just that we cannot defeat evil, let’s get that straight). It is really hard to explain the reasoning behind it, so I am going to illustrate it. Hopefully, you have read Lord of the Rings, otherwise you may have to SparkNotes this one (spoiler alert, by the way, but only if you have internet under the rock you have been living). After Gandalf comes back, when he meets up with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas at Fangorn, they are all chipper, because “the white rider” has come back. Gandalf, on the other hand, says, “Aye, I am the White Rider, but Black is mightier still.” Put that together with what he says after the Battle of the Pelenor Fields, which is that even if they defeat Sauron, they will not be defeating evil, other people may rise like him, or even Melkor might come again, but their duty is to do what is at hand. In other words, evil is stronger than us, at all times. We can only defeat its temporary, physical manifestation, but we cannot defeat evil per se. That is actually what gets me about people who say they can end poverty. Of course, they strive to end starvation, but they could care less about the guy begging in the corner of their building. That’s what we call fake charity kids. At any rate, I do believe evil will be defeated, just not by anyone. See, evil is confined to evil, it is confined to oppression, it is confined to violence. In the Kaliopolis, Plato explains that something completely evil cannot exist. Two reasons why, first and foremost, if evil destroys part of you every time you commit it, then eventually you break it in so many pieces there is only dust left. The second is that there is no such thing as “no honor among thieves,” we have “the Pardoner’s Tale” to remind us of that. The basic plot is, three friends vow to kill death for killing their fourth friend, they are guided to a possible location for death, where they find a large sack of gold. They agree that one should stay with the gold, the other two will go back to town to fetch a cart. The one who stays poisons the drink of the other two. When they get to town, one of the friends kills the other, wanting to take his part. He goes back with a cart and kills the other friend, too. On his way from the scene, the poison starts taking effect and the third friend drops dead. “No honor among thieves” at work. Same idea with evil, it self-destructs. This is very beautifully illustrated in The Screwtape Letters, where the senior demon eats the junior one after his failure. Well, if they all fail eventually, then they’re all going to be one giant food chain.

Finally, onto death. This is the reason why a lot of people choose not to do the right thing, they are afraid to die. Well, a fresh dose of Socratic logic to you. Do you know what comes after death, for sure? If you reply “yes,” then you are either religious (by religious I mean Christian/Jewish/Muslim) or deeply conceited. The Romans were not sure about what happened after death, hell, they couldn’t even settle on what Di Manes exactly were. If you consider yourself part of one of these three religions, then you simply need strength of character, not what I’m about to write next. But, if you are not, which is the most common case these days, then tell yourself, do you know for sure that it is bad? Why, it could be the best thing that has ever happened to you, why would you risk missing a bad thing simply because people around you think it is a bad thing based on information that cannot be proved (no one has come back, or at least that’s what you believe). This is basically all over both the Apology and the Kaliopolis. The point is, if you know for sure that you have to do something and that something may lead to your death, which may or may not be a bad thing, should you try to avoid it? I digress.

Osho: Mystic or Moron?

I’ve spent much of the day today trying to figure out how to tie a bow tie, but I just can’t figure it out. Learned how to do a Windsor knot while at it though, so not a complete failure. In any case, around 3 AM today, while the huge amounts of caffeine were starting to wear off on me, I found on youtube OSHO. From the looks of it, he seems to claim to be an Indian mystic. Now, I want to make one thing perfectly clear and that is that I do believe in mystics. I have no problem believing that different people can have visions of the Divine. However, I do believe that even mystical visions have to be compatible with knowledge. This should not be confused with simply fitting into categories. One way to illustrate this point is what C. S. Lewis uses in Miracles, i.e. the mystic limpet and the scholarly limpet. If a limpet catches a glace of a human, he has no categories to explain what it has seen. A scholarly limpet may ask it, “Did this thing you saw have tentacles?” the obvious answer is, “no,” and so on and so forth. All this means is that limpets have never conceived of such a being before, hence they have no categories for it. To conclude from this that the being seen by the mystic limpet does not exist would be obviously foolish.

However, when you express thought, the Law of Non-Contradiction still needs to be taken into account. His answer to “If you believe there is no God, are you an atheist?” is rather complicated. He basically says that even though he believes that there is no God, but that his belief is not the same as atheists’, because though he does not believe in God, he believes in “godliness,” or Consciousness. Now this sounds like a really sophisticated answer, unless you have read philosophy before. Let us examine what “believing in ‘godliness'” without believing in God means. That is a lot like saying, “I don’t believe anything red exists, but I do believe in ‘redness.'” Of course, that statement could make if red things once existed, but if nothing red ever existed, then believing in something that makes things red is rather non-sensical. If we do ignore this part and accept that something got lost in translation, let us look at the part about Consciousness. This is the regular Buddhist belief, i.e. you and I don’t really exist, we are just part of the one great spirit that is everything. In other words, pantheism (wait, did you just say pan-theism?). So, it would follow that dear old Osho is a theist after all, though his supporters can make one final push by saying that by “theist” he meant a believer in a personal god. I guess that’s fair, but if he knows who Marx (not too surprising) and Epicurus (more surprising, though he gets his philosophy wrong*) are, he should know that monotheism and theism are not the same thing, but I digress.

*-Epicurus is a kind of Deist (by modern standards) i.e. he believed that the gods created the world, but that they are so perfect and unchanging that they cannot be involved with human affairs, so worshipping them has no point, but not that they don’t exist.

What I saw next, convinced me about Osho. In another interview he talks about how Jesus did not actually die in Judea, but was sent off to India, where he lived to be 112. Now, this leaves the realm of philosophy and goes into history (red flag #1). I’m going to go ahead here and just point out that we know from Suetonius that there was a Christian community in Rome by 49 CE and so on and so forth. Also, we know that the Romans considered Christianity superstitio, which means not necessarily wrong belief, but exaggerated, over the top expression, to the point of silliness. According to Osho, Jesus never died on the cross. He explains that there was a conspiracy between Pontius Pilate and a rich man (I’m going to guess Nicodemus here, according to the Gospels) to crucify Jesus late into Friday (the Gospels say roughly the third hour, which means three hours after sunrise, so about 9 AM) and then remove Him from the cross at night, since the next day was Holy (of course, in real Judaism, Passover would start at the setting of the Sun on Friday, which is probably why the Gospels account Jesus being taken off the cross around the ninth hour if memory serves, which would be about 3 PM). Osho’s whole point is that it takes 48 hrs to as much as 5 days for a normal man to be killed by crucifixion, so Jesus must not have died by when he was taken off the cross, but been knocked unconscious by the loss of blood. Of course, the question becomes, how did he lose enough blood to be knocked unconscious,because that means a huge drop in blood pressure, i.e. something unlikely to be caused by needles at the wrists and at the legs would cause that, since the Romans tried to miss the major blood vessels, they want you to die slowly, so then the story of the centurion stabbing Jesus in the side must also be true (of course, the fact that blood and water came out, which would mean the heart would have burst). Aside from the fact that you need a blood transfusion to save a guy that’s gone unconscious from losing too much blood, this idea that just because it usually takes 48 hrs. for a person to die from crucifixion no one can ever die in less time is simply silly. It is a lot like saying that because it usually takes about four punches in the same proximity of the face to make an adult male bleed, that no one has ever made anyone bleed in less than four punches is ridiculous. In addition, why India would be the chosen destination is never explained, why Pilate would have agreed to a deal with a Jew is also very much in question, if he is well-known for hating them as a kindred, and finally whether there is any evidence that Jesus’ remains are in India are never adressed. Another question would be why His followers went around proclaiming He was dead and came back to life, but I think we got enough points of contradiction already.

Throw on top of all that the fact that Osho elongates the last syllable of every word coming out of his mouth for added dramatic effect and I think everyone who has read Plato can figure out what category he belongs to. He is a sophist: loads of bullcrap, loads of dramatics, very complicated logic that comes into a circle if you go through it. He is not the first we have heard of, probably not the last either. As the first sentence ever written down in English goes, “Whaet. We gar-Dena in geardegum/þeodcyninga, þrym grephunon/hu ða aepelingas ellen fremedon,” (i.e. [so] what, we have heard of the Spear-Danes in days gone by…).

So, the moral of the story. People, when you hear a brand new mystic has appeared on the face of the earth, don’t say good-bye to you mind. Examine them first, in fact, examine everything first. In The Screwtape Letters, in the very first letter, the senior demon instructs the junior one that the first basic step to Hell is to push people back from using their mind. So, use your mind, whether you believe in Hell or not, it won’t hurt you, I promisse.

Sex!

So, I realize I have not been posting for nearly a week (or has it been a week?) now. I apologize to my followers (and you ninja-followers out there), but I have been very busy and being a little sore after intramural football (go figure it would hurt that much after years of rugby) didn’t help. At any rate, I am better now, it is 12:44 AM where I live, and I am chuck full of caffeine, so let’s get started.

I know I’ve written on love before and this will be based, up to a point, off of the post on love, however, in this post my focus is much more on the physical and spiritual act of sex.

First off, physical sex. You know, birds and bees, that kind of stuff. If you, in fact, don’t know, this is a good time to ask your parents about it or about whether you should keep reading. At any rate, as far as the Symposium goes, which is different from most other dialogues of Plato, Socrates holds that love is one, i.e. the child of wealth and search (the synthesis of having much to offer and desiring much), which does not help us in our quest to learn about the Platonic view on sex, but Pausanias and Eryximachus may help us. Pausanias, whose speech comes first in the Symposium, identifies that there are two types of eros or sexual desire, desire based on physical countenance and desired based on the soul. Eryximachus, who, we are told, is a physician, goes deeper into the issue of the two distinct sexual desires. He says that physical attraction is comprable to sickness in the body, whereas the other kind of desire was the same kind that ruled over music, medicine, etc. From these two statements we can figure out something about what Plato thought about concerning sex. Right off the bat, it should be obvious that Plato gets a bad rap in modern culture over “Platonic relationships” when it comes to sex, because, somehow, we have come to understand a relationship between two souls as necessarily non-physical, which makes no sense. In fact, “Platonic relationship” is such a broad term that it would describe the relationship that Socrates had to his mother, friends, wife, three children, and friends, though, obviously, those relationships are not same. You will not get very many people in Ancient Greece saying that sex is bad, that is much more of a Puritanical position. However, what our two speakers do tell us is that Plato did not think much of hook-ups/one night stands, or even relationships that start purely as a function of the mutual physical attraction between two people. If one really thinks about the reason behind this reasoning, it is pretty obvious. For the follower of the man who looked for a reason behind everything, it would seem pretty silly to give the most intimate part of one’s body to someone else simply because they like how the other person looks. In ten years, that other person may look very different, but the act will remain done. The alternative, of course, is to fall in love with someone’s soul. The idea is that one cannot lose spiritual six-packs like they can lose physical ones, nor do the first get built as easily as the latter. The obvious counterpoint is that someone’s mind can change even more than someone’s physique, but Plato’s hidden assumption is that if you fall in love with someone who is well set in the ways of virtue and wisdom, they will not suddenly decide to pull a Diogenes (the founder of the cynics, who lived in a dumpster and masturbated most of the time).

That being said, physical sex is not the only intercourse between two humans. The alternative intercourse is entirely spiritual and not at all erotic, or necessarily happening between two lovers. At this point, a lot of people would jump to the conclusion that “sex” in this sense is only a metaphor, but I would caution them to remind that, as explained in the Timaeus, we live not in the world of the forms, but in the alternative world, so we should be weary about saying that spiritual things are metaphors of physical things, because it could well be the opposite. If you have been reading all my posts, especially the one immediately below it,  you might be a little confused by what I am about to say and believe that I have contradicted myself, but, please, follow on to the end, it will all become clear. The point is, whereas two bodies can come together in physical sex and produce a new child, two souls came come together in thought and create something new, a new thought, a new image, a new way to one of the forms. Of course, in the end, the reality that we are, as a genus, all female has to come into play. Though we can reach a lot in thought among humans, in the end, it is just spiritual foreplay and sooner or later the Groom finds us. A lot of people say that they are looking for the Divine, but are absolutely terrified at the idea that He is, in fact, chasing after them and not the other way around. C. S. Lewis offers the imagery of children playing burglars hearing the footsteps of a real burglar. The point was never to find  Him, it was supposed to all be a game. The point is that true spiritual union can only be achieved with the Divine, which is our real purpose in life.

If spiritual union with the Divine is our purpose, then, what is the original and what is the metaphor? It would be obvious that what is greater is the original (if you spend more to build a sign for the Versailles than the Versailles itself, you are utterly inefficient and quite stupid). It would seem, therefore, that spiritual sex is true sex and that physical sex should be taken as a metaphor for the other kind. This statement, of course, puts into question not only the place of sex in the modern Western life (everyone hates when people use metaphors too often or where they have no purpose being), but also the amount of reverence reserved not only for the act of sex itself, but also for the partner in the act, who mystically represents the Divine. Well, I bid you think about it.