Le Besoin d’Impossible

The first book published by Marie Cachet, Le Besoin d’Impossible, is a multiform work in its implications, but despite this it can be defined as a whole as a purely philosophical work. In this article I will not write a typical review, I plan instead to outline and expose the issues that have mostly caught my attention – to put it in the most modest way – during the study of the book (yes, it requires to be studied and not merely read…).

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Let’s start from an assumption that, although treated and deepened by the author in another context, is essential for a thorough understanding of the work that concerns us now: the modern European man – biologically speaking – is a slightly hybridized Neanderthal man (actually, every modern human being is a more or less hybridized creature, but since I am a European I will refer, when necessary, only to the European species). However, what has this to do with questions of philosophical nature? According to Marie Cachet one of the consequences of this hybridization, even after its stabilization, was the birth of a metaphysical vertigo/despair, a disharmony of the mind (here is to be found, perhaps, the cause of the birth of consciousness?) which manifested itself simultaneously with the dramatic shift to a temporal (and thus finite) perception of the Universe. A real “fall” that took us away from the possibility of fathom and living the concepts of eternity (intended as the atemporal point that we call instant) and infinity (intended as spatial infinity).

At that point, however, our ancestors (as well as us today) tried instinctively, unconsciously and obsessively to compensate this metaphysical despair and not get overwhelmed by the “terror of time”: an explosion of human dynamism, individual and collective, led progressively to the birth and development of civilizations, arts, sciences, spirituality, religions and philosophies, all attempts to recreate the lost harmony of the mind and extend one’s personality beyond the boundaries of the biological duration of the existence, in an attempt to forge a sort of simulated eternity (the need for the impossible, as suggested by the title of the book).

Examples of materialization of the collective genetic memory of a people, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Examples of materialization of the genetic memory of an individual, the sculptor, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Therefore, according to Marie Cachet, every external creation as well as all forms of teaching are the manifestation of a deep necessity of the human beings, namely the selfish need to go beyond the yoke of time, beyond the finitude, so as to preserve themselves in time, through other people, symbolic containers of our self, potential reincarnations of our self. Artistic creations and teachings are therefore a means to conquer eternity and to defeat the illusion of a finite time. We project our self in the future, through a real or imaginary reincarnation (see the prehistoric ritual of reincarnation described in detail by Madame Cachet in another context), which in turn will transmit in the future the essence of our self, in an eventual endless chain.

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An essential distinction that emerges during the reading is that between the individuals conscious of their metaphysical despair (active and subjective individuals) and the vast majority of those who are not aware of it (passive and objective individuals) and unconsciously suffer the consequences of this disharmony. The religions (especially the organized religions) and the spiritualities that give us dogmatic and established metaphysical responses, the daily repetitiveness, the social conventions and all the entertainment we create in our societies are, although we do not realize it, tools that distract us and allow us to flee from the metaphysical anguish inherent in us, from the sacred terror that we experience in front of the mystery of the universe and of life. Only by getting rid of all this – especially of what gives us metaphysical answers – and through boredom, certain men will fall into the metaphysical despair and will find their authentic self (through the manifestation of the memories of our previous lives, engraved and latent in our blood), their true essence, undergoing a sort of “awakening”: achieved this superior spiritual and mental state, a deep impulse will force them to find their subjective responses to the fundamental dilemmas of the world and of life.

What about you? You dare to look face to face the metaphysical abyss?

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As I have previously explained, these are just some of the issues discussed in this book (a unique work of its kind), the ones that most involved me: ultimately, I urge you to read it and give shape to your personal opinion.

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The Universe in Flames

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, burned at the stake in 1600 after being declared guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition, in consequence of his criticism of Christianity and the cosmological conclusions he had reached in his search for truth through philosophy. Bruno considered Christianity as a degenerative process that reached its climax during the Counter-Reformation, however what actually interests me is to expose briefly his cosmology, because it makes sense and is very similar to the vision of the cosmos that the Europeans had during Prehistory and Classical Antiquity.

According to Bruno the Universe is eternal (indeed for something to begin there must already be a space in which such a beginning can manifest itself) and infinitely extended (if it was spatially finite, in what would be contained? Remember that all that is spatially finite is inevitably contained in a larger space), whereby motionless and without a center. It is a unitary and vast living organism, animated and endowed with intellect, a homogeneous and indivisible whole governed by the interdependence of all its parts, which are in relation to the organism in its unity (i.e. an organism made up of organisms), unity that coincides with the concept of divinity: consequently the divine resides in the multiplicity that exists in the Universe, throughout Nature and, therefore, also in ourselves. For Bruno everything is matter, that is life, and the Universe consists in infinite matter that changes perennially, able to transform itself continuously in an incessant becoming, passing from one extreme to the other, from an opposite to the other. The universal matter is infinite energy provided with intellect, unity in which lies a multiplicity, multiplicity in which lies a unity!

“Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it”.

-Giordano Bruno

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Related posts: Words of Wisdom #51Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)The Harmony of Opposites

Words of Wisdom #42 & #43

“The being is, and can’t not be…the non-being is not, and can’t be”.

-Parmenides

“Nothing can be born from nothing nor end in nothing. The universal substance therefore has always existed and is imperishable”.

-Zeno

With this sentences Parmenides and Zeno affirmed that nothing is created from nothing and nothing can be destroyed into nothing. Everything in the Universe is eternal, has always been (how it could not have, if nothingness doesn’t exist?), will never cease to be (how could it, if nothingness doesn’t exist?) and has never come into being (how could have it, if nothingness doesn’t exist?).

Try to tell this to the religious fanatics of Creationism and of the Big-Bang…

Related post: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)

Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)

“What is eternal is circular, what is circular is eternal”.

-Aristotle

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The traditional European vision of life and of time is circular, without a beginning and without an end: a circle that completes its course eternally. An example in support of this: for the ancient Romans the particle “an” meant “circum” (“around”) and from “an” derive both the Latin “annus” (“year”), with the meaning of circle, and “annulus” (“ring”), symbol of eternity for both its circularity and the metal with which it is identified, that is gold. The year was therefore seen as an infinite circle and not as a finite line, it represented a temporal cycle destined to repeat itself without end.

The Sun, the Moon, the Seasons, the Ice Ages and even the Civilizations: their manifestations are marked by cyclical rhythms. Also men and animals, thanks to their offspring, fall into this universal cyclicity. Everything that is animated in the Universe moves in circular and eternal cycles, this being also the meaning of the swastica/hooked cross (the “wheel of time”) in all its forms and depictions: the four branches symbolize the eternal ciclicity and rebirth of all the powers in the Universe.

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-Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn and again Winter.
-Night, Morning, Day, Evening and again Night.
-New Moon, Rising Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon and again New Moon.
-Spiritual Life, Rebirth, Life, Death and again Spiritual Life.

“The archaic time is the universe, and as the universe it is circular and definite. Classical antiquity didn’t believed in progress, but in the eternal returns”.

-Giorgio De Santillana

“The conception of time of our ancestors was very different from the modern, linear and monotonous. They had done of time a structure, a cyclical time, where past and future called each other”.

-Giorgio De Santillana

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Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle saw this as the state of Becoming (state to which belong our body and identifiable with the moon and the four arms/branches of the swastica), characterized by mobility, mutability, temporality and multiplicity. Its inevitable opposite is the state of Being (state to which belong our spirit and identifiable with the sun and the central point of the swastica), characterized by immobility, immutability, eternity and uniqueness. According to them the Becoming is the opposite and reflection of the Being and vice versa, whereby one can not exist without the other, they are two faces of the same reality, they are one, just like the waves and the sea are a single water: there are no waves without sea, and there is no sea without waves. The waves are only sea but despite this live their existence as waves, likewise we are only part of a single living organism (the Universe) but despite this we live our existence as human beings. The Being is the One (indefinable, because each definition includes an opposite/contrary and is therefore included in the context of multiplicity) of Plato and the Unmoved Mover (“that which moves without being moved”, a concept equivalent to the wei wu wei [“action without action”] of Taoism and to the axis mundi [the motionless center around which revolves the Earth, exactly like, on a bigger scale, the motionless Sun that by means of its gravitational attraction forces the planets of the Solar System to accomplish their motions of revolution around it]) of Aristotle.

Center/Being and Circumference/Becoming:
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Note: the ancient sacred groves (like the Roman lucus and the Celtic nemeton), at whose center there was a circular clearing that allowed the Sun’s rays to penetrate, were a physical image of the metaphysical principles of the center and the circumference

Listening not to me, but to the lógos, it is wise to agree that all things are one“.

-Heraclitus

“And from all things the one and from the one all things”.

-Heraclitus

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Two faces of the same coin but what was the real meaning of those concepts? Maybe they saw the Universe both as container and content, both as matrix of all that exists and all that exists? Space and Matter being synonyms, the exact same thing, two names for the same reality, each one existing to the extent that the other exists? But in this case it would not really exist only the state of Becoming, independent and unbegotten? Or, on the other hand, exists only the state of Being, past and future (i.e. the Becoming) being nothing but illusory representations of the mind, the present instant being the only true reality?

As Plato understood: time/becoming is the moving image of eternity/being. This seems to be the answer.

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The Neanderthal man (i.e. the Proto-European) was originally able to deeply understand and fathom eternity and infinity, and the concept of “year”, for example, was alien to him and as a consequence that of a beginning and an end of a year, because he only lived the instant, the true present, elusive for us today. In his perspective “past” and “future” don’t exist, both being born from the finite perspective in which today we found ourselves involved. If you think well about it, past and future really don’t exist except in our minds as a consequence of the fact that we are trapped in a linear and finite time. The concept of “past” (i.e. imaginary replica/representation) exists but not the past itself, the concept of “future” (i.e. future projection) exists but not the future itself. Only the “present” exists, the eternal and immutable instant.

However, we can discuss about these concepts but we can’t really understand and grasp their essence: we are stuck with a past, an elusive present and a future as we all intend them (i.e. time, that is history, because history as we intend it started together with the birth of time, with our transition/fall into a temporal perspective). We are able to briefly experience eternity, I think, only when we remain enthralled by what I would define as platonic ideas. Plato’s ideas are forms/elements having an immutable, eternal, out of time, archetypical existence (therefore the deities fall into this category, when are seen/interpreted as archetypes, role models, stages of life, ideals, etc.) in opposition to beings and objects that are mutable, finite/linear, within time, vectors/manifestations of every particular idea. Platonic ideas as ideas in itself, separated from the beings/things where the ideas manifest themselves, are also expressed in this example of Chinese sophism: “Wanting to prove, starting from the idea [in itself] that the ideas [in things] are not at all ideas [in itself], is worth less than wanting to prove starting from the non-idea that the ideas [in things] are not the idea [in itself]. Wanting to prove starting from the horse [in general] that [a white] horse is not [a] horse [in general] is worth less than wanting to prove starting from the non-horse that [a white] horse is not [a] horse [in general].

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If you’ve ever been in a temporary condition of astonishment, enchantment, metaphysical joy and serenity, characterized by the sensation of being out of time and followed by a sort of awakening that leaves you with a particular melancholy and regret for having lost that condition, then you probably have experienced a platonic idea, a particular astonishment due to a metaphysical intuition (“metaphysics” means “the science [i.e. knowledge] of what goes beyond the physical”, in philosophy “the meaning and ultimate principle of the ideas”) and thus eternity. It’s something that happens briefly and quite unconsciously, without really realizing it, often while you are looking intensely at something or someone. I’m not able to explain it in a better way!

Part 1: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)

Words of Wisdom #28 & #29

“As a fish that swims in the water and doesn’t understand the nature of the sea, or a bird that flies in the air and doesn’t understand the sky, so man in his finite mind doesn’t understand the infinite. The only reality is for the bird to fly and of the fish to swim. So, in the same way, the only reality of man is to live: live your own life, die your own death. Live consciously every moment, accepting not to understand the ultimate meaning, this is illumination”.

-Eihei Dogen

“Time, place and space are illusions, having no existence save in the mind of men which must set limits and bounds in order to understand”.

-Robert E. Howard

Related post: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)

Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)

“Lives eternal the one who lives in the present”.

-Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Eternity (the term derives from the Latin locution “ex” (out) and from “ternum” (triple/triad), that is “out of the triad [of time]”: past, present and future) consists on one side in a perpetual passage of time, without beginning and without end, and on the other in the atemporal point that we call instant (the Parmenidean being is nothing else than the instant), that is out of time and coincides with the real present, of which we can’t have experience; an instant proceeds without interruption to another instant, they add up over time but they remain elusive for us; it is we who are in motion while the instant is immutable, even if it seems to shift, as the apparent motion of the Sun; the elusive and uninterrupted flow of instants constitutes the course of time, which is an illusion, since there is nothing but the endless eternity, whereby:

“Time is the moving image of eternity”.

– Plato

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Once, we fathomed eternity: both as an infinite temporal duration and as timelessness. Too much time has passed since we have only been able to speculate about it, only able to see the door of eternity from a more or less favorable position, with the silly illusion of being able to reach its handle. The same applies to the concept of infinity, we are no longer able to deeply understand and fathom the infinity of the Universe. Only a finite space is within the reach of our minds.

It’s exactly here that lies the meaning of what Mircea Eliade called “nostalgia for paradise”, that is nothing else than the nostalgia for the Golden Age (i.e. the primordial state when we fathomed eternity, since gold is a symbol of the metaphysical concept of “being”, which is not subject to the laws of the temporal becoming), the aspiration to regain an existence outside of time, as when men were unaware of it and, as a consequence, free from the terror and anguish of history. Here lies one of the deeper meanings of all religions, being one of their most important functions (reached through initiations, rituals, ceremonies and festivities) that of creating the momentary illusion that we are living once again that lost primordial condition to which we can not help but aspire, as a heartbreaking necessity that, if not satisfied, leads us to despair.

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If every now and then you find yourself immersed in similar thoughts, then maybe you will suffer, as a consequence, a sort of metaphysical vertigo/desperation: it’s the only way you have to find the answers you need, the only way to awake yourself!

Eternal and Infinite, this is the Universe!

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Part 2: Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)

Words of Wisdom #21

“Great son of Tydeus, why you ask me who I am? The generations of men are like leaves: the wind makes them fall but others will sprout on the flowering trees when spring comes. So the bloodlines of men, one is born, the other fades”.

-Glaucus to Diomedes in the Iliad

The crown of the tree represents the future, our future lives, when we’ll be reborn in the bodies of our descendants. The trunk of the tree represents the present, our current life. The roots of the tree represent the past, our past lives, when we died in the bodies of our ancestors. This is the European vision of life!
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