Words of Wisdom #44, #45 & #46

“The fortune, is Zeus who distributes it to men, to the good and the wicked, as he wants, to each one. To you he gave this fate, you must bear it”.

-Nausicaa to Odysseus in the Odyssey

“It is easy for the gods, that possess the vast sky, to do splendid or miserable a mortal man”.

-Odysseus to Telemachus in the Odyssey

“Not even you despise them, the gifts of the glorious gods, those that they offer us: we can’t choose them by ourselves”.

-Paris to Hector in the Iliad

In this consists Stoicism: in understanding what is beyond our control, accepting it as well as it’s destined to us, in any way it will affect our lives, and then act accordingly!

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About Sorcery, Spirits and Gods

If you have ever read “The Golden Bough” by James G. Frazer then you will know that our ancestors had a vision of the world permeated by sorcery. Frazer describes sorcery as based on two principles included in the same definition of “sympathetic sorcery”, since both presuppose an interaction at distance:

The similar generates the similar, the effect resembles the cause. From this law of similarity/imitation the sorcerer deduces of being able to obtain the desired effect simply by imitating it.

The things that have come once into reciprocal contact will continue to influence each other, even when the physical contact has been interrupted. From this law of contact/contagion the sorcerer deduces that every action he performs on a material object will influence in equal measure the person with which the object has been once in contact, whether it was or not a part of his body.

Our most ancient traditions were obviously permeated by sorcery, for example: -The custom of calling the newborns with the names of dead relatives, so that the descendants would become their ancestors. -The celebrations in which, through a dramatic representation, our ancestors staged the opposition between Summer and Winter, during which some actors interpreted the role of Summer and others the role of Winter, symbolically fighting each other; the faction that represented Summer had always to win, so that, in the same way, Summer would come back after “defeating” Winter. -When the Sacred King reached the end of his annual function sometimes he hid for a short period in a symbolic grave and was believed to be dead, since similarly to the dead he too was in a grave.

Sorcery has never left our minds and thoughts: we still use it today, everyday, without realizing it. Some trivial example? -Many people today (between 7 and 70 years…) think that, simply by imitating others aesthetically, they will receive the same appreciation among their peers. -Many people today when playing football (or other sports) using the t-shirt of a player they admire, think or are convinced to have abilities that they don’t really possess, or achieve performances that normally they would have never attained: this because in a sense they identify themselves with the name written in the t-shirt.

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The sorcerer believed of being able to influence – through the application of these principles – even nature, i.e. the spirits. For our ancestors the spirits consisted in invisible essences/vital principles that governed nature and its cycles; not directly visible forces, that manifest themselves revealing their existence through the observation and ascertainment of their effects. The word “spirit” derives from Latin spiritus, with the meaning of “breath, breathing”, perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- “to blow”. Why? I don’t know, maybe in relation to the fact that a breath is invisible and intangible, but still a force that can manifest itself in the material world and alter it; likewise the spirits were seen as the “wind/breath” that caused the changes inherent to the cycles of the natural world.

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So originally our ancestors saw nature as animated by these spirits, and only after some time they passed to a view of nature that saw it governed by external deities: this change of perspective is known as anthropomorphism, i.e. the attribution of an increasing number of human characteristics to the spirits of nature.

An example in this regard can be found in Ancient Rome, where the Numen (defined by Julius Evola as a “nude force, defining itself with its ability to produce effects, to act, to manifest itself – and the meaning of the real presence of such powers, of such <numina>, as something transcendent and immanent, at the same time marvelous and fearsome, constituted the essence of the original experience of the <sacred>”) was later conceived as Deus.

We’ll return later to this change of perspective.

You see, there is a subtle difference between sorcery and science compared to how the latter is understood (as well as adored and revered…) today. Our ancestors knew perfectly, exactly as us today, the immutable laws and the regular and certain sequence of the natural events. Our ancestors have never believed (or even wanted…why on earth they would have wanted to alter the natural cycles, in themselves perfectly harmonious and balanced?) that through sorcery they could have attained, for example, a perennial Spring or Summer. What they believed – wrongly – was that the course of nature was guaranteed by man’s spells, without which all the natural cycles would have been at the mercy of chance.

A Sorcerer (but in those days they had only their minds, no books…):
mago-merlino-copia

Gradually they understood that the course of nature manifested itself immutable and indifferent to the support and practices of men, which simply began to celebrate the magnificence of nature in its multiple aspects (including man itself, which is part of nature), addressing individually to each spirit instead of trying to support/manipulate them: to do this they needed to give them a name and consequently they began to think of them as anthropomorphic beings, that is to say the deities as we today intend them, each having as attributes, for example, the elements, animals and trees that were associated with each spirit. It is the birth of religion and of the deities, the Sorcerer and the Sorceress became the Priest and the Priestess, and the Sorcerer-King and the Sorceress-Queen became the God-King and the Goddess-Queen. As you may have understood, the usual approach to life based on sorcery didn’t fade neither easily nor quickly, and this is why the Kings and Queens of Europe during the Neolithic ended up becoming specific deities (respectively the Sky/Sun God [the incarnation and living symbol of the principles of “immutability” and “being”] and the Earth/Moon Goddess [the incarnation and living symbol of the principles of “mutability” and “becoming”]), simply by imitating them, i.e. assuming their roles, functions and names, their attributes and external characteristics, etc.

Hail to the Gods and Goddesses of Europe!

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 the Latin “annus” (“year”), with the meaning of circle, and “annulus” (“ring”), symbol of eternity both for its circularity and the metal to which it is identified, i.e. gold. The year was therefore seen as a circle without beginning and end, not as a finite line, and 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 in the Universe is animated moves in circular and eternal cycles, this being also the meaning of the swastica (the “wheel of time” and “wheel of life”) in all its forms and depictions: the four branches symbolize the eternal cyclicity and rebirth of all that exists 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 believe in progress, but in the eternal returns”.

-Giorgio De Santillana

“The conception of time of our ancestors was very different from the modern one, 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 branches of the swastica), characterized by mobility, mutability, temporality and multiplicity, equivalent to the Indian concept of the Saṃsāra. 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 indivisibility, equivalent to the Indian concept of the Nirvāṇa. 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, 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 simply sea but despite this live their existence as waves, likewise we are simply 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 axial center around which revolves the Earth, the motionless Pole Star around which revolve the circumpolar constellations, 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

hendrik_ter_brugghen_-_heraclitus

Two faces of the same coin but what was the real meaning of those concepts? Maybe they saw the Universe as container and content, 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 existing as far as 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 fathom and deeply understand eternity and infinity, because he lived only 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 in itself, the concept of “future” (i.e. future projection) exists but not the future in 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 and 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, realities having a metaphysical, immutable, eternal, outside of time and archetypical existence (therefore the deities fall into this category when are interpreted as archetypes, role models, stages of life, ideals, etc.), in opposition to the realities having a material, mutable, transient and within time existence: it is in these latter that the ideas manifest themselves. The platonic ideas as ideas in themselves, separated from the beings and vectors in which they manifest, are described in this ancient Chinese text: “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 themselves] 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]”.

plato

If you’ve ever been in a temporary condition of astonishment, enchantment, metaphysical joy and serenity, characterized by the sensation of being outside of time, followed by a sort of awakening that leaves you with a particular melancholy and the regret for having lost that condition, then you have probably 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”). It’s something that happens briefly and quite unconsciously, without really realizing it, often while 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 #13

What we see and try to understand as natural is the divine…the most faithful image of reality is at the same time the most lively proof in favour of the existence of the gods“.

-W.F. Otto

We should always observe and imitate Nature, we should always be curious about what happens in the Sky and in the Earth, and in this way we’ll be closer to the divine!

walter-friedrich-otto